HALO Foundation 2019
In the villages of Haskovo municipality live over 17,500 people, whose access to health and social services, cultural events is extremely limited. The opportunities for these people to participate in local decision-making are limited to vote in the elections, civic initiatives in the villages are reduced to zero. We plan to overcome this inequality by actively involving citizens in trainings, solving problems and implementing initiatives at local level with the Citizens budget program.
Villages Konush, Vaglarovo, Stamboliiski, Malevo and Voyvodovo, Haskovo Municipality, South Bulgaria
Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union, and Haskovo District is among the poorest in the country. With each passing year, the demographic trends for depopulation and aging of the population in the district are intensifying. The situation in the villages is desperate. There are mostly elderly people who, without the support of their children and grandchildren, can barely adapt to the dynamics of the modern world. The entire responsibility for the condition of the villages is borne by the mayors, who by law have limited opportunities and budgets. The lack of knowledge about how local communities can be involved in decision-making processes, how to attract and manage funds to modernize and develop villages, dooms these settlements to slow death.
In the villages of Haskovo municipality live over 17,500 people, whose opportunities to participate in local decision-making are limited to voting in elections. They are in a situation of dependence on the decisions of local authorities, because they do not have the knowledge and skills how to change the environment, how to seek funding at national or European level, and there are no such measures at local level. The vast majority of elderly people in the villages do not own and do not know how to work with a computer or smartphone. However, among them there are many alert people who want to restore the look of the Bulgarian village. These are usually Community centers’ activists, mayors, chairmen of retirement clubs and other informal leaders who will play a key role in our project.
We will start with information meetings in 5 villages in Haskovo municipality where we will introduce the Citizens Budget Program (CBP) and the upcoming trainings. Then we will continue with the trainings, which will include topics such as mechanisms for civic participation, lobbying and advocacy for causes, attracting volunteers, seeking funding, incl. and by preparing project proposals, computer skills (searching for information on the Internet, online communication). They will be held in premises provided by the mayoralties or community centers, where internet access is provided, and purchased computers will be installed. Then we will proceed to the actual implementation of CBP. Residents of the 5 villages will offer solutions to local problems in an online platform. These suggestions will be publicly available for comments and opinions. A working group will be set up on each presented problem with representatives of the local community, giving various solutions and experts in the respective field. The working groups will discuss possible solutions, evaluate their effectiveness, applicability and compliance with the available budget. Each working group will come up with a single solution, that will be presented in the online platform and will be put to a vote by the local community. The most approved ideas will be funded with funds from the project and implemented by locals.
The implementation of the project will lead to the construction of valuable human resources and the creation of active civil communities in five villages of Haskovo Municipality. We expect at least 75 residents of these villages to participate in the trainings on the project, which will upgrade their knowledge of civic participation and digital competencies. All villagers will be involved in the implementation of the Civil Budget Program by proposing which problems to be solved, by participating in working groups, by voting and choosing which initiatives to be funded and implemented. At least 5 civic initiatives will be implemented within this project, which will improve the lives of all 4588 residents of the five villages.
The implementation of the CBP enables the voice of the inhabitants of a given settlement not only to be taken into account, but to have a decisive role and to actively participate in the decision-making processes and the implementation of these decisions. Creating conditions for local communities to determine for themselves how to allocate budget in accordance with the problems identified by them is a serious step towards restoring their confidence in the various forms of civic participation and establishing this civic participation as a key tool for ensuring the prosperity of the local community. With the trainings we plan, the residents of the 5 villages will acquire knowledge about the responsibilities of institutions, the opportunities for civic participation and constructive debate.
The cause for the development of Bulgarian villages is enshrined in the statutes of the HALO Foundation, but also in the hearts of our team. The infrastructure in the villages in Haskovo region is in extremely poor condition, in places bordering on degrading living conditions - there is no asphalt on the streets, no sewerage, active landslides threaten people's homes. Jobs are limited to several sewing workshops, livestock and agricultural farms. The cultural activity of the local community is housed in buildings that are about to collapse - with leaking roofs, falling plaster and broken windows. In these villages live our parents, grandparents, left without the support of their relatives. Our team has professionals with diverse expertise and long experience in on field work in villages.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
1. Workplace expenses (rent, utilities, office supplies etc.): 200€
2. travel costs 400€,
3. personnel costs 11 100€,
4. public awareness campaign 700€,
5. Purchase of computers 2600€
6. Citizens budgets – 20 000€
- Constructive criticism about how to improve our idea;
- Comments about cooperation and transferability of the idea in other countries/communities;
- Exchange of ideas on civic participation in other EU countries;
- Inspiration from existing practices.