Partners Albania is an independent Albanian NGO established in 2001, working to support civil society and facilitate inter-sector cooperation to strengthen democratic institutions and advance economic development.
Partners Albania is a member of Partners Network, as well as Euclid, BCSDN, ECAS, DIESIS, ANNA LINDH, etc.
Kostandina Këruti, Program Manager told us more about the organizations’ mission, activities, programs, and achievements.
How was your organization established? What changed from the beginning to this day?
Kostandina: Partners Albania for Change and Development is a local organization established in 2001, which supports civil society and facilitates cross-sectoral cooperation in order to strengthen democratic institutions and advance economic development.
In its beginnings, the organization was called Partners Albania - Center for Change and Conflict Management, with the mission of advancing civil society and bringing a culture of change and conflict management. The Foundation was established in collaboration with Partners for Democratic Change (now called Global Partners) an international organization based in the US, committed to building sustainable local capacity for the advancement of civil and democratic society in the world. Since its inception, Partners Albania has coordinated programs aimed at advancing democracy and civil society in Albania through local and individual capacity building, and the possibility of effective cooperation within the sector, as well as other actors.
This year coincides with the 20th anniversary of our journey and of course the organization has evolved to respond in time and with innovative interventions, to the needs and requirements of our society. Our efforts over all these years have contributed towards a more transparent, sustainable, and vital non-profit sector; stronger cooperation between civil society organizations and public authorities, whether in central or local level, in their efforts for more effective and transparent governance and better services to the public; as well as for the active and responsible involvement of citizens in community development. The development of philanthropic activity, initiatives to support entrepreneurship and social innovation have contributed to advancing the integration and employment of marginalized groups and local economic development.
What was your motivation to work in the nonprofit sector?
Kostandina: Enabling environment and sustainable development of civil society is one of the main areas of work of Partners Albania. Strengthening the vitality of the civil society sector in Albania to respond more effectively to the various social needs for development throughout the country has been our motivation since the beginning of our work. The Partners also aims to empower NGOs to develop performance standards and increase the credibility, transparency, and public image of the sector, in strengthening democracy, the country's development and EU integration, and strengthening leadership in local communities (local groups and individuals), for a more active and sustainable civil society, with a significant impact on strengthening democracy.
How did the COVID-19 crisis affect the organization’s work? How much has the way you operate changed? What activities were you focused on recently?
Kostandina: The global pandemic caused by COVID - 19 affected the activities of all organizations around the world. Partners Albania from the beginning of the first announced cases of the pandemic, respected the measures of the government and the whole activity continued according to plan, but online. This is also an important measure of care for its employees and all those individuals and institutions that work with us. Being a resource organization for civil society as well as managing several sub-grant schemes with civil society organizations and social enterprises, the crisis caused by COVID-19 resulted in a higher mobilization on our part! In addition to our planned activities, we also maintained close contacts with grant recipients to discuss the best possible way to adapt to the situation and to support them. To provide important information to the sector about COVID-19, Partners Albania adapted its website with a new window labeled COVID-19 where it provided information on government measures, measures and guidelines affecting NGOs, key links to websites reporting on the pandemic, inspiring and innovative stories happening in Albania and around the world. Partners Albania also prepared two support packages for the NGO sector during the COVID-19 emergency, providing free use of online platforms for civil society groups and providing training on the use of such platforms to support their activities.
Although physical distancing because of the pandemic changed our way of organizing activities and direct contact with our beneficiaries and collaborators, the crisis also gave us new opportunities to develop capacity-building programs on the use of technologies by NGOs and adaptation of monitoring and evaluation processes through the online form.
Which activities are you most focused on at this moment?
Kostandina: Partners Albania activities are organized in line with the strategic programs of its intervention. The four strategic areas on which the activities of Partners Albania are being developed are: 1) creation of an enabling environment and sustainable development of civil society, 2) governance with transparent and accountable participation; 3) philanthropic activity and supportive infrastructure and 4) entrepreneurship and social innovation. Activities are currently focused on research, monitoring processes, debate leadership and building cross-sectoral dialogue to support cooperation and policy development for a more active and sustainable civil society, with a significant impact on strengthening democracy based on the best international standards.
How is your organization funded? Which types of donors do you work with the most, and how? How can someone support your work?
Kostandina: During this 20-year journey, Partners Albania has had many supporters, partners and donors. Partners Albania is funded by bilateral and multilateral donors, private philanthropic institutions, foreign development, and cooperation agencies operating in Albania. Creating partnerships and diversifying funding sources is one of our goals. Since 2005, Partners Albania offers paid services to the business sector consisting of: training needs assessment; developing and providing training programs; assistance and mentoring sessions; and facilitating dialogue and processes. Services target young and mid-level officers; mid-level and executive managers in the financial services industry (banking and microfinance); telecommunications industry; BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) sector and other corporations.
How does your organization contribute to the development of philanthropy in Albania?
Kostandina: Partners Albania has been working in the field of philanthropy since 2010. Our goal is to promote and develop philanthropic activity, through research, promotion, and creation of supportive infrastructure. Partners Albania contributes to raising awareness and interest in the economic and social value of philanthropic activity, through research, information and promoting public debate about it. Partners Albania is also providing support for the development of innovative platforms that facilitate and enable interaction between actors for the development of philanthropic activity with a focus on on-line crowdfunding platforms and community foundations.
Partners Albania is the only institution since January 2015, which is monitoring philanthropic activity in Albania through media research, including social and information sources from public and non-public institutions. The research is conducted daily, and the findings present the issues raised, the nature and value of donations, geographical coverage as well as the nature of donors.
Do you cooperate with other non-profit organizations? Can you tell me more about that?
Kostandina: Partners Albania has been operating for three years as a "National Resource Center for Civil Society in Albania" - an information and services platform that contributes to strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations to be more effective, independent, transparent, and accountable actors, and in creating an enabling environment for civil society, participatory democracy, and the process of Albania's membership in the European Union. The establishment of this Center is a continuation of the dedicated long year work of Partners Albania, in supporting and strengthening the civil society sector and other actors in the country. The initiative is funded by the European Union and implemented by Partners Albania in partnership with the Albanian Center for Population and Development (ACPD) and the European Movement in Albania (EMA).
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Kostandina: In these 20 years, Partners Albania has not followed the easy and safe path, which has made our journey several times more difficult. Our main phrase has often been "challenge the status quo", but we have always remained true to our organizational values - being ethical, cooperative, inclusive, and professional. Despite the obstacles, we have come a long way and have shown dedication, creativity, and flexibility.
What do you consider your greatest success and what is next?
Kostandina: It is very difficult to label your greatest success during this 20-year experience. The greatest success is the piloting and bringing of innovative models and practices with a contribution to the advancement of civil society in Albania.