Democracy and participation, Social inclusion, Community organizing

Organizing for power shortlist

Creators

Who is behind this?

Oana Preda

Resource Center for Public Participation - CeRe

http://www.cere.ong

Romania

Idea

Idea pitch

If activism rose lately, this only happens for the middle-class citizens in the big cities, whose basic needs are already met, while people experiencing poverty or lack of access to basic services, are left behind, with their voices unheard nor their needs met.
To respond to this context, we intend to put community organizing and advocacy in the service of people living in deprived rural communities, aiming to increase activism and engagement, but also to challenge inequity and injustice.

Where will your project idea take place?

3 villages in Arges, Giurgiu and Braila County, to be selected based on deprivation related criteria

What is the local challenge?

People in deprived rural communities face a wide range of challenges: scarcity of basic resources, poor infrastructure, reduced access to public services. Romania registers the highest levels of divide in the EU between urban and rural, reflecting in poverty risk (37,3% rural - 6,1% urban) or in no. of people neither in employment nor in education or training (23% Rural, 10,3% Urban).
Their needs are being largely ignored by authorities, and most of the society blames them for being poor. Lack of voice and lack of representation of interests are deepening the problems above, if not even being on their root. People are lacking the skills and are not aware about the democratic mechanisms of representation, they feel abandoned by society and lack the power to advocate for their communities.

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

Community organizing is proven to form new grassroot leaders, and to unlock the power of the powerless. It has active citizenship on its core, being focused on getting people organized to get engaged with the decision-makers.
Step by step, the project will build up self-esteem, create awareness about people’s rights and democratic mechanisms and will support the communities to get engaged in and to lead advocacy efforts. Working with trained community organizers, the citizens will gain their place at the decision-making table and get engaged with how the resources are distributed and how the problems of their communities are addressed. Meanwhile, public officials will be exposed to advocacy efforts, to enlarge the space for participation and include various voices in the public affairs.

Who are you doing it for?

We are targeting citizens experiencing poverty in 3 villages. In each village we aim to identify people with activist potential but who are currently disengaged. Using participatory instruments, the community organizers shall facilitate in-depth discussions among community members to provide space for them to debate about their issues, to understand what they have in common and what issues should be at the core of their collective action. For each community, we expect to reach out to 75 - 100 people in the first stage, identify a core group of 5-10 potential activists and later get the engagement of 25–75 in advocacy efforts.
The local and county authorities would be the target of advocacy work aimed at opening the space for participation for the citizens that are traditionally excluded.

How do you plan to get there?

The long-term mission of this program is to help people experiencing poverty to unite at the level of their communities and demand better access to public services and resources, by using democratic means of participation.

The methodology we will use is community organizing. We follow a classic 4 steps community organizing model – listening the community, documenting the problems, building local power and advocate for change. Yet, for the advocacy level, the community organizers and CeRe team will leverage their own resources to support the local communities when needed. Even if on short and medium term, the community organizers will have a more prominent role when needed, the long-term vision is to gradually transfer the leadership to the local community.

What are the expected results?

Such a community organizing process shall be longer than a year to produce lasting results. Yet, after one year of work, we expect to see:
- increased trust and skills for the local citizens and a better understanding of their rights as well as of their potential to change the status-qvo and effectively advocate for their communities’ interests;
- groups of citizens (in their early stage of development) to act as community-based organizations;
- advocacy initiatives engaging the communities’ members and challenging the balance of power in the 3 villages in the advantage of the most deprived.
In the long run, we seek to contribute to the development of the citizens groups into local structures willing, able and ready to defend the rights and interests of their communities.

How does your initiative contribute to strengthening democracy in Europe?

Democracy in Europe cannot exist unless democracy in the member states is well established. Before they can feel part of a large European family having the democratic values at its core, people need to feel their voice is heard in their own country and village. Once they can influence local decision-making and national policy processes, they could get connected at European level through various networks, contributing to the European democracy. By working with the people that are left behind by their own Government and by their own society, this project is a bottom – up intervention to build power at grass-root level.

What is your story?

In the last years, public participation became more vibrant, with people being more demanding towards the state institutions and more willing to get engaged. Yet, much more needs to be done to serve those whose voices are the weakest. As elsewhere, our public authorities prioritize the measures benefiting the haves and leaves have-nots behind, which contributes even more to the already existing disparities. We say about CeRe that “together with citizens, organizations and communities, we build day by day a just and equitable world, where people stand together and their voices are central to the decision-making processes”. If we are to stay true to our mission, we need do more to unlock the power of the marginalized so that they are able to get involved in how their needs are addressed.

€ 50000,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

€ 53877,-

Total budget

Major expenses

Management: 10995 - part time coordinator and admin staff
Community organizers & mentor: 24177 - community organizers salaries and the input of a senior mentor
Travel expenses&meetings: 14505 - a residential gathering of citizens and organizers to share progress and experience, transportation to the local communities, refreshments for citizens’ meetings
Local advocacy: 1500
Office supplies&related: 2700

To balance the total budget, we will reach out to our current individual donors.

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

Inspirational examples of community organizing in impoverished areas.
Feedback on our approach to empower the powerless.
Building campaigns lead by people in-need.
How to overcome fear of oppression.

Team

Oana Preda

Idea created on May 25, 2020
Last edit on Aug. 3, 2020

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