Final Evaluation of the Active Citizens Fund program in Estonia

The aim of the Active Citizens Fund program evaluation was to determine whether the program’s objectives and results have been achieved and what could be done differently in the future to better meet similar objectives. The evaluation examined how the ACF program has helped strengthen Estonian civil society, increase civic activity, and empower vulnerable groups. By using research questions, the relevance, efficiency, and effectiveness of ACF grants were closely examined and evaluated, with attention also paid to the challenges of program implementation and the sustainability of supported projects.

This evaluation is crucial for Estonian civil society, including NGOs and the broader public, because it helps to:


During the evaluation’s initial stages, the team interviewed two representatives from the program implementers. They also conducted a group interview with three experienced NGO funding experts. From March 20 to April 9, 2024, they conducted individual and paired interviews with 14 NGO representatives. These representatives were involved in 22 different projects. The interviews focused on the results and outputs of projects from the first four application rounds. They also examined target group engagement and project impact. Triangulation was applied to ensure data reliability, comparing qualitative and quantitative information from project reports.


Conclusions and Recommendations

  1. Program necessity and sustainability
    The ACF programme is crucial for Estonian NGOs as it addresses societal challenges that often lack adequate national funding. Its flexibility allows it to remain relevant and effective across various issues. Continuing the ACF programme with its adaptable funding model is vital for supporting a broad spectrum of important social issues in Estonia.
  2. Combining thematic and outcome areas
    ACF projects frequently span multiple thematic areas. To better reflect this breadth, it would be advantageous to merge outcome areas in the application calls. This approach would enable projects to address several sub-goals within a single initiative, enhancing their overall impact and efficiency.
  3. Public communication and material distribution
    Improving the programme’s public communication and making documentation more accessible are essential for increasing the visibility and impact of ACF-funded projects. Ensuring that valuable materials produced by these projects are easily available and effectively communicated to the public would significantly amplify their influence and reach.
  4. Training and peer consulting
    Project implementers would greatly benefit from targeted training and consultancy services. Key focus areas should include identifying and engaging target audiences, managing risks, fostering effective partnerships, enhancing external communication, and planning for sustainable services. Providing such specialised support would empower project teams and improve their operational effectiveness.
  5. Feedback and project support
    Providing detailed feedback on applications and incorporating expert recommendations during the project planning phase can significantly enhance project quality and success. Thoroughly evaluate applications and work with experts to refine project timelines, action plans, and budgets before funding approval.
  6. Promoting collaboration among project implementers
    Encouraging greater collaboration among project implementers can lead to more successful outcomes. This can be facilitated by awarding additional points for cooperative efforts during application evaluations and closely monitoring partnership development in progress reports. Sharing stories of successful collaborations can further highlight their benefits and inspire more joint efforts.
  7. Project impact and sustainability
    NGOs should place a stronger emphasis on the impact of their projects and seek regular feedback from their target groups throughout the planning and execution stages. Additionally, the ACF programme could consider establishing a supplementary funding pool dedicated to highly impactful projects or for emergency situations. This would enhance the programme’s ability to deliver long-term, meaningful outcomes.
  8. Digital environment utilisation
    Transitioning the application and reporting processes for project funding to a digital environment would streamline operations and increase transparency. Integrating with an existing e-support platform could simplify these processes and enhance the overall efficiency of the programme.
  9. Project efficiency and risk management
    When planning project timelines, it is important to account for potential delays and allocate buffer time for disseminating results. Realistic risk assessment and mitigation strategies are crucial to avoid disruptions. Careful selection and active engagement of partners will improve project effectiveness and reduce the workload on project teams.