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Community center for a citizen-led neighborhood | Civic Europe
Community development, Social inclusion

Community center for a citizen-led neighborhood

Building and strengthening connections between neighbors within the framework of a grassroots, self-developed community house.


Who is behind this?

Gergő Birtalan

Gólya Community House


Who is joining forces?

Közélet Iskolája - School of Public Life


Láthatatlan Tanoda - Invisible Study Hall


Mérce - Standard


Gólya Community House gives space to nine NGOs and co-ops. One of our main strategic goals is embedding all of them locally, through their activities and services.


Idea pitch

In our neighborhood, most people struggle to just get by, while living very alienated lives, in spite of sharing many common problems and suffering the same injustices. There is also a lack of institutions or organizations that connect people, or provide public space. We, as a grassroots cooperative have built a community house with the firm goal of local community-building for a better life, and devised a long-term strategy that is based on engagement, mutual support, and direct democracy.

Where will your project idea take place?

Orczy quartier, VIIIth district of Budapest

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Residents are divided and alienated from each other, and their living place now more than ever. We work to subvert the instilled notion that the individual has to fight to meet their needs on the personal or familial level. If we can abridge this distance, then we can connect personal struggles with common challenges and the underlying causes, and nurture a community response. We need people to experience that they can have an effect on the social, political and relations that involve them, and can rely on each other for support in the needs of life. Achieving this is a very hard task, because we need to break the walls of indifference (coming from an experience of powerlessness), and build trust between people who are heavily prejudiced, and would not look for the company of others.

Who are you doing it for?

Roughly 10.000 people live in the Orczy quartier, who make up a very heterogeneous group: there are both elderly and young people living here, families with small children, (sometimes with the third, senior generation living in the same family) but also pensioners living alone, several significant minorities of Roma, Arab and Chinese ethnicities among other smaller migrant groups, home-owners and renters, residents of social housing, university students. Mostly the residents live in economic hardship and possess a lesser than average ability to advocate for their interests. They all together compose our target group, because what connects them is that they live here, and they have common issues - and that’s what we want to address.

How do you plan to get there?

The main activity that we’re trying to launch with the support of Circles of Change is an alternative job club, which is a response to the local problem of unemployment and undignified work opportunities. In the job club, we will share experiences and knowledge, build a mutual support network, connect participants to the activities of our partner organisations and come up with solutions for a better living together. Until the start of the project period, we will develop the concepts and framework of the job club with the help of partners. From the start of the project period, we will invite neighbors to the club by direct engagement and through our contacts at the welfare office. The rules, practices and topics of the club will be devised together with the founding members, based on their needs and interests. Throughout the project, we will organically develop the club in a flexible way, focusing on the needs of the participants and channelling available resources: our 10-year experience in self-help, democratic self-management, economic and legal skills that come from working as a co-operative, and a wide network of experts, union organizers and educators. Next to the job club, we want to continue field work, include a resident in a part-time position as organiser, and develop the services and programs of the community house when the COVID lockdown ends.

What are the expected results?

Participants in the job club have made new connections, built a support network and they are not alone with their problems. By improving their lives, they have experienced the strength of the community and their power over their own lives and reinforcement from each other about their skills, knowledge and worth. We have learned the methods and requirements of organising such a group, and can pass it on as a good practice, maybe even on a larger scale. We have responded to a major problem in society on the local level, and have included new people and a new field of action to the long-term organisation process within the framework of the community house. We have managed to develop the community house further in other fields as well, such as locally beneficial services and programs.

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

In each action we aim to let participants experience their power and ability to affect their surroundings. We consciously shift our role as organisers. First we take responsibility for the majority of the tasks, such as building the group, organising meetings, summarizing discussions and pointing out common ground - during that we give positive reinforcement to participants and the group as a whole, which helps them to do the same. Over time, we delegate more and more tasks and roles to participants until the group becomes self-led. Coming from a co-operative, we pass on the direct democratic self-management practices, and principles of equality, nonviolent communication, pro-active responsibility that are natural and fundamental to us.

Why is this idea important to you?

The members of the project team: Zsófia Török - social worker, coordinator, Csaba Baroch - geographer, Gergő Birtalan - sociologist, Csilla Hajdu- sociologist, social worker MA student of Community and Civil Development Studies, Lívia Marschall - cultural anthropologist. We also work with a network of irregular volunteers. In addition to previous community organising experience, we have been maintaining a community space in the district since 2013, and opened the community house in the Orczy quartier in 2019. Many of us live in the neighborhood as well. Our co-operative is based on a shared vision and a mission that guides our day-to-day work.

€ 18230,-

Total budget

€ 10630,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Personnel costs (a part-time job for a core project member for extensive field work and group organizing, and two positions with monetary compensation for neighbors who will take part as liaisons and local experts) 9600 eur
Communication 275 eur
Office expenses 275 eur
Enrollment in training with School of Public Life for participants 480 eur
(We are financing the position of the coordinator and participation of co-op members from own contribution+other funding)

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

Is the alternative job club a good approach to thematizing the issues we target? After founding a group on a certain local issue, how would you advance discussion to motivate political action? Do you have creative tools to include people in various social positions despite COVID restrictions?





Idea created on April 25, 2021

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