CSO Leaders for the Long Run

Project "CSO Leaders for the Long Run" (2020 - 2022) was focused on building leadership capacities and resilience of organizations. It focused on supporting two types of leaders. The first were the incoming directors of NGOs, who have recently taken up a management position. The second group were senior leaders, who were often overworked or burned out after years in a management position. The project also aimed to strengthen organizations, specifically to build their resilience (resistance to unpredictable change).

CSO Leaders for the Long Run

At a time when the liberal-democratic pillars of society are being questioned not only in Slovakia, a flexible and vibrant civil society is extremely important for balancing negative side effects, including weakening confidence in democratic values or growing intolerance towards minorities. Civil society needs to respond adequately to changing conditions in society, and non-profit organizations and their leaders need adequate skills to orientate themselves and respond to the deteriorating situation.

This situation is not new. We know it from the environment of authoritarian regimes, but also from our own past, from periods in which the functioning of civil society was threatened by hostile state intervention and increasing hostility towards civic actors. At present, even democratically elected governments are increasingly resorting to practices that limit the activities of civil society actors, and efforts to limit their space are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

What are the possibilities of organizations to respond? One of them is building their own resilience - that is, the ability to quickly and purposefully adapt to unexpected changes so that organizations not only survive but also prosper in an uncertain or unstable environment. In the context of the project, it is necessary to draw attention to two factors closely related to the resilience of the organization. They are the leadership of the organization - the leader or leaders - and the model of functioning.

The generation of leaders of non-profit organizations, several of whom have founded organizations since the beginning of the development of civil society in Slovakia, has done a very good job in rooting, professionalizing and seeking sustainability of the sector. However, these leaders and their organizations are currently facing an important change in their ability to adapt their mission and structure to the requirements of a changing environment, especially in the following areas:

  • Outdated, unresponsive models of operation - Many of these organizations, founded in the 90s, did not detect new trends in business models, funding opportunities or ways of communication. After 10 to 30 years of practice, many of these leaders are tired, rely on routine, and sometimes become obstacles to further effective development or strategic change.
  • Transformation of leadership - The ability to transform the leadership of the organization so that the transition from the founder, or long-term leader, to its / his successor / successor is natural, without major shocks and allows to preserve what works, but also bring new management practices. It turns out that organizations that realized the need to professionalize their leaders and prepare their successors early enough are working well and advancing. On the other hand, there are organizations that wake up late only when the need for serious organizational change and leadership is already escalated and subsequently make changes either with a great deal of improvisation or not at all.
  • New generation of leaders - Leadership has already changed in several organizations, but new leaders are often thrown into the water without prior experience and with minimal preparation for the role. They often face issues of people management, setting remuneration, strategic direction of the organization or the optimal setting of the organizational structure.

Following the above needs, the project had three main objectives:

  1. Strengthen the leadership capacity of incoming directors of civil society organizations and help them to better understand their new role and become more professional in the management of the organization.
  2. Provide support for senior leaders of civil society organizations, who as long-term directors were exposed to stressful situations and isolation, where, unlike ordinary workers, they often had no one to turn to for help and support.
  3. Strengthen those non-profit organizations which were, and continue to be, pillars of civil society and need to strengthen their resilience in order to continue to fulfill their mission.

The project ‘CSO Leaders for the Long Run’ was supported by the ACF - Slovakia program, which was funded by the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021. The administrator of the program was the Ekopolis Foundation in partnership with the Bratislava Open Society Foundation and the Carpathian Foundation.

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Related events

  • Establishment and work of the Project Advisory Board

  • Program for Emerging Leaders - Resilience and Leadership Trainings

  • Program for Emerging Leaders - Consulting Support for CSOs

  • Program for Emerging Leaders - Study trip to Norway

  • Support for Senior Leaders - Peer Couching Program

  • Open Educational Seminars in the Regions

  • Final Workshop for Emerging and Senior Leaders

Project Partners

  • Human Right Academy, Oslo, Norway

    Human Right Academy, Oslo, Norway


  • Active Citizens Fund - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway

    Active Citizens Fund - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway


  • Adela Tihláriková / Project Manager

    Adela Tihláriková

    Project Manager

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  • Karolína Miková / Director of PDCS, Trainer, Facilitator

    Karolína Miková

    Director of PDCS, Trainer, Facilitator

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  • Dušan Ondrušek / President of PDCS, Senior Trainer, Consultant

    Dušan Ondrušek

    President of PDCS, Senior Trainer, Consultant

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  • Filip Vagač / Senior Consultant and Facilitator

    Filip Vagač

    Senior Consultant and Facilitator

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  • PDCS

    Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia

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