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Learning Sustainable Citizen Participation: Democratic Structures and Fundraising Strategies for Grassroots Citizen Organizations

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We report back from one of our projects, Learning Sustainable Citizen Participation: Democratic Structures and Fundraising Strategies for Grassroots Citizen Organizations

Activity 1

Kick-off Meeting in Bucharest

30 September–2 October 2013

Every project starts with a lot of thinking and planning. Ours was no different. This meeting enabled us to get to know our partner organizations more: Bona Fides from Poland, Center for Community Organizing (CKO) from Slovakia, Forum Community Organizing from Germany, Resource Center for Public Participation (CeRe) from Romania and Social Investment Management Center from Lithuania.

Activity 2

Grassroots Fundraising Training in Zvolen, Slovakia

12–13 October 2013

Grassroots Fundraising Training in Zvolen, Slovakia

Fundraising is organizing: you use the same skills in fundraising which are important in organizing, such as the ability to create relationships, working closely with a target group, or organizing teams of volunteers to help with raising money. Joan Flanagan from Chicago, US shared numerous proven grassroots fundraising strategies in Zvolen with a group of organizers and leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Moldova, Poland and Slovakia, including face-to-face asking and online opportunities.

During the training, participants developed a budget and a fundraising strategy tailored to their needs and took home a plan to build dependable, renewable, and internally-controlled income streams from people in their community and online friends. The training was hosted by Center for Community Organizing, Slovakia and from Hungary the Association of Parents of Children with Multiple Disabilities, the Life Tree, The Movement of People on Workfare for the Future, the Olaszliszka Roma Citizen Group and The City Is For All participated.

The Grassroots Fundraising Training was a set of trainings implemented in Germany, Romania and Slovakia.

Watch the trainer Joan Flanagan talking after the training in Romania.

View pictures of the training in Slovakia.

Activity 3

Community Organizing: Learning Seminar on Building Sustainable Citizens Organizations and Site Visit in Katowice, Poland

7-10 March 2014

In community organizing, power is not evil or something which makes you corrupt. According to Saul Alinsky, power is the ability to act and, according to Martin Luther King, it is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change. When you organize, you build power. The organizer mobilizes around an issue and builds an organization with those who are affected by the problem. The people who are affected will represent themselves to the decision-makers, organize campaigns and talk to the media on their own behalf. The training was hosted by Bona Fides Association, Poland, and participants shared experience in these and many other things from Bosnia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine. From Hungary, Civil Cooperation For One Another Borsodbóta, Hajdúhadház Youth Group, Olaszliszka Roma Citizen Group participated in the programme.

View the pictures of the training on Facebook here and here.

Activity 4

Community Meeting of the Civil Cooperation For One Another in Borsodbóta, Hungary

4 June 2014

Community Meeting of the Civil Cooperation For One Another in Borsodbóta, HungaryHow to lay the foundation of a successful negotiation with the local government? Invite two community organizers from the US and change the power relations at the negotiating table. Members of the Civil Cooperation For One Another Borsodbóta did this and invited Joe Szakos and Chuck Hirt to a local community meeting with the support of the Civil College Foundation and this Grundtvig Programme of Minority Rights Group Europe. Members of the community organization initiated a talk with the local mayor so that the village should apply for a state-funded firewood programme in the late autumn. This benefit can bring at least some small contributions to the poorest houselholds but only the local government can initiate the application. This talk was the first step of a cooperation between the association and the local government, which finally brought more than HUF 2 million-worth of firewood to the village by the end of the year.

View the pictures of the community meeting.

Activity 5

Social Firewood Campaign Strategy Workshop

23-24 Aug 2014, Miskolc, Hungary

The use of firewood is a huge issue in Hungary,especially in the countryside. More than one-third of households heat their homes with firewood, many of them living in inadequately insulated houses. Wood is inaccessible to poor families, in particular, Roma families due to its high market price whereas collecting wood in the nearby forest can be punished with imprisonment or huge fines. Many Roma had been racially profiled at such acts. The three participating organizations, Civil Cooperation For One Another Borsodbóta, Hajdúhadház Youth Group and the Olaszliszka Roma Citizen Group came together in this workshop to think about strategies to persuade the local government to apply for a state-funded firewood programme and find out tactics to negotiate with the local forestries to provide wood at a lower price for families in need. The workshop was supported by the Civil College Foundation and Grundtvig Programme of Minority Rights Group Europe.

Activity 6

European Community Organizing Network (ECON) Training of Trainers

8-11 September 2014, Budapest, Hungary

European Community Organizing Network (ECON) Training of TrainersThis year the annual meeting of the European Community Organizing Network (ECON) took place in Budapest, Hungary. ECON is an alliance of organizations and activists who dedicate themselves to support building grassroots citizen organizations. The meeting involved a Training of Trainers of Community Organizers held by Bill O’Brien, a community organizer from Detroit, US Participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine could share and compare the work undergone on a local level, extract lessons learned and good practices and plans to improve and continue their work. The event was hosted by Minority Rights Group Europe and participating organizations from Hungary were Budapest Pride, Hajdúhadház Youth Group, the Hungarian Anti-Poverty Network, Katalizátor Hálózat, Life Tree, The Movement of People on Workfare for the Future and The City Is For All.

View pictures from the meeting.

Activity 7

Social Firewood Campaign

October 2014, Hungary

Based on the conclusions of the Social Firewood Campaign Strategy Workshop held in Miskolc, Hungary, MRG together with the Civil College Foundation launched the Social Firewood Campaign online and together with the local community organizations, Civil Cooperation For One Another Borsodbóta and the Olaszliszka Roma Citizen Group, on site. We wanted to mobilize as many people as possible in settlements with a population of less than 5,000 to ask their local government to apply to the state for social firewood. Social benefits are not the ultimate solutions for poverty and marginalization and the social firewood programme is an example of this: accessibility depends on the willingness of the local government, people in need receive only a small amount of wood, and it does not provide a long-term solution. Having considered all this, if this benefit is accessible, it should not be left in the state budget.

Neither Borsodbóta or Olaszliszka applied for the state-funded social firewood programme in the previous years but in 2014, thanks to the organizing of the local citizen initiatives, both settlements received 2 million HUF and 3,7 million HUF of firewood, respectively. Ultimately, this means only some small contributions to the households, especially because most of the houses are inadequately insulated, but it was a great organizing force for both community organizations.

Activity 8

Publication and video journal

Learning Sustainable Participation: A toolkit on democratic structures and fundraising strategies for grassroots citizen organisations in Europe

In this publication we share eight examples of community engagement from the six project countries. There are examples of implementing community organizing, community development, or other forms of community intervention, as well as examples of grassroots fundraising. Some of them are encouraging in their victories, some of them are instructive in their challenges, and all of them are examples of community members taking action at a local level to make a change. Please read the publication here.

We share our experience in video journals on youtube as well:

How to organize – a snapshot of a community organizing training
Community organizing in Hungary
Community organizing in Germany – building a new organization
Community organizing in Lithuania – a campaign against fracking

Filed Under: Europe
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