November 21st, 2016





















Grassroots democracy -- Creating Parent-Teacher Associations

Brief description: workshops for parents, teachers and school administrators introducing the Why and How of creating Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) as well as the basics of fundraising. Participants return to their schools with a mission statement, draft of a statute and develop their first project proposal. Once they have formally registered, they are eligible for a first mini-grant and can join our network of similarly civic-minded schools: the School Plus Network. For more details on the PTAs in the School Plus network, proceed to Regions.    

From MTO's 2001 report to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
<<"Grassroots Democracy" is an ongoing project. (...) The primary goal of this project is to build grassroots democracy in Balkan countries based on citizen participation and using Polish expertise and experience. The Educational Society for Malopolska (MTO) believes that school is the right place to initiate such a movement. School should be a center of civic engagement in the local community. A second, but equally important goal is to foster communication and cooperation among all the Balkan countries and ethnic groups through a network of open, innovative schools (called 'School Plus') supported by local parent-teacher associations."
Background: MTO has worked with teachers, parents and school principals from Serbia and Kosovo since 1997. We have invited them to Poland and have gone to the region many times. We have friends there and can see how much hope has been raised since Milosevic's fall and new people have come into decision-making positions. Some of the newly appointed authorities are our former participants trained in Poland. MTO has been invited by them to assist in creating an open, democratic society in the Balkans. "Grassroots Democracy" is a reulst of this cooperation.>>

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Academy for Young Social Entrepreneurs (AYSE)

Programme established in 2002 to introduce young people to the profession of social entrepreneur, and to support those who already have a vision of how to creatively solve their local communities’ problems. 

Established in 2004 by MTO (after an earlier pilot) to introduce young people from Moldova to the profession of social entrepreneur and to support those who already have a vision of how to creatively solve their local communities' problems. It was expanded in 2005 to Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2006 to Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. In 2007, 22 young Bosnians participated in a programme of workshops in Nowy Sacz, internships with Ashoka Fellows throughout Poland and 'homework'  back in their home towns. 

AYSE is a down-to-earth, very practical training for groups of youth (aged 18-25) to develop innovative approaches to problem solving and equip participants with team-building, capacity building and fundraising skills.  

    Participants are chosen through a careful application process. They first go through a brief but intensive programme of initial stationary training (to date typically in Nowy Sacz, Poland), followed by an internship with ASHOKA Fellows (so far in Poland), and thereafter homework in their country of origin -- with the support, via e-mail -- of a mentor. The final evaluation takes place about 6 months after their return, to give them time to actually begin implementing their ideas. 

    The project also includes Training for Trainers and a Workshop for Local Entrepreneurial Leaders which take place in the target country. 

    Successfully piloted in Moldova in 2004, the programme results in the creation of new NGOs. One of these new organizations immediately became our partner in the next edition in Moldova (2005). 

The programme was expanded to Azerbaijan and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2005, and to Vojvodina, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Southern Serbia in 2006. 

More extensive reports on this programme are available upon request

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Public Achievement

Recognized as one of the best youth citizenship education efforts in the world. One of the 15 finalists in 2007 for the prestigious Carl Bertelsmann prize, an international award recognizing "innovative approaches and outstanding ideas that help shape and further develop democratic societies" (

Public Achievement (PA) is a programme that, in a very practical and natural way, makes young people active and helps them become  social entrepreneurs and responsible citizens. In PA, people of all ages learn the skills of public life and discover how, with democracy, ordinary people have the power to do extraordinary things. With the decision to take action and work with others, it is possible to have real, important and lasting impact.

Public Achievement was created in 1990 as a partnership between the City of St. Paul, Minnesota (U.S.A.) and the Center for Democracy & Citizenship at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. It grew out of a series of focus groups involving over two hundred young people in a variety of settings. The youth were asked about problems in their schools and communities and about their views on politics and public life. They listed many problems, but saw themselves outside of the solutions and outside of politics and public life. Nobody had ever asked them what they could do about the problems that mattered to them.

Public Achievement was designed to give young people the opportunity to be producers and creators of their communities, not simply customers or clients. The initial goals were to integrate civic education into institutions that work with young people and test whether young people could have an impact on problems in their schools and neighborhoods in a serious way and define this work in political terms. Indeed these goals have been met.

Public Achievement has been recognized nationally in the U.S. as a promising model of youth civic engagement by the National Commission on Civic Renewal and in The Civic Mission of Schools report by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement). Outside the U.S., Public Achievement has taken root in Northern Ireland, Turkey, Palestine and across South-Eastern Europe.

Also see:

A brief history of Public Achievement in East / South-Eastern Europe:

  • 2010-2011: Roll-out of Public Achievement in the republic of Moldova
  • 2008-2009: Roll-out of Public Achievement in Georgia and Azerbaijan.
  • 2006/2007: Public Achievement rolled out in Ukraine.
  • 2005/2006: Public Achievement Groups Unite process, culminating in an "Interim Conference" for the participating Public Achievement groups from across the region (and also including faculty from the U.S. and Turkey, and observers from Ukraine) in Popova Shapka, Macedonia, in August 2006. A new website, , came out of this process (managed from Turkey). 
  • March-November 2004: pilot phase carried out in Poland, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, with the aim of training mentors who would encourage groups of young people to come together to solve problems that are important to them and their communities (school, neighbourhood, town, et cetera).
  • July 12-16, 2004: PA Seminar for 33 volunteers in Nowy Sacz (Poland)
  • October 2004: monitoring visits on site by two trainers from MTO (Julie Boudreaux and Ala Derkowska) 
  • November 2004: National Endowment for Democracy (NED) approved a grant to implement PA in the Balkans (Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro).
  • January 2005: start of first workshops in the Balkans made possible by the grant from NED.  


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 The main goal of this project is to promote Poland in Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine, and to support democratic changes in these three countries. To accomplish this, participants will explore the history and experiences of the Polish civic movement called Solidarity and will learn about the events that occurred between 1980 and 1991. This project provides the opportunity for participants not only to learn how to build civil society without using violence but also to teach them that average people have great potential which can change even hopeless situations.  They will also be able to share best practices and experiences from their countries.

From July 7 to 15, 2007, 24 participants (12 from Ukraine, 6 from Serbia and 6 from Moldova), will take part in special workshops held in Nowy Sącz which will provide them with the skills needed to establish and run Solidarity Clubs in their regions. The workshops are intended to provide information about the Polish Solidarity movement and to offer some practical training to these future leaders. After returning home, the participants are expected to establish regional Solidarity Clubs.  In addition to overseeing these clubs, project participants will organise an awareness day on August 31 to promote what they have learned through the project Solidarity – a Passport to Democracy. In the autumn, the most active participants will return to Nowy Sącz in order to sum up the work of their clubs. They also will visit the Polish capital city, Warsaw, and meet with representatives of the Polish government.

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Street Law

Street Law is practical, participatory education about law, democracy and human rights. Through its philosophy and programs, Street Law empowers people to transform democratic ideals into citizen action. Street Law's programs do not end at the door of the classroom. Each student gains essential lessons that can be used for life.

    The Street Law Program began at Georgetown University Law Centermore than 20 years ago when law students developed a practical law course that was taught in DC Public Schools.
Street Law,  has also brought its educational message of law, democracy, and human rights to nearly two dozen countries around the world.

    Street Law develops innovative educational programs aimed at empowering people through the study of law related-education. Law-related education is a unique blend of substance and strategy: students learn substantive information about laws, the legal system, and their rights and responsibilities through cooperative strategies that promote cooperative learning, critical thinking, and positive interaction between individuals and the community.

A brief overview of the programme has it has developed so far in the School Plus network in East and South-Eastern Europe:

  • April 2007: Serbian-Bulgarian Street Law workshop in Svrljig, Serbia.
  • July 2004: evaluation and strategy planning seminar in Nowy Sacz (Poland), which highlighted the following strengths: teacher empowerment, addressing of important subjects that are not usually part of the curriculum, space for students and teachers to be creative, ability for independent work, research, and cood cooperation with other institutions. All participants expressed eagerness to continue in the coming year and to find resources for the expansion of the programme in the region.
  • By mid-2004, approximately 50 groups of 20 students each had become involved in the Street Law project.
  • March 2004: the Street Law groups shared initial experiences at the School Plus FAIR in Timisoara (Romania)
  • February-June 2004: all groups implemented the Street Law projects in their schools. During this period, project coordinators and trainers Beata Budzik and Bruno Vastmans provided hands-on advice and coaching by virtual means, using an e-mail monitoring system.
  • November 2003: seminar with 23 teachers (Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Serbia). Each country team created its own materials with teachers preparing their own version of the core curriculum which is adapated to the laws of the country and the local situation.
  • October 2003: seminar in Nowy Sacz (Poland) attended by six School Plus country coordinators
  • August 2003: launch   


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Extra-curricular programme wherein adolescents build a miniature town, learning about self-government and social responsibility. The children build a village to scale, choose a governing system and leadership, open a bank and a store, hold a call for tenders for public works, and start private enterprises. The fun is "living in" the village.

The Village has a history of effectiveness, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The programme was formalized in the early 1990s in Krakow (Poland). It has spread across Central Europe as it is ideal for providing young people with a hands-on experience of community participation.

Like Public Achievement (see above), The Village is an excellent way to infuse greater participation in adolescent civic education. Programs like The Village (and Public Achievement) meet the need of the civics teachers and their students who are looking for participatory application. And the classroom curriculum topics provide a natural launch point for civil society organizations with a passion to expose youth to local leadership and citizenship participation. 







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