“NGOs start thinking like businesses in Eastern Europe and Central Asia”

Open Global rights posted the above-titled article, which reads in part as follows:

“The pressure on non-governmental organizations and independent media in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been devastating for many groups. Yet it has also proven the resilience of the sector, leading to incredible levels of innovation and adaption among civil society. NGOs and media outlets are looking beyond international donors and starting to think in a more business-focused way. As a result, they are making steps towards sustainability by generating both income and support closer to home. This shift is also presenting new opportunities for international donors to help ensure local groups have the skills, security, networks and knowledge to successfully dive into the world of making money.

Different regimes may vary in how exactly they target civil society, but restricting their access to international donors is always part of the mix. In Russia, the infamous “foreign agents” law imposes crippling fines on organizations that get money from abroad. Dozens have been forced to shut down since it was introduced in 2014. In Azerbaijan, the regime combines tough legislation with waves of crackdowns, arresting activists and journalists to scare people off. In other countries, the approach is subtler but equally devastating. In Kazakhstan, for example, the government requires so much bureaucracy for organizations to receive foreign funding that the process is near impossible to navigate—and very risky for those who try.

Everywhere, legalistic mechanisms are backed up by effective propaganda campaigns to label NGOs as unpatriotic traitors and Western agents, in an attempt to foster deep mistrust of independent civil society in general. There is an irony to this as authoritarians are more than willing to welcome foreign investment when they themselves can skim off the top.

Yet, the lack of options forces solutions previously considered too risky, difficult or impossible to be tested. NGOs and media outlets are having to think beyond the traditional Western grants model and identify how to generate revenue and support from local audiences. This is a radical change for many, and requires thinking as much like a business as a not-for-profit.”

Click here to read the entire article.



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