Active Community Spaces for Citizen Changes / Активни простори на заедницата за граѓански промени

Active Community Spaces for Citizen Changes / Активни простори на заедницата за граѓански промени

This project is prepared by FRU, grantee of USAID’s Civic Engagement Project in Macedonia, with the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In the past years we are witnessing a climate of moral and cultural devastation in local communities living alienated and individualized lives, without social and societal responsibility and solidarity towards the public, and the public sphere and not having common spaces where this can be initiated, raised and sustained. Assessment of common problems in our previous activities and initiatives was that active local communities and CSOs are lacking opportunities and capacities to continue their work into raising the collective and supportive spirit, especially those ones that are doing so by arts and cultural community engaged activities, and into making the problems more visible. Additionally, they are facing dormant and inhibited community. Therefore, could not provide stable growth and strength of their capacities. In general, a dominant climate in the country was over reliance on funding, logistics and coordination by the organization(s) bringing and initiating activities from outside (centralized culture), which is not enough to create strong, stable, self-sustainable and self-organized grass root initiatives.

 Another problem that this project addresses is lack of spaces that will be accessible for the civil sector which will aim to produce cultural activities that will address relevant social questions for specific communities. Sustainability and self-reliance should be the underlying principles in the activities of this project addressing issues in local communities that will empower, motivate and activate citizens in order to produce active spaces that will design social changes in a positive way.

The target groups of our project – young artists and cultural workers, young people (15-25 years, students of humanities)/ volunteers,  activists, activist groups working on similar issues and CSO’s in Skopje, Bitola and Shtip, tenants and the Household Council of the Railway Residential Building and the neighborhood, textile workers in Shtip and eastern part of Macedonia – face a range of contemporary issues e.g. social exclusion and discrimination arising from the human rights conditions of work access to public services, participative governance, etc.  We are targeting these groups because we’ve already worked on similar issues in the past (as part of long term projects -Culture for Civic Changes, If Buildings Could Talk, Cultural Spaces for Active Citizens, just to name a few ). So we are familiar with the issues that these groups are facing with, – and we are already aware which of them are urgent problems. However, we need to strengthen our capacities, make a clear strategy and make a concrete plan in order to detect the burning malfunctions, address them and look for appropriate ideas for solutions. Some of the detected problems for these target groups are:

  • Young artists and cultural workers don’t have spaces where to work, there are only few funds that they can use (such as the funds from the Ministry of culture or the municipality, but it’s is always really small financial budgets) and they don’t have any support by the Institutions functioning as oasis of the well known artists and cultural workers;
  • The youth (15-25 years, students of humanities)/ volunteers) are in the same situation – there is no strategic development of the youth politics, their talents, ambitions, creative, analytical and critical thinking and doing is not stimulated because there are no spaces where they can practice this (the café is the only “cultural” thing especially in the other cities, than Skopje);
  • Activists, activist groups working on similar issues and CSO’s in Skopje, Bitola and Shtip, need bigger support, solidarity and exchange of opinions but also spaces where they can share experiences;
  • Tenants and the Household Council of the Railway Residential Building and the neighborhood are living in substandard conditions (the building, cultural heritage of second degree, has never been renovated since its erection in the 1940s: the roof is leaking, the façade is old and there is no gas heating so the tenants are using wood so they can get warm in winter) but they have important asset – the cinema in the frames of the building which they rent for events, means that can be invested into small reparations of the building etc., and ,
  • Textile workers in Shtip and eastern part of Macedonia are facing social exclusion and discrimination arising from the human rights conditions of work to access to public services etc.

By establishing local working groups with them we will engage them and through training and support enable them to target local issues, facilitate events and produce deliverables on their own is the proposed model to address aforementioned flaws in previous efforts. They will have an opportunity to gain knowledge in cultural politics, civil activism and contemporary art and culture. Spaces where we will work and activate through the activities are: “Railway Residential Building” in Skopje (the cinema inside the building, which now is in a first phase of renovation), “Kino Kultura” in Skopje (already existing place but without a gallery space which this project tries to initiate), “Center for Culture” in Bitola (office space used occasionally for the activities of FRU in the past seven years), Cultural Artistic Center “Textile” in Shtip (space founded 2 years ago in Shtip now actively used by organization Loud Textile worker and their close community of people, individuals, informal initiatives, students from the university of Shtip and other CSOs with whom so far this organization collaborated). Also space is used by students of faculty for drama arts in Shtip that helped in organizing different cultural activities in the past period such as TEXTILIJADA in December 2017, CULTURE FOR, ABOUT, AND PRODUCED by textile workers (event that happened in December 2017 in the space of KUC TEXTILE in Shtip, organized by LOUD TEXTILE WORKER organization). Ultimately, we hope the project will result in an active core of individuals operating in working groups that will learn how to share their experience in wider local communities. Also all activities will be, in a way, advocating and addressing the local stakeholders (municipalities, public institutions, private institutions) to resolve the local problems of a certain context in the cities where the project is realized (Skopje, Bitola and Shtip) but also to support and take care of the community spaces. In the recent past, Skopje, Bitola and Shtip have seen a rise in activities by CSOs by directly interacting with the local community. More notable in this sense are Youth Educational Forum, Skopje, Youth Cultural Center Bitola, Foundation for developing of local community in Shtip (active partners in the past four years), Helsinki Committee for human rights and their LGBT Support Center and Faculty for Things That Can’t Learn, Bitola, Skopje. Typically, the format of engagement was through youth clubs and public debates, creative workshops, film/media and photo production and similar participatory activities. In this project, they are going to be informal advisors in the project on a collegial basis or they will be leaders of workshops.


Description of Activities

I. ANNUAL PARTNERS PLANNING AND EVALUATION MEETINGS:

1 meeting with project partners (Lokomotiva and Loud textile worker) to plan the upcoming year in Bitola;

In project years 2 and 3 this meeting will be held in the same period in similar format, just in the other two cities and additionally to planning, the meeting will be used to do evaluation of the previous year, define and implement the lessons learned in the previous period, identify shortcomings and try to come with actions to mitigate those.

II. RESEARCH AND PROBLEM ANALYSIS WORKSHOPS AND WORKING GROUP MEETINGS

2 workshops with members of working groups and 4 working meetings among them (project partners and local stakeholders in Skopje, Bitola, Shtip);

III. PRODUCTION AND PUBLIC EVENTS

Production of public events for each topic/ problem (photo/video, exhibition, performance, lecture, debate, book fair etc.) for the community- 2 in Skopje, 1 in Bitola and 1 in Shtip

IV. EXCHANGE OF PUBLIC EVENTS

Exchange of 2 public events per year between the cities

V. DOCUMENTATION, VISIBILITY AND PROMOTION

Documentation, Branding (logo), Online presentation (web, social media), Media relations (press releases, press conferences, interviews), Final project publication (editing, design and preparation, printing, promotions, distribution)


Activities so far:

ACSCC – YEAR 1

I. ANNUAL PARTNERS PLANNING AND EVALUATION MEETINGS:

1 meeting with project partners (Lokomotiva and Loud textile worker) to plan the upcoming year in Bitola;

15-17 March 2018, Bitola

II. RESEARCH AND PROBLEM ANALYSIS WORKSHOPS AND WORKING GROUP MEETINGS

First workshop – 29-31 May 2018, Shtip


CEP’s Promotion Event 

08th of June, 2018 (Friday)

One Pager FRU