The project with a complex name – Emerging Communities: Empowerment for social engagement, self-organization and development of local solutions – was designed and accepted by the European Commission’s ERASMUS + program and involves mobility of participants to share experiences at the European Union level. The main and long-term goal we set for ourselves with this project is only pretentious at first glance: to strengthen social engagement and active participation of citizens in social, environmental and political processes in terms of their sustainability and economic, which from the perspective of civil society organizations is not reduced necessarily to the market.
The global economic and political crisis of governance resulting in unsustainable lifestyles, growing socio-economic inequalities, the development of inhumane and undemocratic politics, climate change, and a lack of critical thinking and a general sense of uncertainty and insecurity is the context in which we set this goal, but two disasters hit the world during the realization of project activities. First, the COVID-19 pandemic, and during it, Europe was hit by the war in Ukraine. The complexity of the crisis we referred to turned into its brutality. The context in which we continue with our work, and that is primarily connecting in an attempt to act together, determines our activities as much as the reflections with which we try to realize them. The issue of peace is becoming urgent and in a new way illuminates our ambition to encourage people to a more sustainable way of life. What worries us all is the question that arises: are we witnessing the end of democracy and universal human rights, and can we do anything to prevent it?
There is a need for this and it is embedded in the foundations of the Emerging Communities project, and is first manifested through getting to know and connecting civil society organizations and grassroots organizations at European level, their networks, projects, initiatives and communities. Can we connect by developing networks of mutual support against the growing pressures on civil society in every sense by the authorities of each of the countries from which the organizations participating in this project come? How, as organized and united people, do we operate locally in a globalized world and what does this mean for activism and civil society? Is there enthusiasm on the part of the people and are we, first of all ourselves, ready to open the problematic issues of the functioning of civil society organizations and our practices in the political system which, we are now quite certain, is not in our favor, since civil society politics is essentially a peace politics? Also, can civil society today advocate for peace in an environment of state war that undermines universal values and the international order of democratic institutions and values? These are just some of the issues we need to make room for if we think networking and working together is possible.
In that sense, the goal of the project is directly related to the needs we share, which concern the improvement of acquired knowledge, skills and capacities in relation to the sustainability of organizing, cooperation and community practices in the field of civic participation in political decision-making processes, social housing, alternative public spaces, development of local solutions for social inclusion, especially of migrants and refugees, self-employment, etc.
The Emerging Communities project brings together organizations from Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Serbia, and here we will briefly present them:
Project House Potsdam – Inwole (Potsdam, Germany) is a non-governmental organization that aims to encourage innovative forms of housing. It works in the field of sustainable development, political education and housing. Since 2005, the association has run a unique center in its premises in Potsdam-Babelsberg and is part of a network of organizations throughout Germany (Mietshäuser Syndikat) that provides support for the purchase of collectively owned housing. Today, this Potsdam organization has three collectively owned houses that combine collective housing and work.
Italia che Cambia (Italy in change) is a platform for networking and digital media that brings together various projects in the field of sustainable development. This group of ore then ten journalists from different parts of Italy records different projects, groups and initiatives in Italy, makes video reports and articles about them and their activities and puts them on a common map, making them more visible and better connected.
ImWandel Berlin (Berlin in change), (Berlin, Germany) is also a networking platform and digital media that brings together various projects in the field of sustainable development. It originated in part from Italia che Cambia, whose model it implemented in the Berlin and Brandenburg regions of Germany.
Communitism (Athens, Greece) is a social and cultural center in Athens founded in 2017, which deals with various topics: independent cultural production, refugee and migrants iclusion, housing and social development in Athens. At the same time, the center renovated and preserved the space of the former textile factory. Their goal is to develop a sustainable model of social cohesion of their neighborhood, which could provide sustainable housing, self-employment, non-commercial cultural content, etc.
Ethos (Thessaloniki, Greece) is an association that works on taking care of refugees and migrants, but also on sustainable development, social entrepreneurship, etc. It also participates in many other projects with other groups (one of them is Pervolarides), such as urban gardens, food distribution (collecting products before the expiration date for use from the supermarket and using them for cooking), etc.
Ethos (Denmark) – The Ethos Association from Greece is a sort of “branch” of the Danish Ethos Association, which is a small association, but with a longer history of project work in the field of social development. Ethos has also founded several social enterprises in India, which have based their work on the use of local resources, the skills of local people, fair and equal distribution of income and product development for Western markets.
Open Cultural Center (OCC), (Barcelona, Spain) is a non-profit organization based in Barcelona that works to integrate refugees, migrants and asylum seekers into society, through non-formal education for children and adult refugees, through involvement in the work process, through working with young refugees on their mobility, and through interculturality and fostering multilingualism.
Group for Conceptual Politics – GCP (Novi Sad, Serbia) is an association of citizens that has been active in the field of local politics since 2011, as well as in the field of self-government, democracy and advocates the need for a new civil society politics in Serbia and beyond. The GCP promotes autonomous political organization and direct participation in the management and decision-making of matters of common and public interest in local communities. It has launched several initiatives, such as the Local Self-Government Initiative and its newsletter „Tenant“, and the campaign for civil elections for local communities in Novi Sad, which has started a cycle of advocacy for preserving the civic character of local self-government in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia. The association is increasingly dedicated to researching what would be the peace politics on the side of the people today.