„Life Changing Challenges“
Activity № 1: Preparation meetings and raising public awareness
Platform AGORA team members and experts from the partner organization together decided on the 12 settlements where the project will be implemented. On site meetings were held with stakeholders' representatives where the project objectives, activities and expected results were stated. The methodology of holding the community discussions was decided for each of the settlements, depending on the local specifics and mindset. Following the suggestions of AGORA partners on local level – the Chitalishtes, various channels for project promotion among the locals were applied – personal invitations, phone calls, official letters and invitations and publication/posting of information on Chitalishtes' Facebook profile, etc.
Activity № 2: Community Discussions for Identification of Significant Local Problems and Selection of Community Leaders.
Platform AGORA team members and experts from the partner organization participated in 12 community discussions held in the period July – November 2016 with a total of 280 participants. During the discussions held, the communities identified 24 significant local problems with consensus following agreed upon criteria for identification; selected 24 representatives of the local communities, who are respected and supported by the locals. The leaders agreed to work for and with the local community in the process of searching for solutions to the local issues.
The participants stated in their feedback forms that the discussions were functional as they viewed them as an opportunity for active participation and treatment. The discussions were useful for the participants in terms of: voicing their civic position and the awareness that they could be active citizens, they heard new ideas, learnt about new problems they didn't know about, received answers, and witnessed a communication between institutions, civil society, business representatives and the church. At seven of the discussions, representatives of the municipality answered to questions and explained more about the plans of the administration concerning part of the raised questions. During the twelve discussions held, 89 problems were discussed and for 13 of them solutions were proposed or were resolved. 19 issues were written down to be addressed with local efforts or to be searched for additional support and funding.
All participants received information packages with project materials.
Activity № 3: Training Needs Assessment and Preparation of the Training Programme.
Team of experts developed a questionnaire for standardized interview to assess the training needs of the selected community leaders and interviews were held. The results of the 24th interviews were processed and became the base for the analysis of the training needs of the local leaders group. The information for knowledge and skills was processed in the following three aspects: 1. Level of knowledge/skills at the moment (entry level), 2. Usefulness of the knowledge/skills in practice and 3. Need for additional training.
Regarding the knowledge, 16 thematic fields were assessed. The results showed that the Programme should definitely cover three topic groups: 1) local authorities and local governance, 2) civic participation and 3) topics related with leadership and providing theoretical foundation for the leadership skills.
The assessment confirmed that the choice to apply a methodology for intensive adult education combining theoretic lectures and work in small groups on practical skills was correct and in order to be useful to the participants it should emphasize on skills development through: 1) lectures, related with skills and 2) training tasks for small groups work. Besides, it was essential to include individual work between the modules on the specific local problems each of the trainees committed to work on, and then hold discussions in small groups on the proposed options of each problem.
Activity № 4: Program for Active Civic Participation and Leadership
Having in mind the findings of activity 3 - Community Leaders Training Needs Assessment – programs for three training modules were developed.
The agenda of the first module covered fields like: local policies, civic participation, leadership, interaction between the authorities and the civic sector. The participants trained various skills: team work, communication skills, tree of problems and solutions tree.
The focus during the second module of the Programme was on the various forms of direct democracy on local level, the interaction between communities and local authorities, efficient models for consultations with the citizens, civil society organizations participation into the decision and policy making process, stakeholders' analysis, negotiations, conflict management, volunteering.
The practical tasks were the focus of the third and final module of the Programme and included presentation of the stakeholders' analysis on specific problems in 12 communities, planning and holding of advocacy campaigns, mobilization of local resources and how to attract the media interest and justify our thesis during an interview.
For each training module a special Guide was compiled with training materials, texts regarding the topics of the training, written or selected by the speakers, as well as training tasks.
Activity № 5: Closing Community Discussions
In March 2016, 12 community discussions were held and all stakeholders were invited to participate and actively contributed to the discussion. The aim was the community leaders who were trained within the "Program for Active Civic Participation and Leadership" to present options for solution of the identified local issues. Then in a discussion mode the local communities could decide how to proceed on practice. Thus, environment for real involvement of local stakeholders is created and they contribute to the process of problem solving, which results in stimulating active citizenship.
Activity № 6: Publicity and Information
Project goals and results Leaflet
Leaflet with Identified Problems
During the project implementation, information was uploaded and posted on Platform AGORA's web site and its Facebook profile, as well as on the web site of the Bulgarian School of Politics “Dimitry Panitza”. The BsoP's monthly electronic newsletter in Bulgarian language promoted the project among the BsoP's alumni (over 650 people) and among more than 200 partners of the school through the English version of the newsletter.
This document is created with the financial support of the NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Association "Platform AGORA" and can in no way be taken to reflect the official views of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Operator of the NGO Programme in Bulgaria.