The objective of this program, launched in 2000, is to assist and encourage local communities in villages and small towns by lending support to civil initiatives that foster developmental aspirations, improve the quality of life and contribute to building social capital. Under the program support is offered to encourage the activity of local communities, the members of which define their own needs and undertake joint initiatives. People are different, as are their needs, traditions, experiences, and available resources. Therefore, the program supports a wide range of projects.
Grants are awarded at the local level in open grant competitions, organized each year by a network of Act Locally Centers (ALC) which encompasses associations and foundations in localities with up to 50,000 residents. Their area of activity may cover from four communes to several districts. The ALC network has successively expanded from 15 centers in 2004 to 71 organizations in 2019. At present, it involves 622 communes. There are at least two Act Locally Centers in each voivodship. New ALCs are selected in open recruitment procedure by the Competition Committee. The beneficiaries of local competitions are NGOs and informal groups of citizens on whose behalf applications may be submitted by organizations and local public institutions (schools, community centers, libraries) operating in localities of less than 20,000 inhabitants.
In the first three editions of the „Act Locally” Program, started in 2000, 356 projects were supported in the national grant competition, involving more than $1 million from PAFF funds. In 2004 local competitions were launched as well through the agency of Local Grant Organizations (currently known as Act Locally Centers). In the years 2004-2012, grants were awarded in nationwide competitions to 99 projects, while 4,886 grants were provided through the Act Locally Centers’ network. As part of the program’s 8th edition, in two competitions, in 2013 and 2014, 1578 grants were awarded. In the 9th edition of the program, started in 2015, a total of 806 projects have been supported with grants. All told, nearly three million participants including close to 200,000 volunteers joined forces to carry out close to 8,600 projects. The financially assisted initiatives mainly center around strengthening local community cooperation, creating new personal-development and leisure-time opportunities as well as enhancing the attractiveness of a given region.
The common denominator of the assisted projects has been local involvement enabling residents to acquire news skills, learn how to self-organize better and react to new problems. For those implementing financially assisted initiatives, a „Tell me…” competition has been organized. Prizes are presented for the most interesting ways of promoting and communicating about the undertaken activities. The best films are presented at the program’s website. Also, for several years a competition has been organized awarding the most creative ideas for carrying out campaigns informing about the possibility of submitting 1% of the income tax to the public charity organization.
Improvement of the Act Locally Centers’ operation is served by training sessions, workshops, regional meetings and study visits organized under the program. They make it possible to share best practices, improve knowledge and qualifications and strengthen cooperation within the network. ALCs meeting the highest standards in the implementation of the program are awarded with certificates. This is the form of appreciation for outstanding involvement and professionalism in carrying out activities aimed at the development and stimulation of local communities, which can serve as model for other organizations. So far, 21 Centers have been presented with certificates.
In 2015, the program celebrated its 15th anniversary. Its achievements were summed up during the meeting held in Warsaw in autumn, which was attended by over 200 people – NGO representatives from all over Poland, social activists and civic leaders. Dr Adam Bodnar, Commissioner for Civic Rights was the event’s special guest.
The experience thus acquired is put to good use by the Act Locally Centers in other Foundation’s undertakings such as „PAFF Local Partnerships”. There they can play a leadership role in coalitions with different participants of the Foundation’s programs jointly engaged in projects benefiting the local community. In the „PAFF Leaders” Program, ALC representatives serve as leaders and tutors, and in the „ICT for Local Development” Program they belong to the network of mobile advisors assisting other organizations in ICT use. In the years 2012-2014, the Act Locally Centers took part in the project of the National Bank of Poland and the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland with PAFF acting as a supporting partner: „Invest Well in Good. New Horizons on Financial Management”.
In 2016, the „FIMANGO” Local Advisors School has been launched. It is based on resources of PAFF’s two programs – „Act Locally” and „Financial Management for NGOs – FIMANGO”. The school offers an intensive training program improving the competencies of ALC representatives in financial management counseling to smaller, local organizations cooperating with them.
The Act Locally Centers establish cooperation with other non-governmental organizations as well as local authorities and entrepreneurs. Within the program, films were shot promoting ALCs among local governments and business partners.
Within the program, PAFF supports the „Benefactor of the Year” Competition and maintains patronage of the „Local Involvement” category, that promotes the civic engagement of companies, which in cooperation with ALCs contribute to long-term local changes. The Foundation is also the main partner of the „Civic Leader of the Year” Competition, organized by „Newsweek Polska” (the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland is the strategic partner). The aim of the Competition is to award pro-civic attitudes and to promote the activities of individual people and organizations, standing behind them in solving various social problems.
The Foundation also supports the „Charity Stars” plebiscite organized by the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland. It awards well-known people for their charitable activities.