The Centre for Social Practices (CSP) was born over 1993-4 as an instrument for the resolution of conflicts and tensions between the government and civil society. One of our durable achievements of that initial period was the introduction of the institution of Ombudsman into Bulgarian society, as well as the structuring of NGOs as vehicles of dialogue and trust in ethnically mixed and politically turbulent parts of the country.
In the second half of the 1990s we were involved in helping ongoing dialogue between government, citizens and media and concentrated on communities – the municipalities of the provinces, where bringing everyone together produces visible results quickly.
At the turn of the century we found ourselves deeply involved in training citizen groups, local government and media in skills related to co-owned policy planning and development, as well as good governance and battling corruption.
In the opening years of the 21 st century we concentrate on training and organizational support, at the municipal level, for the attainment of forms of policy-making and development that ensure the inclusion of all stakeholders.
We have traversed the entire terrain from trust-building to the working together of all stakeholders for sustainable and citizen-friendly development. The problematic of inclusion has led us to concentrate increasingly on issues relating to social exclusion, minorities and vulnerable groups.
Over the past couple of years we find ourselves forming policy-related conclusions out of and informed analysis of our experiences. We increasingly take part in international teams and consortia, funded by EU programmes and institutions and targeted at the evaluation of policy and recommendations in the fields of participation (eg. in the labour market, in education, in decision-making) and good governance.
This decade-long journey has been dominated by one strategic aim, which is our mission : to help the structuring of civil society, of dialogue and the art of cooperation so that the Bulgarian nation begins to think, work and live as a modern European society.
We are not social engineers because we do not believe that in order to structure something new, you necessarily have to tear down everything before it to clear the ground. Back when we were starting out, our friend George Schopflin, the historian focused on transitions to democracy, called us “gardeners” – because to us change means carefully planting what is new in the existing national soil, after careful analysis and with sensitivity to the context and culture.
Although we prefer to work on the ground, in the municipalities, towns and villages, we maintain a national and international profile so as to be more effective, liaising with central government, political parties and institutions, national and international media.
In our capacity of Department at the New Bulgarian University our mission is to teach the young what we have ourselves learned in the reality of a changing society.