Sandra Pralong, Fundation Synergetica president

Posted on March 26, 2008 by Sandra Pralong

Data:                    26 martie 2008

Autor:                  Talia Delgado

Publicat în:          VITA România

Titlul articolului: Sandra Pralong, Fundation Synergetica president

Sandra Pralong, a former UN executive with extensive experience working in Romanian and international civil society, is one of the minds behind Radio-ONG, a radio station for the third sector.

Sandra Pralong, is a former UN executive with established credentials in public policy, advocacy, partnership-building, and communication, the management of large and diverse multinational teams, strategic planning, and program implementation. Multi-lingual and head of the Soros Foundation in Bucharest, she was the former advisor to the President of Romania and an international foundation executive. Sandra Pralong has substantial experience in the media (Newsweek, CNN) as well as civil society. US and European academic background in international law, diplomacy, political science, international relations and art. Since 2006 she has been the President of the Synergia Fundation.

How did you come up with the idea of creating a Radio for NGOs?
I was involved in a governmental experts group about the absorption of EU Structural and Cohesion Funds and the discussion quickly turned to the issue of training and how unlikely it was that all the small organizations (NGOs, SMEs, etc.) in rural areas might be able to get enough training in order to produce fundable projects. A couple of days later I was invited to give an interview to an online radio–and for the first time I became aware that on-line radios literally had it all: audio, of course, but also video and chat. So I put two and two together and started thinking that this might be an ideal medium to offer training–as well as news and information–in a cost-efficient way to all the smaller organizations throughout the country, that otherwise might not be able to afford expensive training programmes that put them in a faraway classroom…

What are the expected results of this pilot project?
We expect that it will do three things: first get a better dialogue going within the non-governmental sector in which players still don't know each other and are not aware of many of the funding and programme opportunities that are available to them. Second, as I said, we hope it will enable smaller organizations to access valuable training and information in cost-efficient ways. And finally we hope that the programme will help lead to viable partnerships between NGOs, the business sector and local public administration because hopefully all these constituencies will want to listen to our on-line programmes. We also hope to build a site that will archive the materials and offer a lasting service to those communities, in the form of an NGO portal.

How do you think that Radio-Ngo is going to contribute to civil society development?
First we hope it will help create a better sense of community–communities exist in conversations and sharing a common conversation and news and info about success stories or lessons learned, etc., will help this community feel closer and bond. We are in a different paradigm now, vis-a-vis funding and people may not explicitly realize it–it is a paradigm of PLENTY, because the EU funds bestow such generous amounts. It is a very different situation from the one where organizations had to compete for scarce funds and needed to be competitive with each other. Here they are rewarded if they COOPERATE and partner up–so we are trying to make it easy for them to do so by offering a medium in which they get to know each other and their work…

What do you consider the actual situation of Romanian civil society to be?
It is still much atomised, unaware of its own potential. There are about 16,000 viable, active organizations in the entire country and among these there are for instance more rural organizations than it is commonly believed (about half), and the organizations are much smaller and poorer than commonly believed (about 1 out of 2 NGOs has annual revenues of under 1,000. USD). These means that the rural ones need to be caught up in a larger, nation-wide or at least regional conversation and their efforts need to be scaled up and bear larger fruit. This is what we hope that Radio-ONG will help make possible for them. But already, small and scattered as they may be, NGOs have started permeating every single fibber of Romanian society and this needs to be further encouraged.

What do you think still needs to be done in Romanian civil society and in which direction?
Training and dialogue–they need in fact to learn from each other and be exposed to case studies and examples of creative problem-solving from other countries. Cross-pollination is very important, just allow them to communicate and share ideas and get curious about what others did elsewhere. But let's face it, this radio is just a medium, its success will not depend only on us and on the quality of service and information we provide but, rather, on the NGO's actual participation and interest in taking their fate in their own hands. Hopefully they will use this medium to raise the sector's profile in the public arena–now that we have provided the tool, it becomes up to them to make it a success..

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