The objectives of the first in-person Community Meeting in October were to get to know fellow Idea Challenge winners in person and to widen the network. Now for our second Community Meeting, we focused on deepening those connections. During our three-day gathering, we reconnected with each other, exchanged our missions and ideas for social change, shared success stories and inspirations, and discussed challenges in our work. This was all achieved through different peer exchange formats facilitated by the training academy horizontal school.
This time the Community Meeting took place in the beautiful city of Maribor. Maribor is the second biggest Slovenian city located in the northeast of the country, close to the Slovenian-Austrian border. The Civic Europe Community Meeting was hosted in the National Museum of Liberation and co-organized with our local host Živa dvorišča. Besides enjoying the historic city center of Maribor we were also lucky to witness the annual Lent Festival as a cultural highlight during our stay in Slovenia.
Reconnecting in the yard of the Museum of Liberation. (Photo by Jan Dolar)
Our participants appreciated that such in-person events provide space not only for meeting with practitioners from the field, but also for communal sense-making and collective reflection about what has been done, what lies ahead, and what is the possible scenario for our collaboration in the future.
“I am really grateful for your work, your positive energy and facility to connect with others! Was a big dose of motivation for me.” Anonymous feedback from winner 2021
Even though Civic Europe alumni and winners 2021 form a diverse group of people working on a vast variety of topics from inequality, youth engagement and women’s rights to national minorities and sustainability, among the differences participants discovered a lot of commonalities – whether visions for a common future, methods like participatory budgeting, or shared questions and challenges in their work in local context.
Within the intense 3-day program of the meeting, we also dedicated time to visit Civic Europe alumni Muzej norosti (Museum of Madness) in Trate. Here, we saw in practice how a community can bring about change by transforming a former castle, which served as a mental institution until 2008, into a community space that preserves cultural heritage, helps advocate for community needs, and raises awareness of the challenges on the system level.
Guided tour in the Museum of Madness. (Photo by Jan Dolar)
Muzej Norosti implemented their project Regional Center of Deinstitutionalization successfully last year and continue their work to develop the historic Castle Cmurek in Trate into a participatory museum that deals with the problematic heritage of the castle, when it was used as a hospital for the mentally ill, and creates spaces of memory and respect.
“Amazing idea to connect the Community Meeting to the Festival! Amazing crowd of people! This is the most important thing I took with me – the connections and mindset and diversity in people and ideas, having at the same time many things that connect us.” Anonymous feedback from winner 2021
Besides reconnecting with each other in the Civic Europe network, the second goal was to introduce our participants to the wider MitOst network. The Civic Europe team intentionally decided to attach the Community Meeting to the 20th International MitOst Festival that took place June 22-26 in Maribor. We collectively joined the MitOst Festival Opening Night on June 22 and invited participants of the Community Meeting to stay longer in Maribor for the festival.
20th MitOst Festival Opening in Maribor. (Photo by Jan Dolar)
The MitOst Festival is a place of cultural exchange for civil society actors, bringing together the whole MitOst network. The festival is comprised of workshops, discussions and reflections, round tables, and different artistic formats that are co-shaped with participants of the festival themselves. This year the festival’s focus was on the topic “Resilient Communities in Times of Uncertainty” including the three pillars Art, Culture and Conflict, Self- and Organization Care and Civil Society Now and in the Future.
“I want to stay in touch with you, perfect inspiration and great people!” Anonymous feedback from winner 2021
The Civic Europe program strives for sustainable change and long-term impact on local communities and for organizations participating in our program. The process of positive change started with the implementation of the winners’ projects in all 12 European countries, but it goes beyond tomorrow.
Group picture of Civic Europe Community Meeting participants. (Photo by Jan Dolar)
The first visible outputs of the Community Meeting are planned site visits among Idea Challenge winners, and first plans for common grant applications for future projects. The seed of meaningful connections is planted, and we will be happy to continue on that road in the future.