Environmental Partnership for Central Europe

In 1990, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the RBF organized the Environmental Partnership for Central Europe as a means of nurturing community-based environmental activity in Poland, Czechoslovakia (and later the Czech Republic and Slovakia), and Hungary through small grants and technical assistance. Subsequently, more than a dozen funders from the United States, Europe, and Japan joined the Partnership. Early on, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation became a vital participant, and funded the Partnership longer than any other foundation. Program officers from the GMF, RBF, and Mott actively helped select local people to staff the Partnership offices, and offered training in nonprofit management, grantmaking, and fundraising so they could ultimately operate independently. The endeavor was unusual in its collaboration amongst funders, and in empowering grantees on the ground to distribute funds in a locally appropriate manner, often more creatively and responsively than foreign funders could have directly. The GMF served as the administrative agent until 1997, when the Partnership offices in the three countries achieved legal foundation status. The Partnership’s approach not only advanced environmental education and advocacy, as hoped, but helped to rebuild philanthropic traditions in these formerly Communist nations. The RBF continued its support for 14 years. All of the original "partnerships" remain as active foundations in their countries in 2015, with additional foundations created later in the 1990s in Romania and Bulgaria; today they all operate within the Environmental Partnership Association and are nonprofit, charitable organizations under the laws of their own countries.

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