Why I quit

12 Feb

Systemic reasons

The main focus of most of the important donors, governments and intergovernmental organisations when it comes to the Roma inclusion field is to find positive practices and replicate such positive practices.

Although at first glance finding positive practices seems like a good idea, looking for such positive practices is actually a poor idea considering the systemic failure at all levels to properly address Roma inclusion. This approach does nothing but halt or slow the much needed reform that every single expert with hands-on or academic experience in Roma issues agrees is needed. It provides reasons to continue feeding a profoundly delusional concept of progress, encourages sugar-coating and keeps happy incompetent and clueless people in high-level positions that will continue to take absurd decisions regarding Roma social inclusion.

The successful implementation of a Roma social inclusion project is more likely to be a fairy-tale based on a fake report than a real success. Success does happen, but it is exceptional/accidental, and occurs far more often in spite of existing policies and lines of funding, than because of them.

Overall, EU funding for Roma social inclusion is a failure. There is no disagreement about the failure, the only discussion is about how big the failure is. Opinions of practitioners in the field range from catastrophic to limited.

Funders need to focus on examining the mistakes and reforming the systems in such a way that real success, and not rationalized or imagined achievements are the main results.

The situation of small Roma NGOs that work at the grassroots level, and should be at the core of reform in the Roma communities, needs to become a serious reason of concern. Here are some of the reasons why.

Begging is tiresome and degrading, as work. Sometimes it is an elaborate and grotesque con that involves important amounts of money. More often it is a sad but logical choice for people with no other alternatives or skills to scrape up enough money to survive.

We feel disgusted, ashamed, sometimes guilty, and rarely positively impressed by beggars. Their begging lines are often crude and their servility is off-putting. We are educated to believe that there are criminal gangs behind beggars that make huge money out of it. Most of the time this is not the case.

Begging is also the way most NGOs survive. The process is more elaborate than begging on the street, but the principles are the same. It is terribly degrading for those who have to do it due to their convictions and honesty, and rather productive for those who cheat.

For NGOs, some obvious reasons make begging the rational choice: unequal relations, a widespread practice of rewarding lip-service, insufficient and poorly designed funding, and corruption.

NGO – donor relationships are in the overwhelming majority of cases unequal, as donors have the resources that NGOs want and need. I am not aware of any major donor in Roma inclusion that tries to identify grassroots NGOs that have had an impact within the communities, or have developed some innovative and successful practices, and offer these NGOs funds. The overwhelming majority of the donors behave arrogantly in their relationships with NGOs: the NGOs have to come to the donors with their requests and do their utmost to please them.

Donors can very easily impose their agendas; very few NGOs will dare to openly criticize wrong funding policies of the donors. Submissiveness towards the donor is a much more pragmatic approach than criticism.

From the lowest rank to the highest official of the donor institution, criticism is a problem. It looks bad and could negatively reflect on the careers of the bureaucrats dealing with funding NGOs.

For an NGO, taking a critical view towards the policies of the donors is more of a suicidal than a smart approach. Donor institutions have a defensive reaction when dealing with critical organisations, even if the criticism is one hundred per cent justified. Medium and deep hierarchies, as are the main donors in Europe, will prefer to protect their employees and their image, and most often will end up deciding to choose a “nicer” organisation for the funding.

People in decision-making positions prefer friendly organisations to efficient but critical organisations. The competition for funding is tough; many organisations apply for the same line of funding. Those responsible for selecting the winning bids are more influenced by their personal likes or dislikes, rather than the quality of the proposed project.

As project-writing for EU-funded projects is nowadays a major business, most of the projects look more or less the same and in many cases have a rather remote connection with the capacities of the implementing NGO. Decisions made by bureaucrats in Brussels – who have no clue about what those organisations really do aside from reports (usually heavily embellished) – are as good as a lottery.

The North-American and Western-European ideas about the functions and responsibilities of civil society organisations are great, but simply inaccurate in the case of Eastern Europe, and almost ridiculous in the case of Roma civil society.

Incentives for cheating are much stronger than incentives for complying to rules that make little sense anyway. Corruption is rampant, as is fake reporting. There are not many choices available out there. The EU funds are badly designed and rather dangerous for any NGO that chooses honesty against pragmatism. Most of the other funding available is short-term projects. Most available projects do not include institutional support, or require a serious co-funding component ( 20 %).  There are many costs that are impossible to cover from the lines of the financed projects, and legislation regulating employment and activities of NGOs is still changing constantly. All lead to extra costs for the NGOs.

The way to cover these costs is either through shameless cheating, “creative accounting,” or by trying to find other private financial resources. For most NGOs, but in particular for Roma NGOs, this is an almost impossible feat.

In the case of the organisation I led, the way I covered our needs, and the unavoidable mistakes made during the last five years, was through investing a significant amount of my own money, and constant begging (from private businesses).

I was fortunate to be able to do this, but this is not a sustainable model. In most other NGOs, costs are covered illegally (multiple reporting) or at the edge of legality ( see previous articles I published on funding).

Abysmal image and quality of Roma leadership

Roma leaders are perceived as corrupt and overwhelmingly inept. Sometimes this is the truth. Exceptions do exist, but those people are almost never as visible as the others. Nepotism is rampant and conflicts of interests are more the rule than the exception when it comes to most of the existing Roma political or civil society organisations. Examples of Roma NGOs that do not employ the near relatives of key staff members are exceptional. Most of the small Roma NGOs that work at the grassroots level are in fact small and unsustainable family businesses.

The European Structural Funds have made an important contribution to the worsening of this situation. The huge amounts of money available through the Structural Funds has led to a profoundly corrupt political elite at the national and local level, creating an almost perfect situation for criminals and crooks to be very much involved in the EU funded projects. In the case of EU funded projects for Roma communities the situation is worse due to the already strong stereotypes associating Roma identity with criminality.

Roma communities expect either to be bribed (for political gains) or to receive all kinds of free services from what they perceive to be very rich NGOs using money given by the European Union for Roma. Cases where Roma communities accuse NGOs of stealing “their money” (money communities believe should have been given directly to them) are not exceptional.

There are situations where very poor and very traditional Roma communities (the target, at least on paper, of many EU projects) are controlled or led by criminals. Those leaders will not hesitate to threaten Roma NGOs and try to extort money from them. Sometimes successfully.

Personal reasons

For the last five years I led (arguably) one of the most successful small Roma NGOs in Romania. We work in a ghetto in Ferentari. We won some very important prizes in 2012 as recognition for our work – including the 2012 UNICEF award for best Sports and Education project. Close to half a thousand officials from all over Europe have visited our center and congratulated us for what we have done. We have met with Tony Blair, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OSCE High Commissioner for Minorities, Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Prime Ministers, Commissioners, the Romanian President, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ambassadors, and world-known personalities. We managed to get private money from non-Roma businesses that helped hundreds of children in one of the most despised areas of Bucharest. Most of those children are Roma. UEFA, Unicredit, Metro, the Romanian Football Federation, and Brentag are just some of those businesses. There are also tens of individuals who fund us and volunteer their time as they believe in what we do. It sounds like one of the miraculous stories the donors should love. We are proud of our  achievements in the last years. For two years in a row, I have been nominated among the top 100 Romanians by Foreign Policy Romania for my work with this NGO. A life of honors is much better than one of cattle would be the Aristotelian way to look at it.

But there is also another part.

Constant and humiliating begging for funds, significant amounts of money coming from my own pocket (more than half my household income) in order to bridge the gaps that funding can not cover, including many mistakes. Dealing with threats from drug dealers and other criminals, the impossibility to attract well-qualified staff and to financially motivate existing staff (nobody in the organisation has a salary over 500 EUR per month at this moment), dealing with dramatic changes in the policies of donors and in legislation, extremely stressful situations involving abandoned and abused children, lice, drug addictions, theft, child prostitution, police abuses, children hungry, hugely underdeveloped with HIV or at huge risks of HIV, incompetent or indifferent local authorities.

Having the tires of my car slashed, windshield smashed, having to deal with aggressive alcoholic or addicted parents who couldn’t care less about their children or what we do, dealing with emergencies rooms and racist doctors, under pressure to shut up and not talk about what goes wrong within the Roma civil society or with the EU funds. Thousands of hate mails for my stands against racism in the stadiums in Romania, constant idiotic rumors about my origins, motivations and private life. Having to listen to people that have no experience whatsoever on the matter about how we should do things and pretend to agree in order to be able to move a tiny bit forward.

Knowing the solutions and being unable to find the ways to persuade people in decision-making positions to listen or to care to change their comfortable but delusional view of the problems in the ghetto. Dealing with the pressure of having to bail-out the organization with my own savings over and over again due to all kind of bureaucratic delays. Sometimes we received the grants with a delay of over 6 months. Having to deal with the whims and moods of too many people, careful not to burn bridges. Constantly having my skills doubted or being perceived as too emotional or exceptional because of being a Roma. Being too cold and calculated for not being Roma enough. Pretending not to see the institutional racism all around in order to get enough support within those institutions and change things on long term.

Realization that in the large picture what we do is irrelevant as long as we can not change policies, that we are used for image purposes, and some of the professional donors that financed us could not care less what we do with their money as long as the reports look fancy and their name is on the posters; that hard-work and passion is not going to put us in the position to influence anything, and that corruption, lip-service and criminality are much more effective ways to move things.

Tell me I am wrong. Tell me that in fact it is good to lead an NGO in a honest way with all the risks involved. Tell me that there are good reasons why I should carry on. And then think if you would do it.

There are many other frustrations – so many that despite the fact that I abhor quitting, I took the decision to step out from leading the executive position in the NGO I created.

This does not mean I am quitting the ghetto – I still think I can change things there.

 

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51 Responses to “Why I quit”

  1. un cititor February 12, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Aplica, iti doresc mult succes in tot ce intreprinzi! Nu stiu daca te incadrezi in limita de varsta (pana in 30 de ani), dar este un program destinat indivizilor (organizatiile nu pot aplica).

    http://www.rolexawards.com/about/apply

  2. Angela Filote February 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Draga Valeriu Nicolae, citesc cu tristete acest mesaj – dureros de adevarat. Iti multumesc pentru sinceritate si pt curajul de a continua. Si, bineinteles, iti multumesc pentru tot ce ai facut si continui sa faci…

  3. Alex Apetrei February 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    I wish you strength and good luck in your next en-devours!

  4. marikaschmiedt February 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Reblogged this on marikaschmiedt.

  5. ramona strachinaru February 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    cum as putea lua legatura cu dumneavoastra? lucrez si sunt intr-o situatie asemanatoare cu cea pe care o descrieti. ramonastr@yahoo.com multumesc

  6. Nora February 12, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Your post is very moving and candid but I believe the problems you mention are unfortunately not unusual problems an honest and motivated NGO leader encounters during his/her work. I also note that you describe the difficulties you face but not the achievements, except for the personal praise you received and which is not enough a satisfaction for you anymore to convince you to continue. I am sure that the personal success also reflects accomplishments within the Roma community and the changes you implemented as small they may appear to you are not mean feat.

    The analysis you make about the relationship donors-NGOs, as well as the way you characterize each of these actors are extremely accurate. I cannot but sympathize with you and deplore the shallowness of the so called humanitarian world. I wish it would be otherwise and I hope that if you decide to come back you may find some trustworthy persons with whom you could work.

    At the end what counts, however, are the results. And Roma non fu fatta in un giorno.

  7. Ayara Stein February 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    All the best to you; some us do understand your position only too well. Thank you for all your hard work.

  8. teodora February 12, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    If you are waiting for people to give you a reason to keep going, then you should quit, but if, in your heart, you know that you are doing the right thing and you think you should keep going, then nothing will make you quit! Teodora

  9. chad evans wyatt February 13, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    Nicolae, this is such a breath-takingly accurate assessment of my own experiences, I haven’t anything to add, save to thank you for speaking truth. For 15 years I have navigated poorly the thicket of donor guideline, concluded that there truly was little interest in landing funds on the ground, where they are needed. Your voice remains essential, please return after regenerative interval.

    chad evans wyatt

  10. Marian Daragiu February 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Valeriu draga,
    Ai decis dupa ani de lucru in institutiile Europene sa vi sa lucrezi acasa la firul ierbii. Tu esti cel mai in masura sa compari satisfactiile profesionale, implinirile sufletesti, munca de echipa si rezultatele, sperantele intretinute sau pur si simplu mana intinsa celor de jos cu toate cele in oglinda Brussel-ului. Tu sti cat merita sau nu.
    In toti acesti ani din urma, eu unul am stiut ca in Ferentari exista speranta. Din pacate sau din fericire nu ai unde sa te ascunzi. Vei duce cu tine povara sutelor de destine cu care te-ai intersectat. Daca ma intrebi pe mine, acum te vad un om bogat. Convins ca vei continua sa iti imparti ”averea”, iti multumesc si eu pentru lectia de – adio dar raman cu tine.
    Cu prietenie,
    Marian D.

  11. Rupert Wolfe Murray February 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    This is the best analysis of the Roma, NGO and donor situation that I have ever read. I agree with most of what you say and would like to share my experience and views. The key point is that you have touched on some truths which outline the problem with the whole NGO/Donor model; so it’s not just about the failure of the Roma NGOs.

    I disagree that the US/Western European model of funding NGOs is good. It stinks, and your analysis explains how it is for all NGOs who have to beg for funds and dance the tune of the indifferent/remote donor. Western NGOs developed over hundreds of years and they try to apply these “lessons learned” as humanitarian and development aid. It’s effect is toxic.

    During the 1990s I moved from journalism to NGO work, starting in a Romanian village with disabled kids and ending up in the Balkans. I totally agree that anyone involved in the fundraising side is basically a beggar and that is precisely how I described myself when working as a proposal writer in Albania for the International Rescue Committee.

    The other problem I had with humanitarian aid in wartime Bosnia was the lack of public scrutiny the sector gets. When working as a British journalist we would scrutinise politicians and companies — but never NGOs working abroad. They have a free reign and, in many cases, they live like kings. In Bosnia every NGO worker had a white jeep, a villa and a well educated and attractive translator. I fell into this trap and, when working for the EU, would get paid sums that could have funded a whole village. I am glad I no longer work in this sector (I currently work for a family-run rehab clinic).

    You also write something very close to home: “I am not aware of any major donor in Roma inclusion that tries to identify grassroots NGOs that have had an impact within the communities, or have developed some innovative and successful practices, and offer these NGOs funds.”

    Between 1999 and 2001 I ran an EU Phare project called “The Improvement of the Roma Situation in Romania”, an absurd title that raised expectations through the roof. We tried to help the government develop a coherent Roma strategy (but they ignored our advice and knocked one up over a weekend) and we ran a grant fund of 900,000 Euro.

    Now (many years later) I can admit the strategy part of the project failed but I did my best to make the grant fund work — and I also engaged the mass media to promote the fund and was told by EU officials that this was the best promoted grant fund they had seen. Most grant funds in Romania are almost secret, so that only a small cabal of insiders can apply. This also makes it easier for the evaluators as each application is as long as a book and they take ages to read.

    The point I am trying to make here is that I really tried to “identify grassroots NGOs that have had an impact within the communities” as I had come from a grassroot NGO background and to me this made most sense. I wanted to interview Roma communities, ask them “who has really helped you?” and then approach those people and work out ways of funding them.

    Even though I was the exalted “Team Leader” of this EU project nobody took my suggestion seriously: the rules on applying for a grant were far too complex for individuals or small organisations to apply; to change anything needs approval from Brussels; better to have a few big national projects rather than hundreds of community ones; nobody involved was interested in travelling the land in search for real models of success and “this just isn’t how things are done.” I don’t remember one single person being even interested in discussing this idea. So I had to toe the line and follow the rules.

    We also produced a study about setting up a national Roma organisation that could coordinate donor funds in Romania and I was keen to get involved. I wanted to create a link between the big donors (where there are reasonable people who would listen to new approaches if they are approached in the right way) and small, local, individual community projects. I still believe it is possible to have a strong intermediary organisation that can a) get on top of the tremendous bureaucratic challenges involved and b) make things simple and predictable for good local people to GET funds and c) challenge the status quo continually and communicate really openly about what’s going on.

    Needless to say our recommendations were ignored, the donor funds continued to pass into the hands of the usual suspects and nobody wanted a Scottish “outsider” like me to challenge the comfortable way that we are helping the poor Roma people. There was some interest in this approach in Brussels but the local players in the EU system made sure these ideas were strangled at birth.

    The other interesting thing that happened was that we were asked by the EU Delegation to publish a book describing the 40 projects we funded. I put a lot of effort into this and wrote a headline on each page summarising “Strong Points and Weak Points”. The weak points were obviously where most could be learned. But my EU counterpart ordered me to delete all weak points as they might reflect badly on the EU.

    Unfortunately, the way the donor/NGO system currently works only big consultancy-type organisations can apply for funds and your article brilliantly describes why this creates a totally unsustainable situation — to run such an outfit you need what the consultancies have: big salaries, big overhead budgets, big reserves, big political and international supporters. You can’t sustain it on a shoestring. You certainly can’t run community projects and apply for donor funding.

    There is still a lot of money available for helping Roma communities but the whole system needs to be destroyed and rebuilt in a way that local people really benefit. Currently they just hear about vast sums being wasted, odd projects that aren’t really connected to their communities and they know they will never be qualified or connected enough to apply for even one Euro.

    It would be better to simply put this money through the social services and hand it out to Roma families as some kind of welfare.

    • Michelle Kelso February 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

      Well said! I lasted five years myself in the NGO game in Romania, from which I moved into academia where I can a) get funding more easily to work on the issues closest to my heart and b) can criticize as I see fit the corrupt system.

      One night at 11pm I found myself at the children’s hospital after getting a call from a Romani family who was working with our NGO on a photo project. They wanted help to “talk” to the doctors. A 3 mo. old baby was dying of pneumonia caught in the hospital and the doctors wanted to unplug the machine and didn’t explain anything to the parents who had little education. The racism and lack of sensitivity from the staff was incredible. “Big deal? One more Gypsy kid dying and all these crying relatives outside who need to leave” was the attitude. I’d reached my limit after getting resolution from the racist doc. I spent more time acting as a social worker than I did running my civic education projects while facing all kinds of false allegations from “elite” Romani leaders accusing me of everything under the sun while they brought in millions in EU grants. Thankfully, the Romani communities where I worked were wonderful and kept me going as long as I did.

      My heart hurts for people who deserve better. I am out of answers for now.

      But my thoughts are with you!

  12. Nancy Nosewicz February 14, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    Thank you for all you do.
    Nancy Nosewicz (mom to Roma daughter)
    Ovid, NY, USA

  13. Iliana February 14, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    I just want to wish you all the best and to thank you for all your hard work. I hope that all your new endevours are successful and you excel in them as always.

  14. V. February 14, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Val, indeed a moving piece. I know this is not giving up but rather a reflection of what is going on. I think EU officials should read it although many do not care much where the money for Roma goes. I hope you will find a suitable successor,

    Yes, we need money to survive but at the end of the day, the truth is we do not need really money to make the change we need to see.

    I know you will continue to work and help the Roma without donors.
    Greetings, Villy

  15. Els de Groen February 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    When I was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), I worked with Roma Advisory Groups: local Roma leaders who researched the situation on the ground to learn to know the basic needs: a school, a road, a hospital, shops, a factory… This information was passed to national authorities and from them to Brussels. It was a modest beginning to shorten the distance between policymakers and unrepresented, socially excluded people. Corruption, Gypsy industry and social exclusion are caused by the same evil that is called racism. Racism is not easily banned from people’s mind, as long as poverty seems to confirm prejudice, whereas racism conserves poverty. This is the status quo we face. I deeply regret that sincere, well-educated activists with a clearly analytical mind, like Valeriu, tend to give up a well-working NGO, but he has done his utmost and no one can force him to ruin his health and life. The only way out of the vicious circle “racism-poverty-racism”, is a Romani leadership like Afro-Americans had. There are not (yet?) enough Valeriu’s but there are more for sure. Getting united is difficult, because of the divide and rule mechanisms that (in circles of Roma and non-Roma!) also play a role. However, there is no alternative! The parallels with the past warn us on a daily basis. Take care, Valeriu!

  16. Toon Machiels February 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Dear Valeriu

    I honnestly regret that you leave the battle field. But I fully understand your point and I am gratefull that you formulate it so accurately.
    I wish you the strength !
    Toon Machiels Belgium

  17. gordana February 15, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    dear valeriu, dear rupert, dear els,

    your words are more than true! your text should be used as a manifesto for a revolution within ngo sector, a positive change to come in the future. is there a way to contact you privately to exchange some ideas for action? all the best, gordana

    • valeriucnicolae February 15, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      Dear Gordana and all – I was thinking about that and as there are over 10.000 people now that accessed this part of the blog I will try to come up with an idea. It might be that an open letter signed by lots of people signaling that the EC needs to reform urgently will get the attention needed. We could also try the petition committee of the European Parliament.

      Thanks
      Val

  18. theodora February 15, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    dear valeriu,

    what you are describing here sounds really exhausting. i’m sure you will find a way to get yourself back on the track, in a way or another. probably what you need right now is a bit of distance and a nice long holiday somewhere far from this. it usually does wonders.
    i dont think you will really quit, you are too passionate about your work.

    i would like to talk to you if its possible. i will be in romania for two weeks, middle to end of march. i’m an architect (originally from romania) and i’m starting a phd on the theme of roma in romania. the research topic has dropped a few times from different reasons (discovering other people have already addressed the subjects, topic too general to be treated within 3 years of research, etc), so i am right now without a clue of what i should be investigating. the positive thing about it is that there are a lot of people who already looked into this theme, although outside of the academical world there is still very little knoledge and a lot of ignorance concerning “roma” issues.

    even among my coleagues, when i say i am researching on roma, invariably the first question which has already started to irritate me is “why would you do that, its very difficult, are you roma yourself?”… or even worse “but you are an architect and they are nomads, so how can you make your research?”…

    it would be interesting for me to see what is going on on field, im reading a lot of reports from different european rroma social inclusion projects and it all sounds the same… id like to go and look at the bottom up practice for a change. do you think that would be possible?

    many thanks!
    all the best!
    theodora

    • Mihály February 15, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

      Valeriu, best of luck on your future endeavors. Your honesty about the dynamics with the EU is a breath of fresh air.

      Theodora, I too am a PhD. student interested in Roma issues. I am curious about ideas and aspirations for your topic. I would like to share mine with you as well. You can email me at chohaney.michael @ gmail.com

  19. Leslie Hawke February 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Valeriu – Am sorry to hear you are that fed up, but I totally understand. The only additional points I’d make to what you said are that (1) It isn’t just Roma NGOs that are being treated so disrespectfully. I know Romania NGO directors who have almost lost their houses because of the loans they took out to pre-pay EU funds. (2) The time-frames that social change funders commit to (1-3 years mostly) is utterly absurd. Most grassroots NGOs wind up lurching from one intervention to another, based on the whims or fads of grant-makers, rather than the dictates of their own experience. No wonder they have so little impact.

  20. Bledi February 17, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    The Best article, that I have ever read. Very realistic.

    Thank You Valeriu.

    Bledi, from Institute Of Romani Culture in Albania

  21. Els de Groen February 17, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Amale, dear all, sarenge,
    Today a new petition was launched to stop the decline of Roma Civil Society. As a Main Board Member of Khetanes I supported this call, initiated by Valeriu Nicolae and others. Simultaneously I find it strange that we – in 2013 – need to ask for rights and justice that we are supposed to enjoy.
    Khetanes is a global network of mainly artists and scholars. It aims to unite all available skills and creativity to realize a change for the better. Khetanes is not a goal but a tool. Most important for now is that we join our efforts in order to become a movement that has impact and influence. It is not my ambition to head this movement. I have always stressed the fact that I am a mere facilitator. It is time for Roma to take the floor, but for many reasons (racism, paternalism, opportunism, Gypsy industry or “just” a lack of vision) they were not given a chance. Also true is that Roma, so far away from power, did not fully profit from the rare chances offered.
    It is a common interest to stop both aparatheid and scapegoating in Europe. If we don’t share justice, we will share injustice, says the philosopher Benjamin Barber. The biggest misunderstanding is that Europe again denies this common interest or fate. That should be the message; no one has to beg for an opportunity to ring the alarm bell. On the contrary, our wake-up call must be appreciated! We are doing something good if only we manage to unite…

  22. Elisabeth van Aerde February 18, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    As I (Dutch woman, entrepeneur) am working since 2004 in Szakacsi (Hungary), a Roma coloured village that is among the top 5 poorest village since decades, developing an eco-tourist project, I learned something about the dynamics of poverty. No social, educational or name it program can be successful when there is no basic economic development that gives people the opportunity to change their perspectives of their lives from 1 day ahead to a possible future. When you live in a survival economic system, you need all your energy and time to stay alive. So a real change has to begin with creating a sustainable economic development which gives people a chance to get independent from social allowances, charity, grants, begging and then there will be a need for knowledge, for getting skilled, for getting educated.
    I understand your frustration and perhaps stepping out of this grant-hunting-pleasing-bureaucrats-system will create new opportunities.
    I placed a more elaborated reaction on http://debatewise.org/debates/is-eu-funding-for-roma-social-inclusion-a-failure/?action=discussion
    Wish you well!

    • sanja nikolin February 20, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

      Dear Valeriu, I enjoyed tremendously your honest account and I felt like there is hope if people are willing to protest against hypocrisy and absurdity of a harming help. I appreciate the fact that you are not generally angry but poised and well argued. Having worked with the Roma community in Serbia myself, through various institutional arrangements, I feel not only hear your words. Congratulations, brave and hones man and I wish you well. Should you ever decide to plan a better kind of support beyond your immediate community, count me in. I keep wondering about an effective ways to voice stakeholder concerns about EU assistance management, Ideas welcome! .

      • valeriucnicolae February 21, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

        Thanks – will keep you in the loop whenever I have an idea about what I could do next.

  23. Saimir February 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Dear Valeriu,
    It is only now I saw your text.
    I see from the different reactions that it is diversely understand it not as a resignment, but rather as a renaissance. It could as well be called “Why I start”, instead of “Why I quit”. Your analysis is simply excellent. I read there, concentrated and well organised a series of constatations I made here and there. As you very rightly say, the problem is systemic and profound. Without using the word subversive, I have to say however that the margin should become the center and vice-versa.
    So Val, we will keep it going bro! The real paradox here is that each of us feels marginalized, isolated. But as some people say, we are legion feeling the same way, so…
    Dikhas amen!

  24. Andrey Ivanov March 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Dear Valeriu,
    The experience you describe is illustrative of the Law of Diminishing Funding Opportunities. It states that a project’s chances of getting funded are reversely proportional to the level of its meaningfulness and the successful track record of the applicant. In other words, the better the work, (the more tangible, accountable and cost-efficient results you produce), the lower the chances of getting resources.
    That’s how (wo)mankind has been working from time immemorial and is still working now. One of my favorite movies (relevant to the topic) is Milos Forman’s Amadeus. It’s not Salieri who killed Mozart (in today’s poverty reduction professionals’ language – a talented doer achieving superb results); it’s mediocrity that killed him – and continues killing many doers like you.
    What can we do to escape Mozart’s destiny? One option is to go underground. Another way is to team up with other ‘doers’ scattered throughout administrations, bureaucracies or in the field who have similarly gone underground.
    This response is part of a longer blog with more details on the Law of Diminishing Funding Opportunities and the response strategies.
    http://europeandcis.undp.org/blog/2013/03/06/dont-quit-go-underground/
    Your posts provoked an important discussion – and a petition in support of Roma civil society. But the civil society is not comprised of Mozarts only – it’s full of Salieris (and mediocrity). That’s why I firmly believe that not any civil society should be supported. What CSOs deserve a helping hand (and resources) and what don’t will be the topic of my next blog.

  25. Nasko June 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    Well, to tell you when I read this I couldn’t believe that someone has already really dared to describe the reality in the way it is. For so many years I was hearing and reading so many buls*its, so a person could easily think he is the crazy one, and not the others. We all get ‘burnt’ sometimes, just do what you think is right! 🙂
    Thank you for sharing this! I hope we meet again!
    Nasko

  26. Nasko June 8, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Hey! Good to read something real finally! I am writing my paper on the use of the EU funds for ‘Roma inclusion’ right now and I may say that this is the only article corresponding to the reality and not to something artificial. Keep walking: we meet on the way! 🙂
    nasko

  27. valeriucnicolae August 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    multumesc.

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