Community Development in Europe

This page features the accounts of community development organisations and agencies from across Europe. Click on the links below to view each section.

The Community Development Approach. Selected aspects, Poland 2014

In Poland 2014 we can observe a growing interest in working with communities as an important approach to involve local people in co-creating the local environment and to increase the role of local communities. In particular, this trend is visible in the area of social welfare. Among social workers, decision-makers and experts there is agreement on the need for changes in the system of social welfare. Fundamental reorientation of social services is related to the increasing role of activation and integration, recognizing that social work should include work with groups and communities (macro approach) alongside work with individuals and families (micro approach). Therefore, during the national project “Creating and developing standards of welfare and social integration” initiated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Local Community Organizing Model (Model OSL) was developed by experts Local Activity Support Centre CAL and the Institute of Public Affairs. Model OSL refers to the experience of many years of practical work by local activity centers, which was promoted by the Association of Local Activity Support Centre CAL and academic programs at several Polish universities.

During the project case examples  of community work were collected;  Model OSL  was tested in practice; the implementation of new solutions was studied, and  the process of change in local communities was discussed. In the pilot phase 82 social workers and  52 social welfare centres took part. A lot of both Polish and foreign books were published, and a platform was created –  www.osl.org.pl  –as a website of information and knowledge. At the end of the project, a professional network of people involved in community work was established – the National Forum of Local Community Organizers – with some 100 members. This broad platform was created for a discussion of the Model OSL through various meetings, seminars and conferences. This practical and positive experience from many places in Poland gives hope for the community organizing model to be introduced to  social work practice.

Working with the community will also be included in the growing number of urban regeneration programs, assuming that it is important to work with people who live in the area to change and improve public space.. Therefore, community organizing has become an important approach to revitalization and recovery of deprived urban areas.

Community Development in Sweden – a focus on social innovation

Update, December 2014

From January 1st 2015, The Cesam Foundation in Sweden has been given the mandate to coordinate a new regional partnership on social innovation. Extensive planning, characterized by democratic ambitions and the importance of building up the new partnership from below, has been carried out since autumn 2012. The planning process was initiated by the Örebro County Council and the Örebro Regional Development Council who saw a need for deepening the relationship between the public sector and the civil society. Representatives from the County Council and the Cesam Foundation were appointed to lead and coordinate the process.

The purpose of the partnership is to provide a platform for social innovations in the region, i.e. new solutions to social/societal needs and challenges. The coherent focus is social innovations emerging within the civil society. The partnership will consist of civil society organizations, the municipalities in the county, the County Council, the regional Development Council, the County Administrative Board, and the University. Representatives from the business community will also be included in the partnership.

There will be different types of activities within the partnership, for example dialogue oriented workshops. A series of study circles led by researchers has already started. The circles aim to discuss the importance of social innovations, their practical implications, and how ideas on social innovation can be developed within civil society. Focus in the discussions is mapping ideas and existing social innovations which have emerged within civil society and have the potential to be supported by the partnership. The study circles invite representatives from the civil society as well as politicians, officials in the public sector and representatives from the private sector. The discussions aims at collective learning; no previous knowledge about social innovations is required.

A second type of activity is giving advice and support in the process of developing social innovation and innovation diffusion. The kind of support the partnership will offer differs and depends on the nature of the issues. It will include advice on structural and organizational solutions, possible financial solutions, and various other advices on how to continue with development and diffusion.

Mapping and documentation of social innovations is needed and of high priority. On the basis of theoretical definitions, the Partnership has already developed a practical template which can be used in the evaluation, analysis, and documentation of each possible social innovation identified.

The partnership will carry out different types of learning seminars in in the region, aiming to spread knowledge about the field of social innovations and to create platforms for exchange of experience.

Information and communication activities will be of essential importance for the partnership. Citizens, associations, municipalities, and other participants have to be informed about current activities. Ways of distributing information about the partnership to those who have ideas which could develop into a social innovation must be created.

The partnership has initiated and contributed to an interdisciplinary and practitioner oriented research group at Örebro University. The group consists of researchers from nine academic disciplines (business administration, gender studies, health science, human geography, musicology, pedagogics, political science, social work and sociology). The group has gathered around an interdisciplinary and practitioner oriented R&D program on social innovations.

For more information, contact Anders Bro, anders.bro@cesam.se

Report from Cesam, January 2016

Traditionally, Sweden has been a homogenous and leading welfare country with a strong security net and high social capital based on trust related to longtime agreements on the labor market combined with a strong base industry of timber, mining and metal.

Many of these industries has become less labor intensive leading to an internal migration from countryside to the major cities and high-tech industries. In combination with a relatively high number of immigrants and recent refugees has made a major impact on people’s economy in terms of labor opportunities and housing markets. The value of rural houses has reduced to in some cases zero, the costs for flats and houses in the urban areas has reached an all-time high in combination with limited demand for mortgages of loans and a low rent. Rural people who want to stay are in a large extent forced to find their own jobs. Young people, particularly those who not have fulfilled their education are trapped in long term unemployment. This goes also for immigrants, who in many cases are outside the labor market up to 5-6 years. The need for community development in Sweden has perhaps not been so obvious for a long time.

Sweden has a long tradition of a strong public sector. On the basis of a relatively high level of taxation1, Sweden has developed an extensive social security system. This means, in short and generally, that it is mainly the public sector that enters when individuals fall into poverty or when marginalized groups needs support.

A number of public sector initiatives have been launched to reduce poverty and to safe guard different types of marginalized groups in Sweden during the years. The national parliament in Sweden has had the ambition to enhance inclusion and to reduce the poverty as much as possible. On the basis of political decisions, the state authorities have implemented a large number of programs and policies. On the regional and the local level, the 21 county councils and regions and the 290 municipalities have initiated similar initiatives. Strong efforts have been made to improve labor market access and employability for disadvantaged groups. But concerns has also been raised about the strong focus on employability, rather than the creation of quality jobs and ensuring access of quality employment and a consistent way for excluded groups. There has also been a strong emphasis on integration of migrants in Sweden, even if we have encountered number of shortcomings in terms of narrow approaches, which has failed to provide integrated support that recognizes the crucial role of access to services and benefits. Several public sector initiatives have also been launched to reduce the marginalization of young people, such as Youth Employment Initiatives and support to early intervention with NEET. However, concern has been raised regarding whether the implementation has been effective, about the quality of support and of jobs, and how transitions to quality work would be ensured, and how a broader approach to youth inclusion would be promoted. There has also been a strong interest in focusing on income support and social protection systems in Sweden. In particular, attention to housing debt and mortgage risks has been raised. In relation to macroeconomic stability, budget cuts and privatization has overrode concerns about ensuring affordable, quality housing for all. In general, there is an overall neo-liberal approach in the society which undermines the citizen’s access to rights. There is also a strong focus on improving the efficiency of the housing market through market-orientated, liberalization measures, which lead to vulnerable groups in the housing market becoming even more exploited and further away from a decent home of their own. Sweden is trying to tackle a growing inequality which is threatening social cohesion and increasing social and economic costs. There is also a lack of national poverty target.

The present political context is in high extent related to the proportion r of refugees and immigrants coming to Sweden since  Sweden like Germany have had a generous policy towards refugees. The refugees, many from urban areas, are placed in remote urban areas in Sweden who in many cases have a high proportion of unemployment.

The welfare system and its bureaucracy and legislations do not have the capacity to adapt firmly to this. As a result of the scale, the fear of “the unknown” and what seems to be lack of capacity from the authorities, many Swedes (around 20-25%)have shown sympathy for the Sweden Democrats, a nationalistic party having similarities to Fides in Hungary. At the same time the Social Democrats have the worst poll ever recorded.

The 2014 Commission on Democracy released its report in January 2016. The chair, a former politician, says “The political parties must undergo a cultural revolution” He relates to the diminishing trust for politicians and the support for the antiestablishment like Sweden Democrats. The thinking is that more people should have the possibility to influence with channels outside the party political system because the system has been to elitist. In Sweden today the political parties have 100 000 members and there are 70 000 posts in different political boards. This means that the number of grassroots in the parties is small. Swedish politicians are far too unknown. There is a concentration of power and elitisms in the municipal councils and 95% of the elected members believes they have too little to say. Four out of ten leave their posts before the end of the mandate period. There are limited numbers of proposals from the Commission. One is about electronic polls on local issues, another is locally elected boards in rural areas.

In terms of funding, community development work initiatives are based on project funding under different headings, such as rural, immigration and environment. If there are any more permanent funding for community development it is based on municipalities conducting neighborhood work.

The number of books on community development is very limited during the last decade. However a book on community development is now under preparation where Cesam also is involved. At the same time the concept of community development is difficult to translate to Swedish. The term community has for long been understood merely as municipality or village. Usually the discussion is about NGO´s. We argue that an NGO, when functioning, is an organizational frame for a community. The term community work was from the sixties a term used by radical social workers while the leisure workers used the term neighborhood work and the environmentalists used sustainable development. Since there are many communities on the net young people talk about community and have easier to understand the concept of community.

To our knowledge, no new toolkits have been developed. What can be mentioned are our own efforts working closer with the term social innovation and try to promote our understanding and working structure like research study circles.

Samenlevingsopbouw in Flanders and Brussels (Belgium)

Map of Europe“Samenlevingsopbouw” counts 8 regional institutes and one support institute for Community Development in Flanders and Brussels. The Community Development sector has some 300 subsidized community development workers and falls within the remit of the Flemish Minister for Welfare, Health and the Family Jo Vandeurzen.  Community development is a way of strengthening civil society by prioritizing the actions of communities, and their perspectives in the development of social, economic and environmental policy. It seeks the empowerment of local communities: geographical communities, communities of interest or identity and communities organized around specific themes or policy initiatives. It strengthens the capacity of people as active citizens through community groups, organizations and networks on the one hand; and the capacity of institutions and agencies (public, private and non-governmental) on the other hand to work in dialogue with citizens to shape and determine change in their communities. It plays a crucial role in supporting active democratic life by promoting the autonomous voice of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. It has a set of core values/social principles covering human rights, social inclusion, equality and respect for diversity; and a specific skills and knowledge base.

A current theme is: “Local and Proactive services – Counter inequality and improve higher social protection.”

‘Samenlevingsopbouw’ has described methods to counter the non-take-up of social security benefits and social services.Together with 18 local authorities and numerous other partners in welfare, ‘Samenlevingsopbouw’ developed a manual about shaping proactive services locally.  The scientific design and research was done by HIVA, which is connected to the Catholic University of Leuven. (KULeuven).

Besides qualitative and accessible social services, there is a need for developing and strengthening the informal networks around the persons who are in need for support. These networks bridge the gap to professional care organizations and social services. There is a need for a strong professional and informal network, as they are reinforcing each other. However, the main responsibility for the care and social support needs to stay within the professional circuit.

‘Samenlevingsopbouw’ is piloting with the model of ‘informal social networks’ and realized different application in a rural and urban context targeted to socially excluded people, families with young children (child poverty), elderly and people with an immigration background. The core of the methodology is the setting up of a strong network of volunteers in the diverse communities. The volunteers are seeking contact with the vulnerable groups and are guiding them towards social services and care. At the same time, a dialogue is going on to point the gaps in the existing offer of care and social services.

‘Samenlevingsopbouw’  has looked for similar practices in other countries to compare, analyse and describe the added value and pitfalls. This exchange could lead to a more intense cooperation of practice development and policy advocacy. Interesting partners are found within the EuCDN (European Community Development Network), EAPN (organizations and groups working against poverty) and Social Services (of local and regional authorities or of civil society).

Community work/community development in Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, community work has been funded directly by the state as a core mechanism to address poverty and inequality, since the late 1980s wherea distinct discipline and ethos has evolved, committed to working professionally and collectively with communities for social change, inclusion and equality.  Community workers have worked in various state funded community development programmes on issues affecting various communities, from work against racism, with Irish Travellers and Roma, community work on urban regeneration, rural exclusion; community work with women, etc.

Many Irish community workers are professionally educated and trained.  Maynooth University, for example, has been offering specific professional programmes in community work at undergraduate and postgraduate level for more than 30 years. Throughout this time, concern to rightly include those undertaking community development work in an unpaid or voluntary capacity has been an important feature.  However confusion between inclusion and self-proclamation has emerged, where those given community work positions without any background in the field, sometimes automatically see themselves as experts, free to lead and define every and any task they undertake as community development. Such assertions have been challenged by the Community Workers’ Co-operative and others as doing little to promote the collective concerns of communities and may add to community development being perceived as confused and irrelevant.

Recent years have seen a greater articulation of what quality community development work is in Ireland.  The publication of Towards Standards in 2008 (available here) informed through an all-Ireland consultation process, presented an unambiguous statement of quality practice. Since then, the newly established Irish Journal of Community Work (www.irishcommunitywork.com) has produced three editions, reflecting core themes and issues in community work practice.

Please note:

In discussions about community work/community development in Ireland, the terms are generally used interchangeably (although it argued by some that there are limitations to the traditional understanding of community development, which focused on self-help, a “rising tide to lift all boats” and an unquestioned agreement with authority). We recognise however, that in Ireland and elsewhere, the term community development is used variously to describe both self-help activities and others with considerably more aspirations and consequences.

Update November 2014

Currently, community work is now at a critical juncture with evolving negative developments in policy and programmes.   The future for state funded community work here is uncertain.  Alignment processes over the last 7 or so years have led to the subsuming of previously autonomous community development projects under Local Development Companies; the development of new Local Community Development Committees in each local authority, with the purpose of ‘developing, co-ordinating and implementing a coherent and integrated approach to local and community development’ ; the introduction of a new (local and) community development programme called Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) to be rolled out in 2015, to replace the Local and Community Development Programme.  EUCDN member- the Community Workers’ Co-operative has been seeking to influence these developments to protect quality community work.  Analysis and information on these developments is available at http://www.cwc.ie or http://www.cwc.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CWC-Alignment-3-July-2014.pdf

The fourth annual international community work conference organised byMaynooth University Department of Applied Social Studies and the Community Workers’ Co-operative was held in November at Maynooth University.  The Rights, Re-structuring and Results: Global Reflections and Irish Realities conference provided an opportunity for 150 community work practitioners, activists, leaders, agencies, students and academics to network, reflect and discuss key community work issues and challenges in theory and practice; contribute to the documenting of Irish community work analysis and action.  A report on the conference will be published in coming months.

Scotland

Scotland Update April 2016

The most significant event over the past year has been the introduction of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act by the Scottish Government in July 2015.

The three major provisions of the Act that are of interest to community development are:

  • the strengthening of community planning to give communities more of a say in how public services are to be planned and provided
  • new rights enabling communities to identify needs and issues and to request action to be taken on these, and
  •  the extension of the community right to buy or have greater control over assets. Underpinning all these provisions is a welcome intention to focus attention on disadvantage and inequality.

Provisions of the Act include:

  • A requirement for Community Planning Partnerships (CPP) to exist in each local authority and the need for them to engage with community organisations and to focus on disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
  • Providing a mechanism (participation requests) for communities to have a stronger voice in the way services are planned and delivered.
  • Making it easier for community organisations to take over, manage and make use of land and buildings.

For communities, this provides new opportunities for improved partnership working between community organisations and statutory partners, greater ability of community organisations to influence, and contribute to, both the decision-making by public authorities and the design and delivery of public services, and more options when it comes to taking control of local land and buildings.

The full details of the legislation will emerge as these guidelines are published, as well as how far reaching the legislation is in terms of shifting power from government to communities.

Councils and a range of other public service partners (from the police to health services) must now, by law, participate in CPPs.

  • CPPs must participate with any community bodies which the partnership considers likely to be able to contribute to community planning. There is a particular focus on involving organisations which represent disadvantaged groups and CPPs must “take such steps as are reasonable” to enable these community bodies to take part.
  • As well as developing, publishing and annually reporting on “local outcomes improvement plans” (replacing Single Outcome Agreements), the CPPs must identify disadvantaged localities within their planning area and prepare and publish a “locality plan” for each.
  • Public services are a key factor in people’s quality of life, and in their health and wellbeing, so it is important for communities to think about how they can take advantage of the new legislation and engage with public services to highlight needs and issues, to participate in developing plans and proposals and, where appropriate, play a part in providing services or projects.

Participation Requests

This section of the Act sets out a process whereby a community organisation can request that a service is improved, or to be part of helping to improve a service, if it believes this is needed. This section of the Act is potentially of great value for communities that have identified a need, issue or opportunity to tackle inequality, to contribute to regeneration or economic development, or to improve health and wellbeing.

The important aspects of this section are:

  • When a community organisation, or group of organisations, believes a public service can be improved, it can make a participation request to the body (or bodies) that run that service. In doing so, the community organisation will need to set out how it thinks the service can be improved, what part it will play and its experience of the issues or services in question.
  • If the request is agreed to (“reasonable grounds” must be given for saying “no” to a request), the public service provider must work with the community organisation to improve the service. This is done through involving the community organisation in a new or pre-existing “outcome improvement process”.
  • Provisions have been made in the Act for making future regulations around providing support to groups to make participation requests and to participate in outcome improvement processes. The assumption, or hope, is that this will be brought into guidance and regulation when the law comes into force.

As the Act currently stands, this is a highly significant advance in the ways in which public bodies will now be expected to work constructively with communities. The provisions should create more opportunities for community organisations and the communities they represent to influence the way that services are delivered.

Community-led health organisations may be able to use participation requests to help form stronger, more sustainable partnerships with local authorities and health boards. In practical terms this might mean funding or a service level agreement. To do this the community organisation will need to highlight the contribution they can make to meeting local health and wellbeing outcomes. They may need to have evidence of their own impact and also be able to show where current statutory services aren’t working.

Another example of where participation requests could prove useful is where a community organisation and/or local people feel a decision made by a public body will adversely affect the health and wellbeing of people in the community. The Act should give community organisations more leverage in contesting such decisions so long as they are able to demonstrate the decision’s impact on health and wellbeing.

Participation requests should not be viewed as a replacement for engagement and participation processes where they already function well, but as a framework for initiating dialogue where communities find it difficult to be recognised or heard.

Taking over assets

Various provisions and changes to previous legislation are contained within the Act that should make it easier for community organisations to own, lease or make use of assets such as land and buildings. This section of the Act builds on the 2003 Land Reform (Scotland) Act and it is also worth noting that a new Land Reform (Scotland) Bill is currently going through the Scottish Parliament, which will have further implications in terms of community ownership.

In summary, the provisions in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act are as follows:

  • The Act extends the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 so that urban as well as rural communities can now take advantage of the ‘right to buy’ land and buildings. This essentially means that if the owner of land, or a building, decides to sell it, they have to sell it to any community organisation which can afford to pay the market value so long as the Scottish Government agrees.
  • Community bodies now have a right to buy “abandoned or neglected land”, which the owner of the land (or building) is unwilling to sell and that is being used in a way that causes direct or indirect harm to the environmental wellbeing of a community.
  • • Land and buildings that are owned by public service providers are also affected by the Act. Community groups can apply to buy, lease, manage or simply use such assets. The request must be granted unless the public authority has “reasonable grounds” to refuse. In addition, local authorities and other public agencies must publish a list of assets that can be subject to asset transfer requests.
  • In addition, local authorities have to create and maintain a publically available list of all their common good property – land, buildings, art and other things which have been given to local councils as gifts in the past. The local council will have to make sure that people in the community are consulted about any changes to access or use of common good property, or plans to sell it.

Community development organisations that have already been thinking about taking control of assets will be interested in the above widening and strengthening of the right to buy. Community control of assets has a range of benefits for community organisations. On a practical level, having more rights over important community facilities can ensure their future use is for the benefit of the community. It can also assist groups to embark on new ventures, such as setting up a community shop, hub or café, which can help to generate income to put back into the community. Furthermore, community control can lead to wider health benefits through increasing the confidence of local people and giving them a sense of control over what happens in their community.

At the same time, community ownership can be potentially onerous for smaller organisations to take on, and community organisations should be alert to the danger of ‘toxic’ assets being offloaded onto them. For instance, a building may be relatively cheap to purchase but require expensive maintenance or running costs. In this regard, it is worth emphasising that the Act is designed to promote leasing and use of assets as well as outright ownership, and these may be more appropriate options in some circumstances.

England update April 2016

EuCDN does not normally post information about developments in England, as the UK member is based in Scotland. However, it should be noted that the Community Development Foundation (CDF), which was one of the founding members of EuCDN in its previous guise, has closed after almost 50 years. Most of the remaining assets of CDF have been transferred to the Local Trust, which funds and supports community projects across England. Many practitioners and academics are planning to meet to discuss whether a new form of overall support and collaboration for community development in England can be established, and EuCDN supports this initiative. Regrettably other England and Wales-wide community development networks, including Community Development Exchange have also closed in recent years due to lack of funding.

Update, October 2014

By far the most important event has been the Referendum held in September, when Scotland’s people voted 55% to 45% to remain part of the United Kingdom rather than become an independent country. Poorer and marginalised communities in the big cities voted ‘yes’, hoping that an independent Scotland could be more equal and more democratic.  From the perspective of community development, the most remarkable part of the independence referendum was, by almost all accounts, the engagement and mobilisation of the electorate, resulting in an unprecedented 85% turnout and equally unprecedented debate and discussion across the country.

The second most remarkable aspect was that this mobilisation was largely in the cause of the core values of community development: social democracy, equality and participation, challenging the power of vested interests and holding a vision for a better future.

These observations challenge us to pose some critical questions about community development practice including:

  • Why did it take a referendum campaign to bring out and debate such critical issues in the country’s circumstances?
  • Why do we hear so little about them otherwise?
  • Can the level of mobilisation be sustained?
  • What can community workers do to help?
  • How can the people who were energised turn their attention to seeking the same ends by different means?
  • Do social media change the way people are involved – and who is involved?
  • And does all this mean community development has to take a good hard look at itself and the ways it works with communities, particularly those communities that are non-geographic but networked though social media?

A Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy also reported. It found that the smallest tier of local government in Scotland is 45 times as large in area that the European average, and that local taxes contribute only 18% of all revenue, compared to a European average of 40%. The average population size of a local authority in Scotland is 165,000. The Commission made several strong recommendations to tackle this deficit in democracy, including that ‘in each area of Scotland there now needs to be a significant and systematic reinvestment in community development, and in the co-design of democratic decisions that follows’. It argues that ‘at the same time as powers have drifted to the centre, governments at all levels appear to have dis-invested in supporting communities to learn and develop. If democracy is to stand any chance, it is time to turn that trend around and recognise that continued failure to invest in participation is a failure to invest in democracy itself.’

The full report can be read at: http://www.localdemocracy.info/

Czech Republic

Agora CE in the year 2013

In 2013 we celebrated the 15 year anniversary of Agora CE. The the work we did was very interesting this year.

Prague Mayor Tomas Hudečeh initiated numerous activities in public space – the Discussion on Spatial Plan, the Strategic Plan, and the Metropolitan sounding board (Assembly of expert consultants in the field of urbanism, architecture and sociology). Agora participated in most of the projects for the people of Prague.

Within the cities of Liberec, Nove Mesto, and Metují we worked on involving the public in updating strategic plans. We are returning to Nové Mesto nad Metují, where we are working on the same activity as 5 years ago.

We worked also in different districts of Prague. Although we had great communications with the public, the results of the project in Prague 8 did not go according to our plan. However, we were able to help Prague 3 with the development of a square and a park.

We successfully continued a project in Bosnia and Belarus holding debate competitions for secondary schools. In the framework of the Visegrad grant our experts conducted workshops in Transcaucasian republics and Moldova.

We also ran a large international project called QuaPro with FINEP, German leading partner. In conjunction with FINEPwe prepared a seminar on participation of the rural population, which will subsequently be implemented in the region of Broumovsko.

In the fall we had one very important job – a study funded by USAID called The Way Armenians Study. The Armenians arrivedin groups of 15 people and each group stages for 10 days, including two weekends.This significantly exceeded the normal standard (up to 10 people max. 5 days) and caused many complications, however were able to work through these issues successfully.

For the ninth year a discussions competition was held for high school students by Agora throughout six different regions in the country.

Agora Central Europe
February 2016

Agora CE has been working in the field of citizen’s participation for almost 20 years already. The mission of Agora CE stays the same: to strengthen the process of democratization of our society. Long-term commitment of Agora CE is to improve communication and cooperation between citizens and town halls, and encourage citizens interested in public affairs with the aim of increasing the political culture in the country. But of course, we can’t stay with just our experience and we keep bringing new ideas in the participation to the Czech Republic all the time.

Lately we brought to our country the concept of participatory budgeting as an innovative way of participation. We supported cities in learning through experience sharing from abroad (see our brochure of participatory budgeting in V4 countries) and we helped to build our national examples of good practise through cooperation with cities, supporting them during the first year of participatory budgeting. And it works! Participatory budgeting was adopted by 2 districts of Prague and other cities are joining.

Our long-term mission has been to support citizen participation in public affairs. In our project PAKT (participation-communication-transparency) we got inspired, among other, by the British Compact and similar documents in other countries. We are trying to approach as many public administration representatives as possible (at the municipal, regional and the national level) and to motivate them to engage citizens in decision making processes in an active manner – and systematically. This commitment will have the form of signing a clear and brief document – the PAKT. At the same time, on the basis of a wide debate, two supporting documents for public administration have been drafted; Methodology (CZ) and Standards for Participation (CZ).  As as groundwork material for further ideas we published Analysis of participation in the Czech Republic (CZ). And we keep the cooperation on other participatory projects with townhalls – e.g. participatory preparations of strategical plans of cities and other participatory methods that are aiming to improve the place where people live.

Students – last but not least! Our projects for supporting public debate about public affairs are aiming at the young generation: we try to promote skills of good discussion and argumentation through the Student Agora debating contest for high school students. We also make students familiar with working of local politics in the program of Student simulation of communal politics, where they become city council members and have to solve real problems that are important for them in their city. Through cooperation with real local politicians they get to know how the reality of local politics really is.

Hungary

  1. Hungarian Association for Community Development, February 2016
  2. During the latest year lots of symptoms of a dictatorial regime have appeared in Hungary. Apart from the social and economic factors affecting the whole society in a negative way (processes strengthening distrust and distress, a rapidly changing and non-entrepreneur friendly economic environment, high level of unemployment, a situation close to collapse in health care and education, high level of corruption, explicit signs of institutional and social exclusion, etc.), the civil sector (NGOs) has been put under great pressure by administrative (plenty of legal and administrative obligations) and economic means (lack of resources).  In some cases the leaders and employees of NGOs were even intimidated by police actions or were exposed to undue control procedures demanding excessive capacities of the organizations by various governmental and financial authorities. At the end of 2015 migration, too, had a serious impact on the general atmosphere of the country – it has clearly strengthened the positions of the right-wing. However, by the beginning of 2016 these damaging processes brought about some signs of real social discontent and unrest as well as solidarity between the various groups of Hungarian society (health care workers and other professions supporting the demonstrations and movement of public education teachers).
  3. In Hungary, several governmental programs use the term community development intensively, and CD in general is included in several governmental operative programs as a compulsory element. However, community development (or community organizing in some cases) is given a meaning very much differing from what HACD and our partner organizations do and would like to do. It is clear that the successful implementation of governmental programs would need the contributions of “real” community workers and developers, however, our Association is hardly involved in the planning and implementation of such programs (although our expert materials, mainly their terminology, are used in many cases). Currently, it is a basic point to try to get as close as possible to the planning of the starting governmental programs.
  4. In Hungary, there is no central funding for community development as such. The concerned organizations in most cases try to get the necessary funding through application calls, but this way they sometimes become competitors of each other. It is very important to strengthen municipality contacts so that CD organizations have the possibility to be contracted and paid by local governments.
  5. Any analysis or publications that enhance understanding of community development and related work (particularly useful materials can be linked to the EuCDN website) – I have asked our members to make proposals, I’ll get back to you with these
  6. The term most relevant for us at the moment is “community based service”. We are closing a 30-month project built around this topic in April, we have lots of experiences and lots of questions still to be answered.
  7. Any useful methods, toolkits, practice guides that have been published Unfortunately in Hungarian only
  8. Fears and threats are plenty. J Our opportunity is to build much closer contacts with local authorities as well as generate possibilities of inter-professional cooperation. It is also important to make much more use of communication tools, primarily community media. For HACD it is also very important to improve the communication and cooperation with its own members – they represent a lot of extra volunteer work and vocational knowledge.

Ukraine

GURT Resource CentreFebruary 2016, Ukraine

National Level

Kyiv, Ukraine Vinnytsya, UkraineThe year 2015 was hard enough for the Ukrainian society. Since the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in the east Ukrainian civil society has faced a number of problems and challenges.

Approximately 8% of the Ukrainian territory, populated by more than 5.8 million people, is now under occupation. Before the war, the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were home to more than 3.8 million people. At least half of them have left their places of residence and moved out. As of 6 July 2015, the Ministry of Social Policy recognized1,369,844 people as IDPsacross Ukraine.

At the same time, the economic and political crisis due to the conflict in the eastern Ukraine has a strong impact on the labor market. 794 thousand of Ukrainian families are below the poverty line. High unemployment and inactivity rates deprive countries from taking full advantage of valuable human resources for their development.

On February 5, 2015 Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Law of Ukraine ‘On Voluntary Association of Territorial Communities’. According to the Law, neighbouring city, town and village councils can unite in one community, which will have a joint local authority. However, the successful implementation of the administrative and territorial reform in Ukraine requires a number of other reforms and specific actions that need to be time synchronized and carried out quickly. In particular, it requires a radical transformation of local self-governance and territorial authority structure, formation of solidarity responsibility mechanisms in cooperation with business and citizens, providing territorial communities with real financial self-sufficiency and so on. These aspects slow down the progress of all the reforms.

As a part of the administrative and territorial reform, the local budget system should be renewed completely. In case of successful budget decentralization, better funding opportunities for community development will be created.

Community Level

Meanwhile, Ukrainian citizens lose confidence in the government elected in 2014. Even local elections that took place in Ukraine in October 2015 did not improve their power position. According to the Central Election Commission of Ukraine, the voter turnout during local elections dropped to 17.1% that is lower than during parliamentary elections. Local elections were not held in uncontrolled by Ukrainian government areas of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

At the same time, the local communities remain under financial pressure due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and constantly increasing number of IDPs that are hosted by the communities.

The decline in the level of trust to the state and the acute crises of state institutions increased the number of people participating in public life through grassroots civil society initiatives or organizations.

Organizational Level

In 2015 GURT has been contracted by Ukrainian Social Investment Fund to implement capacity building program for rural communities of Lviv, Kirovograd and Vinnytsya oblastsand conducted 97 trainings on community development, leadership, and partnership building for almost 2000 community leaders.

During 2015 GURT has been practicing community development through empowerment of entrepreneurs to become independent and successful community leaders by providing them with knowledge and financial support to develop their businesses. In 2015 GURT provided start-up grants to more than 36 entrepreneurs from rural communities of Kirovograd, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr and Kyiv oblasts. The monitoring showed a high level of profitability increase by project participants. 58% entrepreneurs who received GURT’s support have increased either expect to boost profitability of their businesses even though the stagnation of Ukrainian economy becomes deeper.

On May 16, 2015, for the first time Ukraine joined Global Day of Citizen Action. This event was initiated by CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and took place simultaneously in more than 55 countries of the world. People around the world have shared their views on ‘civic space’ – freedom of expression, association and assembly. Global Day of Citizen Action in Ukraine was held in 10 cities of Ukraine. To organize Global Day of Citizen Action GURT involved 14 regional partners and 130 volunteers. During the event we GURT engaged around 1500 citizens by asking them whether they feel free to speak out, organise and take action.

On September 26, 2015, 11 cities of Ukraine joined the flesh-mob “InForm your community”, initiated by the GURT Resource Centre within the Citizen Participation Week which lasted from 21 to 27 September in the Central and Eastern Europe countries. During the flesh-mob over 1500 active citizens from simultaneously assembled pieces of a great picture of the symbols of their cities in order to attract the attention of the Ukrainians and to inform them how important it is to participate in their own communities development. To organize the All-Ukrainian flesh-mob “InForm your community” GURT involved 10 regional partners and more than 70 volunteers.

On December 5, 2015, the International Volunteer Day, GURT conducted national consultations “How CSOs can contribute to implementation of Sustainable Development Goals?” The event, initiated by The United Nations System in Ukraine, United Nations Volunteers and GURT Resource Centre, was held simultaneously in 11 cities in Ukraine and was aimed to raise CSO leaders’ awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals implementation, and to provide to the UN and the Government of Ukraine a public opinion upon the process of the Sustainable Development nationalization. The national consultations involved 15 regional partners and 300 participants.