The purpose of this program, launched in 2000, is to support and activate local communities in rural areas and small towns through civic projects meant to encourage development and increase the quality of life, thus building social capital. The program offers support for active local communities whose members define their needs themselves and take collective action.
Each community is made of various people, with different needs, resources, traditions, and experiences. That is why “Act Locally” supports widely varied projects.
Grants are awarded in open grant competitions organized once a year on a local level by the network of Act Locally Centers (ALCs) which encompasses associations and foundations operating in localities with up to 50,000 people, and covering areas whose size ranges from four rural communes to several counties. The ALC network is gradually growing. It began with 15 ALCs in 2004, including now 77 organizations in nearly 680 communes. There are at least two Act Locally Centers in every Polish province. They cooperate with other non-governmental organizations as well as local authorities and entrepreneurs. New ALCs are appointed by the Competition Committee in an open recruitment procedure. The beneficiaries of local competitions are non-governmental organizations as well as informal citizen groups that may apply through public organizations and institutions (schools, cultural centers, libraries) in small towns and villages of less than 20,000 inhabitants.
So far more than 14,000 projects have engaged 4.8 million participants, including over 235,000 volunteers. The 12th edition (2021–2022) supported nearly 2,000 initiatives. The present 13th edition of the program was launched in January 2023.
Funded initiatives focus on culture and tradition, education, health, ecology, sport, creating new opportunities for personal development and spending free time, tourism, and improving the attractiveness of the region, as well as fighting social exclusion. Their common denominator is local activity, which allows the population to learn new skills, better organize themselves, and react to emerging problems. The “Tell Me…” competition is organized for the managers of supported initiatives; it gives awards to the most interesting forms of communicating and promoting the actions taken.
The quality of Act Locally Center work is improved with trainings, workshops, regional meetings, study tours, and webinars which enable the exchange of good practices, acquiring knowledge and competencies, and increased cooperation within the ALC network. Act Locally Centers use their “Act Locally” experience to engage in other PAFF efforts, such as “PAFF Local Partnerships,” where together with participants involved in different PAFF programs they execute social projects that meet the needs of their communities. “PAFF Leaders” is also a program where ALC representatives take on the role of both leaders and tutors. In “Sector 3.0,” ALC representatives co-create the Mobile Advisers Network supporting other organizations in their use of ICT.
The “FIMANGO” Local Advisers School has been operating since 2016. This initiative utilizes resources of the PAFF programs: “Act Locally” and “Financial Management for NGOs” (FIMANGO). It is an intense training program which raises competencies of ALC representatives in financial management counseling for smaller local organizations. So far, the program has been completed by 47 representatives of 33 Act Locally Centers.
Between 2020 and 2021 funds from grant competitions were transferred to initiatives counteracting the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The projects included intervention actions, helping seniors and disabled people, those undergoing quarantine, providing psychological help and counseling, as well as supporting remote education. A special institutionalized relief fund was initiated for Act Locally Centers that found themselves in a difficult situation due to the pandemic – it has benefited 31 ALCs. The same number have obtained support as part of the “Relief Fund for Non-governmental Organizations and Civic Initiatives” created by PAFF. In total, Act Locally Centers received PLN 650,000 of financial support.
Since 2021, with the expert assistance of WWF Poland, the program operates a thematic grant pathway entitled “Act Locally and Ecologically.” This path helped implement 64 initiatives for nature and climate protection.
For several years, actions were also taken to transfer the “Act Locally” program experience to Ukraine and inspire Ukrainian non-governmental organizations to create a network modelled after Act Locally Centers as part of the “Act Locally in Ukraine” action carried out by the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland in cooperation with the ISAR Ednannia Foundation in Ukraine.
In 2022, under a local call for grants, the program opened a new path titled “Act Locally and in Solidarity with Ukraine” to aid projects supporting Ukrainian refugees. The path awarded 201 grants of almost PLN 1mln in total for, among others, delivering legal, educational and psychological assistance, organizing adaptation and integration activities, preparing Polish language courses, and establishing daycare centers for children and youth. Under this special fund, 21 ACLs received support for other actions benefiting refugees.
As part of “Act Locally,” PAFF also participates in various undertakings that serve the development and promotion of social philanthropy. The Foundation supports the “Benefactor of the Year” competition and holds patronage over its “Local Partnership” category promoting social activity of businesses which, together with Act Locally Centers, help introduce permanent changes in local communities. The Foundation is also the main partner of the “Civic Leader of the Year” organized by the Newsweek Polska weekly (with the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland as its expert partner), the purpose of which is to promote civic activity of individuals and organizations, backing them in solving various social problems. As part of the program, the Foundation also supports the “Charity Stars” competition organized by the Academy, which awards public figures for their charitable activities.
The Foundation has disbursed $19,731,716, including $846,288 for the current edition.