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Invitation  |  Democracy

How grassroots civil society organisations counter shrinking civic spaces across Europe

Both democracy and values have been prevalent topics in EU debates recently. Many Member States have seen an increased polarisation of their public debates, the rise of far-right populists and an erosion of democracy, both endangering the rule of law as well as civil society. However, the EU often falls short of concrete ideas on how to protect democratic values on the ground.
by Advocate Europe on Dec. 4, 2019

During this one day conference, we would like to present innovative civil society projects from across Europe that effectively impact their surroundings and give concrete responses to societal challenges. From including migrants into policy-making processes at municipal level to creating spaces for encounters between different social groups in structurally weak areas, these goodpractices show that democratic values can be upheld with very concrete actions on the ground, effectively building social cohesion and a connected civil society across Europe.

This event is an opportunity for the Brussels policy community to discover innovative civil society initiatives and network with activists and changemakers from across Europe.


Strengthening democracy on the ground: How grassroots civil society organisations counter shrinking civic spaces across Europe

Thursday, 12 December 2019, Penta Hotel, Brussels

09.00-09.30 Registration

09:30-09.40 Welcome & Introduction

Annegret Wulff, Managing Director, MitOst

Sophie Pornschlegel, Project Lead, Connecting Europe

Jennifer Hecht, Project Manager, Stiftung Mercator

09.40-10.00 Presentation: What if hope were a muscle?

Lessons from five years of supporting civil society & future outlook

Julia Hoffmann, Head of Programme, Advocate Europe

Louisa Slavkova, Director, Sofia Platform

10:00-11:30 Parallel Workshop Sessions

Workshop 1: EscapeFake How to teach digital natives about Fake News?

Robert Praxmarer, Founder, Polycular

Workshop 2: JobAct Europe Cohesion through art in the civic space

Beáta Nagy, Artistic Director, Projektfabrik GmbH

Charles Dumas, Director of the Art Academy of Apprentis d'Auteuil

Luisa Baldeschi, Co-founder of Vivaio per l'intraprendenza

11:45- 12:30 Thematic Networking Space

Discover the people behind the winning initiatives of Advocate Europe in a meet and greet format

12:30- 13:30 Lunch break

13:30- 15:00 Parallel Dialogue Sessions

In Conversation with Migration Matters

Short film screening and discussion

#RethinkPopulism: what impact does populism have on civil society’s work in Europe?

Sophia Burton (founder) and Frankie Reid, Migration Matters

Israel Butler, Head of Advocacy, Civil Liberties Union for Europe

In Conversation with Kitev and Sofia Platform

How to keep democracy alive in the so-called “periphery”? Lessons learned from Oberhausen to rural Bulgaria

Christoph Stark and Agnieszka Wnuczak, Founders, Kitev

Louisa Slavkova, Director, Sofia Platform

Moderated by Sara Dutch, Advocate Europe

15.00-15.30 Coffee Break

15.30-15.50 Keynote Speech of Emily O’Reilly

15.50- 17:00 Panel Discussion

How to ensure a strong civil society advocacy in the EU?

Annegret Wulff, Managing Director, MitOst, Germany

Daniel Freund, MEP, The Greens/EFA

Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudswoman

Hannah Surmatz, European Foundation Center, Brussels (tbc)

Younous Muhammadi, President, Greek Forum for Refugees, Greece

Moderated by Sophie Pornschlegel, Project Leader, Connecting Europe, Brussels

17.00- 18:00 Closing Remarks & Reception

Julia Hoffmann, Head of Programme, Advocate Europe
Sophie Pornschlegel, Project Lead, Connecting Europe

You want to join us? Please sign up here and don't forget to indicate what workshop you would like to join. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.