CSOs Networking for Better Local Democracy in the Balkans – What did we do?

CSOs Networking for Better Local Democracy in the Balkans is a project with a self-explanatory name. The main focus of the project is to address the challenges of civil society organizations within the region of the Western Balkans. It concluded its affairs around October of 2021 and is implemented by the Balkan Network for Local Democracy and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, or SIDA.

There are many challenges in the region related to the CSOs sector, and this project seeks to highlight and support it and its development. The project has the goal of being a major resource for civil society in the region, through methods such as research, providing and spreading information, and encouraging further capacity building in the sector, on local and regional levels. To be able to accomplish that sort of goal, a knowledge sharing platform is necessary, which this project seeks to provide.


Raise awareness, provide resources, facilitate exchange, create cooperation, and strengthen CSOs


An important principle within the function of this project is general awareness raising and promotion. To accomplish this end, under the banner of the project we have seen :

  • 9 animated videos,
  • 9 video interviews,
  • 2 newsletters,
  • 1 large social media campaign,
  • the creation of a resource hub for information,
  • 3 extensive comparative studies and
  • 9 individual local-level case studies, and it was all highlighted with a regional Best Practice Fair.

The 3 comparative studies all examined local factors such as self-government, CSO cooperation with government and involvement in local-level processes, decentralization, and public participation in policymaking. The resource hub, meanwhile, is a designated area of the website that compiles together resources, documents, infographics, studies, research, etc. all about local democracy within the Western Balkans region.

The time spent on this project was highlighted with the Best Practice Fair, a two-day hybrid event that brought together multiple CSO representatives, BNLD members, public authorities, and members of other groups, where the individual delegations present their best practices for encouraging participation of citizens in local government. This event provided a good opportunity for the participating parties to exchange ideas and programmes. The comparative studies and the individual case studies were presented here, along with their findings and accomplishments respectively.

In conclusion, this project has taken steps necessary to raise awareness, provide resources, facilitate exchange, create cooperation, and generally strengthen CSOs within the realm of the Western Balkans.

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The project “CSOs Networking for Better Local Democracy in the Balkans” was supported by the Project “Protecting Civic Space – Regional Civil Society Development Hub” financed by Sida and implemented by BCSDN”.


Congress

Congress 41st session: ALDA in harmony with the agenda and mission

The 41st session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities took place in Strasbourg from 26 to 28 October 2021. Two days of intense and fruitful dialogue on several key topics, very close to ALDA’s commitment and mission. Thus, having the Congress among the statutory members of ALDA Governing Board, it comes with itself that the relation between the Association and the Institution is simply part of the essence of ALDA itself.

The agenda of this year’s session was rich in terms of content and speakers. Debates focused, among others, on: 

  • Post-COVID Recovery;
  • Migration;
  • Hate speech and fake news;
  • Cross-border cooperation for better integration and
  • Education and young generation

Furthermore, particularly relevant and in line with the recents ALDA’s mission, the debate on the decentralisation process in North Macedonia. Mr. Zoran Dimitrovski, Deputy Minister for Local Self Government, also met by ALDA Secretary General Antonella Valmorbida in early October, intervened during the “Monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-government: North Macedonia” session, taking place on Wednesday 27th.


 Being able to join the Congress 41st session in presence, gave this event the feeling of “nearness and human bond” 


After two years of intense work, yet from remote due to the health crisis, being able to join the Congress 41st session in presence, gave this event the feeling of “nearness and human bond” which were quite missed. Meeting representatives from other countries, organisations and institutions definitely further stimulated ALDA in keeping its commitment and hard work in being a key stakeholder in developing democracy and good-governance in Europe and beyond.

More on an internal note, this occasion also gave the possibility to ALDA’s staff from Vicenza to meet colleagues from the Strasbourg office. Thus, the “Staff Meeting” served as a great moment of sharing, dialoguing and getting to know each other better. Last but not least, after the 41st session of the Congress, the staff also had the opportunity to walk around the city, having a lovely dinner!  

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More information:


coffee

Coffee house meeting in Ravenna: VALID 2 local path

coffee

A coffee house meeting was organized in Ravenna (Italy) at Fondazione ENGIM Emilia- Romagna on 29th October 2021. In order to demonstrate that the Municipality of Ravenna has a particular attention to young people and especially to those who can have problems of inclusion due to their nationality, religion, the colour of their skin, or other, the municipality decided to organize this second local event in a class of students attending ENGIM Institute.

A short explanation of ENGIM: it is a National Giuseppini of Murialdo Organization, that operates in Italy and abroad in the field of professional training and international cooperation. The structure, in step with the times, strengthens the social impact of its actions and pays attention to the person and approaching the business world with an innovative approach that can be a reference of a consolidated social vocation for a rethinking of Third Sector in a modern key.


Ravenna: coffee house meeting with young people to discuss social inclusion


In order to involve the students, Ravenna-Teatro, in accordance with Ravenna Municipality, invited Alessandro Berti who is an artist and stage director. In recent years Berti has been confronted with important and controversial issues of social discourse: the perception of race, the importance and limits of the concept of cultural appropriation, the dynamics of sexual desire in relation to diversity, racial and otherwise, the repressions and imaginary constructions that prevent a non-prejudicial look.

The discussion was animated through two interactive activities: students were invited to answer some questions about sex linked to racism and the connection between theatre and inclusion. After a short introduction of VALID project to the class and NON SCUOLA theatre Mr. Berti started to talk about his work in the theatre and the reasons for which it is important to reflect on some stereotypes so common in our society even if we talk of solidarity and inclusion. Real topics we face to everyday and that’s why young people have to discuss on these questions and find new ways to cooperate and stimulate dialogue among different cultures.

At the beginning students were very shy and ashamed, but at the end they started to talk and tried to explain their opinions. Some of students come from other countries and one of them is Muslim; they started to talk about the problems of socialization they had arriving in Ravenna and the discussion went on considering the different kind of racism and their personal experiences.

School and theatre together with Local Administrations and citizens can have a big and important role in promoting inclusive actions to strengthen social inclusion and intercultural dialogue… and what is better than a coffee meeting with students to do that?


Belgrade

DAFLS project partners meet in Belgrade

Belgrade

The second transnational meeting within the DAFLS project “Developing Applied Foreign Language Skills“ took place on 18 and 19 October 2021 in Belgrade. The Faculty of Philology from the University of Belgrade hosted the event. Around 20 participants from the partners organisations followed the presentations concerning the creation of the Bachelor Degrees in Applied Foreign Language in the University of Belgrade and University “Saint Cyril and Methodius” from Skopje.

Starting from the next year, students in Serbia and Nord Macedonia will have the chance to develop their skill in project management through the distance learning language courses of Bachelors and Masters Degrees . The proposed study courses intend to offer a higher level of education to students in order to remain competitive with other universities. Ambitious and motivated teaching teams from both universities will take up the challenge of creating a new course.


The Faculty of Philology from the University of Belgrade hosted the event


The new study program will offer a development of digital educational resources following the example of the Masters degree in European Project Management at Caen University, France.  

Close collaboration with professionals in this field is seen as mandatory in order to motivate students and present them the market realities. 

It is an original study itinerary combining local project engineering with a European dimension.  Its objective is to train specialists in the setting up and management of projects in a transnational framework, working for the development of a territory on the economic, scientific, and cultural level.

ALDA’s team from the Skopje office is supporting this project with concrete examples of EU project management and how to work with local stakeholders.

The project is funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme and implemented by the University of Caen Normandy, The University St. Cyril et Methodius of Skopje, the University of Belgrade and ALDA’s office in Skopje


analysis

Comparative analysis: Citizens' participation in the Western Balkans

Three comparative studies have been done, examining the level of citizen participation in decision-making process at local levels within the six Western Balkans countries (WB6);  under the work of the project “CSOs Networking for Better Local Democracy in the Balkans, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and implemented by the Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN), Each of the above-mentioned studies focuses on a different facet of citizen participation. Yet, taken as a whole, they represent one comprehensive analysis.

The first book is about local self-government and decentralization in the Western Balkans. Decentralization is one of the most prominent series of reforms in the region. Across the different government systems in the region though, the level of decentralization differs due to various domestic factors. We see examinations of key features, structures, and mechanisms within the local government of multiple internal systems in the countries.


The publishing of these comparative analysis is meant to inform and act as a guide for interested citizens and groups


The second book is about CSOs and participation in decision and policymaking on the local level. Based on this, one can consider how the civil sector is important in strengthening democracy and accountability in the region, and to what extend CSOs play various roles with varying levels of political involvement. In addition, the study examines policies, initiatives, and mechanisms within the targeted region; acting as a guide for those who want to engage in local participation.

The third book is about local community participation in decision-making within the Western Balkans. Citizens’ participation is one of the hallmarks of democratic functioning, and each country has their own mechanisms and laws for regulating it. The purpose of the analysis is to further examine the interests, initiatives, and degree of participation in various municipalities.

Overall, local democracy and citizen participation continue to be a major fundamental focus in the empowerment of the Western Balkans region. The publishing of these comparative studies is meant to inform and act as a guide for interested citizens and groups.

You can download the comparative analysis available in 4 languages, English, Albanian, Macedonian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian here or visit our Resource Hub.


European Week

European Week of Regions and Cities: citizens engagement and EU main challenges

European Week

Within the framework of the 19th European Week of Regions and Cities, on the 12th of October 2021, ALDA, together with the European Partnership for Democracy, organized the online workshop “Boosting territorial recovery through innovative citizens’ participation”.


The main theme of the workshop was citizens’ engagement, and how it can improve local governance and play a key role in addressing the main challenges the EU is facing right now related to the environment, digitalisation, social inclusion and economic recovery, along with the revitalization of European cities in the post-pandemic reality.


Within the framework of the 19th European Week of Regions and Cities,  ALDA  organized the online workshop “Boosting territorial recovery through innovative citizens’ participation”


The speakers, coming from all over the European Union, were:

  • Gonçalo Lobo Xavier from the European Economic and Social Comittee, who presented the EESC work and recommendations to promote investments in education, infrastructure and industrial policies that can raise employment in EU’s Member States, 
  • Gary Glaukka from Demo Finland, presenting Demo Finland’s approach to enhance democracy through collaborative projects between Finnish political parties and parties in new and developing democracies, 
  • Krzysztof Izdebski from the Open Spending EU Coalition, who presented the Open Spending EU Coalition work to improve transparency, decision making and services in governments through collaboration with activists and citizens,
  • Valentina Minazzi from Legambiente, with a presentation on the effect of citizens’ participation in raising awareness and promoting actions about climate change, and on how to further promote citizens participation for the future, and 
  • Antonella ValmorbidaALDA Secretary General, who presented ALDA’s work in supporting citizens and local authorities affected by the Covid-19 crisis. 

After an introduction by ALDA’s own Project Manager Nadia Di Iulio, the speakers shared their experiences and examples of participatory processes and bringing together different expertises. 

Between the speaker presentations, videos were shown introducing European projects currently facing these issues through citizen participation, such as SMART – Small Museums Alliance Representing Territories, Food Wave, P-CUBE and LIME – Labour Integration for Migrant Employment.

A final part of the workshop was dedicated to the participants’ questions for the speakers, discussing further some of the practices and ideas brought to this event.

ALDA is proud to have participated in the organization of this event, and will be thrilled to participate in the European Week of Regions in the future as well! 

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You can watch the projects videos here: (link to a youtube playlist – soon available)

Curious about the workshop? You can watch the recording online here


Regional Youth Compact: Project Report

Regional Youth Compact for Europe has been designed to help enhance CSOs participation in policy design and in monitoring the process of EU integration in the Western Balkans and to engage youth to participate more actively in this process.

After three years of implementation, the project came to a successful end. To know more read the Project Report

Publication

Regional Youth Compact for Europe has been designed to help enhance CSOs participation in policy design and in monitoring the process of EU integration in the Western Balkans and to engage youth to participate more actively in this process.

After three years of implementation, the project came to a successful end. To know more read the Project Report

Publication

The CAP-PERI project kicked off in Vicenza: Innovative methodologies to talk about sustainability

Capperi

The CAP-PERI project had its start on the 29th and 30th of September with the Kick Off Meeting that saw partners coming to Vicenza to discuss the implementation of the project and the organization of the educational activities.

During the second day they had the opportunity to visit to the rural area of Carpaneda, the perfect place to analyse how to define themes such as the connection between town and country; as well as the inter-exchange among the rural and urban worlds. At the same time, it is a place that expresses the urgency of developing and promoting a “culture of agriculture” open to all citizens, as far as the following topics concern:

  • Food & Health;
  • Safeguarding biodiversity and the rural landscape and
  • Adapting the territory to the challenges posed by climate change.


CAP-PERI is expecting to improve citizens and youths’ awareness on the social, economic, and environmental implications of the CAP at National and European level


The itinerant walk was hosted by the local associations of “Comunità Vicentina per l’Agroecologia” and the “Laboratorio Spazi Rurali e Boschi Urbani”; enhancing the value of the territory as a place of dialogue between the city and the rural area. Similarly, the occasion was perfect to size the possibility for it to become the centre of new agriculture and sustainability.

In the late afternoon the public presentation of the project was held at a Teatro Astra where a performance followed.

CAP-PERI is expecting to improve citizens and youths’ awareness on the social, economic, and environmental implications of the CAP at National and European level.

CAP-PERI will shed lights on how the Future CAP Strategic Plans will be the instrument to achieve the Green Deal goals, how they will support EU policies in managing the transition towards a sustainable food system and in strengthening the efforts of farmers to contribute to the EU’s climate objectives and to protect the environment.

The project methodologies are innovative as children and young people will have the opportunity to learn social research and theatre techniques through augmented reality tools and seminars with experts.

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The project is led by ALDA (lead partner) together with LaPiccionaia, CESIE, ISBEM Scarl, IRS – Institute for Social Research and Replay Network.


DEVOTE’s educational content is ready in 6 languages!

The educational content for DEVOTE’s future open online course is now available in 6 languages!

The DEVOTE team has worked hard to develop the structure of a 6-module course for teachers and educators, aiming to provide them with skills and tools to integrate students with migrant backgrounds in schools.

The team developed the above-mentioned modules using feedbacks from students with migrant backgrounds and their teachers, collected through a survey. Their insight highlighted the necessity to discuss the assessment practices for students with migrant backgrounds and the difficulties they can encounter regarding the national language. Therefore, DEVOTE Project designed educational content aiming to give teachers tools and guidance to better support students while fostering their success in school.


DEVOTE Project designed educational content aiming to give teachers tools and guidance to better support students while fostering their success in school


However, the survey conducted also demonstrated the importance of both the environment and the social setting for students with migrant backgrounds. To address these matters, the team created modules on parents’ engagement, on psychosocial support and on the “Whole school approach”. The latter involves all parts of schools’ staff to answer students’ holistic needs. Finally, this exercise provides examples of good practices in intercultural education.

You can find all the modules in English below. If you want to download them in another language, check this page.

Module 1 – The Whole School Approach DOWNLOAD

Module 2 – Assessment of students with migrant backgrounds DOWNLOAD

Module 3 – National Linguistic Support DOWNLOAD

Module 4 – Parental Involvement DOWNLOAD

Module 5 – Psychosocial support DOWNLOAD

Module 6 – Best practices in Intercultural Education DOWNLOAD

The publication of DEVOTE’s educational content brings us closer to the creation of our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), and we want it to be as helpful and instructive as possible for you, so please give us your feedback on the modules by filling in the following survey in your preferred language:

English Dutch / French / Slovenian / Turkish Italian Greek

 

 


Culture twinning: a strong network of towns to promote cultural tourism

The project Culture Twinning: Twinning Tourism Promoting Cultural Heritage, which started in 2018, is coming to an end with an upcoming last meeting online to close the project and sum up the results.

The project, funded by Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union, is led by the Municipality of Novo Mesto (Slovenia) in partnership with ALDA, the Development Centre of Novo Mesto (Slovenia) and the municipalities of Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Torun (Poland), Vilafranca de Penedés (Spain), Trnava (Slovakia), Langhenagen (Germany), Bühl (Germany), Bihać (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

The main objective of this two-year-long project was creation of a strong network of twinned towns to mutually promote cultural tourism and raise awareness among citizens on the importance of cultural heritage. This resulted in the creation of a network of towns that promote cultural heritage in a long-term perspective, and which developed opportunities for mutual understanding, intercultural learning, solidarity and social engagement.

The objective was successfully achieved!


Cultural heritage is more than historical monuments left behind from the past. it defines who we are as individuals, as communities, as regions.


Through project’s activities, partners had the opportunity to meet each other and present their respective towns and their cultural heritage and also to interact with local actors operating in the field.

All events implemented aimed at discovering the rich cultural heritage of each town of the network. In Italy an interactive guided tour for kids took place, in order to stress the importance of educating young generations on local cultural heritage, while in Herceg Novi the international conference “Strategic Tourism Development Based on the Valorization of Cultural Heritage” presented examples of good practice of proper valorisation of cultural heritage in European cities.

In Novo mesto a hackathon was organised where kids presented inspiring examples of good practice of innovative cultural tourism, as well as a visit to the 4th festival of Iron age living and cookery.

Another meeting was in the beautiful and historical city of Trnava, one of the oldest cities in Slovakia, where participants could enjoy the unique medieval atmosphere, culinary specialities and hospitality during the Traditional Trnava Market.

In Vilafranca  exchanged ideas about the methods for creating cultural knowledge, enhancing culture in society and fostering the weight of culture in promoting quality cultural tourism. The participants learnt about the culture of “castellers” through a wide range of activities related to their world.

The sixth and the last meeting of the project, which contributed to the involvement of citizens and awareness of cultural heritage in several European partner cities through education and lifelong learning, took place in Bihać. The urban pulse of the city with an extremely diverse and unique history of different cultures and religions enriches the offer on the river Una.

The event has officially concluded this joint adventure, but the established connections between partners will live on and create common stories backed with richness of natural and cultural heritage. The project has reached an incredible number of citizens, more than 460 direct participants in the events and more than 40.000 indirect participants through the project’s website, partners’ websites, press conferences, news and articles.

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Why CUT – Culture Twinning Project? 

Cultural heritage consists of cultural and creative resources with a value for society that has been publicly recognised in order to preserve it for future generations. The rich and diverse cultural heritage of central Europe is one of the key attractions for tourists visiting the area. That is why local heritage has become an important economic factor. Efforts to preserve and utilise cultural heritage can help generate tour¬ism income in particular for remote regions, far from economic centres, rely on tourism-related services for employment. The sustainable use of cultural heritage is essential to ensure that central Europe will remain a popular destination to visit and to live in.
Through the exchange of good practice, experience and expertise of involved partners, we have increased involvement of citizens and raised awareness of the importance of Eu¬rope’s cultural heritage through different events and promotion. Through the activities of the project, we have strengthened the tolerance and mutual understanding between European citizens respecting and promoting cultural and linguistic diversity, while contributing to intercultural dialogue.

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