Romanian democracy has, over recent years, been marked by anti-corruption protests, low trust in political institutions, and an ever-increasing tension between groups. We aim to bridge social divides and strengthen the democratic capacity of local citizens and politicians by bringing them together through facilitated discussions, roundtables and seminars, to listen, share and learn from one another, thus providing a stage upon which the democratic culture can become stronger and more inclusive.
Cluj County, Northwest Romania
Over the last decade, Cluj has been the only growing city in Romania, with a cultural and civic life that has been consistently evolving. While the economic growth is benefitting many, it has also led to increasing inequality, pushing those with lower socio-economic status to the fringes of society. Rapid technological advancements are making it difficult for certain segments of society, such as the elderly, the less educated and the poor, to stay involved in local decision-making processes. Meanwhile, Romanian democracy is marked by deep discontent with the elites, and distrust in democratic institutions. Cleavages between groups are increasing, enhanced by media outlets that spread divisive messages. And while civil society is growing, it remains scattered and uncoordinated.
The project brings together politicians and citizens from various walks of life and segments of society, in order to bridge the gap between groups, communities, generations and sectors, and thus enhance trust and social cohesion. It offers a stage for groups who are often disconnected from decision-making processes, to actively engage in these. The project provides workshops and trainings on various topics of relevance, including media literacy, critical and constructive thinking, collaborative and creative problem solving, and advocacy. The emphasis of all activities will be on exchange of knowledge and experience, and applying a collaborative approach to facilitate the development of innovative and practical solutions to current challenges.
The primary target groups include local politicians and public officials, community-, youth- and religious leaders, media professionals and representatives from local CSOs. The project also seeks to directly involve citizens from a broad range of backgrounds, communities, socio-economic status and age groups, in particular groups that are often marginalised and excluded from democratic processes, such as the ethnic Roma community, migrants, the elderly and rural populations and those with lower socio-economic status. Through strategic outreach and promotion of the project and its key messages, the project further aims to reach and inspire a wider audience of citizens across the region, and the country more widely.
Cross-Party Dialogue, 3 sessions, fostering a democratic culture of dialogue and respect between political leaders and groups; Civic Forums, 3 sessions, involving facilitated discussions on various relevant and current “hot” topics, with the aim of breaking out of the “echo chambers” and enhancing understanding and connectedness; Capacity Building Seminars, 2x 2 days sessions, (1) for politicians and (2) for politically interested members of the public, strengthening their capacity to be democratically oriented innovative leaders of integrity, influence and impact; Creatively developed awareness raising and information campaign throughout (e.g.printed materials, paid ads on public transport, social media, local media), inspiring civic engagement and multiplying reach and impact.
We expect that: Citizens will be more pro-active and constructive in their civic engagement; People’s inclination and capacity for collaboration will be strengthened, and trust will be strengthened between sectors and groups, particularly between the political “elites” and the general public; Marginalised groups will be more involved in decision-making; Politicians from different parties will be more able and willing to engage with each other and with the electorate in a constructive and respectful way, finding solutions that benefit many, rather than upholding a “winner takes all” approach; Politicians and citizens will learn to listen and respond, rather than react, to people of opposing or diverging points of view, thus contributing to a more tolerant and inclusive democratic culture.
Democracy, social inclusion and tolerance are some of the key values of the EU. By strengthening the democratic capacity of local actors, we also strengthen their democratic capacity as European citizens. Much of the issues highlighted in the background of this project is relevant across the region, including lack of trust and even resentment towards political institutions and the political “elite”, polarising narratives that pit one group against another, and a lack of constructive collaboration across political and other divides. By fostering a culture of dialogue, exchange and collaboration locally, and promoting this massively online, we hope that this culture might be promoted and adopted by other communities facing similar challenges across Europe.
The Polylogos team is passionate about shaping community by building bridges across political and other divides. Through years of living in Cluj, we have reached a common understanding of the needs and opportunities that this city holds. Cluj is a place of massive growth and innovation, continuously expanding and changing. It has a lot of potential to be a role model in Romania, in terms of pioneering new and improved ways of engaging and collaborating for better solutions. Having been involved in many cross-party and inter-group dialogue-, youth and civic empowerment-, and democratic capacity building initiatives in the past, our team wishes to pass on this knowledge and experience, and help strengthen the democratic culture and capacity in Cluj, which also aligns with our overall vision.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel (coordination 12 months, financial management, 12 months): 23 760
Travel and accommodation for trainers for 2x 2-days capacity building: 3200
Travel support for 40 participants from rural communities with low income to participate in 10 events, aiming for same participants in the respective events: 1000
Venue and catering for 10 events: 7500
External trainers, experts and facilitators: 3000
Materials and equipment: 3000
Promotion and communication: 3200
All constructive feedback is welcome. Thank you, Civic Europe, for granting us this opportunity!