Award 2011 – Prague

Social Integration: A Dance Through the Fence

The focus on socially engaged NGO projects shifted to Prague in June 2011 for the third ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration. The first prize winner was a project enabling women and children whose lives are shattered by domestic violence to recover and rebuild their lives in a safe, supportive environment. The Shelter and Counselling Centre for Women and Children Victims of Violence by the Autonomous Women’s House Zagreb (AZKZ) is a startling success story in a country, Croatia, where domestic violence was legally ignored until recent years.

Of the EUR 613,000 prize money presented to the 36 winners – a sum more than seven times the total prize money of the first awards – AZKZ scooped EUR 40,000.

Not only the prize money had increased in scale. Organisations from as many as 12 CEE countries were eligible to apply this time. The Croatian success was repeated for the third prize, which was awarded to a homeless shelter run by the Order of St Francis. Second prize went to Slovak Republic’s Roma Press Agency.

Money alone, though, is never enough. Recognising this, we offered all 132 finalist organisations professional benefits such as PR and media relations support as well as capacity building workshops. We also set up an interactive database of best practice projects in the region, featuring the organisations’ outstanding projects.

The evening’s programme unfolded in one of Europe’s largest and oldest film studios, the Barrandov Studios in central Prague. A performance of ‘Dance Through the Fence’ by the Archa Theatre revealed the creative possibilities of collaboration between professional artists and asylum seekers. Those invited to attend could also take in exhibitions and a guided tour of Prague castle.

In the lead-up to the ceremony, a two-day networking event, ‘Social Action and Reaction!’, cast an expert eye on local needs in the region and new developments in social integration.

On a side note, an ERSTE Foundation team member and a volunteer activist prepared for the event by completing a 1600-km, 15-day roundtrip to promote the awards: a small action in the field of social integration, perhaps – but every action provokes a reaction!