Engaged Democracy Initiative (EDI)

The Engaged Democracy Initiative (EDI) involves local movements and organizations, researchers, social businesses, engaged citizens and journalists in a horizontal regional network for supporting, promoting and pursuing values of open, solidary and democratic societies across the Western Balkans region. EDI has been initiated by the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB) and the Institute for Democratic Engagement Southeast Europe (IDESE) in 2020.

Throughout the work, five topics common for the region have been identified as a foundation of EDI work: environment, decent work, public space, media and human rights.

In creating a network of engaged individuals able to bring changes, several offline and online interventions and approaches have been developed as key components of EDI’s work.

First, EDI is organizing different in-person gatherings and events that provide space for exchange and networking of engaged citizens from across the region.

EDI Convention – The first Engaged Democracy Convention “Engage, Inspire, Empower! Through solidarity to democracy in the Western Balkans” was organised in Belgrade in September 2021, gathering more than 100 participants from across the Western Balkans and thus creating the foundation for the process of developing the regional EDI network. This format was then organised again in 2023 with the second edition of the EDI Convention Engage, Inspire, Empower! in Pristina. It managed to additionally boost and energise the network of various individuals and organisations by giving them an opportunity to propose collaborative projects prior to the Convention that fall into one of the five EDI topics and have a regional dimension.

These project proposals were pitched, and the participants of the Convention voted for the best ideas within the EDI Community Awards competition, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. The winning projects covered all 5 EDI thematic areas and shared the same goal – empowering the groups for common regional challenges that can be addressed jointly.

EDI Regional Thematic Meetings - Based on the feedback at the first Convention, it had been recognised that working in smaller thematic groups would be more effective and valuable for the engaged citizens and movements across the region. EDI organised regional thematic meetings in almost each capital of the Western Balkans countries covering each of the five topics. By focusing on the five EDI topics, the regional in-person meetings are organized as a forum for discussing the ideas for joint action, along with exchange of positive examples for citizen mobilization practices, advocacy and communication from all the countries of the region.

Overall, around 200 individuals and representatives of local movements were connected through this format, setting the grounds for specific projects and collaborations even outside of EDI.

EDI Study Visits - EDI is bringing together engaged individuals and representatives of local movements and initiatives from the Western Balkans for study visits to Brussels, creating a strong network of these identified change-makers and connecting them with their European counterparts, decision makers and journalists. The official meetings are used to advocate for greater engagement and visibility of the EU within the Balkans, highlighting the common problems of the region - as acute environmental issues and challenges, lack of media freedom and decline in civil rights.

The second key instrument for supporting different groups is the Response Hub, a micro-granting scheme developed to support civic groups, local initiatives, and movements in the Western Balkans. It aims to provide a flexible response to specific and urgent needs of small local organisations. Up to now, over 100 different activities were supported through the Response Hub.

The third instrument is the EDI online platform, providing a safe digital space for networking and connecting citizens and organisations from the Western Balkans. The focus is to create a trust-based regional online community, which is connected through a knowledge-sharing common space and a regional calendar of gatherings, events and workshops. The national communities that exist on the platform are interconnected and coordinated by the selected local advisors.