We’ve just opened two training and funding opportunities for citizens and local organizations. The first is our “Don’t Be Afraid of Local Politics” mentoring program, now in its second year, and the second is a new grant opportunity for social enterprises affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

“Don’t Be Afraid of Local Politics” is for people who are already engaged in community life, yet would like to do even more to serve their communities by running for local office. The program is a source of support to people considering taking this step, providing them with experienced mentors, training workshops and networking with other potential municipal leaders. “Don’t Be Afraid of Local Politics” also helps local residents organize discussion forums about pressing issues.

“Thanks to “Don’t Be Afraid of Local Politics”, I grasped how municipal councils work. My mentor answered all of my questions. She taught me how to find my own place in the system and how I can contribute to the development of our community. I learned a lot from the whole program, mainly because all of the participants shared their experiences and even their failures. I would recommend the program to anyone who cares about where our country is headed. Because if we don’t do something about it, who will?,” says Petra Polochová from Soběšovice, who participated in the first year of the program.

In June, 11 people from six regions gathered in Prague. It was the last of 10 events they shared in the “Don’t Be Afraid of Local Politics” program over the past year.  

Selected participants receive up to 10 hours of mentoring from current mayors, councillors or assembly members. They also take part in three training events, where they learn about how municipalities operate, how to engage citizens in municipal life and how to work with politicians and civil servants. They will also have the opportunity to share experiences and gain inspiration and feedback through online meetings. Participants can also apply for a grant to hold a training event in their own community or a discussion forum on a selected current issue. They will interact with other community leaders who are also considering running for local office. After the conclusion of the yearlong program, they will have the option of continuing as part of our alumni group.

For this second year of the program, we added a webinar for potential applicants to provide information about what the program entails a few weeks before the application deadline.

Social enterprises which employ socially, physically or otherwise disadvantaged individuals and were severely affected by the Covid-19 crisis can apply for fast grants of up to CZK 500,000 to maintain and develop their operations.

Through our program for socially responsible start-ups, we supported the Chříč Brewery, whose staff includes disabled employees, in 2016. (Photo: Pivovar Chříč, www.pivovarchric.cz)

This new program will offer support to enterprises that employ socially, physically or otherwise disadvantaged individuals, play an important role in their communities or regions, and were severely affected by the Covid-19 crisis. A jury composed of social business experts and staff of Via Foundation and the Avast Foundation will select enterprises that kept operating through the crisis, want to develop their business and prepare for similar future situations, and are willing to share their experience with others to help develop social enterpreneurship in the Czech Republic.

“According to a survey conducted in June 2020[1] two-thirds of Czech social enterprises got involved in various initiatives during the Covid-19 crisis, everything from sewing face masks to cooking meals for emergency medical service providers to helping individuals,” says Jana Horáková, who is in charge of the new program at Via Foundation.

Since social enterprises place a high priority on their social goals, including job integration and improving the quality of life of their disabled employees, they tend to postpone the human resources and organizational consequences of the crisis as long as possible – even though the risks associated with retaining disabled employees is greater than it is in regular companies. But the risks will increase and some social enterprises will be forced to lay off employees within a 3 to 6 month timeframe, if they don’t receive outside help. About 45% of the surveyed social enterprises stated that they are facing serious financial problems. One-half anticipate that their revenues will drop by more than 50% due to the crisis.[2]

A total of CZK 10 million has been allocated for emergency and development grants and accompanying consultancy services for grant recipients. The program is made possible thanks to support from the Avast Foundation, which is financed by Avast, the global cybersecurity leader. Avast has already donated $25 million through its foundation to support Covid-19 research and projects to alleviate the consequences of the pandemic.

The grant period will run from November 2020 to November 2021.

[1] Assessment of a survey of social enterprises during the Covid-19 crisis by PhDr. Ing. Petra Francová, Ing. Karel Rychtář and Mgr. Markéta Vinkelhoferová for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Prague 2020, https://ceske-socialni-podnikani.cz/images/pdf/Vyhodnocen_dotaznkovho_eten_korona.pdf

[2] Idem.