The elderly in Leskovets suffer the consequences of the demographic and political crisis: exclusion, loneliness, low civic cohesion, and demotivation. On the other hand, newcomers-downshifters' strive for change but their potential is not utilized. Equipped with human-centered design and system thinking, we introduce a co-creation approach to help villagers overcome their differences and initiate community development projects based on everyone's ability to contribute.
The village of Leskovets and villages located in Pernik Region, Bulgaria
In an environment where the younger generations invest their efforts outside the village, elderly people feel detached, newcomers meet resistance conditions in a society with a severe lack of cohesion and don’t know who to talk to and how to start community bonding initiatives.
In fact, nowadays there is no functioning active community in Leskovets and people are pursuing only their personal interests, leaving weaker community members to survive on their own.
Our main targets are three specific social groups, which we find are common for the village of Leskovets and the region.
The 1st group - local people of active age, who lack vision and as a result are unmotivated to contribute to the community.
The 2nd group - the socially excluded elderly people, hopeless about their own life and the future of their village.
The 3rd group - newcomers-downshifters. They bring a growth mindset but lack knowledge on how to improve the local environment.
Currently, in Leskovets, there are about 100 locals of active age, 20 seniors, and ab. 50 newcomers. In the second phase of the project, we will work with 4 other regional communities, expanding the effect of our project’s intervention.
image - https://www.flickr.com/photos/192862637@N06/shares/59T1mp
Phase 0 - Integration & cooperation
Phase 1 - Building trust
1. Establishing relationships with municipality, local community center and NGOs.
2. Identifying local guardians of village memory, collecting personal stories about the past. In this way, we extract the village identity.
3. Creating visual output of step 2.
4. Co-creation of a community place to revive village identity. The uniting effect will charge participants for next essential phase.
Phase 2 - Co-design: Plan&Act
5. A community circle maps their needs. We help villagers overcome differences with mediation.
6. Envisioning future of the village. We identify the existing potential, the local resources, and individual capabilities and prioritize ideas in a sociocratic approach.
7. Together, locals take action towards overcoming the chosen problem, based on their individual capabilities.
8. Reflection - participants choose their future role - Guardians of village memory or Active Changemakers.
Phase 3 - Scaling Regionally - reproducing the process
9. PR and Communication - local media and municipalities. Оpen call invites villages to reproduce process.
10. With new communities we train and mentor active members to approach local challenges. People from Leskovets share their own experiences and motivate their neighbors.
11. Мedia campaign.
In our project we address the present community problems leveraging on their roots in the past and looking towards a vision for the future.
An activated cohesive community with the absence of internal conflicts, where local seniors, adults, and newcomers, are motivated by the revived identity of their village and look towards a common direction.
The new communal space in Phase 1: becomes the place, where people gather surrounded by the good traditions of the past and the vision for the future, helping them overcome their daily conflicts and thrive as a community.
Triggering active collaboration from Phase 2: will help locals believe in the power of co-creation and initiate activities on their own without our support.
image - https://www.flickr.com/photos/192862637@N06/shares/hY3Dk8
The project is driven by the community members' participation as it is based on the co-creation approach. Together we will be able to identify problem areas or arising needs that will be converted into opportunities for development initiatives. Forming circles in a sociocracy manner, we will be able to facilitate a process with opposing perspectives and make every participant express themselves in front of others and feel valuable.
The advantage of co-creation settles in the notion that everyone is an owner of the idea and the process. As a result, people are more willing and motivated to participate in the idea implementation. As well as taking credit for it.
We are a team of four service designers with expertise in human-centered design and system thinking. We have seen the positive impact of our approach in both the private and public sectors.
The lack of community cohesion is an ever-growing, but neglected problem in the rural areas of Bulgaria. Many of these areas are disconnected and somehow slip through bigger municipalities’ plans for economic and social development.
All members of our team are born near the Leskovets region and our relatives are impacted by the problem. One of our team members is from Leskovets and recently moved to live there. He knows the locals and the members of the community center very well. There are young and active people striving for change, that are motivated to help us to push the project forward.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
- Workshops and community activities: 21 000 EUR
- Support of small community projects: 2000 EUR
- Voluntary support of the project: 0 EUR
- Equipment and materials: 4000 EUR
- Travel expenses: 2500 EUR
- Project management: 3500 EUR
- Communication campaign: 2000 EUR
Ideas for improvement