Civic culture and motivation for involvement as well as trust in civil society organizations (CSOs) and the institutions in Bulgaria tend to stand at much lower levels than the ones necessary in a democratic society. These trends are particularly prominent in villages where social isolation, unemployment and lack of active young people reduce even further the desire and willingness for involvement in policy-making. The lack of a local legal framework regulating interaction with the public adds to the situation and predetermines low public sensitivity and commitment. The project aims at raising awareness and engagement of local communities in 13 villages in 4 Bulgarian municipalities and enhancing mechanisms for civic participation in making and implementing decisions about local development. The planned training sessions and information meetings will raise the awareness of citizens about the opportunities and benefits from participation. The setting up of modern communication channels will raise their awareness and offset the influence of misleading, often manipulative news. The involvement of villagers in structured public discussions will enable them to take part in local policy making and in the implementation of some of the initiatives proposed by them. The shared experience from Norway about work with local communities and volunteers will help adapt and use modern working models in the villages included in the project which can later on be spread to the other villages in the municipalities. Introducing amendments to the local legislative documents in the municipalities will create durable conditions for the efficient involvement of citizens from small communities in decision making. The project is directly targeted at the members of the two associations that are project partners and the inhabitants of 13 villages in the municipalities of Letnitsa, Lovech, Sevlievo and Veliki Preslav – 4500 people in total.
Summary of project results
A series of trainings and information meetings were held that broadened the citizens’ knowledge about the possibilities and the benefits of citizen participation and volunteering. Recommendations were addressed and incorporated by the municipalities in their Economic Development Plans 2027. New communication channels were created towards increasing the citizens’ awareness and limiting the influence of fake news. A total of 13 small projects were initiated by the communities and implemented by them. In addition, the Norwegian experience shared by the Friluftsrodenes Landforbund on working with local communities and volunteers inspired the adaptation and application of modern and effective models in the villages. Those models were later disseminated in other communities and municipalities. At the end of the project 4 discussions were organized with distinguished persons who engaged the attention of the people in the villages and enriched their cultural and social life.
Thanks to the project, the two organizations were able to introduce some modern out-of-the-box mechanisms for effective citizen participation of the small village communities in decision-making and in the implementation of initiatives. The new communication channels and the small projects proposed and implemented by the citizens have been working successfully and are being maintained provided the new volunteer models and the support of DPA and ZA. The experience of the Norwegian partners and the mechanisms adapted to Bulgaria were described in a short handbook and disseminated in the two regions, as well as among organizations and local authorities throughout the country. In the long run, these mechanisms are expected to be applied by other municipalities and communities in Bulgaria. During the last General Assembly of the DPA the members were of the opinion that the project had contributed substantially to the integrity and engagement of the community in the Devetaki Plateau. There were 15 new membership applications. As a whole, the project has had an immense impact on activating the local communities in the regions of the Devetaki Plateau and Zelenigrad, as well as on the institutional and organizational growth of the two associations. Finally yet importantly, the partnership with the Norwegian organization FL has been really beneficial and has deepened sustainably thanks to the visits of a Bulgarian group to Norway and the two trainings the Norwegian partners provided in Bulgaria.
Summary of bilateral results
A total of 13 small projects were initiated by the communities and implemented by them. The Norwegian experience shared by the Friluftsrodenes Landforbund on working with local communities and volunteers inspired the adaptation and application of modern and effective models in the villages. Those models were later disseminated in other communities and municipalities. The experience of the Norwegian partners and the mechanisms adapted to Bulgaria were described in a short handbook and disseminated in the two regions, as well as among organizations and local authorities throughout the country. In the long run, these mechanisms are expected to be applied by other municipalities and communities in Bulgaria.