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Challenges and Opportunities in Lithuania's Third Sector

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

According to the Lithuanian NGO Coalition, about 15,000 third-sector organisations operate in Lithuania, engaging in numerous activities using a variety of methods. The third sector is often praised for its flexibility, lack of bureaucracy, and enhanced understanding of the needs of the target groups. Moreover, the third sector in Lithuania is widely acknowledged as an essential partner in the delivery of social services.


However, the third sector is not yet a credible player in the Lithuanian municipal public services sector. The development of the NGO sector is hampered by both external and internal problems. At the same time, these problems have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the main problems is the lack of innovation and digitalisation skills among third-sector leaders. However, such skills could make a significant contribution to the third sector's ability to grow and be perceived as a highly entrepreneurial, innovative and digital sector.


Social services and the third sector in Lithuania


Third-sector organisations in Lithuania deliver social, psychological and legal services, non-formal education, and public policy proposals. The third sector generally works with vulnerable or socially at-risk groups for which public institutions are unable to provide adequate care. Lithuania's third sector showed this during the COVID-19 crisis when volunteers mobilised to raise funds and provided social and health promotion services despite the dangers.


In Lithuania's national plans, the third sector plays a significant role. As stated in Lithuania's progress strategy "Lithuania 2030", the public sector should only provide public services that cannot be provided by NGOs, community-based organisations, or businesses. Yet, an analysis of the 2019-2020 Social Service Plans of 20 municipalities showed that the purchase of social services from the third sector is not yet a very common practice in many municipalities. According to the 2018 Social Service Plans, 50% of target municipalities did not anticipate purchasing social services from the third sector.


The third sector development is hindered by both external and in-house challenges. Among the external obstacles are misconceptions in society, the inappropriate operating environment, and flawed funding models. It is possible, however, to address internal causes through management approaches such as competence development, clear organisational processes, transparency, collaboration, and performance measurement. It is important to note that these internal causes can be eliminated and/or reduced through digital and innovative competencies used in third-sector management.


Covid-19 and post-pandemic word for the third sector


With the quarantine imposed in mid-March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most third-sector organisations in Lithuania were unable to function properly and continue their operational activities. In a survey conducted by the Open Society Foundation (2020), 86.1% of NGOs, when asked to what extent the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their day-to-day activities, responded that it has affected their day-to-day activities either very much or extremely much.


Most respondents cited cancelled or suspended activities as the most pressing issue. The second most significant was the interruption or disruption of financial flows. Furthermore, they also pointed out that their target groups lacked skills in using digital tools.


Third sector representatives, in this survey also highlighted several positive consequences of the pandemic. According to some respondents, certain social groups, such as those working in education, were forced to acquire deeper IT competencies, which they will then be able to use more in their work.


Third-sector should enhance its role in society in the face of global challenges and the post-pandemic world by demonstrating to public authorities, businesses, and other social partners that it is an innovative and digital sector capable of performing public services.


This is what the LeaderSEEDS project aims to tackle; the lack of digital competencies in the leadership of the third sector. LeaderSEEDS will develop a Digital Leadership Development Training Programme and a Digital Leadership Centre that will be available to everyone seeking to enhance their digital skills to improve professional leadership and digital competency. As a result, the leadership of the third sector will be prepared for the post-covid era.

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