Italy and Greece are the main entry points for refugees seeking to escape the war zones back home.
As humans migrate, cultures migrate too, including food techniques and knowledge for creating new dishes with diverse flavours and scents.
We recognize this interconnection and, through the Sharing Table project, we aim to develop participatory paths between the local communities and the refugees, in order to foster intercultural dialogue, integration and social cohesion in the regions involved.
Municipality of Copertino, Lecce Province, Italy.
Dendropotamos, Central Macedonia Region, Greece.
Both participating towns in Italy and Greece are outside the urban centres of their greater regions and include a hard-working agricultural production, strongly linked to their own local identity – a poor but succulent cuisine, which tells scenes of local life. The preparation of traditional dishes becomes a ritual of belonging to a culture and inevitably affects the wider involvement of the communities.
At the same time, both regions are located in migration “hot spots”; Copertino in southern Italy where many refugees arrive from north Africa; Dendropotamos in northern Greece where the “routes” leading to the rest of Europe are located. Many democratic challenges exist, such as the co-existence of the local populations who are poor and in Dendropotamos predominantly Roma.
The purpose of our idea will be to “share your table”, taste new flavours, exchange experiences and reflect on new forms of intercultural relationships capable of reducing the existing gaps within the local community and the refugees. An opportunity for dialogue, accompanied by small stories of the gastronomic practices of their country of origin that, in some way, revive the family atmosphere, albeit thousands of kilometers away. The search for local agricultural crops that can reproduce the dishes and the same forms of cultivation used in the countries of origin, are basic elements for the search for integration and intercultural connection. Of course, the participatory process cannot be one-way and therefore the active engagement of the citizens will be necessary.
Our approach is that of the "open door"; the public meetings will be open to all, with a possible pre-registration for organizational purposes, also useful to assess the representativeness of the participants and possible discrimination; the citizens concerned, solicited through the information campaign, will be able to vote for the duration of the journey. In order to ensure full equality of expression of all points of view and equal access to the tables of the most difficult target groups to reach, like refugees and Roma, targeted contacts and mediation actions with the help of relevant associations will take place. Lastly, we will also invite local politicians to discuss about the regional social integration policies, as well as about the food restrictions after the covid-19 emergency.
The following steps will be taken:
1) an information, awareness and engagement campaign will be launched involving the local press and other dissemination channels.
2) a meeting will be organized in each Municipality where the activities are planned, with an introduction by experts, illustration of the best practices and integration opportunities provided.
3) preliminary meetings will be organized to discuss the preparation of the sharing tables, in regards to the culinary topics, the preparation of the dishes and the organization of the dinners among stakeholders.
4) three dinners in each region will take place where participants will present their dishes and create moments of debate in which observations, questions, appreciations and desires will be crossed in an absolutely free way.
We believe that through Sharing Table the local communities will achieve the following results:
- Involve citizens, refugees, minorities, local associations and other stakeholders, to promote the culture of cohesion and social integration;
- Experience new participatory tools, rules and practices shared with the local decision making bodies;
- Raise awareness over the integration problems as well as solutions that exist in another country;
- Identify food-based collaboration as a key medium for fostering intercultural dialogue and increasing the social inclusion;
- Strengthen the sense of active citizenship and, in general, the sense of belonging to the community;
- Experimentation and development of participatory practices as a model of reference, sharing and information.
Sharing Table will strengthen democratic values in the participating regions and consequently to Europe as a whole. This is because we will look to equally involve local citizens, refugees and minorities to the project’s activities, directly promoting the importance of participation and social cohesion as a result. Also, we will look to utilize tools of “deliberative democracy” such as focus groups in the meetings, Open Space Technology, etc. in order to motivate the involvement of our target groups along with the local community and help them experience new participatory approaches and practices shared with the public bodies. In this regard, the best practices achieved will be reported in a final strategic document addressed to the Municipalities involved in the participatory process.
Through the Sharing Table activities and participatory dinners, the communities involved will be more inclined to integrate with the host refugees and the local Roma population. This way, we believe that the project will manage to soothe the walls of mistrust in our society that often hinder social inclusion and acceptance of others.
In addition the whole community will be the focus of the meetings and debates by formulating requests and active participation, in order to improve the dialogue and the relationship not only between the citizens themselves, but also between the citizens and the local public bodies.
Hopefully, all this will create a long lasting positive impact that will allow other similar activities to be implemented in the future.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Management and Monitoring = 12000 EUR
Services = 15300 EUR
Dissemination = 9700 EUR
Office Expenses = 1000 EUR
Foods and Drinks = 7000 EUR
Travel Costs = 5000 EUR
We would like to hear opinions on how we can even more improve the democratic participation processes!