Reclaim the City! – From Day to Day

This article is a day-to-day report of two participants participants who took part in the Study Session ,,Reclaim the City!”. The study session took place from 12th to 19th of June 2016 in Budapest, Hungary. The main aim of the authors is sharing their impressions and methodology used during the event in order to spread the word about alternative urbanisation and non-formal education among young people and everyone interested in these.

Alternative Youth Urbanisation – Reclaim the City!” study session is organised by Cooperation and Development Network (CDN) in co-operation with the Youth Department of the Directorate of Democratic Citizenship and Participation of the Council of Europe.
The study session gathered 33 young activists and people interested in alternative urbanisation from Russia, Germany, Poland, Armenia, Albania, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Montenegro, Scotland, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Finland, Macedonia, Malta, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.  The participants explored the role of youth in the creation of sustainable green cities through taking part in decision making processes or direct actions in their local communities based on and working with the principles and values of direct democracy, solidarity and inclusion.

First Day – Monday (13 June 2016)

We began the first day with presentations of ourselves and the organisations which we are coming from. Then we had team building, and had different trust-building activities both in pairs and in groups. One activity was to walk around in pairs, while one of the people closed their eyes so that they could not see and the other person acting as a guide. The activity was very useful, as many expressed that they felt more trusting toward each other and more open toward the group.

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Team Building activity

In the afternoon we had introductions to the topics of ‘Alternative Urbanisation’ and ‘Non-Formal Learning’. We also had a quiz on different cities and topics related to urbanisation. In the evening we then gathered for committee meetings (social media, blog, alternative urbanisation working group and video) and then into our reflection groups to reflect on the day.

After dinner, we had an ‘organizational mixer’ during which we made posters for our organizations and then presented them to the others. Afterward, some went out to bars, while others went to enjoy the sauna or simply went to bed early, tired after all the new things learnt.

Second Day – Tuesday (14 June 2016)

The second day began with the groups making models of their ideal cities. The groups were very creative and came up with innovative solutions for building ideal cities. Then we had role play, during which we had to act out a council meeting concerning the construction of building a shopping centre in a park. We were divided into groups and did not know that each group had the same situation, and during the discussion afterwards it was interesting to see that each group had different outcomes in their ‘meetings’.

After lunch, there was a guest speaker – Tracey Wheatley. She spoke about what influenced her to become an activist, and also got us to reflect on our organisations and the values we share.

In the evening we had an ‘intercultural evening’, during which the participants presented each other countries. The participants had also been asked to bring food and drinks from their countries, and there were a lot of delicate food, snacks and drinks served.

Third Day – Wednesday (15 June 2016)

During the third day we had our study visits to different NGOs working in Budapest. You can read our impressions under the tab ‘Visits to organisations’.

Fourth Day – Thursday (16 June 2016)

The fourth day began with a reflection of the NGOs which we visited the previous day. It is very effective to visit local NGOs and movement organizations in Budapest, in order to understand their working principles, hardness and needs, and the condition of civil society here. By sharing their impressions about the organizations, the participants discussed the primary issues of the CSOs and compared them with their NGOs in their countries. The debate was very efficient in terms of understanding youth participation, their main characteristics, as well as common and different sides of organizations that the participants are coming from.

During the second session we asked ourselves thefood-desert.jpg question ‘How available is it to buy affordable and good-quality fresh food in your neighbourhood?’. It became easy to understand the meaning of the term “food desert”, and we studied different cases in Europe, the USA and Asia. 

But to know and understand the problems are not enough to solve them. Because of that the session continued by looking at different initiatives trying to solve the food desert problem in different cities such as New York, Detroit and Tokyo. Through studying these cases, participants learnt more about urban activities such as community gardening, et cetera. Then they talked about the local examples.

After lunch, Jay and Kim presented two case studies: New Delhi, India and Malmö, Sweden. We looked at the different problems faced in both cities, and what they are doing to try to solve them.

Fifth Day – Friday (17 June 2016)

The day began with a very inspiring presentation by activist Iskra Krstić. She talked about the citizen’s struggle for public space in post-socialist countries, i.e. the privatisations of public spaces in Eastern Europe following the fall of communism and the application of shock therapy. She used examples from all over Eastern Europe, but especially talked about her home town Belgrade, and the planned construction of over 100 skyscrapers and luxurious housing in the Belgrade riverside area. Concerned about the illegality of the planned constructions and the massive costs (both in monetary terms and human, as many people would be displaced), the people first tried legal means to stop the construction. They organised roundtable discussions and petitions, but when it became evident that the local government did not listen to them, they also organised larger demonstrations.

After Iskra’s speech, we gathered in small groups to talk about advocacy, and different strategies to use depending on the mode of advocating for an issue you are using. For example, what to think of if you are running a campaign or what to think of if you are protesting.

IMG_0452.JPGFollowing lunch, we looked at the example of the Council of Europe’s ‘No Hate Speech’ campaign. After that, we gathered into groups to brainstorm our own campaign on youth involvement in local decision-making. We had to think about how to gather support and mobilise people, how to communicate the issue and what narrative we would have for the campaign. The practice was very useful, as most participants felt empowered to work on their own (or this) campaign, as they felt that they had the skills to create a campaign.

Last day – Saturday (18 June 2016)

During the Saturday we worked in our committees before lunch, trying to finish off our work. When finished, the work was presented, including some of the videos. After lunch, we made our own personal action plans. We had to think about what we could do in our communities, as well as making a timeline for the implementation of the plan.

We also had an evaluation of the event, first in our reflection groups, then in the whole group. We were sharing our thoughts in a circle, and each person speaking had to hold a ball of yarn, which was passed around so that in the end everyone held a piece of the thread. Afterward, we were handing out the diplomas for the participants of the study session. It was done in the way that everyone presented each other. During the whole ceremony there were a lot of emotions, some crying and a lot of hugs and laughter.

In the evening we had a farewell party, where most of the participants gathered. Some participants also took the occasion to make a role play of the prep team. Telling everyone that it was Varvara’s birthday, they got everyone to gather in the room and then played out an imaginary prep team meeting with Milan acting as Kaća, Varvara as Lydia, Isabella as Kim, Teo as Pedja, Khayyam as Djalel, James as Emilija and Hmayak as Ragip. There was also a lot of dancing and singing.

Isabella Nilsen, People and Planet, Organiser for Scotland (participant)

Khayyam Namazov, MIL Network Azerbaijan, Co-Funder (participant)

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