Association for Shared Learning ELA
The Municipality of Gorna Malina unites 14 villages. Because of its proximity to the capital Sofia all the main channels of community life – education, healthcare, exchange of goods and services – are disrupted. We want to create a network of relations and information within the municipality and bring resources back into the community in order to make it socially cohesive and economically viable. We will do this by helping the community to identify its needs and find solutions.
Gorna Malina municipality, Sofia Province, Bulgaria
Gorna Malina has about 6000 registered residents. An ever increasing number of them are either moving to Sofia or travelling there for work, education, shopping and recreation. As a result the municipality is left with an ageing population and people with lower socio-economic status, unable to seek opportunities in the big city. On the other hand many people from Sofia have chosen the 14 villages as a second residence but don’t contribute to its social or economic life in any way as they are not registered residents and are not familiar with the area and the resources it has to offer. The lack of interaction between the different groups in the community leads to an incapacity to work together on common problems, including social infrastructure and economic opportunities.
Municipal authorities have identified the major problems in the community but don’t have a viable plan for addressing them. Our goal is to understand how the residents view these problems through their personal stories and to seek solutions and resources for tackling them together with the people. Our belief is that the community cannot advance unless its members understand what is holding them back, what makes them go forward and what they can do as individuals and a group for their own well-being. When we have gathered this information and mapped available resources we will prepare an action plan, together with the municipal authorities, aimed at using the human potential of the residents rather than taking the initiative from them.
Our goal is to reach the different groups present in Gorna Malina– people who are less educated, less motivated and have rarely been consulted about their opinion; people who have chosen to live/work/study in Sofia; people who reside in Gorna Malina as a second residence and do not identify with it – and to see how these groups can interact in order to form a cohesive and viable community. Our observations so far show that these groups lead a parallel life, rarely mix and are therefore suspicious of one another. The municipal authority can be seen as a fourth group who tries to improve the environment but focuses mainly on physical infrastructure rather than on creating connections and interactions among the people in the community.
- Organize 14 meetings with the 14 village mayors in the Municipality to gather information and ask for cooperation
- Organizing 14 community meetings (1 per village). They have the double purpose of presenting the initiative and holding focus groups.
- 200 face-to-face interviews with local people from all villages and all groups.
- Creating a Facebook page for the project, building social media presence.
- Sharing survey results with the 14 mayors and Municipal authorities
- Drafting an Action plan.
- Organizing one final event to present the Action plan.
The project will use the asset mapping method. For the survey focus groups and face-to-face interviews will be held with at least 360 people in order to ensure a representative sample.
A year from now we will have a community aware of its needs and a plan to answer them. New communication channels will allow residents to seek solutions to common problems. The people will be aware of the assets of their municipality and the goods and services available in the community. The local authorities will have an action plan which takes into consideration the opinions of the residents. Most importantly – there will be increased trust between the residents upon which further actions can be planned and implemented. Other expected results are a better access to local produce, better ability to attract resources from within and outside the community and improved resilience.
Our project is based on the values of human dignity, equality, rule of law and human and civil rights. It is focused on promoting the well-being of citizens by encouraging democratic participation as a means of combatting social exclusion. The project seeks to build trust which is the main prerequisite for the functioning of a democratic and free society. It also directly contributes to better cohesion between authorities and local community, helping to shape policies in an informed and participatory manner. It is also consistent with the idea of creating resilience on community level in the face of unexpected crisis situations, such as the recent Covid-19 epidemic.
We are interested in creating a strong local community and be a part of it. Despite being a recent member, we have received numerous enquiries from locals on the nature of the Centre, its ability to create new jobs or consume locally produced goods and services. We openly state our intentions and invite everyone to come and get to know us and share their ideas and opinions with us. Thus, we have already started creating connections between the people in the village of Stargel. With the present project we want to encompass the entire municipality and create long-lasting tendencies for mutual help, trust and cooperation.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Office expenses/stationery - 2200
Venue costs for meetings - 3500
Travel (fuel, tickets) - 11000
Personnel costs (interviews, analysis, etc) - 21000
Printing, advertisement, posters, refreshments - 2300
Any piece of advice about community building techniques is more than welcome.