Community development, Urban and rural development

Civic Spaces on the Edge

Joining forces to develop community venues in small towns and rural areas

Creators

Who is behind this?

Levente Polyak

KÉK - Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre

http://kek.org.hu/

Hungary

Who is joining forces?

Aliancia Stara Trznica

https://staratrznica.sk/sk/aliancia-stara-trznica

Slovakia


BASIS Vinschgau Venosta

https://basis.space/en/

Italy


Associação Pó de Vir a Ser

https://podeviraser.pt/portal/en/start-page/

Portugal


4th partner: Eutropian Association, Rome (eutropian.org) All partners are engaged with developing community venues in small towns or rural areas. In this partnership they will help new initiatives.

Idea

Idea pitch

How to turn vacant heritage buildings into catalysts for local civil society? Small towns and rural areas have a built heritage that is often undervalued and left to abandonment. These heritage spaces, however, can become engines of local communities, amplifying their energies to build new identities and develop new dynamics of cooperation. CSE will connect and support initiatives in rural areas to develop community venues in peripheral regions of Hungary, Slovakia, Portugal and Italy.

Where will your project idea take place?

Rožňava, Slovakia
Upper Danube region, Hungary
Evora area, Portugal
Alto Adige, Italy

What is the local challenge?

The regions included in the project are all areas suffering from brain drain, with fragmented civil societies and limited resources. One of the most important missing resources is community venues able to accommodate events, activities, social businesses and act as points of aggregation for broader territories. In the meanwhile, these regions are home to an important built heritage, ranging from unused industrial production sites, agricultural structures as well as religious buildings. Outside the main circuits of commerce and culture, these areas often struggle to concentrate financial resources as well as the appropriate know-how, necessary for the sustainable reuse of these vacant sites. Particularly after the COVID-19 crisis, many such initiatives need support from stronger networks.

How does your idea strengthen democracy and active citizenship at a local and community level?

Civic spaces are key components of civil society that enable local communities to thrive. Community venues, ideally enjoying relative independence from both market forces and political interference, are key civic infrastructure that act as arenas of civic activism, cultural events and social exchange. Such venues can help in the inclusion of marginalised groups by promoting intercultural encounters and dialogue. They are also laboratories of work and joint development: for many communities, civic spaces help initiators and activists develop organisational skills, handcrafts and financial literacy that become crucial in creating solid, autonomous organisations. Last but not least, they enable communities to generate revenues that can support other social and cultural activities.

Who are you doing it for?

The main target group of the project are local initiatives that have been engaged with the idea of developing a local community centre. These initiatives might look for inspiration, tools and methods to realise their ideas, organisational or financial know-how to develop their plans. In other cases, despite careful planning, these initiatives have struggled to secure funding for their ideas, partly because of sound financial plans or poor institutional context. Such initiatives might also want to connect with each other and rely on the strength of stronger, international networks of exchange that can help them not only in gaining visibility but also in developing new activities. Moreover, such networks can help the creation of new financial instruments to help access new funding streams.

How do you plan to get there?

1) All partnerships in the project identify a number of local initiatives, to be expanded by a call for initiatives in the focus areas with ambitions/experiences in reusing vacant buildings for community purposes.
2) Each partner in the proposal organises a local workshop focusing on local possibilities and challenges. This local workshop will bring together initiatives, facing joint challenges, from the regions.
3) Local development plans are created for a selected number of initiatives participating in the workshops.
4) The local development plans are linked to a broader international network, mobilising expertise as well as financial resources to help the individual development projects.
5) A set of case studies, tools and methods are published to increase the project’s impact.

What are the expected results?

CSE will help individual initiatives to overcome their organisational, financial and governance challenges. As a result of the workshops, at least one development project in each of the four regions will be brought forward with the help of a development plan assembled with the help of the partnership’s expertise. Other initiatives will be able to get in touch with their counterparts, form local networks to give them better visibility and stronger collective representation. Linking these local initiatives and regional partnerships into international networks will help them exchange knowledge and access new sources of funding. The resulting videos and publication will put forward the idea of community-led development projects in rural areas and will encourage new initiatives to emerge.

How does your initiative contribute to strengthening democracy in Europe?

In the past decade, anti-democratic tendencies in some European countries made it clear that civic spaces are key elements of functioning democracies. In Hungary, Italy or Poland, for instance, independent cultural venues played an important role in countering the advance of totalitarian governments, by offering a space for autonomous thinking and activism and helping marginalised groups access basic services. They have accommodated civil society organisations that were forced to leave their earlier locations and helped them create some economic basis for their activities. By helping individual cases locally, showcasing their importance, giving them additional visibility and working with them towards a supportive policy environment, we can create a stronger civic infrastructure in Europe.

What is your story?

In the past years I have been active in the scene of community-led development. Based on my involvement in helping NGOs and social enterprises access vacant buildings in Budapest, I have built a broad international network of similar initiatives. With the Advocate Europe-funded “Funding the Cooperative City” project we brought this idea further and worked on new financial models to support community-driven development projects that can be autonomous both from political interference and market pressure. In the past years, I have been helping NGOs all across Europe to strengthen their venues. With the project Open Heritage, I am now working on advocating community-based development models at the European level, engaging both policy makers and financial institutions in the process.

€ 50,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

€ 50,-

Total budget

Major expenses

Office expenses 1.000€
Travel costs 8.000€
Event costs 8.000€
Expert fees 12.000€
Public relations 12.000€
Personnel costs 9.000€

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

Let us know about initiatives in your surroundings that aim at reusing vacant buildings in rural areas for community use. We would like to know about their successes and failures; the spaces they created, the challenges and bottlenecks identified in their development processes.

Team

Levente Polyak

Mariana Mata Passos

Hannes Goetsch

bindicsg

Idea created on May 27, 2020
Last edit on May 27, 2020

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