Create 10 oases in the „civic deserts” in the region of Vidin, 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 5 small municipalities in North-Western Bulgaria (1 region - Vidin).
Our societal challenge is to create 10 oases in the civic deserts in the region of Vidin, Bulgaria by infusing AGORA method to activate the communities’ immunity. This region is viewed as civic desert lacking civic organizations, civic education and input. Thus, with low civic cohesion, deficit of participatory democracy and lack of community development practices. This is a region that is characterized by elderly people living alone at risk of social isolation about 60 %; Roma (low education and qualification) which is 10 % of the 5 places population; active local citizens with civic skills and knowledge deficits; labor migrants who left the local communities. The traditional Chitalishte are the only public spaces in the small locations that have potential to be community centers.
The idea is to activate local communities in 5 vulnerable, isolated rural municipalities in 1 region with relatively poor population. 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 5 places population; active local citizens with civic skills and knowledge deficits; 30 team members of local Community centers (Chitalishte) and local authorities’ staff; labor migrants who left the local communities. The local initiatives will be coordinated by the local Community centers (Chitalishte) or informal civic groups.
The activities include: 1) Selection of communities (2 places per each of the 5 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 – 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 (Chitalishte Network for Sustainable Development of Vidin District established by the Association "Vidin Fund Chitalishtа " contribution, enhanced learning and sharing).
At 10 small settlements in isolated and unprivileged region 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 5 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 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.
Association "Vidin Fund “Chitalishta " knows well this region, working for more than 10 years in the district municipalities (Vidin) by introducing community and civic innovations there. The only active public organizations being the focal points at each place are the Community centers (Chitalishte) that Association "Vidin Fund “Chitalishta " traditionally works with for building their capacity as CBOs (community based organization). Project manager has a lot years of professional experience in community development and citizens' participation, a practitioner with a long record of building networks, management of teams, processes and projects. Association "Vidin Fund “Chitalishta " and partner organization have 2 coordinators and an accountant.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
20 local discussions: EUR 3 000
Publicity and promotion: EUR 1 000
Support for 20 community initiatives: EUR 15 000
2 trainings for civic skills for 30 trainees each: EUR 3 000
Development and application of on-line community hub EUR 3 000
(incl. use and practice instructions):
Accommodation, per diem and travel expenses: EUR 3 000
Administrative expenses: EUR 7 000
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.