Democracy and participation, Civic education

Youth stimulating participation locally:

empowering Municipal Youth Councils in vulnerable regions of Poland

Creators

Who is behind this?

Aleksandra Sawa

Polish Council of Youth Organisations

http://www.prom.info.pl

Poland

Idea

Idea pitch

Our project aims to strengthen the potential for self-determination and increase the sense of agency in a group of about 80 young people from 4 municipalities in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. We want to achieve our goal by supporting them through competency trainings and legal consultancy in establishing 4 Municipal Youth Councils. Thanks to engagement in MYCs activities, they will learn cooperation, communication and taking responsibility for the local community.

Where will your project idea take place?

4 small rural and urban-rural municipalities in the West Pomeranian province.

What is the local challenge?

West Pomeranian voivodeship is located in the "Recovered Territories", parts of pre-war Germany annexed by Poland in 1945. After the resettlement period was over, millions of people of different nationalities had to “build” new communities. As identified by numerous studies, the Recovered Territories are still struggling with social dysfunctions: lower rates of economic activity, higher unemployment and crime rates, higher rate of divorce. They also score lowest in PL in educational achievements. One of the main reasons for these social dysfunctions are low social capital levels, often observed in areas where people are not “rooted in" through generations. We are looking to build social capital among vulnerable youth by providing them with a platform of real, meaningful participation.

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

Municipal Youth Councils (MYCs), alongside Municipal Senior Councils, are the only statutory consultative bodies in the Polish legislation. Participation in MYCs gives young people a sense of agency and can foster attitudes of responsibility for their immediate community, thus allowing for “rooting in” and systematic enhancement of social capital levels. Social capital is the key to effective functioning of diverse groups and to maintaining democracy. Low social capital is also linked to inequality reproduction, which is a driving force of one of the strongest social grievances upon which polarisation, radicalisation and even extremism can thrive. Our project breaks this vicious cycle with an alternative narrative, preventing furthe disengagement and polarisation in the community.

Who are you doing it for?

We are looking to involve young people aged 14-19 and local level decision makers from 4 small rural or rural-urban municipalities. Once elected, Youth Councilors become representatives of their peers and so they have to engage in meaningful consultation with them, increasing sociopolitical participation in the entire age group in the given community. Local level decision makers gain valuable insights that can help them design policies that are better suited to the needs of young people, and that can bring about measurable benefits to the entire municipality (for example by reducing regional brain drain, increasing the touristic attractiveness of the municipality, etc.)

How do you plan to get there?

First, we'll identify niches in West-Pomeranian where engagement of local youth is particularly low. Having obtained a group of interest we'll organise a meeting about the idea of MYC and set up an initiative group that will write the letter of intent to local policymakers. We'll conduct a preliminary workshop for potential young councilors where they will construct their statute, we'll actively support them in the legislative process and act as facilitators in their contacts with the municipal administration. After it’s finalisation and elections to MYC we will conduct a comprehensive training for young councilors and dedicated training for their town councilors and supervisor. The last stage will be monitoring and supporting their work in the first intensive months.

What are the expected results?

The project will increase civic participation among young people. Thanks to it, they will become more interested in the life of their communities and towns, because they will have a real impact on the decisions being made. 4 Municipal Youth Councils will be established to act as consultative bodies. They can also initiate activities related to education, ecology, sport or science that will match their interests. It will strenghten their competencies: as they will be involved in various initiatives, their communication skills and self-confidence will increase, which may have been lower due to social exclusion. These MYCs will last for many more terms that the project itself, so changes in the attitudes and habits of the community will grow throughout the years and social capital will rise.

How does your initiative contribute to strengthening democracy in Europe?

What we are essentially trying to do is tap into the feelings of disengagement and/or preexisting social grievances and provide an alternative for young people to turn them into meaningful dialogue and actionable ideas. This is a strategy of providing an alternative narrative - identified as a potentially effective measure in preventing and countering polarisation and radicalisation, which are on the rise in Europe. We've long believed that strenghtening democracy shoould start locally and at a young age. We can't expect adults to be enthusiastic and involved in a democratic Europe if the only experiences they had with democracy in their own region were disappointing - and they often are. We want to change these experiences at the very beginning and MYCs are the way to do that.

What is your story?

As a National Youth Council we have always been committed to providing Polish youth with the most diverse and inclusive representation possible and MYCs are an extremely important actor in building youth engagement locally.
Empowering existing MYCs and facilitating creation of new ones in disengaged or vulnerable regions has always been one of our main objectives for three reasons:
1) we get to see fantastic, ambitious individuals growing and developing themselves (could be reason enough!)
2) we need MYCs' input to have an authentic and representative advocacy strategy at the national level
3) it is a very effective multiplication process to build a more diverse and stronger youth sector in Poland, which is how we ensure that our needs and ideas are taken taken into account!

€ 46500,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

€ 46500,-

Total budget

Major expenses

9000 EUR - salary costs of project manager
1500 EUR - accounting
7500 EUR - costs of trainers
2000 EUR - travel & acommodation of PM and trainers
23 000 EUR - travel & acommodation for out of town trainings and study visits for the participants
1500 EUR - photo & video documentation, project communication
1500 EUR - small starting budget for 4 MYCs for community outreach events or neccessary resources (if the municipality can't provide a computer etc.)
500 EUR - office supplies

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

All of it! All feedback is welcome, but we are especially interested in practical tips on working with local level decision makers and disengaged communites. Sometimes the things we believe to be the most obvious in our national contexts turn out to be revolutionary for others, so please share! :)

Team

aleksandrasawa

piotrnowak

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

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