Grantmakers East Forum 2018

Reframing Civil Society: Actors, Values, Tools





Civil society as a platform for social interaction facilitates citizens’ empowerment and promotes fundamental rights where these are under threat. These threats, among them legal changes limiting or prohibiting the operation of civil society groups, restrictions on public and private funding, reduced access to information and participation in decision-making, and growing number of attacks towards activists, have been narrowing civil society’s operating space throughout Europe and beyond. However, and despite these challenges, civil society actors have found new forms, new strategies, and new approaches to their advancing their missions in support of the public good.

It is in this context that foundations must take on an active role in reframing discussions on civil society by highlighting its beneficial impact on the lives of individuals, communities and on a society as a whole. Mirroring the efforts of civic actors, institutional philanthropy should also pursue novel approaches to enabling various and emerging forms of democratic civil society. Such an effort will contribute to strengthening opportunities for contesting existing and identifying new spaces for social interaction, for protecting fundamental rights, and for delivering positive societal changes.

Photo: © European Foundation Centre

The 23rd annual Grantmakers East Forum (GEF) hosted by the Central European University will explore the role of foundations in confronting the new threats and challenges to civil society in Europe as well as explore innovative approaches to fostering social cohesion. As GEF continues to offer an open space and stimulus for debate and new ideas, the annual gathering of grantmakers, together with academics, civil society actors, EU and international organisation representatives, will discuss the most pressing questions: How and in what areas is the current civic landscape changing? What are the opportunities? What types of democratic civil society groups are emerging across Europe? How are grantmakers adapting their strategies and funding mechanisms to continue delivering positive impact? What are the new tools to support civil society? What is the role of technology and social innovation in these transformations? How can democratic values and the achievements of civil society be better communicated? And beyond our institutions, what can each of us do individually to address each of these questions?

To learn, reflect and connect, the 2018 Forum offers its participants stimulating plenary and thematic session discussions and workshops as well as ample time for networking and site-visits to local non-profits.

If you have any questions regarding this event, please contact Silvia Balmas, Thematic Networks Coordinator, at

Free entrance to the opening keynote speach of Indy Johar on Monday, 15 October 2018, 6:00p.m. – 7:30p.m.
Please find the entire programme here.

Monday, October 15, 2018 – Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Central European University
Nador u. 9
Budapest 1051


A scholarship is available to encourage and financially support participation of local grantmakers at GEF conference.

Priority will be given to representatives of independent grantmaking organisations based in the Central and Eastern European region. Apply here.

Cover picture: © CEU/Tuba Zoltán 2016

Florian Bauer

Director Social Finance, Sustainability and Innovation
Since 2023, Florian Bauer has been responsible for social finance, sustainability and social innovation at ERSTE Foundation. Prior to this role, Florian worked in the NGO & Social Entrepreneurship sector for more than 13 years. He led the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international multilateral NGO that works to accelerate market-based deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient systems in developing countries, and was Managing Director & COO of the Impact Hub Vienna. From 2020-2023, Florian established strategic alliances with key partners and helped to create innovative semantic technology solutions at Semantic Web Company (SWC), a leading IT company in semantic AI solutions.