Urbid boosts civic agency through a framework for collaboration between multiple stakeholders shaping public space, and by providing tools for citizens to join the decision making and creative process of urban change. We successfully launched in Sofia with several interventions and an integrated mobile and web platform. Next, we want to use modern best practices from urban gamification to target civic deserts like urban outskirts and smaller towns with weaker tradition in civic involvement.
Our focus is the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria, as well as 3 small towns (Peshtera, Elhovo and Devin)
Bulgaria lacks a strong tradition in civic initiative in urban space. As a legacy from a central, strongly hierarchical and untransparent communist state, many citizens still expect the government and local authorities to take care of everything outside their homes. Moreover, marginal neighborhoods and municipalities often lack the resources to improve their public spaces. The lack of civic initiative is not only a missed opportunity to improve those spaces from the ground up, but is also a major hurdle for executing public scrutiny over the local authorities/government for failing to maintain them. Despite increasingly active communities in big cities' central areas, suburbs and small towns are falling behind.
Democratic practices and civic agency are weaker in communities outside large city centres. Moreover, those are often places with aging population, less resources and limited access to technology, where successful models from urban centres are not easily transferable. Having studied best practices across Europe, we believe that by using gamification (understood as the incentive-driven and creative involvement of citizens), we can inspire dialogue, initiative and involvement that spans across various local groups, regardless of age, ethnicity or access to technology. We will partner with local stakeholders to create a context-tailored strategy enabling dialogue and the creative use of available resources to not only create beautiful and safer public spaces, but to nurture active citizenship
The next milestone for URBID is to target communities in urban outskirts, as well as small towns. Both face the same issue of weak civic participation in shaping public space, yet the root causes are different. In big cities' outskirts, for many years people have been residing in public/communal buildings with little sense of ownership and responsibility even 30 years after the country started its transition to democracy. The other issue in those areas is the constant influx of newcomers from rural areas, who are struggling for years to adopt their new place of residence as their home and identify themselves with it. In the case of small cities, due to the centralized structure of the country, people are usually feeling far away from any decision-making process
Urbid had a successful start with 4 co-created interventions in the central districts of Sofia, which were ideated, planned, and executed with the support of local authorities, civic communities and professional groups. As a next step, we want to transfer our ideas and experience to underprivileged areas: urban outskirts and smaller towns, and explore more creative ways to boost civic participation. We will collaborate with local actors and agencies to create a context-tailored gamification strategy, aiming to involve community members and groups of different age, background, skillset and put them in dialogue with local governance to use available resources and improve their public space together.
By the end of the project we are expecting to:
- have a functioning long-term gamification strategy for each place that keeps different citizens creatively involved in urban dialogue;
- have established relationship with local stakeholders (schools, museums, the private sector, local governance, artists, etc) to help us reach out to citizens, and identify their most pressing needs;
- have a strong operational team in each of the targeted neighborhoods, who will be instrumental in identifying the crucial urban sites for interventions, and support the implementation process,
- have a concrete scalability and transferability plan for expanding the activities to other neighborhoods.
According to political scientists we have worked with, three of the five indicators that a democratic society is under threat are "social apathy" and "widespread corruption" and "marginalization". At the current moment we have big amounts of those in Bulgaria and common spaces are the best place to spot the perfect synergies of those. As a common ground, those urban sides could be the perfect place for local people to practice their activism. It's a law hanging fruit of civic participation, which can triangulate between local communities, local authorities and the urban professionals.
Also, as our approach is easily transferable, it could be implemented in other cities and towns across Europe with little efforts, as the fundamental tools will already be in place.
As mentioned earlier, having worked and lived in different places, we realize that first, civic agency is fundamental to a functioning public sphere and happy communities, and second, there is no one solution that fits all. Moreover, we believe that a successful project should create a long-lasting structural change beyond its immediate duration, which depends strongly on partnering with local stakeholders and institutions. Last, but not least, we believe that multiple successful practices and strategies with a proven track record outside of Bulgaria, have not yet been utilized and as people with both strong professional background and interest in supporting civic agency, we would like to use our skillset creatively and contribute to more beautiful towns with happier communities.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs: 34.000
Office expenses: 2.400
Travel and accommodation: 5.600
Public relations/outreach/communication/events: 12.000
50.000 is the expected funding from Civic Europe
5.000 is self-funding
Anything that they think we could improve, or they would like us to implement in order to boost civic participation.