In a small town in Romania, in three years of grass-root organizing, Civic Radauti has inspired civic engagement in the surrounding small communities, even in the rural area, winning in just 2 years 3 national prizes. Our challenge is to reach new communities and give a voice to the local causes, helping the people to organize and build their needed power. Our target group are our urban community and the 5 surrounding rural communities and the goal is create civic engagement there.
Radauti (30.000 residents), north-east Romania, surrounding rural area - several villages.
The ageing of the population and the transition to the big urban areas has some devastating effects on our local community. First of all, the civic engagement is very low, with a direct effect on the level of accountability of the local administration. If there is now demand for transparency, public participation and an open administration, the offer will not be too generous. Secondly, the young people chose to leave this area because of a lack of opportunities and this affects not only the local economy and the available labor force, but also the development potential of our area. There is a direct link between the lack of opportunities and the poor performance of the local administration. Civic engagement and grass-root action have the potential to transform a city and set new standards.
We are not service providers. Every single action that we did so far, was with the people in our community. Our idea is to reach more people in the city of Radauti and organize workshops on how the local administration works, on their fundamental rights and on the basic skills for leaning the balance of power to the citizens. More than this, we want to continue to develop civic communities in the rural area (as we already did this in the case of 2 villages) and empower people, encourage them to get our of the comfort zone and have a say in their local communities, for their local causes, challenge them to take part at the local council meetings, train them and help them enhance some basic skills of the active citizenship: storytelling, coaching, power analysis etc.
We want to engage the highschool students in our city, adults and elders and the goal is to create a cross-generational partnership in our community. We are in the process of renovating a Community Center. So far, the three civic communities we formed comprise people of all ages with similar values and interests. In such communities, we have the energy of the young students, the maturity of the adults and the wisdom of the elders. In the surrounding communities the target groups are the residents who confront daily with various problems (waste management, social problems, infrastructure etc), but lack the skills and the knowledge of making their voice heard and challenge the authority of the public authorities. We believe in the power of example and in the snowflake leadership model.
In Radauti and in the surrounding area, we will organize a series of 5 workshops on civic topics, such as our fundamental rights, the way the local administration works, how to write petitions, FOIA requests, how can you advocate for a cause etc and these discussions will give us the chance to reach more people.
Then, we will organize local consultations on the local issues that the people face. Using the knowledge from the workshops, we will coach our communities to say their problems with their own voice. The results of these consultations and the process itself will be the ones that will bound these communities, will bring people together and will make them discover that they have the same values. After forming/strengthening the civic groups, we will form the coalition.
In a year from now, we will have a much stronger local organization, with at least 200 people in our community who learned more about their rights and about the tools they have, as citizens, in a representative democracy. At the same time, we will have the first civic coalition ever build in the county of Suceava, Romania and we will have at least 5 civic groups formed in the area, the first of their kind in all those villages or small cities. Civic Radauti is the fist civic organization in our city and our hope is to continue to inspire and grow this snowball effect in our region. Also, our local community center will host a monthly meeting of this new civic coalition and will be a resource center for all the region, a help for all those who want to become active.
A democracy is functional when its members are attached to its core values and feel responsible as well for the success or failure of their city, their country or of Europe. In Romania, after the fall of the communism, we won our freedoms and built a modern Constitution, but the „demos” of our democracy is still developing. It takes time and effort. It takes a good understanding of the core concepts, of our role as citizens and as the Charter of The Fundamental Rights of EU states, it takes that „the peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them, are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values”. Our future and Europe's is related to our internalization of the democratic values and the will to protect them, that is why civic education is crucial.
I have a dream. That one day my home community and my home region will flourish, not as a result of a messianic leader, but as the result of the commitment and engagement of the people that give life to those communities. That people will know their rights and claim them, that my home community will understand how important is not only to care for ourselves, but the care for the whole, for the "us", for our city, for our Europe, that citizens and local administration will be partners in innovation and leading positive changes for the constituencies, that the ideals of the founding fathers of Europe will be kept alive and each member of our community will feel that he or she is part of this success story, living our democracies every day.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Office expenses (the community center costs): 3500 EUR
Travel & accomodation (for the coalition meetings): 2500 EUR
Support costs (registration of NGOs for the civic groups, creation of papers, statues etc): 4000 EUR
Public relations: 5000 EUR
Graphic designer: 2000 EUR
Logistics (for workshops, public consultations, guides for the local communities, booklets etc): 3000 EUR
2 trainers -for the content of the workshops: 10000 EUR
Project manager and assistant project manager: 8000 EUR
I am curious about other attempts on building civic coalitions in small communities or even rural communities.