Български език



The Citizen Participation Forum (CPF) Association is a network of over 100 NGOs from around Bulgaria actively working to improve the environment and practices of participation in decision-making at the local and national level. The aim of the network is to create genuine conditions and to provoke more activity among civil society organizations to participate fully in the process of formulating policies and demand accountability from public authorities.


The idea for developing the methodology and the index was inspired by the constant dynamics of activities by citizens and organizations in Bulgaria. Manifestations of civic activity varied widely by topic and scale, with fluctuating degrees of impact and effect. The legal framework in which NGOs operate at the local and national level does not sufficiently regulate public participation and thus allows institutions to ignore or formalize civil initiatives and proposals.

A large number of studies have been published dealing with the legal regulation and sustainability of civil society organizations, media freedom, and the openness of local governments to citizens and NGOs. They show the dynamics of development in the institutional environment regarding opportunities for participation. However, we still lack a thorough, comprehensive study of its manifestations, and especially of the impact of civil initiatives and the trail they leave behind. Does the evolving environment actually cause greater activity, and does the mobilization of public energy lead to concrete changes in policies and decisions made by those elected to govern?

Index of Citizen Participation in Bulgaria

In response to these issues, the Citizen Participation Forum undertook the challenging task to monitor on regular basis three interconnected aspects of civic participation. On the one hand – the environment in which it develops: under what conditions and on what legal basis the dialogue between citizens and institutions has been occurring. On the other hand – how often and what tools citizens and organizations use in order to get involved in the decision-making process. And, above all - what the effect is from the application of various mechanisms of citizen participation, what their impact is on the operation of local and national authorities and the decisions they make.


For the purposes of this study, "citizen participation" means: "Actions and initiatives by citizens, civic groups and organizations that lead to policy changes and influence governance decisions at various levels."

Period of the study

The methodology was developed in 2015 by the Civil Participation Forum (CPF) in partnership with the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law and financial assistance from the Bulgarian NGO Support Programme under the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The study is carried out every two years and the results are presented to the Citizen Participation Biennale to NGOs, the media and representatives of local and national institutions. The conclusions and recommendations serve as the basis and core ideas for better strategies to promote active citizenship.


  1. Analysis of the legal framework - a report and conclusions drafted
  2. Survey to collect information about the manifestations and effects of citizen participation - 425 questionnaires from around the country processed;
  3. Poll (omnibus) survey to measure civic activity - 1026 people, a nationally representative sample;
  4. Expert Group: consisting of representatives of civil society organizations and experts working in various fields at the local and national level. Participants in the expert group evaluate and score the six indicators divided into the three studied domains.


Each indicator is given a score between 0 (poor) and 6 (excellent).

Scores of 0 to 2 mean a state of weak or underdeveloped citizen participation (lack of supporting legislation; lack of or poorly developed institutional environment, including the competencies of organizations; no or sporadic acts of citizen participation, no effect of the manifestations of citizen participation on the policies and attitudes of institutions.)

Scores of 2.1 to 4 mean a state of developing citizen participation. Legislation is in place to regulate the mechanisms of citizen participation; individual forms of citizen participation are practiced; there are some institutions and citizens who consider participation important, but their efforts are ineffective. The effect of civic participation is not yet visible; the benefits of citizen participation are not clearly understood and did not result in change.

Scores of 4.1 to 6 mean a state of developed citizen participation. (Existence and compliance with high-quality legal and institutional environment supporting the implementation of citizen participation mechanisms, practicing various forms of citizen participation, understanding among citizens that they genuinely participate in decision-making, and among institutions - that civic participation is an element of decision-making). Civil actions have impact on the decisions made by elected officials and result in changes in policies.

Relative weight of individual components:

The focus of this index is primarily on the effect of manifestations of citizen participation; it explores the change to which it leads. Therefore, in determining the final score, the following formula will be used on the relative weight of each element:

Domain 1 – 30%

Domain 2 – 30%

Domain 3 – 40%

Final Score = D1 х 30% + D2 х 30% + D3 х 40%

Example: 3.6 х 30% + 2.7 х 30% + 4.0 х 40% = 1.08 + 0.81 + 1.6 = 3.49



1.1. Legislation (legal and regulatory framework)

  • Are the various forms of direct democracy established by law, such as referendums (national and local), civil initiatives etc. regulated legislatively and does the law allow for citizens to initiate the holding of such referendums? Are the decisions binding on the institutions?
  • Is the institutions' obligation to conduct public consultations on laws, policies and strategic documents regulated by law; is the consultation period sufficient; does the format of consultations make them accessible to interested individuals and organizations?
  • Are institutions obligated to make their legislative agenda public (including strategic documents) in advance (at the beginning of their term of office, at the beginning of each calendar year of their term of office etc.);
  • Is it the institutions' obligation to publish the transcripts and minutes of meetings of publicly elected bodies legally stipulated (from meetings of committees in the National Assembly, Municipal Councils, the Council of Ministers).
  • Are draft legislation and proposals for resolutions of Municipal Councils accompanied by an explanation of whether public consultations were held and what their outcome was?

1.2. Institutional environment:

  • Are there active civil society organizations, coalitions of organizations and informal groups that are competently involved in public consultations or influence the policy – making (national and local)?
  • Are social media actively used to express civil positions, consolidate opinions and carry out advocacy campaigns?
  • It the principle of partnership and inclusion of civil society organizations in the decision-making process a part of state policy? Are there any strategic documents/standards in this aspect? What are the practices of the administration (central or local) as concerns the involvement of citizens and civil society organizations in public and advisory boards?
  • In what form is state policy on citizen participation expressed – have institutions created the necessary facilities such as online consultations, public hearings, contact persons? Have any budget funds been allocated for these purposes?
  • Do the media correctly inform about citizens' initiatives and their outcome/impact?


2.1. Citizen participation initiatives

  • Are various forms of citizen participation applied, such as referendums, citizens' initiatives (including European citizens' initiative), citizens' forums, petitions (including online), civic panels to discuss local/ or national policies etc.?
  • Do citizens and their organizations participate in the public hearings to consult on draft laws/ strategies and enable anyone wishing to join:
    • Do they seek preliminary information and materials?
    • Are they able to develop competent opinions and suggestions for the piece of legislation discussed, within the prescribed time-period?
    • Do they receive feedback on such suggestions, which ones have been considered, which have not been accepted and on what motives?
  • Do citizens and civil society organizations participate in working groups on the preparation of draft acts of the administration (laws, strategies of national and local institutions, regulations of municipal councils etc.)?

2.2. Active citizens

  • To what extent do citizens monitor public and political life? Are they familiar with the decisions that are being discussed/ adopted by the local government and national institutions?
  • To what extent do people participate in volunteering, donate to various causes, and participate in organizations?
  • To what extent are people willing to engage in civic initiatives and actions?


3.1. Result from citizen initiatives/participation                                                               SCORE: ........

  • Have the objectives of the initiative/consultation been achieved and to what extent? Has a change in the drafts of instruments/ decisions been achieved?
  • Is there a real result of the demands/suggestions/opinions raised by citizens - what steps have been made to continue the effort through civic activism? Who is working on the next steps and how are citizens involved? Is there a change in institutions' attitude?
  • In what areas is civic participation most effective? Which forms of citizen participation are the most effective? At what level - local, regional, or national?

3.2. Change in the environment       

  • Is change achieved in the regulatory framework/policy; how has the political, economic and social context changed as a result of citizens' initiatives?
  • Change in civic activity: are there observations of increased activity, capacity of organizations and the effectiveness of initiatives?
  • Do citizens seem to be more active – in groups, organizations, networks, coalitions?
  • Is any change observed in the attitude of the media towards the problem/issue of the initiative?

Table to calculate the overall score:


Domain 1



Domain 2



Domain 3



Overall score