An alliance of non-governmental organizations from Central and Southeastern Europe designed to mutually empower social entrepreneurship initiatives in Roma communities through education for livelihood projects: to generate incomes, create jobs and build relationships between Roma and non-Roma groups.
ERSTE Foundation started the Roma Partnership as a pilot-project 7 years ago. within its social programme to innovate direct support at community levels that would lead to improving the situation of Roma people.
About 20 NGOs in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia took up the initial challenge.
The original approach
was a commitment to a development cycle:
ERSTE Foundation supported NGOs to develop social entrepreneurship projects within a five-year cycle of maturation process:
Phase 1: support for drawing and setting up plans, identifying business strategies, testing models and take off operations.
Phase 2: stabilizing operations and working out strategies for sustainability.
The Model’s Specific Features
An innovative MIX
Partner NGOs are rooted in the Roma communities where project ideas and initiatives are identified.
Structures are set up to operationalize and implement a variety of complimentary projects by mobilizing local resources.
Pro bono experts, consultants and experts provide technical support for know-how, creative synergies and further networking.
Roma and non-Roma are enabled to work together in building and strengthening communities.
a yearly event where partners:
Learn from each other about unique and varied project experiences;
Exchange information firsthand from project operators with actual visits on the ground;
Activate minds in the spirit of entrepreneurship through workshops and set up;
Platforms that enable more concrete linkages with each other and empower
Synergizing, which is both a basic and essential element of the Partnership.
Ongoing Transition Period
At the LEAPS event in April 2018, the ERSTE Foundation supported projects were coming to an end. All of the participating NGOs decided to continue and strengthen the Roma Partnership as an independent entity.
At the LEAPS event in June 2019, ERSTE Foundation agreed to fund 7 intra-partnership projects presented by 12 NGOs during a Pitching Session and voted upon by all participants. The operational projects are financially administered by Simpact, a long-standing partner that has also conducted training activities for the group.
A Steering Group for the Roma Partnership was formed with Vera Lackova as Coordinator.
Franz Prüller, advisor to the Board of ERSTE Foundation had this to say:
“As the responsible director for creating the ERSTE Foundation Roma Partnership I want to admit that I immensely enjoyed my time and experience throughout the years. It enabled me to distinguish between the varied situations of Roma in the four countries and to also specifically recognize similar structures and attitudes that contribute to their marginalization. Above all, I was inspired by the creativity, enthusiasm, hard work and dedication of people behind our partner NGOs: opening up windows and doors of opportunity to enhance Roma participation, recognition and dignity.
I am grateful for the strong team that worked with me in ERSTE Foundation and made this complex programme a reality: Camilo who, as pro bono expert, spearheaded the initial direction, impulse, concept and facilitative energy; Alina, who as manager, engaged a set of leadership skills and together with Hajni, committed themselves to varied operational aspects, doing whatever was needed and called for. All 3 stayed in close touch with everyone and mobilized us to gather for wonderful annual events, aptly named LEAPS, at which we profited from learning, exchanging and activating platforms for creating synergies.
I have felt most happy in seeing that most partner NGOs came to LEAPS as mixed teams of Roma and non-Roma, thereby demonstrating a crucial element of what this Partnership is all about. And I want to acknowledge appreciation to all who enabled us to visit projects and to meet with people in the communities. For such an experience where we re-visited projects and made friends with the partners in 4 Roma villages, I must express special thanks on behalf of everyone to the FAST Team in Sacele led by Daniel, Ema and Ruxi who have hosted LEAPS on 3 occasions and who have committed to giving the Roma Partnership a home base. This is most appropriate, considering that with Ion at eematico in Bucharest, they are implementing one of the 7 collaborative projects approved during the transition period.
I sincerely hope that will be able to continue going for leaps in the commitment, quality and reach of your work for and with Roma.
That is my sincere wish for the Steering Group: to all of the abovementioned who have agreed to continue guiding the new Roma Partnership under the coordination of Vera, whose leadership and voice as Roma is enhanced with the addition of Bogi and Yulo.
So then, although no longer as ERSTE Foundation representative, I have accepted to work as part of the Steering Group. In fact, this is not good-bye but a happy and confident “auf Wiedersehen” that I full-heartedly and most appreciatively extend to all who have been and wish to be partners for a mutually rewarding engagement.”