Democracy and participation, Community development

Closing the Gap: Civic Districts

Giving voice to the citizens of Alba County

Creators

Who is behind this?

Diana Filimon

Forum Apulum

http://forum.ong/en/

Romania

Who is joining forces?

Alba County Council

http://www.cjalba.ro

Romania


Idea

Idea pitch

In Alba County people don’t stay. Tourists come and go, children grow up and leave. With dozens of villages depopulated and almost erased from the map, what could be done to convince the people that this could be their home? The feeling of belonging to a community, and seeing how your voice can change things for the better. For this, we will organize the county into 15 districts, where citizens, authorities, NGOs and investors will meet regularly to discuss how things can be improved.

Where will your project idea take place?

All administrative territorial units from Alba county, Transylvania, Romania.

What is the local challenge?

With a high depopulation rate and more than half of the towns being considered disadvantaged areas, Alba lacks an identity. People don’t feel they belong, youth are leaving thinking they can’t hope for a better future.

As citizens of Alba ourselves, we see that there are gaps in the local communities: people don’t know each other and when they do, they don’t really trust each other; most people feel there are no opportunities - professional or cultural -, and civic engagement is low, since people are used to manage on their own or rely only on their families.

Community initiatives do exist but they are the exception, rather than the norm and the local NGOs exist mostly on paper. This generalized self-reliance and lack of openness hampers the real growth of the county.

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

For feelings of community to become the norm, not the exception, they need nurturing and a proper context to grow. We want to live here, so we want to help create this context in the form of local districts where people can meet, know each other, voice their concerns and propose their ideas.

The structured meetings (moderated by our NGO), will ensure all opinions, issues and proposals are considered, increasing the confidence of citizens in their own power and help close the gaps, by providing a space for opening up.

Through our partnership with the County Council we will be able to follow up on any promises that may have been made and to put pressure on local authorities to keep the citizens’ interests in mind, in turn increasing the trust between citizens and the authorities.

Who are you doing it for?

Our beneficiaries are the citizens of Alba County (320.000). We will directly involve all citizens above 16 years old, no matter the gender, race or ethnicity. All will be able to come together, listen to others, voice their issues or propose their solutions and in doing this connect to the community.

We will focus on bringing representatives of the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the poor - since they are the ones that are the least likely to be heard under normal circumstances.

We want to bring together different voices, different perspectives and opinions from the same community so that they can have a direct space to discuss them, not only on social media channels, but in person. We want to make their voices heard and start from there.

How do you plan to get there?

Step 1: Dividing the county into approx. 15 districts with the help of the local authorities and a sociologist considering key factors (population density, distances and social details) in order to ensure equilibrium.

Step 2: Informing citizens about the project and what it means, so that they attend at the meetings.

Step 3: Initiating collaborations with key-persons (teachers, priests, businessmen etc), so that meetings will be relevant.

Step 4: Setting up protocols with the county council and other authorities, so they take into account the conclusions of district meetings.

Step 5: Organizing 2 facilitated meetings per district, promoted in advance with a basic agenda.

Step 6: Follow-up is essential - informing citizens of the outcomes and monitoring the progress.

What are the expected results?

The main purpose is the empowerment of local communities in Alba County, by getting people together, giving them a chance to voice their opinions, putting pressure on authorities to act on them and most of all to co-create solutions for the community.

Immediate outcomes will be an increase in people’s trust in democracy and in their power as citizens, as well as increased awareness of what it means to be part of a community (different people having different expectations that need to be negotiated).

Long term expected outcomes are the increase in the trust in local authorities and the increase in the quality of the decision making process by incorporating this participatory process, with a process of co-creating solutions.

How does your initiative contribute to strengthening democracy in Europe?

The best contribution to democracy are informed and responsible citizens. Empowering our citizens by offering them the chance to be heard and to actively debate their problems means making them not just good Romanian citizens, but good European ones. People who, by scaling the way they interact with others and with local authorities, can appreciate the importance of a bigger picture.

Also, citizens used to debate and to meet decision makers are less likely to support various forms of extremism (and we had such support in our region). It’s harder to hate when you meet people in real life (and not behind a screen) and you exchange ideas, solutions or simple yet understandable frustrations.

What is your story?

This is our home. We have our families here, our relatives and friends. We live among the people we want to activate as citizens, so that together we can build a better community for all of us and for our children.

We believe in the people of Alba County – in their kindness and creativity in problem solving when they are properly engaged. They certainly have a power they are not aware of and we need to help them understand that they are the ones who can change things, instead of waiting for proverbial saviours.

€ 49300,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

€ 49300,-

Total budget

Major expenses

Personnel costs (5 positions x 13 months) 33800
Office expenses 2600
Mailing (flyers presenting the project and the events) 900
Transportation (visits in the districts) 950
Accomodation and per diem 850
Infrastructure 1200
Catering (for the district meetings events) 800
Promotion costs (Fb, radio, tv stations, local newspapers, posters) 1500
Web platform 2700
Sociological study 4000

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

How can we be more effective in reaching the community targeted in our project.

Team

Diana Filimon

Alina Curea

ciprian

Idea created on May 25, 2020
Last edit on May 27, 2020

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