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Mission, goals and achievements

Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations, NENO (or EMSL in Estonian) is the single and largest Estonian organization uniting public benefit nonprofit organizations.

Established in 1991 as the Estonian Foundation Center, we opened our membership to associations in 1994 and have since transformed ourselves from a mere service provider into one of Estonia’s largest civic initiative organizations.

NENO is a membership organization created for the implementation and protection of the common interest of Estonian public benefit nonprofits. NENO unites currently (spring 2010) 110 large and medium-sized active and operational public benefit nonprofit organizations in Estonia from all fields, both associations and foundations. At the same time, our information network involves nearly 4000 organizations.

NENO’s mission is to give voice to and advocate on behalf of Estonian public benefit organizations and its work is dedicated to the development and promotion of civic action and civil society in Estonia.

NENO’s goals are to foster development trends and provide support services to Estonian nonprofits, increase public awareness, advocate for the interests of its members and other public benefit NGOs, and improve working relationships with the public and business sectors. Therefore we implement activities to strengthen the role and identity of the nonprofit sector as a whole.

NENO’s work is divided between three programs:

1)  Development program deals mostly with legislative creation and relationships between the third and the public sector. Here we also run several development projects, conduct USAID NGO Sustainability Index, and organize large-scale events like biannual National Conference of Civil Society or “NGO of the Year” awards.

2)  Information- and support program deals with trainings and information sharing (newsletters, website, publications) in order to strengthen NGOs capacity.

3)  Through the membership program we offer various services to our members, counsel them, protect common interests and involve members in the development of NENO and in shaping of public policy.

In the development program, we have:

  • Launched a project that eventually led to the birth of the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept (EKAK) in 2002. EKAK is a document (one of the first of its kind in the world) that defines the mutually complementary roles of public authorities and civic organizations, and lays out principles and mechanisms for cooperation in shaping and implementing public policies and building civil society in Estonia.
  • Led the process of EKAK implementation on sustainability issues (funding, services delivery, infrastructure and statistics) since 2003.
  • Started a process of revising the principles and membership of the joint committee for the implementation of EKAK in 2007 to make the implementation of EKAK more efficient. That led to an agreement between NGOs and government to replace former representatives of public sector with chancellors (the highest state officials in Estonia) of the ministries. We are also pushing for the formation of an independent EKAK bureau, which would help the nonprofit sector in taking EKAK forward.
  • Initiated the Manifesto of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations for parliamentary elections in 2007. In this document Estonian nonprofit organizations proposed to the political parties the activities to be implemented by the Parliament and the incoming government, which would help to strengthen civil society and non-governmental organizations in Estonia. Several proposals of the Manifesto were taken into account in the program of the new coalition. In summer 2009 NENO is preparing the Manifesto for local elections to be held in October 2009. For the European Parliament elections in June 2009 NENO initiated an agreement on Good Campaigning Practices which were signed by 5 major political parties in Estonia (out of 6).
  • Conducted public consultations on the concept of Civil Society Endowment, financed from the state budget in 2007. That will lead to the formation of the Endowment financed with 20 million Estonian kroons (1,7 million USD) annually by the beginning of 2008.
  • Initiated projects under EKAK that have led to the formation of several Good Practices agreements between nonprofits and public sector, namely Good Practice of the Delivery of Public Services (2006), Good Practice of the Funding (2007); NENO was also active in drawing up the Good Involvement Practices (2005). These documents harmonize the principles, from which the public sector institutions and non-profit organizations can proceed in their work.
  • Participated in the preparation of State Budget Strategy and 2007-13 program period of EU Structural Funds (2006-07). NENO is leading an advocacy coalition of NGOs formed for that purpose.
  • Honored annually civil society activists together with the President of Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) since 1997
  • Every two years, organized the National Conference of Civil Society since 1999
  • Conducted USAID NGO Sustainability Index since 2000
  • Organized an international Civil Society Excellence seminar on the transfer of public services delivery to the nonprofit sector in 2004 in Helsinki and an international Civil Society Excellence seminar on the implementation of national agreements and strategies (Compact, Accord, EKAK, etc) in 2005 in Tallinn
  • Launched a number of development projects like co-operation with local governments, good governance for Board development, philanthropy development with businesses, mapping and training Estonian umbrella organizations, etc
  • Been represented in all government committees, commented and amended all legislative documents that are necessary for the health and general environment of the nonprofit sector in Estonia
  • Worked actively in the CIVICUS national umbrellas affinity group

As a result, Estonian nonprofit sector has a national strategy that leads to the functioning civil society; Estonian nonprofit sector is the most sustainable among the CEE countries according to the USAID NGO Index; umbrella organizations in Estonia are working together and trained to understand their role and responsibilities; Estonian nonprofits are actively engaged in the discussions of the legitimacy and accountability of the sector; governmental bodies, media and wider public are increasingly aware of the benefits of a strong civil society and working towards it.

In the information and support program, we have:

  • Organized an annual summer school for nonprofits on various issues since 1999 (biggest training event for nonprofits in Estonia)
  • In 1999–2004, coordinated the work of NGO regional resource centers (consulted more than 3000 clients a year), eventually leading to the establishment of county development centers consulting local businesses, local governments and nonprofits, supported from the state budget
  • Developed a Civil Society Portal visited by 900 people a day. The information is available also in English and Russian
  • Carried out 2-3 longer training programs (for example, on NGO management and advocacy) and approximately 15 trainings and orientation days a year both for nonprofits and public sector
  • Developed an information network that includes approximately 1500 organizations
  • Been the main information provider for Estonian nonprofits, publishing weekly electronic newsletter, quarterly NGO magazine, electronic newsletters in English and Russian in every two months, handbooks and leaflets

As a result, Estonian organizations and other partners have received help and assistance in any possible form to be involved and to work in the well.

In the membership program we have:

  • Developed Members Involvement Principles (2005) that set the standards of consultation (similar principles have later been introduced in many other organizations)
  • Developed an organizational strategy for 2005–08 with members. Currently we are starting a process for developing organizational strategy for 2008-11
  • Developed a Membership Services packet to provide our members with services and counseling they need to fulfill their potential.

As a result, NENO is a model of involvement, respected for its legitimacy and accountability whose initiatives, suggestions and criticism is taken seriously and with consideration, thus setting the standards for other organizations.