Cerkljanski mladinski alternativni klub
Nonprofit spaces are vital for young people who live in rural areas. The small town of Cerkno, Slovenia is fortunate to have a long history of self-organised youth work within the C.M.A.K. youth centre. Our project idea is simple: we want to take good care of the youth centre where the young (at heart) can meet, talk, learn, plan, create and organise. We want to develop new approaches to youth work at the intersections of youth culture, civic participation and community engagement.
Cerkno, Goriška region, western Slovenia.
The Municipality of Cerkno consists of the town Cerkno (1500 people) and 30 villages (3200). About 800 young people live in this ageing municipality. Due to lack of housing, educational and job opportunities, as well as venues for their socialization, expression, engagement and organising, young people are moving to bigger cities. Research also shows that the young (in Cerkno and nationally) are distrustful of the political system and that their participation in decision-making processes is low. Our project idea addresses the precondition for civic engagement of local youth: the further development of the only youth space in Cerkno with quality youth work that refuses the binary “divide and conquer” rhetoric (“the young” vs. the “the old”, “the native” versus “the foreign” etc.).
In the absence of other autonomous nonprofit venues, the youth centre is vital for the strengthening of active citizenship of young people in Cerkno and the surrounding villages. The youth centre is going to continue to offer them the space, equipment, information and mentoring needed to support the realisation of their ideas and empower them in this collaborative, bottom-up process. We are going to continue to organise cultural and educational events in collaboration with local NGOs and public institutions in order to 1) foster social cohesion across the imposed division lines of age, class, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion and political views, and 2) attract those young people who are still exploring their interests and developing their identity.
Our main beneficiaries are young people from Cerkljanska region, aged 15-29 (ca. 800 people or 17% of the whole population). Since there are no high schools in Cerkno, young people aged 15 or more frequent high schools in other towns and return home only on weekends. That is why children and teenagers who frequent the primary school (about 350, aged 6-14) are an equally important beneficiary. However, we do not discriminate by age, and everyone is welcome.
We will include a variety of opinions and interests in our activities by paying attention to the needs of our beneficiaries as well as by sticking to the principle that complex, controversial issues need to be treated as such, while methodologically taking into account the specificity of different (age) groups.
To implement our idea, we have to: 1 secure co-funding to employ two people (method: public tender applications); 2 secure co-funding for future programs (see 1); 3 organise community-building events (public kitchen, seeds exchange, festivals - ecology, women’s rights, music; 4 organise culture & arts events (annual artisans fair, jam sessions, exhibitions w/ guided tours, concerts; 5 foster active citizenship (educational films, lectures, workshops, collective campaign planning, public assemblies); 6 participate in local decision-making processes and monitor their implementation (attendance at city meetings, written response to city plans and decisions, public statements) and; 7 increase our promotional activities (local media, our print and web media, word of mouth).
Considering our “impossible” goals, our expectations are humble yet our hopes are high. We expect that in one year’s time, C.M.A.K. is going to be financially stable and consequently, administered better. We expect to attract several non-organised young people to our activities, and encourage them to organize around the issues they care for. We hope to “youngen” and increase our formal membership and to “agree to disagree” without giving up on building a stronger youth culture. We hope that our participation in the shaping of municipal youth politics is going to open doors to truly participatory practices; that our monitoring of the city’s (non)implementation of youth policies is going to guarantee that its actions become transparent and truly in the interest of young people.
Our focus on youth work at the intersections of youth culture, civic education and community engagement addresses poignant questions, concerning Slovenia and several other postsocialist states in the European Union: the rise of authoritarian, nationalist and non-democratic regimes with neoliberal, racist, sexist, homophobic etc. agendas. By encouraging young people from rural areas to recognise and counter such practices as well as propose democratic alternatives locally, we are empowering them to grow into open-minded, confident and autonomous citizens of the world who are going to be able to rebuild a Europe, faithful to its core values: respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.
Frequenting C.M.A.K. was a transformative experience for many current youth club volunteers, including the project team, when we were unsure of the paths we want to take in life in our early teens. The fact that such a small town has been offering new and new generations of young people the opportunity to socialize, learn, create and organize on their own terms, is priceless - even more so today when the political significance of spaces by and for the young tends to be overshadowed by (privately owned) online platforms. By insisting on the need for a physical public space, we hope to convey the message that the presence, creative expression, civic engagement and community participation of young people are vital for a truly democratic Municipality of Cerkno.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Two part-time employments - 17000 EUR,
office supplies - 1300 EUR
rent for equipment - 1700 EUR
food and materials for workshops - 2000 EUR
promotional material - 3000 EUR
other costs - 5000 EUR
Any feedback on our idea is welcome. However, we would also appreciate information on methods of civic education and community engagement, specifically devised for young people and rural contexts.