Marijana Sumpor, Irena Đokić, Ivana Rašić Bakarić,
A strong civil society is an important component of a democratic system that contributes to better implementation of public policies.
At the end of 2016, an evaluation of the National Strategy for the Promotion of the Development of the Non-Governmental Sector in the Republic of Croatia 2012-2016 was conducted (Strategy). The evaluation was conducted based on standard evaluation criteria and was based on the survey of representatives of civil society organizations at the state level, interviews with stakeholders and document analysis and recommendations were made for the development of a new strategy by 2021.
A strong civil society is an important component of a democratic system that contributes to better implementation of public policies. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play an active role in the public sphere, and are involved in initiatives that strengthen participatory democracy. Bežovan and Zrinščak (2007: 20) define civil society as “the space between the family, the state and the market in which individuals work together to promote common interests.” The results of the study (TACSO, 2013) point to the importance of the role of civil society, which confirmed that in the example of Croatia CSOs played a significant role in Croatia’s accession to the European Union (EU). The development of civil society in Croatia has been taking place within the framework of a public policy aimed at strengthening CSOs and their role in improving various aspects of people’s lives. There have been briefly presented the results and recommendations derived from the external evaluation process, i.e. evaluation of the National strategy for creating a stimulating environment for civil society development 2012-2016 (Strategy).
In order to develop the best quality strategy for the period 2017 – 2021, an evaluation of the implementation of the Strategy 2012-2016 was conducted at the end of 2016. On the basis of the evaluation questions and criteria, an evaluation methodology has been adopted which included cabinet research, review of institutional and legislative framework, survey, stakeholders consultations in cooperation with contracting authority – Office for NGOs of the Government of the Republic of Croatia (UZUVRH).
The evaluation of the Strategy was focused on verifying the relevance of defined objectives, measures and activities, implementation challenges and direct effects. In terms of the timetable, given that the Strategy was evaluated at the end of the implementation period, it was not possible to assess the implementation of activities for which no monitoring reports were delivered. UZUVRH has established a monitoring system in the form of an internet platform that enables transparent monitoring of the implementation of all activities. The assessment of the implementation of the activities was carried out based on the analysis of the information from the monitoring system, and they were compared with the information and data collected from the survey, analysis of other documentation and interviews.
During the process, the following evaluation criteria were used: relevance, coherence and consistency, efficiency, effectiveness, sustainability and involvement. According to Morra-Imas and Rist (2009), the evaluation process should be designed and implemented in accordance with the needs of the primary user who is responsible for implementing changes based on evaluation findings. According to the CSO sustainability Index carried out by USAID (2016) on world level, the development of Croatian civil society has been on the level of 3.2 since 2011 and is among more developed ones compared to the countries in the region.
Source: USAID, 2016.
The results of the evaluation showed that the development and implementation of the document had positive effects on the development of CSOs, especially according to the criteria of participation. Based on the available information and assessment of realization of individual implementation indicators, it can be concluded that 92% of planned activities have been implemented or partially implemented. A very small number of activities have not been started (7).
However, there are also shortcomings, primarily related to the criteria of coherence and consistency of the Strategy, and they are related to a complete understanding of the logic of strategic planning and the establishment of a clear hierarchy within the strategic framework. A clearly formulated interventional logic is missing; the one that links vision – goals – priorities – measures – activities.
Directly related to the efficiency and effectiveness criteria, there was a lack of a system of indicators at the level above indicators related to measurement of direct results (output). The monitoring system proved to be defective in that part, which, to some extent limited, the process of evaluating outcomes and impacts. In the context of implementation efficiency, financial means were a stable source of funding support for civil society organizations. Only during the first half of 2016 there was a change in political priorities related to the distribution of sources of funding, which caused significant difficulties in the realization of the started programs and projects of CSOs. Sustainability is not specifically addressed or described in the existing Strategy, although certain activities aimed to build a long-term sustainable civil society development system (laws, regulations, institutions, structures).
The Evaluation Report contains a series of findings and recommendations on how to improve the new strategy and provide credible information for the implementation of future evaluations. Some of the key recommendations were, for example, related to the great effort that should be invested in building trust in the institutional system. Then, in addition to striving to stabilize funding sources, further alternative ways of financing CSOs should be encouraged. The future strategy should better regulate the structure of objectives, measures and activities, and build a coherent and clear indicator system that is not defined only at the level of activity, but also at the level of measures in the form of outcome indicators, and at the level of “strategic objectives” in the form of performance indicators, with respect of structure and intervention logic of the strategy. In the context of measuring the progress of civil society, it would be very useful to consider defining the index of sustainability of civil society development in Croatia that would be adapted to the needs of monitoring the National Strategy in the future period. Elements of the composite index could be defined as indicators at the level of strategic areas or objectives.
Bežovan, Gojko, and Zrinščak, Siniša, 2007, Civil Society in Croatia, Zagreb: Croatian Sociological Association, Naklada Jesenski and Turk.
Morra-Imas, Linda G., and Rist Ray C., 2009, The Road to Results: Designing and Conducting Effective Development Evaluations, Washington DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/ The World Bank
TACSO (Technical Assistance for Civil Society Organisations in the IPA Countries), 2012, The Role of Croatian Civil Society Organisations in the European Union Accession Process, Zagreb: TACSO.
Office for associations of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, 2012, “National strategy for creating an enabling environment for the development of civil society from 2012 to2016” https://udruge.gov.hr/UserDocsImages/dokumenti/Nacionalna%20strategija%20stvaranja%20poticajnog%20okru%C5%BEenja%20za%20razvoj%20civilnog%20dru%C5%A1tva%202012-2016.pdf
Office for associations of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, 2017, “External evaluation of the national strategy for creating an enabling environment for the development of civil society from 2012 to 2016, documents available at https://udruge.gov.hr/istaknute-teme/vanjsko-vrednovanje-nacionalne-strategije-stvaranja-poticajnog-okruzenja-za-razvoj-civilnoga-drustva-od-2012-do-2016-godine/4175
USAID, 2016, „The 2015 CSO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia“, partner in Croatia: CERANEO, see:
and chapter for Croatia http://www.ceraneo.hr/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Croatia.pdf