Are you are interested to learn how ReLOaD has forged strong partnerships between local governments and civil society? Ask Stela!
Stela Mardusha works as a specialist in the European Integration Department at Shkodra Municipality, the first one to engage with ReLOaD programme. She gives us a first-hand account of her experience and ways how the Municipality of Shkoder benefitted from the programme.
Shkodra Municipality has a long-standing partnership with civil society organizations. When ReLOaD launched in 2017 a Call for Municipalities to apply to be part of RELOAD, they considered this a brilliant opportunity and responded to the call.
Unification of work processes
Shkodra, together with Tirana, Durrës, Lezha, Dibra, Tropoja, Përmet, Roskovec, Librazhd, Elbasan, Prrenjas and Korça, were the first municipalities that joined the ReLOaD programme in 2017 and had a strong buy-in in the LOD methodology – an instrument closely aligned with the EU rules on the financing of external actions and guaranteeing an open procedure, equal opportunities for all candidates, visibility, and transparency.
“There is a considerable workload, but in the end, it is all worth it because it provides an excellent opportunity to work closely with the civil society. If previous public procurement processes were rigid, LOD methodology made it possible for municipalities and organizations to brainstorm on best solutions.
Thanks to the LOD methodology, our municipality established fruitful cooperation with CSOs from the first hearing session held to set priorities, until to the implementation phase. More than a project, or a programme, ReLOaD is a working process. It left behind a real instrument that frames the whole mechanism and regulates the relations of the municipality with civil society organizations.”
In the first three years of the program, ReLOaD provided funding for seven local non-profit organizations. More than 5000 citizens of Shkodra benefited from initiatives promoting social inclusion, women’s empowerment, tourism, culture and youth. “Reducing women’s poverty, a necessity for inclusive equality” and “Tarabosh’s new friends” are two of the most successful projects supported by ReLOaD in 2017 and even today, Red Cross in Shkodra and the Association The door, continue to work with the local community.
When asked how the LOD methodology was initially received by her and her colleagues, Stela says – “To tell the truth, we started with a little rigidity, like everything new, but over time we got our hands on it and here we are today in the fifth year, organizing the fifth public call that is all funded by the municipality itself, as it was the fourth call too”.
Since the approval of the LOD Methodology by the Municipal Council in 2017, every year, the municipality of Shkodra continues to manage public funds and organize calls for civil society organizations under this instrument, as it “unified the working methodology with the European Union standards”, as Stela says.
Strengthening human resources to improve the quality of services
Strengthening the capacity of the partner municipalities’ staff and CSOs, in the area of the project management cycle, is one of key pillars of the ReLOaD programme. During the first phase, over 100 professionals received technical knowledge on drafting reports and budgets, project implementation and monitoring, with the standards of the European Union. For Stela, in addition to being in close contact with civil society organizations, these trainings helped her to frame a very good work practice.
Currently the Municipalities of Shkodra Tirana and Tirana which adapted quicker and applied successfully the LOD methodology, now serve as mentors to the new partner municipalities.
Stela says that she has learned a lot from this successful journey and now she is ready to share with her peers in other ReLOaD partner municipalities which have joined in 2021.
“After 5-year of experience, I call on my colleagues to benefit as much as possible from the opportunity that RELOAD offers. It is a great learning experience for the administration, it is a long-term course where in the end the winners are local administrations, civil society organizations and society. I would also suggest municipalities to stay in regular contact with civil society organizations and get feedback, both positive and negative, and make it part of their job.”
LOD methodology as a work practice beyond the project
Shkodra Municipality applied for the first time the LOD Methodology in sports.
With changes made in the law “For Sports”, the municipality had the opportunity to organize sport clubs as business entities or through partnerships with civil society organizations. Shkodra chose the latter, and the whole process for providing financial support was managed by applying the LOD methodology.
Through the package approved by the Municipal Council, 350 athletes of Sport Klub Vllaznia were supported, divided into 15 sports disciplines and 21 teams, including hand games, individual sports and women’s football. This was an innovative method in the management of sports disciplines in Albania, but thanks to its success, now it’s being applied by other municipalities too.
“I am very proud that we were the first municipality to apply the methodology in the field of sports and that this example is already being practiced in other municipalities. In the end, it gives you pleasure” – says Stela.
The Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2) financed by the European Union (EU) works to strengthen participatory democracies and the EU integration process in the Western Balkans (WB) through empowerment of civil society and youth to actively take part in decision making by stimulating an enabling legal and financial environment for CSOs.