Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
After giving a brief introduction of what NIOK does, our speaker allowed us to input what it was we wanted to learn from her, and knowing that NIOK has been working hard in the recent weeks with the new legislation concerning re-registration of NGOs, we asked her to discuss more and delve more information about the new law and simply trying to gain more insight.
Over the past few weeks, we have met with so many speakers and organizations and heard many differing views concerning the new law that there are so many opinions it was difficult to really get a grasp of what the law entailed and the details as to how it really affects the NGO sector. The new legislation had been broken down to basically dictate how NGOs are established and how they are operated. Our discussions and questions were geared more towards Public Benefit Organizations, which are technically just a status for a foundation or association. Definitively, it means that an organization is more transparent than other organizations and more active on the field in whatever cause the organization is fighting for.
We learned today that many of the qualms with the new legislation is due to the question of why it is needed in the first place. With a focus on Public Benefit Organizations, Zsuzsa explained that there was never anything wrong with the existing law in the first place; in fact, the existing law was very good. The only problem was the implementation and application of the law that was the problem. The current law defines PBOs as organizations which are fully transparent in everything they do (with few exceptions) and that they do not deal with politics. The problem arises when organizations are not adhering to the rules and not upholding their transparency, for example, filing this annual public benefit report and presenting it in a public forum.
At first look, it seemed that the misconception I had was that this law was an attempt to alleviate that problem and try to keep an up-to-date data base on the NGOs that exist and to really try to administer this transparency better. But lack of attention on the side of policy makers and feelings that the new law and re-registration is completely unnecessary has thus brought a lot of controversy and dissatisfaction with the new government especially. However, like all things in life, Zsuzsa had finished off her presentation conveying that this is not so much a problem, but moreso a challenge that the sector must learn to overcome.
Monday, June 27, 2011
This was an interesting organization because unlike the others which we visited, their support of other organizations means that their mission is much different and as such, Peter offered a very different viewpoint in terms of Social Enterprise and the NGO sector. Similarly, we had a guest speaker, Scsaurszki Tamás, who came in to talk to us about 2 weeks back and he was a freelance consultant. It was quite interesting to learn about his work because one of the first thoughts that popped into my mind as we started learning more about the NGO sector was whether or not there were NGO consultants since a lot of the reasons why good ideas go under is because there is so much that these people who have creative ideas don't know about keeping an organization sustainable and moving forward from it just being a hobby.
NESsT and Tamás are similar in that they work with various NGOs in different countries, gaining context and using information to act as a catalyst. With Scsaurszki Tamás, we were introduced to NGO work in the corporate sector and the idea of "Social Economy", which tries to combine social and financial groups. (Think financial institutions in the social community), as well as the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in terms of corporations, often used for reasons which are not altruistic.
Of course, Tamás only worked with smaller organizations and only in Hungary and Poland. NESsT focuses on organizations in emerging market countries including Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia as well as countries in South America including Chile and Brasil. The organization aims for helping the fresh, young civil society with undeveloped local philanthropy and it divides its venture philanthropy into Financial, Intellectual, and Social divisions. Financial includes multi-year financial support by keeping the organization sustainable and straying away from dependence of donors but through other outlets. Intellectual refers to mentoring, advisory and coaching for social enterprise. NESsT contributes to this through many different mediums, such as workshops as mentioned earlier, but also through conferences and forums, such as the Social Enterprise day they hold annually. Finally, Social refers to networking both among organizations and other parties such as pro-bono advisers.
Peter ran through much of the philosophy, mission and portfolio of the organization and focused a lot on how they choose what organizations to help and how they contribute to the development and expansion (if desired) of those organizations. They try to find organizations which are stable in many aspects such as leadership, structure and management, and of course, have a great idea, generating a commercial product which helps contribute to diversify their portfolio.
It was most interesting to hear from him because many of our other speakers and site visits often showcased people who were passionate in a specific cause, whether its helping disabled or disadvantaged children, or helping a discriminated against minority to integrate and have a higher quality of life in the current society, NESsT and Peter were passionate about helping organizations help others.
Eger Castle Friend Circle: www.egrivar.hu
Életfa Környezetvédő Szövetség, Egri Civil Ház: www.eletfa.org.hu ; eck.hu;
Szomolyai Romákért Egyesület:
Kaptárkő Egyesület: www.kaptarko.hu
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Monday morning. 6:30 A.M. Full of flawless smiles and laughter, our little group proceeded to head to the train station to catch a 7:00 A.M. train to Eger from Budapest. A two hour train ride, our group spent the majority of the trip learning new Hungarian words and planning how the next few days would unravel. There may have also been some sleeping involved... Finally, we had arrived and were greeted with some amazing views...
As we walked off of the train we were met by a member of the Carpathian Foundation in Eger. Mrs. Boglarka Bata, or Bogi as she preferred to be called, gave us an extraordinarily warm welcome and along with her very kind husband brought us to the headquarters of the Foundation there in Eger. After a brief introduction between the members of our little group and the Carpathian crew(Aniko Magyar and Norbert Havasi), we were headed to tour the city.
Our first stop was the Castle of Eger. Perhaps one of the most famous castles in all of Hungary and home to over 400,000 visitors annually, the Castle of Eger gains its reputation as a symbol of Hungarian independence due to its role in the historically significant Siege of Eger. On our guided tour which included a private tour of the castle's museum we learned a great many things regarding the history of the castle and the history of Eger as a region. When the Ottoman Turks invaded Eger in 1552 a small army of 2,000 defenders from all parts of the Eger region were able to hold off an invasion force of over 40,000. After over a month of constant cannon fire, the Turks withdrew from Eger marking October 17th as a day of pride and celebration in the nation of Hungary. Concluded by a presentation
concerning the castle and its supporting projects (Friend Circle of Castle of Eger) which center on bringing together local nonprofits, we were ready to move on.
After a quick stroll through the center of the city we all sat down for lunch. After having a delicious meal and getting to know the members of the Carpathian Foundation a bit more we continued our tour of the city which included a quick visit to the Eger Minorite Church. Soon after this, the group visited the Civic House in order to further understand the role the Carpathian Foundation plays in helping local groups, organizations, and people. The Foundation is the member of the Carpathian Network operating within Romania, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, and Slovakia. The Network was founded in 1995 to support the growth and stability of the Euroregion. The Carpathian Foundation–Hungary’s mission is to improve the quality of life of the communities living in the Carpathian region, preserving and utilizing the social, economic, ethnic, cultural and environmental values of the Hungarian part of the Carpathian region.
This meeting was followed by a quick tour of one of the many wine cellars of the region. Located directly outside the Cathedral, this particular wine cellar included a linguistically talented tour guide and an atmosphere that can be described as highly reminiscent of the Chamber of Secrets. Many Harry Potter jokes were made during this wine cellar tour...
After a long day of touring and learning, the members of the Budapest group 2011 and the members of the Carpathian Foundation, now lifelong friends, sat down together for a nice dinner in the Nice Women's Valley. The long day was now winding down, but this was still only day 1...
On Wednesday, June 15th, we had the great pleasure of meeting with Dr. Eva Kuti who is considered by a great many to be the academic expert (with many books and articles to her name) in the field of Hungarian nonprofits and any and all related topics. After getting her degree from the Karl Marx University of Economics in Budapest, Dr. Kuti spent a great deal of time working for a number of schools and organizations including the Central Statistical Office and the Economic Research Institute before receiving her PhD in economics in 2003. Since then she has taught as a professor for the Budapest College of Management in addition to conducting various types of research regarding the structure of the nonprofit sector.
Dr. Kuti lectured us on all the types of research she has conducted regarding the nonprofit climate in Hungary and after a short while, the class unanimously agreed that yes, she was indeed an expert. Her level of knowledge regarding the nonprofit climate was truly awe inspiring even to a point where we were determined to ask thought provoking questions in order to validate our own knowledge of the sector. Hopefully, we succeeded. It was a great pleasure hosting Dr. Eva Kuti and we are sincerely grateful for her time and insights!
Sunday, June 19, 2011
On Tuesday, we made a site visit to hear from Fuzesy Tamas, CEO of United Way in Hungary who used to work with the Hole in the Wall Camps. It was interesting listening to him contrast the two organizations he had been a part of, the role the board of directors played in the two, their strategies for fundraising, and his motivations for working there. We learned about how United Way had started its program with school children to advocate for child safety. United Way teams up with teachers in the schools and puts on programs to help children learn about safety concerns. He discussed their potential strategies for expanding and the process they took in developing the organization’s programs last year. His experiences gave us a very valuable inside look at two NGO's in Hungary.