Eco-Bridges (2008)



This project focuses on the Stara Zagora region in Bulgaria, which has been facing great environmental problems in terms of air pollution over the past 10 years due to environment-unfriendly industries. Stara Zagora is among the priority regions of the DG Environment because of the permanent air pollution from sulphur, nitrates, and carbonates.
Environment stakeholders in the Stara Zagora Region can be found in both the public and private sectors. In the past couple of years the role of NGOs in dealing with environmental problems has become increasingly recognized in the region. Many of them are concerned by the deterioration of the environment and are committed to act. Even though in many cases the various stakeholder groups do their best to overcome the environmental problems, they all face specific problems which hinder their success.
Civil society structures are actively addressing the issues but lack a coherent partnership strategy. Without one, their actions have only limited success. There is a lack of synergy, but some successes have been achieved where partnerships have managed to be established. The general problems identified by the BG partners are an insufficiency in :

Ecostrategy planning – insufficient knowledge of the specific strategy topic – environmental policies, relevant actions, ecology, etc.;
Relevant skills and attitudes in interacting and partnering with the environment stakeholder groups of authorities, industries and volunteers. The Stara Zagora Chamber of Commerce and Industry has experience in assisting companies in doing business but was not accustomed to approaching their social responsibility. This requires knowledge and observation of specific perceptions and attitudes, and strong awareness of the very sensitive field of particular interests.
Lack of awareness about EU practices on NGOs’ participation in environmental problems. The project partners need to study the international experience in the role of the NGOs in environment problems, and good managerial and methodological practices and patterns of successful partnering approaches.

In response to this situation, the Eco-bridges project targets several groups. First and foremost, three Bulgarian NGOs based in the Stara Zagora Region, who have been working together over the past couple of years under the leadership of the Chamber to contribute to solving the regional ecological problems. These are:

the Chamber of Commerce & Industry – Stara Zagora (CCI),
the Civil Society – Stara Zagora (CS), and
the Community Donors Fund – Stara Zagora (CDF).
Final beneficiaries of the project shall include civil society structures and a wider audience:

the members of the Ecocouncil established within the project Partnership for Ecopolicies, and involving over 30 organization and institutions, local and regional authorities, companies, citizens, and media.
Bulgarian NGOs dealing in environment and ecology,
Stara Zagora community citizens

The project involves intensive awareness-raising and experience transfer of best French practices in eco-strategy planning and specific related issues, and in interacting with environment stakeholders during workshops, meetings, discussions, and online follow-up. Enviropea signed on to share its experience and that of its partners in interacting with authorities, industries, and volunteers. Our knowledge of environmental policies and relevant issues which are needed for eco-strategy planning, and the experience transferred in interacting with stakeholders, is intended to help the Bulgarian organizations overcome the aforementioned insufficiencies in these fields.
In this project, Enviropea provides continuous coaching to the Bulgarian organizations so that they may start to adapt the French experience into their fundamental documents and interactions with stakeholders in the Stara Zagora Region. In the process of learning by experiencing, the Bulgarian partners shall develop these relevant skills and attitudes, which are currently lacking.
Furthermore, by developing their eco-strategy and Action Plan, the BG project partners shall enhance their capacities and shall better manage to streamline the civil society resources in the region for effective participation in regional environmental policy-making and implementation.
In addition, the regional community shall benefit from the results which the strengthened NGOs can produce in influencing policy decisions, environment reanimation actions, and finally an earlier regeneration of the deteriorated regional ecology.

Expected Outputs:

Among the outputs of this project will be four practical guides: the Bulgarian partners are developing these under guidance from Enviropea and employing their own experience gained throughout the project. The topics of the guides are:

How to Develop an eco-strategy
How to interact with authorities on environmental issues
How to interact with industries on environmental issues
How to motivate and work with volunteers in environmental actions