Small projects unite communities and empower citizens

19 May 2020

Civic spirit can only be developed through involvement and motivation. This is demonstrated by the residents of six villages and communes in the Sangerei district who are developing their localities.

Civic spirit can only be developed through involvement and motivation. This is demonstrated by the inhabitants of six villages and communes in the Sangerei district who are developing their localities by building and modernising cultural and leisure facilities. Experts in the field of good governance say that such initiatives make citizens and local public authorities (LPAs) accountable, as they are obliged to respect all three stages of transparency in the decision-making process: information, involvement and monitoring. Parks modernised with citizen involvement: chessboard table, paving and toilet The residents of each commune, together with the local authorities, have organised several meetings and identified problems that can no longer be put off. Most of the initiatives are local infrastructure initiatives aimed at improving people's lives in the community. For example, the residents of Iezărenii Vechi have decided to build a gazebo in the centre of the village and install a table and two benches, with a chess board printed on the table. Tudor Șonțu, a resident of Iezărenii Vechi, took part in two consultations of the initiative group, and after examining the pros and cons it was decided that the villagers need this recreational place. "We don't have a park in the village and there's nowhere to sit and read a book or otherwise spend your free time. In the centre of the village there are all the public institutions, and while people are waiting at the post office, the family doctor's office or the town hall - they can read a newspaper or play a game of chess," says T. Șonțu. For her part, Renata Gabor, the mayor of the village, stresses that the inhabitants came not only with the idea, but also with financial means: "We organised a small lottery: people bought tickets, knowing that this money is their contribution. The ticket sales raised 2,400 lei. The town hall will also contribute, so we are raising the money. It is important to encourage people to come up with proposals and initiatives. In the future, with the involvement of the people, we hope to set up a park, but a playground would also be welcome." Dumbrăvița residents have also decided to continue investing in the park in the centre of the village, where work was previously carried out under another project. Maria Chițanu says that, together with the villagers, they have decided that trees will be planted here, a pavement will be built and benches and litter bins will be installed. All the work will be done with the help of citizens who will work voluntarily. "We have proposed five people from five slums who will attend the council meetings and will already take the information around the village to tell what was discussed and voted on. Often these things remain in the shadows and people don't really know what's going on," says Maria Chițanu. The town hall will allocate 16,000 lei for additional works and 10,000 lei for a public toilet in the park. In the village of Ciuciuieni, the initiative group has also decided to build a pavement in the park. Local woman Alina Andoni says the pavement will make it easier for children to access the playground in the park. Violeta Vitu, mayor of Ciuciuieni, says that "16 thousand lei will be allocated from the town hall's account for the installation work and the purchase of the material". In Coșcodeni and Tăura Veche they are investing in cultural centres The inhabitants of Tăura Veche want to improve the area adjacent to the cultural centre. This is where the dance terrace is to be paved and the terrace roof installed. The residents of Coșcodeni have decided to invest in technical equipment for the sound system at the cultural centre, which will be used for various cultural events. In Chișcăreni, however, the inhabitants decided to repair the fence and gate surrounding the building where an active local non-governmental organisation is based. Activities that bring people together All these localities are part of a project that facilitates dialogue between citizens and LPAs and involves community members in the decision-making process. The project relies on the financial support resulting from involvement. Communities are given a small amount of money, up to €300, to solve a problem in their locality. Optionally, people can contribute financially or with labour to build, upgrade a local facility or purchase something needed by the community. A condition for participation in this project is that the problem that needs to be solved is identified by the citizens themselves. Silvia Țurcanu, coordinator of this regional project and former mayor of Chișcăreni commune, says that through such initiatives citizens are stimulated to be active and get involved in the development of their communities: "We promote transparent communication between LPAs and people, thus ensuring good governance. These projects mobilise citizens to get involved by identifying local problems and contributing to solving them. A society without active people deteriorates. We want to teach them to volunteer and contribute to community development. We do this through activities that unite villages, unite people." Viorel Furdui: "These projects strengthen trust in authorities" Viorel Furdui, a local government expert and executive director of the Congress of Local Authorities (CALM), encourages citizens and authorities in other regions to take up such examples. "On the one hand, even if they are not very well funded, these initiatives are a way of awakening the interest and involvement of citizens, who are learning how to use such funding. On the other hand, it solves some small problems, but in reality it is an essential step in the development of the respective localities and prepares people for bigger initiatives and the assimilation of much larger financial resources. And this is extremely important because we, as a state, have to learn how to assimilate funding. If we talk about transparency, involvement, collaboration between local authorities and the population, these projects have a beneficial impact because they strengthen trust in the authorities and ensure better local governance," concludes the expert. At the end of the project, in October 2020, the Festival of Civic Initiatives will be organised, where the results of the project will be presented and three of the best civic initiatives will be awarded. Mariana Jacot