Association “Platform AGORA - Active Communities for Development Alternatives”
Vidin Community Fund “Chitalishta”
Vidin Community Fund “Chitalishta” is the regional partner with more than 30 member Chitalishtes functioning since 2012 and has implemented 5 projects.
Create 10 oases in the „civic deserts” in North-Western Bulgaria by infusing 7 polyvalent AGORA method to activate the communities’ immunity. National and local peer support networks will lead the empowered communities that built “herd” immunity to break the civic impasse and spread it in the neighboring “oases”. Thus, creating sustainable on-and-off- line community hubs that will spread knowledge and good practices among the most affected – elderly, Roma, labour migrants and unactive citizens.
In 6 small municipalities in North-Western Bulgaria (2 regions - Vidin and Montana).
North-Western Bulgaria is the least economically developed region with labor migration of young people, mostly elderly population and a high percentage of Roma. AGORA approach for activating communities’ civic participation (online & offline) will be introduced in 6 municipalities in 2 adjacent regions: Dimovo, Rujinci, Bregovo (Vidin reg) and G. Damyanovo, Boychinovci, Yakimovo (Montana reg) with total residents 32930 people, living in 73 small places. They are viewed as „civic deserts” lacking civic organizations, civic education and input. Thus, with low civic cohesion, deficit of participatory democracy and lack of community development practices. The traditional Chitalishte – the only public spaces in the small locations have potential to be community centers open for civic activity.
AGORA 7 step approach for activating communities’ civic participation will be launched in 10 small settlements in set locations. Key factor for development is the local initiative and citizens’ involvement in the local problems‘solution. That will result in better quality of community life, increased efficiency of institutions and public trust by strengthening local democracy. The need of better community participation is crucial due to the multiplication of non-democratic practices on local level like “buying votes” during elections, abuse of power, corruption practices, social exclusion, etc. The only way to counter fight these practices is to empower the locals so that they are informed, active and participating citizens with civil position, who can partner or apply pressure if needed.
The idea is to activate local communities in 6 vulnerable, isolated rural municipalities in 2 regions with relatively poor population. For the last 10 years, AGORA’s approach was applied in similar places and proved to increase civic activity, changed the attitude and resolved crucial community issues with participation and citizens’ involvement. The affected groups will be: elderly people living alone at risk of social isolation about 60 %; Roma (low education and qualification) which is 10 % of the 6 places population; active local citizens with civic skills and knowledge deficits; 30 team members of local Chitalishte and local authorities’ staff; labor migrants who left the local communities. The local initiatives will be coordinated by the local Chitalishte or informal civic groups.
The activities include: 1) Selection of communities (2 places per each of the 6 locations, meeting the agreed criteria); 2) AGORA approach applied: local needs assessed, local civic teams set, 20 community discussions (2 civic discussions per place for identification of issues and consensus decisions for solutions with citizens’ participation) held with up to 20 issues prioritized, 20 community initiatives carried out (incl. support and built partnerships); 3) Оn-line AGORA – community hub (innovation is the upgrade of existing approach); 4) Civic Capacity building (2 trainings for Chitalishte staff & active people on civic participation, discussions moderation–on and off line–with practice & initiatives design); 5) Peer Support (AGORA network contribution, enhanced learning and sharing).
At 10 small settlements in isolated and unprivileged regions the basis of civic infrastructure for sustainable civic participation are laid out resulting in: 20 local challenges resolved with community participation, empowering the community to be more active and own their successes; civic capacity of the local entry points and civic groups in 6 municipalities is built; local partnerships are built and strengthened; Bulgarians living abroad are reconnected with their communities, actively participating in and contributing to their vitality; local communities are involved in a more informed way in key local development issues, so they become more entrepreneurial and discover local resources for life improvement; improved interrelations within the community and with the local authorities.
AGORA will create space for collaboration and involvement (on and off line) in 6 municipalities in 2 regions in Bulgaria, thus addressing the problem of the shrinking space for civil society participation where populists gain power. The on-line community hubs connect people from those regions with peers and community members residing outside their origin communities (many of them working and living in Europe) through on-line digital technologies which are an essential means to strengthen democratic participation. Civic participation and engagement which are EU fundamental values more increasingly will be considered as involving non-institutionalized forms of participation, often enabled by technological developments and growing interactivity and community building.
AGORA mission is community development & civic participation in small and remote communities. The challenge is to activate and turn passive communities into local community hubs. Our own and proven approach applied in up to 50 places with diverse profiles was updated thus, we think change and positive impact are achievable. As the targeted communities did not have active civic life and are fragmented, we can change that. The 7 step AGORA approach include: assessment of local needs, mobilization of community leadership, setting up of civic teams, holding of 2 civic discussions for identification of community issues to be resolved with citizens’ participation, coming up with consensus decisions, attracting support and solution of problems with participation via initiatives and partnerships.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
20 local discussions: EUR 5 000
Publicity and promotion: EUR 1 000
Support for 20 community initiatives: EUR 20 000
2 trainings for civic skills for 30 trainees each: EUR 6 000
Development and application of on-line community hub EUR 5 000
(incl. use and practice instructions):
Accommodation, per diem and travel expenses: EUR 3000
Administrative expenses: EUR 10 000
We’d be glad to know if they see our signature approach as easy applicable. Moreover, if they have experience to suggest any technological options for setting the approach online. As we have to get used to live with the new normal of “distancing”, we need more togetherness and technology aids.