Vox Tua aims at revitalizing democracy and civic engagement by bringing together 20 young adults and 20 seniors from the rural Municipality of Pavlikeni, Bulgaria to mentor and empower them to lead initiatives for inclusive exchange of ideas; activating its citizens to address local challenges. We will achieve this in 3 key activities: 1) Civic engagement workshops. 2) Enable the participants to organize community meetings open to all citizens. 3) Mentor the participants to set up their own NGO.
The project will take place in the municipality of Pavlikeni, Bulgaria: 2 towns and 18 villages.
For decades the Pavlikeni municipality in Bulgaria has been challenged by an ageing and emigrating population feeling misrepresented and disillusioned with the democratic system. Particularly the underemployed youth and the retired population (a third of the municipality’s population of 20 605), don’t feel empowered to participate in the democratic processes because they don’t think their voices will be heard. In general, people don’t have a clear idea how democracy works. At the same time, attendance at public hearings on local issues, as well as local elections turnouts have been steadily falling. In addition, this municipality does not have an active NGO working on civic issues. We recognize the need to empower the most underrepresented to be key players in the decision-making process.
Democracy is impeded where groups of population feel voiceless. By bringing together 2 generations to the discussion table, the project sets opportunity for active citizenship. 1st activity focuses on providing participants with tools to understand and practice democracy. Workshops have education component about governance, civic engagement and democratic values. 2nd activity lays the foundation for participants to feel empowered to lead and engage others in community gatherings. Those will examine challenges and opportunities of importance; stir ideas for advocating before the institutions for change. 3rd activity will involve mentorship to ensure participants are guided in their efforts. Mentorship is a sustainable investment for the seeds of democracy to sprout after the project ends.
Population in Pavlikeni municipality is relatively young compared to the overall ageing population in rural areas. Only one third of citizens are pensioners, the rest are young and working age people. Some surrounding villages have a large number of young adults which is an enormous untapped potential for community development. Often young adults live a life without much purpose and feeling left out from institutional decisions. This young population has a vibrant energy that could be channeled for local democratic growth. Often locals, especially seniors, don’t believe they have a say in the changes they want to see in their communities. This project is for all of them. The participants will be 20 young adults under 30 and 20 senior citizens, all coming from across the municipality.
*Nov – Dec ‘20 the 4 team members running the project will create all the educational materials for the workshops and put together the entire agenda of the project. Also, during these two months there will be an open call to recruit the 40 participants.
*Jan - Mar ‘21 will focus on civic education on the following topics: leadership, function of democratic societies, character development, increasing voter turnout, and outreach practices. We expect 4-6 workshops per month.
*Apr - Dec the participants will organize 5-6 community meetings and 10 more trainings. Also, there will be 2 two-day conferences with guest speakers.
*Jun - Sep the participants, as a group, will launch and run two initiatives of their choice.
*Oct - Dec the participants will develop and create their own NGO.
*40 active citizens equipped with essential knowledge and skills to become key actors in the dissemination, implementation and execution of civic engagement practices for their communities.
*Significant increase in community meeting participation from non-existent now to an average of 70+ citizens per meeting.
*Increase voter turnout during the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Bulgaria.
*A new civic NGO will be created by the participants to focus on democratic and grassroots initiatives.
* Increase their morale about the importance of democratic representation.
*Increase in exchange of ideas between young and senior citizens.
*More empowered citizens who trust the democratic system, feel represented and have a sense of belonging to their community.
The power of European democracy lies in uniting very different people around the values of equality and strength in diversity. The fewer people participate, the less democratic the system, as it no longer represents everyone. Revitalizing Civic Engagement reaches marginalized communities that are otherwise mistrusting of their place in the global picture and uniquely engages them on civic issues. Bringing into the fold youth and seniors in a small rural region adds a missing piece of representation in European democracy, thus completing a picture that would be incomplete without them. Connecting people from all walks of life ensures we build and live in a Europe that works for everyone.
As we were visiting Pavlikeni, and spent a few weeks talking to its citizens, the common comment from the seniors was “I don’t think my voice really counts in Democracy”, and the most popular complaint among the young adults was “We don’t feel our voice matters”. These two common responses and the support of the Mayor inspired us to put this project together, that will not only address the lack of civic engagement in the community, but it will also send a message of unity and compassion. At Vox Tua we see the dangers of a splintering society that harbors wrong ideas about the people least represented. We recognize the common benefit for all when disillusionment is replaced with inclusion and involvement in the processes that address the real and personal issues facing each one of us.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
22 one-day workshops - 9538,66 EUR
2 two-day motivational trainings - 7342,15 EUR
6 community events - 7565,07 EUR
2 grassroots initiatives - 5112,92 EUR
Administration, salaries, marketing, logistics - 16821,50 EUR
Accounting and others - 3476,78 EUR