The ERSTE Foundation Roma Partnership is an informal alliance of committed organisations that aim to sustainably improve the lives of Roma people in Central and South Eastern Europe. The platform was created out of a common concern and interest: to support the development of social entrepreneurship, income generation activities and educational programmes for job creation opportunities at community level, while enabling and reinforcing long-term collaboration between Roma and non-Roma.
Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority. Of an estimated 10-12 million in the whole of Europe, most of them live in the European Union, being citizens with full EU rights. Despite the efforts of the EU and other international and European organisations during the last 10 years, the life of millions of Roma in communities of Central and South-Eastern Europe not only continues to be dismal, but is rapidly deteriorating. The social and economic gaps between Roma and non-Roma have become wider, which far-right extremist movements, xenophobic groups and populist politicians play up to their advantage. An effective approach to start changing this bleak situation is bottom up support: by creating means to satisfy basic human needs, by increasing chances for proper education, and, further, by generating jobs for the Roma and non-Roma alike. This could happen only by having a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of societal issues affecting the Roma and by involving all the stakeholders in the development.
The ERSTE Foundation Roma Partnership focuses on opportunities for developing livelihoods to create jobs and generate incomes from community initiatives that could become more sustainable than top-down measures. In order to achieve the desired impact and to be sustainable, we are trying to link Roma with non-Roma population groups. The ERSTE Foundation Roma Partnership is not intended to provide full resources as such, but rather catalytic inputs and access to other push-pull intervention mechanisms, including micro-finance groups, institutional investments and bank lending or expert consultancy on business development.
Thirteen organisations from four countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovak Republic) are members of the ERSTE Foundation Roma Partnership, which is an empowering platform that emphasizes collaboration and synergy, with partners actively sharing know-how and valuable experiences. To ensure envisioned project outcomes and impact in local communities, support is designed as a developmental approach, where modular inputs are provided in accordance with customized strategic plans. These inputs include: catalytic funding, entrepreneurial motivation and mentoring, business strategizing and consultancy, and technical expertise in product design, production and marketing.