Civic Europe

Civic Europe is an incubator for locally rooted civic initiatives, organizations and individuals in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe realized by MitOst and Sofia Platform, funded by Stiftung Mercator.

We need active citizens

In times of polarization, deep political divisions and declining trust in democracy, civic cohesion is at stake. To tackle these societal challenges, we believe that Europe needs active citizens from different backgrounds engaged in open civic spaces to build the stronghold of our democracies. Only a vibrant and diverse civil society lives up to the potential that the core idea of democracy holds: co-creating our own future and having agency to influence our collective lives.

Civic Europe supports individuals, initiatives and civil society organizations in the regions of Central, Southern and Eastern Europe challenged by low civic literacy and a lack of civic infrastructure and aim to strengthen civic cohesion and active citizenship in their communities. We offer them mentoring and funding to implement their project ideas and to foster and promote their civic activities in the region. Civic Europe is a multi-level enabling framework that supports locally rooted organizations and projects.

Photo by Panos Georgiou

Our support comes in two ways

  • The Idea Challenge funds and mentors up to 15 lighthouse ideas per year with grants of up to €50,000 each. Eligible countries are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Winning projects of the idea challenge build bridges and function as bright horizons and inspiration for bringing people together in times of segregation and animosity.
  • Capacity Building fosters the capacity and the ecosystems of locally rooted organizations and individuals active in the fields of civic education and civic engagement. It helps them establish themselves as actors in their communities by providing learning spaces and seed project funding in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania. It is co-created and implemented with local partners.

Why the local level?

Most regions outside capitals and large urban centers are characterized by low civic cohesion. In our understanding, civic cohesion is comprised of civic infrastructure and civic literacy. Civic infrastructure concerns civic spaces; those places where people meet, exchange and act on their local concerns. Civic infrastructure also has to do with civil society – in these places, civil society is usually weak; organizations are small in number and size, with limited funding and organizational skills. Many citizens there have low civic literacy – they lack the knowledge, skills and competences to be active in the local community. It is at this level and in these places that we believe change happens first. On the local level people carry the greatest potential to identify challenges; they also have almost everything needed to tackle them. We believe that with the support of local partners we can help these pockets in Europe to increase the civic capacities of the citizens and the communities. This is why the focus of the program is locally rooted individuals, organizations and projects invested in supporting democracy from within.

Our partners

Stiftung Mercator is a private and independent foundation. Through its work it strives for a society characterized by openness to the world, solidarity and equal opportunities. In this context it concentrates on strengthening Europe; increasing the educational success of disadvantaged children and young people, especially those of migrant origin; driving forward climate change mitigation and promoting science and the humanities. Stiftung Mercator symbolizes the connection between academic expertise and practical project experience. One of Germany’s leading foundations, it is active both nationally and internationally. Stiftung Mercator feels a strong sense of loyalty to the Ruhr region, the home of the founding family and the foundation’s headquarters.

Sofia Platform is a Bulgarian foundation that focuses on enhancing democratic political culture and informing the debate on communism, transition and democracy. Through its work on educational materials and trainings in civics Sofia Platform aims to help local communities, teachers and students establish themselves as active participants in public life. Internationally, Sofia Platform works on education materials on communism, transition and civics in Eastern Europe.


Idea Challenge

Eva Famulla

Lisa Gimbert

Iliyana Gräbner


Capacity Building

Guljan Umurgazina

Monika Nikzentaitis-Stobbe

Maxim Smekhov

Marischa Weiser

Louisa Slavkova

Borislav Dimitrov

Civic Europe Website
Civic Europe Facebook

Funded by: