Urban and peri-urban areas have a social isolation challenge, that affect especially disadvantages communities. Mutual learning spaces are academies where citizens can participate as a teacher or student. These spaces have great potential not just as educational spaces, but as open civic spaces to promote social participation. We aim to collect best-practices and cocreate strategies that facilitate access to education as a means to increase civic literacy, social cohesion and civic engagement.
Municipalities in the urban and peri-urban area of Barcelona (Spain).
The urban and peri-urban area of Barcelona is one of the most populated regions of Spain. Its economic, social and cultural diversity originates several inequalities that contribute to create civic deserts and put some groups at risk of civic isolation. Educational institutions can help to overcome this issue, but these groups find economic, language and cultural access barriers. Recently, in this area there have emerged citizen initiatives that offer mutual learning spaces, where anyone can participate regardless of their situation. These spaces have great potential to become civic reference points that promote civic engagement among communities at risk of isolation. Nevertheless, they aren’t designed from this participative approach, so we are missing a chance to address this challenge.
These citizen initiatives have a great potential because they contribute to civic education, providing basic skills to participate actively. Mutual learning empowers communities, since any citizen can participate learning and teaching. Although they are focused on mutual learning, it’s relevant to explore best practices in terms of civic engagement among at-risk communities. Despite the potential of these initiatives, there are still some access barriers affecting at-risk groups, so we will co-design strategies to reduce them. This will help these spaces to become a meeting point for local community, offering a civic open space where people with different knowledges, needs and backgrounds can meet. Hence, the project will contribute to the promotion of civic engagement and cohesion.
Our project targets communities that find economic, cultural or social barriers to participate actively and become civic engaged citizens, such as elderly or immigrants. These groups suffer from social isolation, since they have difficulties to participate in civic spaces. The project has also indirect benefits for existing mutual learning spaces, with whom we will co-create strategies to promote their civic role in their localities. We will work with the voluntaries that are leading the initiatives to identify best practices and improvement area regarding civic engagement. Moreover, we will identify key representants of these communities to identify the factors that facilitate their access to mutual learning spaces, those who make it difficult and co-create strategies to improve them.
Action 1. We will map the existing local initiatives in the urban and peri-urban area of Barcelona.
Action 2. Together with the existing initiatives, we will carry out a co-research to identify best practices in terms of civic engagement and civic cohesion through mutual-learning spaces.
Action 3. We will co-create strategies to facilitate the participation of those communities that usually find more obstacles to get into educational institutions. This will contribute to improve the existing initiatives and assess new ones.
Action 4. We will co-design a step-by-step guide to facilitate the creation of new initiatives.
Action 5. We will disseminate the results of the project (guides and best practices) to other municipalities, including social organizations and local authorities.
The expected immediate results are the publication of a guide to promote mutual learning spaces as civic engagement bastions; as well as dissemination actions. Second, the existing mutual learning initiatives will have co-designed strategies to facilitate the access of disadvantage communities and promote civic engagement. In the mid-term, we expect existing initiatives to incorporate the new strategies and, consequently, to increase social, economic, cultural diversity among their participants. Second, we expect them to incorporate as part of their mission the promotion of civic engagement, with the incorporation of new activities to foster participation. Finally, we expect social organizations or citizens to be interested in creating new mutual learning spaces.
Having a vibrant democracy has to do with having an active society, who allows any citizen, regardless of their social, economic or cultural background to take part of it. Then, to walk towards a more democratic Europe, it is necessary to bring civic spaces closer to those communities that find more obstacles to become civic engaged citizens. In doing so, an option would be to create new spaces addressed to these communities. But we believe there are already spaces with a great potential in terms of civic engagement, such as mutual learning spaces, that just need a shift on their mission to become key spaces for participation. Working with them facilitate these communities to participate together with other groups of citizens and not in segregate spaces, contributing to civic cohesion.
The projects we implement are limited by the demand of the social organization or local government we work with, so frequently we find great initiative we can’t support because they exceed the original demand. That’s the case of the citizen initiatives that are emerging to promote mutual learning. They have great potential as civic engagement spaces and social cohesion strategies, but they can’t deploy this potential by themselves. It is aggravated by the fact that they are created and sustained by lay citizens that volunteer, so they haven’t either the time, nor the resources to analyse, improve and disseminate their initiatives. We have no doubt that citizen-based initiatives are democratically powerful, so we are interested in supporting those that don’t have institutional support yet.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Travel and accommodation: 2.200€
Design and communication: 7.000€
Activities and events (catering, materials, technical requirements, etc.): 5.400€
Participants’ reward: 5.000€