Non-profit sector has grown greatly in 20 years, says organizer of NGO Market

Photo: CTK

In its 11th year, the NGO Market in Prague gives the public a chance to acquaint themselves with scores of non-profits both from the Czech Republic and abroad. Visitors can get to know individual organizations at their stands, and can also become active themselves, for example by attending discussions with people who work in the sector. What is the main goal of the event? That’s a question I put to NGO Market coordinator Alena Novotná at its opening on Friday morning.

Photo: CTK
“Basically, it’s all about helping others and getting involved. So it’s about public participation in a communal thing. We’re trying to involve people and make them understand what NGOs do and how they can help NGOs but also how NGOs can help people.”

How has the relatively young NGO sector in the Czech Republic changed in the past twenty years?

“I must say that during the past twenty years, there has been significant movement towards greater participation of the public. I think it’s really visible in the NGO sector right now, but we’re still facing problems due to our history, and we need to cope with those. But I think we’re on our way and it’s changing dramatically. Though there’s still room for improvement.”

In terms of participants, you have NGOs here from all over the world. Can you tell me a bit about participating NGOs?

“Well, maybe not from all over the world, but we’ve definitely covered most of Europe. We have NGOs from the UK, from the Ukraine, from Russia, Denmark, Germany, and Spain. We thought it was really important to bring this international flavor to the market because we need to learn about each other in an international context as well.”

Is communication between Czech and International NGOs quite good or is there room for improvement?

“Well, there always is, but I’d say it’s quite well developed and I think Czech NGOs are quite proactive about it.”

When the disaster happened in Haiti, Czechs were among those who gave most generously. Would you say that the Czech population is pretty receptive when it comes to NGO work?

Photo: CTK
“I’d say that there is a real involvement of people and they do feel like it concerns them. I think that if there is a good cause, they are willing to help. Sometimes, the public feels like there isn’t enough transparency and they like to know where their money goes. So if the purpose is really clear, they’re willing to help and get really involved. But we need to talk to people that NGOs are transparent, that they talk to people and that there is a good cause they are helping.”