We believe civil society and independent media are the key drivers of social change and progress across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. We want to help realise that change by enabling civic groups and independent journalists to connect with their communities, reach new audiences and strengthen their sustainability.
We take a broad definition of civil society and independent media. We work with everyone from NGOs and established independent media outlets to grassroots campaigners, bloggers, influencers, artists, designers, marketing professionals and social business entrepreneurs. There’s an enormous potential for these different spheres to cooperate and infuse civil society with new ideas and skills needed to effectively push for change and improve people’s lives.
The Centre works with civil society from 12 countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. We also engage professionals, think tanks and campaigners from outside the region, in particular from other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Civil society and independent media are under pressure in many countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In response, activists, NGOs, journalists and creative individuals are having to adapt their approaches and think outside the box to continue their work, connect with their communities and remain sustainable. With our focus on innovation and willingness to try new things, the Prague Civil Society Centre is providing much-needed support to ensure civil society can not only adapt, but thrive, no matter the conditions.
Our work focuses on grant making, capacity building and learning. Our grants provide flexible resources to local groups, coalitions and movements so they can launch or grow civic projects, and to independent media so they can build new platforms and expand their audience. Our capacity building programme specialises in innovation and campaigning, seeking to strengthen activists’ creative campaigns and use of technology through workshops, hackathons and meetups (mostly virtually, for now). We don’t just host an event and call it a day. Our participants are our partners and we continue to provide support, advice and connections long after the event has finished. Our Learning & Exchange programme promotes critical thinking among the future leaders of tomorrow and provides an opportunity for cross border networking.
The Centre is funded by the governments of Sweden, the Czech Republic and the United States. We also receive funding from the European Commission and the Oak Foundation.
The Centre offers flexible funding to civil society groups and independent media to help them innovate, reach out to new communities and boost their sustainability. The programme is built on the understanding that well-resourced, locally-rooted civil society groups can be the leaders in spreading the values of an open society.
Through workshops, hackathons and other events (mostly virtual, for now) focused on innovation and campaigning, the programme helps build the skills and connections of civil society leaders to communicate smarter, innovate faster and create cutting-edge campaigns. By connecting them with experts in the worlds of marketing, design and business strategy, we help them connect and engage with the wider society.
Through fellowships, internships, study trips, workshops and seminars, our Learning & Exchange Programme encourages cross-border experience sharing among civil society leaders, researchers, political scientists, analysts, artists and academics. Participants are exposed to new ideas, people and possibilities and have a vehicle to share their own experiences.
Šimon is the Chair of the Prague Civil Society Centre board. He is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Czech NGO People in Need, the largest humanitarian, developmental and human rights organisation in Central and Eastern Europe. He was one of the student leaders of the 1989 Velvet Revolution before serving as a foreign policy expert on the Balkans and human rights issues for President Václav Havel. He received the Czech Medal of Merit in 2002 and the European of the Year Award in 2003. He is also a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and sits on the boards of the European Partnership for Democracy and Eurostep.
(Chair) People in NeedRead full bio
Maria is the Executive Director of the Human Rights House Foundation, based in Oslo, Norway. She has helped launch ventures including the Human Rights House Network (Dugnad ’98), the Voice of Tibet radio station and the annual Oslo film festival, “Human Rights Human Wrongs”. She was previously the Director of the Human Rights House Oslo, a journalist at Norwegian business newspaper Finansavisen, and a theatre instructor at Nordland Fylkeskommune. She has an MSc Degree from the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration in Bergen.
(Deputy Chair), Human Rights House FoundationRead full bio
Jacek is the President of the Institute of Public Affairs, one of Poland’s leading think tanks. He was active in the underground student and publishing movement in the 1980s and co-founded the Policy Association for an Open Society. He is also a member of the board of the European Partnership for Democracy in Brussels. He has a PhD in sociology and was previously a fellow at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is an author and frequent commentator on European affairs and politics for Polish and international media.
Institute of Public AffairsRead full bio
Timothy Snyder is a professor of History at Yale University, specialising in the political history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. He has written several award-winning books, including “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin”, “Nationalism”, “Marxism and Modern Central Europe”, “The Reconstruction of Nations”, “Sketches from a Secret War” and “The Red Prince”. “Bloodlands” has been translated into more than 20 languages and is an international bestseller. He has conducted academic fellowships in Paris, Warsaw and Harvard and is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Yale UniversityRead full bio
Inna is deputy executive director at the International Renaissance Foundation (IRF), a national foundation of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) network in Ukraine. At IRF, Inna supervises strategic planning, evaluation, programmes and organisational development, including collaborating with other donors in Ukraine. Prior to joining the IRF, Inna served as executive director of the Yalta European Strategy, YES. Inna has been a civil society activist since 1992, with the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (UCIPR) and the Europe XXI Foundation, focusing on Ukraine’s democratic transition, and various advocacy projects. She was a member of the IRF’s executive board from 2006 to 2010 and sat on the steering committee for the World Movement for Democracy from 2006 until 2012. Inna has also served as chair of the supervisory board at the Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum. She was educated at Kiev State Linguistic University, the Institute of Journalism of Kyiv Taras Shevchenko University, and won a Chevening scholarship to study international relations at Keele University in the UK.
International Renaissance FoundationRead full bio
Douglas is a technologist and software developer working primarily with news organizations. He was a co-founder and Director of Innovation at Sourcefabric, a Czech NGO which creates technology for independent media. He is also a lecturer on media and technology at Anglo-American University in Prague. Previously he has worked as a new media consultant for the Media Development Loan Fund, Special Projects Director at Contactel and co-founder of First Tuesday Praha, an organisation which supports internet startups. He is a translator from Czech to English, and hosts music programmes on Prague’s Radio 1.
Technologist, broadcasterRead full bio
Rostislav is the Centre’s Executive Director. He has a decade of experience working in human rights across Russia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. He launched the Prague Civil Society Centre in 2014 while head of the East European programme at People in Need, where he also started programmes in Azerbaijan and the northern Caucasus. He was also one of founders the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.
Executive Director of the Prague Civil Society CentreRead full bio
Gabriela is the Centre’s Deputy Director and head of the Grants Programme. She has worked in politics, civil society and journalism in the Czech Republic and EU for more than 20 years, including as human rights director for the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the Office of President Václav Havel.
Deputy Director, Programme Director (Grants)Read full bio
Igor has led the Centre’s learning and exchange scheme since 2016. In a career working with activists, democracy advocates and academics across Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia, Igor spent 18 years with People in Need in a number of management positions. He founded One World, the world’s largest human rights film festival, and was its director for 10 years. Igor has also served as a board member at the Open Society Fund in Prague and on the steering committee of the World Movement for Democracy.
Programme Director (Learning & Exchange)Read full bio
Anthony joined the Centre in 2015 after eight years working in international accounting. He trained at PwC as an external auditor and financial institutions consultant, before moving to internal audit at the investment banking division of Komerční banka (Société Générale group) and outsourcing department at Mazars.
Finance DirectorRead full bio
Dáša has more than 25 years of experience in international diplomacy and human rights. Before joining the Centre, she was the director of Organisational Development and Movement Building at Amnesty International. She has also worked as the Director of the Czech Centres in China, and in various management positions for the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Palestine, Israel and the Czech Republic.
Programme Director (Innovation & Campaigning)Read full bio