Communities Driving Change – Launching Event: Giving voice to the citizen

The first meeting of Communities Driving Change is now a fact. The first action of the program took place at the Balkan Heart complex, on 29/09, opening the cycle of dialogue and democratic mobilization of the citizens.

Communities Driving Change is, after all, a project that focuses on empowering the ordinary citizen, through digital tools that facilitate expression and improve the quality of information reaching decision makers. Still, the activation of creativity and critical thinking through non-formal methods of education, dialogue and various field activities act as multipliers for the social benefits that our work brings. Among them, the more active participation of the citizens in the decision-making process as well as the deepening of the interest and the knowledge on issues that concern us directly.

This first meeting, although of introductory nature, as a first acquaintance with the project and its goals, signaledalso the beginning of this ambitious endeavor; it provided the impetus for the birth of ideas and the engagement in meaningful dialogue.

From the beginning to the end of the meeting, the participants were invited to interact with each other and take part in activities with strong elements of interaction and creativity.

In the first part of the session, participants had the opportunity to introduce themselves and share their expectations, concerns and motivation to participate. Thus, from the very first minutes, a fertile climate for communication was created, on which the individual actions were built and supported.

Then followed the first and at the same time, extremely important process. The drawing of the logical thinking of the program through the eyes of the participants themselves. Since an important ambition of the Communities Driving Change is the appropriation by the citizens of the mechanisms that can solve societal needs, what could be more appropriate than the participants themselves to envision the meaning of the project, in order to understand it even deeper? In this process, simple, yet essential means were used: the dialogue and the simple recording on paper.

Then, after the aims of the project had been established, the participants were invited to reflect on their thoughts and experiences, taking an imaginary walk in Thessaloniki and the problems it faces. Everyone chose the two issues they deem as most important and worrying. Then, it was time for discussion in small groups about the problems identified by each participant, with the element of dialogue taking on a key role once again. This was followed by a presentation and an open discussion about the conclusions of each group, in order to record the aforementioned needs and problems that affect our city.

In the next stage, participants were invited to mobilize their creativity, collaboration, critical and combinatorial thinking. Fully aligned with the main ambition of the program, the last activity concerned the synthesis of tools and initiatives that can bring positive changes, initially at local level. Proposed ideas included solutions such as mobilizing autonomous collectivities, working with high-profile organizations and securing support from politicians, who could also make a positive impact, thanks to their influence.

Then, after their needs, problems and solutions had been recognized, a process of matching the findings was followed, in order for the participants to discern which solution best suits each case. The correlations that emerged, as well as the aforementioned problems and solutions, will be the basis for the next steps of the program, as the next meetings will focus on leveraging the findings of the participants. Citizens, therefore, through Communities Driving Change, form ways of resolving tangible issues that directly affect the society in which they live.

This first meeting ended one hour later than expected. The ideas, the enthusiasm and the disposition for meaningful dialogue “armed” the participants, who created a very positive and creative atmosphere of cooperation. All of them summarized in one word their experience, with an invitation to participate in the next steps of the program.

As part of the next actions of Communities Driving Change, meetings will be held with groups that were deemed in need of mobilization or assistance, such as the elderly or the youth, as well as with groups that are active and take initiatives, such as the neighborhood of Svolos. Based on the proposals put forward in this first meeting, the mobilization of specific groups will be launched, in order to find solutions to the issues they face.

Citizens will have a voice at this stage, as they will have the opportunity to express their views on our proposals, through questionnaires that we will prepare and ask them to fill. Then, we will organize events where we will announce the results and invite citizens to participate in our requests.

Communities Driving Change therefore opened the cycle of dialogue and democratic activism. Citizens have a voice that can bring about change and must be heard. This meeting laid the first stone in the construction of this ambitious, yet achievable, project.

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