We reinstall trust in community engagement and public participation mechanisms in Northeast-Hungary (Eger) by convening a Citizens Assembly to discuss the future of the town after the coronavirus crisis, how to be more transparent and inclusive for all. Together, civil society organizations of the wider region will be encouraged by various means to work on democratic deficits, advocacy needs. Citizens taking direct ownership of decision-making, enhancing local activism is targeted.
It is implemented primarily in Eger, Heves county, and the neighboring counties, Northeast Hungary.
It’s the most underprivileged part of Hungary with high level of unemployment, poor infrastructure, increasing poverty, social exclusion and marginalization of poor (especially Roma). Due to brain drain, youth and qualified citizens move away. The rule of law, democratic institutions and media are weakened; there is increasing omnipotence of the state, and weakening local competencies and social autonomies, increasing Euroscepticism and nationalism are general too. Disparities are intensified by high passivity and ignorance of people toward politics, and even community engagement. Lack of participatory culture, supportive systems, and processes are at the background. CSOs can still reach out to citizens and preserve democracy; however there is increasing mistrust in all sphere of life.
We would like to pilot, and adapt the model of Citizens’ Assembly in our town, Eger, in close cooperation with the local government to bring decisions closer to local citizens and enhance public participation. We are going to replicate this deliberative citizens engagement model to other communities too with active involvement of civil society organizations. At the same time, we invite CSOs of the wider region for joint situation assessment and planning small scale local level interventions to improve transparency, citizens’ engagement and advocacy capacities in their communities by providing small financial help and mentoring support. Sharing best practices of public participation and encouraging networking, collaboration of citizens groups and local governments are also important aims.
By convening Citizens Assembly our target group is inhabitants of Eger (cca. 50,000 pp), out of 15,000 will be directly reached by project communication means, and 2000 will be invited to take part at the process. At the end 40 randomly selected people will participate at that assembly widely representing the city. Those who are not used to express their opinion will be involved too, as this method ensures that all groups, segments of society, community is represented. Other interested settlements, local governments and CSOs (app. 3000 pp) will be impacted by dissemination activities, events.
Additionally 20-30 representatives of CSOs, citizens groups will be involved form Heves, Nógrád, BAZ counties that conduct joint project design based on local advocacy and engagement needs.
The project has 2 main pillars. The first convenes the Citizens Assembly, the second supports citizens groups to improve local democracy.
Assembly members will be randomly selected from Eger, broadly representing the town. It will be held during 2 weekends. All members have a say, an equal voice to be heard. At meetings members get information about the topics they are considering, hear from people about their personal experiences, and from experts to help with their discussions and share their views. Assembly considers all this information and puts forward recommendations that will be taken into account and reflected by the local government upon decision making.
CSOs will jointly assess needs, plan their interventions accordingly and implement them with financial and mentoring support.
By our project we can build a solid ground for a more open and inclusive society and local communities, where taking part at public and community life is a basic, normal practice of all, and not the privilege of a few.
As a result of our project, citizens of Eger will get closer to the decisions that relevantly impact their life, have more information how to articulate their voices, interests, where to join if they would like to participate at local planning. Political leaders will be provided by recommendations of ordinary citizens whose life is impacted by policies.
Civil organizations of the region will be equipped with innovative methods to increase citizens’ engagement in their communities, and by their formed network have more weight and influence to form their surroundings.
Active citizens, vibrant civil society, and transparent and cooperative public institutions are cornerstones of democracies. If democratic values, institutions, and principles are safeguarded by practices that are put in place on local level by local people and systems, it contributes to a more balanced, fair and rights based country and European unity. Our project strengthens the main local stakeholders’ of democracy, as Citizens Assembly is an innovative method that enhances citizens’ engagement and civil society organizations are the voices and arms of those who can hardly mobilize themselves. By strengthening their capacities to map democratic and advocacy needs on local level, and respond to them with our assistance, we expect to plant the seeds of bottom up kind of system change.
Our team consists of those inspiring changemakers who still remain in the region despite of all negative trends of democratic systems’ regression and public participation. System change takes a while, as it requires shifting the attitude of people. We believe that alleviating apathy and ignorance, building a more inclusive, and participatory kind of power, leadership and self-governing communities can only be fostered by joint forces and actions of committed locals, such as we are.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Coordination 15,246 EUR
Expert fees (process design&support, facilitation, experts, mentoring) 7,200 EUR
Participant recruitment, on-boarding management 1,986 EUR
Catering 4,000 EUR
Participant remuneration 4,571 EUR
PR 1,200 EUR
Workshops for CSOs 1,715 EUR
Mini-grants to CSOs 10,714 EUR
Communication, bank fees, overhead, financial management 3,200 EUR
Other direct support expenses (flipchart, etc.) 143 EUR
Own contribution (office, room, post) 6,657 EUR
Any kind of recommendations, feedback to improve our project idea is welcome. Contact information on organizations that can offer consultancy support (expertise) related to convening the Citizens’ Assembly is particularly welcome.