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Balkan Bytes: NGO Information Networking in South Eastern Europe Gábor Heves Project Manager Funded by the Ministry of Environment of Italy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway Environmental information networks in South Eastern Europe QKE Albania www.qke-al.org EkoMrežaBiH Bosnia and Herzegovina www.ekomrezabih.net Bluelink Bulgaria bluelink.net Eko.Net FYR Macedonia www.eko.net.mk StrawberryNet Romania www.ngo.ro Volvox Serbia and Montenegro www.erc.org.yu/volvox/ Sharri.Net Kosovo* www.sharri.net * Kosovo is currently under interim UN administration <www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/> Examples of what networks do • Websites (news, databases, discussion forums) • Mailings lists • Training programmes • Developing products, providing services to members Basic project principles • Cooperation, democratic procedures and transparency • Focus on content • Long-term sustainability of networks • Bottom-up approach: NGOs plan, implement and supervise activities <www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/> Project start-up (2001) • A needs assessment was conducted • NGOs were informed and invited • Network steering groups were formed • Network workplans document activities • Project website <www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/> Highlights from the project phase 2002-2004 • Creation of on-line content (e.g. web portals, news services, mailing lists, databases, thematic websites, newsletters, distribution of computer equipment) • Training workshops (e.g. computer technical skills, news publishing) • Outreach and marketing (e.g. increasing the number and activity of network users, cooperating with governments and non-environmental NGOs, creating promotional materials) • International cooperation (e.g. regional strategic meetings, on-line news exchange, transfer of experience, joint campaigns) • See workplans for details on the wealth of activities (All of them accessible on-line on the project website.) <www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/> Tangible results <www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/> Activities in Italy, 2003-2004 • Project implemented jointly with Italian partner organisation, L’Umana Dimora • Four study tours in 2003, covering: •environmental NGO management; •Internet content development; •PR and marketing; •fundraising; and •media relations and news writing • Four training courses in 2004: •business planning; •facilitation skills; •online content and media; and •technical skills. • The Balkan Cyber Tea House (Rimini, August 2004) <www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/> Mission-driven business planning • Priority issue for networks: financial sustainability •Difficulty to obtain donor funds in general •Hard to receive support to cover core expenses •Donors’ priorities may be hard to match with network priorities •Only short-term financing through projects • Networks as social enterprises •Diversification of income sources •Self-financing methods (fee-based services and products) • Workshop to develop business plans •Analysis of market, opportunities and risks •Developing a business strategy and service portfolio •PR and marketing •Financial planning • University thesis to identify and evaluate network self-financing methods <www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/> Future plans • Wide range of activities as described in business plans • Widening target audience (primarily non-environmental NGOs) • Focus on financial stability: diversification of income sources and launching fee-based services • Cooperation with other countries • Improved visibility <www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/>