Civil Society and Elections (EMMM project)

Our 2-year long joint project with the Civil College Foundation, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and With the Power of Humanity Foundation aimed at analyzing, evaluating and supporting the activities of CSOs and community groups (e.g. voter mobilization, election monitoring) around the local and national elections. The project is supported by the European Union's 'Rights, Equality and Citizenship' program.

As the project’s first step, in the first half of 2020, we examined the characteristics, results and success factors of civic mobilization and activity around the 2019 municipal elections with a questionnaire survey and a series of focus group interviews involving more than 30 active groups. The summary of the quantitative and qualitative research can be read HERE. Based on this report, our partners held an online training series on the following topics for members of affected organizations and groups:

Tools of advocacy (October 9, 2020): Through examples of advocacy activities of citizens and local groups, the participants thought about the possibilities of shaping the social dialogue around issues of public interest. Which are the impactful tools for citizens to pursue their interests directly or indirectly through public pressure (from negotiation to public action)? What is the position of CSOs, local decision-makers, and state actors in this process? The event was hosted by Péter Giczey and Mónika Bálint (Civil College Foundation).

Tools of online recruitment and mobilization (October 16, 2020): Reaching out to volunteers, supporters and activists of organizations is increasingly shifted to the online space. A significant part of communication and mobilization also takes place here. At this event, opportunities and experiences of online recruitment and mobilization were discussed. The event was hosted by Gergely Hajdú (aHang) and Mónika Bálint (Civil College Foundation).

Outreach and mobilization (October 29, 2020): Training participants thought through the goals and tools of involvement and active participation of local citizens, their looser and closer connection to civic groups. In addition to case-based, short-term recruitment and mobilization, the conditions for long-term networking, involvement and volunteering were also discussed. The event was hosted by Péter Giczey and Mónika Bálint (Civil College Foundation).

Election skills (November 6, 2020): There are several phases and elements of an election period that make it seem complicated and incomprehensible from the outside. A significant proportion of the voters are not familiar with the electoral system, which may keep them away from the elections. This conversation was about easily understandable basic electoral law that makes community building easier for participants. The event was hosted by Dániel Döbrentey and Flóra Benkő (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union).

Local Activism 1x1 (November 20, 2020): Plenty of time elapses between two elections that gives opportunity to get to know voters, to map their problems and to build communities. In this matter it helps if the organization is active in local cases, looks for opportunities to help local residents. In our workshop we gave practical tools and knowledge on how organizations can be active in the intervening period. The event was hosted by Attila Szabó and Flóra Benkő (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union)

Gamification as a tool for online recruitment and mobilization (20 January and 21 February 2021): During the workshop, we provided an insight into the creation of online games and the possibilities of using them as an awareness-raising, participatory tool. After introducing a few games designed by us, and learning about their scope, we presented a number of online game-design sites that gave participants the opportunity to create their own tools while focusing on the values they want to share. Host: András Nyirati (With the Power of Humanity Foundation).

Escape rooms in service of local cases (January 21, 2021): In this workshop we dealt with the methodology of (online) escape rooms and the possibility of using this tool for serving local cases, campaigns and advocacy processes. Based on existing examples, we helped participants create their own escape rooms by the end of the workshop. At the same time, they processed a local case that was important to their group, drawing attention to the importance of the issue and making it understandable to a wider audience. Host: András Nyirati (With the Power of Humanity Foundation).

Minority advocacy (February 19, 2021): As a nominating organization, or even as an active citizen, the question may arise: what is the most effective way to empower ethnic minorities? Whether you should work for change as a member of the local government’s assembly or the local minority self-government? The question is not that simple because each institution has different competences. In this workshop we introduced what tools are available in the field of minority advocacy, and which tools can be utilized in which institution and by whom. The event was hosted by Attila Szabó (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union).

CSOs in social media (March 12, 2021): Facebook is one of the main public interfaces. How to use it based on what we know about its algorithm? What to pay attention to when creating and posting contents, and how to analyze the performance of our site? There are plenty of questions and we have tried to answer as many as possible. This was a follow-up to an earlier workshop entitled Communication Strategy. The event was hosted by Kata Tasnádi and Flóra Benkő (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union).

Online communication (March 19, 2021): Dániel Fehér, a marketing specialist and a member of Lively Vecsés group, introduced us simple tools that are useful even to small organizations to produce and circulate newsletters and to create an interface suitable to present their work.

In the next phases of the project, broader cross-sectoral workshops will be organized to facilitate networking and exchange with (independent) media and journalists, researchers and think tanks, as well as European civil society networks. In addition, our partners also plan further trainings and contribute to the renewal of the informative websites and The project is expected to end with a follow-up survey and an evaluation meeting next spring.


Workshop for active citizens and interested people: Ökotárs and With the Power of Humanity Foundation held the first cross-sectoral workshop of the project on 11 June 2021 in Pécs with the title Civil society, elections and the media. The first in-person, live event after a long period of time was attended by journalists of local, national and crossborder media outlets as well as representatives and activists of civil society organisations mainly from Pécs and Baranya county, about 40 people in total. The workshop focused on the links and possible cooperation between CSOs and media on the one hand, and discussed the shrinking space and the problems of independent media on the other – with special attention to the upcoming elections.
More details here.

The second workshop took place in the framework of the 18th Summer University of Community Participation in Kunbábony between 21 and 25 July, focusing on the theme of local self-determination. Besides civil society activists and community development professionals, researchers, experts, municipal officials and civil servants discussed the opportunities and obstacles of cooperation between citizens and institutions between two elections. Besides Hungary, the situation in Slovakia and Serbia was also described at a session.
More details here.

The third workshop was held online with the title Civil society and elections: experience from around Europe and Hungary on 4 November. Representatives of civil society organisations, citizen groups and movements from Hungary and various European countries were invited with the goal to give inspiration and ideas to one another through presenting concrete campaigns and actions. At a time when most countries of Central Europe are in a political turmoil in one way or another, with important elections taking place in some and continuous governmental crises in others, these impact on civil society, too, as groups and organizations and movements realise they need to participate and have their say in democratic processes during and beyond elections.
Workshop participants e.g. learned about the online tools to monitor parties and elections developed by the Expert Forum in Romania, and heard how Obywatele RP organised candidate forums in Poland. Maison de l’Europe examined and compared the „Europeanness” of presidential candidates, while Bundesnetzwerk Bürgerliche Engagement compiled a publication of the recommendations and demands of civil society before the German federal elections. In turn, international participants could learn about the ins and outs of (successful) local civic campaigns in Szentendre, Miskolc, Pécs and Józsefváros. The mobilisation campaign carried out by the Freie Ungarische Botschaft in the Hungarian diaspora of Germany represented a very special type of activity.
After the presentations, the ~35 participants discussed the lessons in breakout rooms, searched for common points and best practices, brainstormed about the adaptability of specific campaigns – while building contacts and networking among themselves.

The recording of the event can be watched on the Facebook-page of Ökotárs (in 4 parts).
The event program may be found here.

Presentations may be downloaded from here:
Rast’o Kuzel, Memo98 (Slovakia)
Septimius Parvu, Expert Forum, Romania
Magdalena Pecul, Obywatele RP (Citizens of Poland) Poland
Albena Simeonova, FEA (Foundation for Environment and Agriculture), Bulgaria
Anne-Kathrin Gräfe, Bundesnetzwerk Bürgerschaftliche Engagement, Germany
Róbert László, Political Capital Institute
István Szulovszky, Civil Kotta (Szentendre)
Zsuzsa Csabalik, PadTársak (Miskolc), Independents for the City of Szinva
Júlia Konkoly-Thege, A Város Mindenkié, The City is for All (Pécs)
Bálint Vojtonovszki, Freie Ungarische Botschaft (Berlin)


Within the project we also contributed to the renewal of the and information websites.


The final event of the project was held on 30-31 May 2022 in Budapest, with participants from neighbouring countries as well as from Hungary, to jointly interpret the events surrounding the 2022 elections and put them in a European context. On the first day of the conference, we had the opportunity to get acquainted with the national initiatives of the electoral period, to present some of the features of the two-year programme, and to discuss with the participants in focus groups the achievements, difficulties and experiences of our operations before and during the elections. As a closing presentation, political analyst Attila Juhász outlined the prospects of Hungarian independent NGOs in the coming period, which was followed by an informal discussion.

The second day of the conference was opened up to the international civil society space, with the participation and contribution of civil society actors from 11 countries. Our guest speakers discussed global autocratic trends, the outcome and background of the Hungarian parliamentary elections and civic good practices related to the elections. Polina Filippova, a Russian civic activist who has emigrated to Germany, analysed the current lack of prospects for the Russian civil sector. In parallel small groups, our foreign guests held guided discussions on the survival strategies of NGOs in autocracies and the impact of the changing legal and political environment on the sector. After a fascinating time of reflection, participants were treated to a city walk in Budapest, where they were able to further savour the main theme of the conference and learn about the imprint of politics on the built environment and cityscape. Videos of the presentations are available on our Youtube channel. The english section is starting from the 4th video.

The conference program can be downloaded here.