Civic Engagement in Bulgaria and Norway. Comparative Report


Open Society Institute – Sofia, in collaboration with Frivillighet Norge, is pleased to release a comprehensive comparative report on civic engagement in Bulgaria and Norway. ​ The report, titled “Civic Engagement Compass”, provides thought-provoking insights into the current state of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in both countries, exploring trends, challenges, and needs. ​

The report, funded by the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria within the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2014–2021, aims to shed light on the similarities and differences between Bulgarian and Norwegian societies in terms of institutional trust, personal and social values, and the civil sector. ​

Key findings from the report include:

Institutional Trust:

  • Trust in NGOs is significantly higher in Norway, with almost 90% of the population expressing high trust, compared to approximately 40% in Bulgaria. ​
  • Differences in trust in NGOs are strongly related to the overall institutional trust in each country, including trust in the legal system, police, army, national government, and international organizations.
  • There is a huge difference in the Bulgarian and Norwegian societies in terms of trust in national media: almost all Norwegians (90%) trust their national media, at least to some extent, while only half of Bulgarians do (51%).

Satisfaction with Democracy:

  • There are large differences between Bulgarians and Norwegians in the feeling of satisfaction with democracy and with how democracy is functioning in own country. Around 40% of Bulgarians are satisfied with democracy in their own country at least to some extent while in Norway around 80% of the population are fairly satisfied with how democracy works in their country.
  • Answers to questions that intend to capture autocratic tendencies diverge largely. In Norway 84% believe that having a strong autocratic leader is bad (62% think it is very bad). In Bulgaria around 30% think that such a political system is bad while 52% say that having a strong leader is either very good (23%) or fairly good (29%).

Personal and Social Values: ​​

  • Norwegian society exhibits a more homogenous and consolidated set of values compared to Bulgaria, with peace and human rights being prominent values in both countries. ​
  • Norwegians place a higher importance on respect for the planet and environmental issues, while Bulgarians prioritize individual freedom and respect for human life. ​
  • Acceptance of homosexuality and ethnic diversity is significantly higher in Norway compared to Bulgaria. ​

Challenges Facing NGOs: ​​

  • Looking at the civil sector, the first striking difference between Bulgaria and Norway is in terms of the sheer number of NGOs. In Norway as of 2023 there are around 65 thousand registered NGOs, but the overall estimated number is around 100 thousand as registration is not mandatory. In Bulgaria, the total number of registered NGOs in 2023 was about 26 thousand, but those that submitted reports to the National Statistical Institute (i.e. those that had at least some activity in 2023) were 9 thousand.
  • 78% of the Norwegians are members of at least one NGO, and 48% are members of at least two, while in Bulgaria membership in NGOs is declared by around 20% of the population.
  • In Bulgaria, NGOs face challenges related to limited funding, lack of public trust, a less developed legal framework, political pressure, and limited capacity. ​
  • In Norway, challenges include the need for funding diversification, administrative burdens, threats to the gambling monopoly, which is a significant source of funding for NGOs, and issues related to definition and registration.

The report emphasizes the importance of understanding the unique contexts and societal factors that shape civic engagement in each country. It highlights the need for continued support and collaboration to address the challenges faced by NGOs and promote a vibrant civil society. ​

You can access the full report here. ​

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