For many countries in Central and South Eastern Europe, the fall of communism was the most dramatic change in several decades. The political and economic turbulences had a great impact in these countries, especially at social level, and we believe the work of the NGOs is crucial to overcome these negative effects and help societies advance. The ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration is probably the most important recognition of NGOs in CEE, and it is one of our biggest projects. Actually, it is about honouring those who really care for others.
Issues such as the integration of people with disabilities, domestic violence against women, human trafficking and drug addictions have not been properly addressed in most of the CEE countries and there is still a lot to be done. Increased poverty levels and negative job creation rates are making it even harder for those already on the margins of societies to integrate properly. As a result of increased poverty and the everyday struggle to make ends meet, the empathy of the general population towards marginalised groups is not improving.
This is just a glimpse into the social realities that NGOs from the CEE countries are dealing with in their everyday work for the social integration of the marginalised groups. And most of the times, their efforts and achievements are hardly known by the majority population.
Since its first call for applications in 2007, the biennial ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration has grown significantly and meets broad interests in the region. In the last four calls, the large number of applied projects pointed to the very vital civil sector, yet, also to the still largely unmet needs for a truly integrative and cohesive society in Central and South Eastern Europe.
ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration gives due recognition to the role of individuals and groups in this region in creating societies with equal opportunities for everyone. By promoting the best practice projects and organisations, we promote the idea of equal societies for all, the necessity of social integration and social change.
Aside from the money prizes, both finalists and winners receive membership in the Social Integration Network, along with regional media recognition and capacity building workshops in the Foundation’s NGO Academy. All winners receive additionally PR support for a 2 year period from professional PR consultants.
The Award addresses organisations of all sizes equally and is open to the public sector, civil society, private initiatives and religious communities as well as to the media.
The first call in 2007 received 400 applications from the organisations of the 4 participating countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia including Kosovo), while in 2011, there were more than 4 times as many: 1,850 applications from 12 participating countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic and Slovenia). In 2013, Austria joined the now 13 countries and, all in all, 1,988 projects were submitted.
Not only the number of applications has significantly increased. Also the prize money is more than 7 times higher: from 85,000 EUR in 2007 to 616,000 EUR in 2013.