Democracy and Civil Society

Strengthening civil society and active citizenship and protecting democracy

The Foundation strives to promote a stronger, fairer, more tolerant and better-informed society with a more resilient democracy.

The growing phenomenon of citizens’ misinformation, weak civic and political participation, high levels of abstention and a decrease in the rejection of antidemocratic political ideals have seen Portugal following a worldwide trend in recent years towards a decrease in the quality of democracy. The Portuguese continue to be among the European populations with the least confidence in their fellow citizens and those who are least involved in voluntary activities. Though most believe the country would be much worse without social institutions, most place a neutral level of trust in them.

Civil society organisations mobilise and activate citizens in defence of democracy and human rights, advocate for the principles and values governing our society and monitor public policies. However, Portugal has a fragmented social sector that would benefit from becoming more independent in its top structures, gaining more financial independence from the State and overcoming technical, administrative and financial difficulties.

Our approach

The Foundation aims to foster a dynamic and sustainable democracy, with active and well-informed citizens by strengthening civil society organisations and the ecosystem fighting online disinformation. This is achieved through two main tools—the Active Citizens Programme and the European Media and Information Fund—leveraged and complemented with the Foundation’s financial resources.

The Active Citizens Programme provides grants, on a competitive basis, to Portuguese non-governmental organisations to promote their sustainability and capacity, with a view of strengthening their role in empowering vulnerable groups and in fostering democratic participation, active citizenship and the defence of human rights.

The European Media and Information Fund provides grants on a competitive basis to media outlets, researchers, fact-checkers, non-profits and other public interest-oriented organisations working on disinformation research and strengthening media literacy and fact-checking in the EU, EFTA and UK.

Our main goal is to contribute towards Portugal returning to the rating of full democracy in The Economist Democracy Index (a minimum score of 8) within 8-10 years.

Key areas of action

Capacity-building of CSOs

We support the access of Civil Society Organisations to human resources, skills, tools, and information capable of enhancing their work and impact on their communities, ensuring evidence-based activities and attracting and retaining volunteers.

Raising awareness of the role of CSOs

The critical role of the CSOs in achieving a society with more tolerance, justice and solidarity needs greater recognition. We support activities and campaigns to make communities more aware of the role of CSOs in activating citizens, defending human rights and monitoring public policies.

Fighting disinformation

We support fact-checking activities and multidisciplinary research to debunk disinformation dynamics affecting European audiences and to develop a more trustworthy digital ecosystem.

Promoting media literacy

We support media literacy initiatives across Europe that enhance understanding of digital media and information in order to advance critical-thinking and resilience amongst citizens of all ages.


Active Citizens Programme

A partnership with the Bissaya Barreto Foundation


European and Media Information Fund

A partnership with the European University Institute





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