youth participation

A nationwide proposal for “Spaces and Participation for all” in Romania

A nationwide proposal for “Spaces and Participation for all” in Romania 2560 1707 our civic space

A nationwide proposal for “Spaces and Participation for all” in Romania

“Making use of civic space also entails a youth NGO’s duty of collecting young people’s messages and delivering them to politicians and public authorities.”Yolanda Florescu (FITT)

Back in November 2016, just before the Parliamentary elections, the Romanian youth NGOs assembled in Timisoara for the first edition of the Romanian Youth Capital. The whole programme of Romanian Youth Capital has been about youth participation and, nowadays, is at its 5th edition (the current National Youth Capital is the city of Constanta). In line with its essential purpose of youth participation, the youth NGOs signed the Romanian Youth Resolution 2016-2020. That document emphasised key expectations of young people and young NGOs from the new politicians. Even though almost all the political parties signed an agreement to fulfil the objectives set by the NGOs, not many significant changes were made. 

Therefore, the youth NGOs, even more this time, decided in November 2020 (before the Parliamentary elections once again), to come together again and develop an even more specific and accurate resolution – The Romanian Youth Resolution 2020-2027. This document was divided into 11 chapters, tailored on the EU Youth Goals and each chapter was coordinated by NGOs with great expertise in that specific field. The almost 200 pages long document indicated the general and specific objectives, directions and measures desired to be implemented at the national level in order to further develop the entire youth sector in Romania in the next 7 years. 

As an evolution compared to the previous Romanian Youth Resolution, the political parties listened to the voices of the NGOs and almost 30% of the National Government Programme on Youth for 2020-2024 has been made according to the objectives of the Youth Resolution 2020-2027.

The main objectives proposed in the Youth Resolution 2020-2027 referred to creating and developing youth spaces accessible to all young people in Romania and increasing the degree of participation of young people in society. These are the the main target objectives of the resolution:

  • Establishment of youth centres (physical spaces specially for young people) at community level, sized according to the community they serve, as well as existing youth spaces development support;
  • Establishment of mobile youth centres for rural areas difficult to access and or rural areas with a small young population;
  • Development and strengthening of the National Network of Youth Centres
  • Reorganisation of youth tourism infrastructure and the Youth Tourism Office, to offer opportunities for recreation and spending leisure time as well;
  • Revitalisation of student cultural infrastructure administrated by the central youth public authority (the Ministry of Youth);
  • Spaces for young people to be served by professionals (youth workers);
  • Establishment, in each community, of a local advisory council on youth affairs formed of representatives youth NGOs and of youth informal groups, active in that community; Support of  youth participation in the already established local and national advisory councils on youth affairs;
  • Increasing the quality of local youth activities;
  • Definition and support of informal youth groups;
  • Encouraging young people to participate in electoral processes and to get involved in political life;
  • Supporting and encouraging volunteering;
  • Permanent and consistent support for youth NGOs by local and national public authorities.

Even though the national authorities recognised the challenges indicated by the youth NGOs and accepted, partially, the solutions, still the NGOs are monitoring the process, due to the fact that in Romania, with regard to the youth sector, many plans have been put on paper, but too few have been also implemented. Let’s see what the future brings…

Written by FITT

Youth-Led Civic Spaces – The Research Report

Youth-Led Civic Spaces – The Research Report 2560 1707 our civic space

The reason we started this partnership was because we could see that on so many levels civic spaces for young people were being challenged or claimed by others. This was the case in politics, but also in education, public spaces, etc. Therefore, for the partnership it was important to find out exactly to what extent the situation was pressing for the organisations in question and their partners, as well as for the youth and youth workers. In order to gather this insight and create the report, a three-tiered process was followed. 

  1. First, background research had to be done on the information available on the theme in existing literature, based on which ICDI provided an extensive analysis.
  2. This literature research was then followed by the partners through gathering national insights to create a baseline of the context of Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic and the Netherlands – as well as some information from Mali and Kenya. Also, each partner provided a case study in which they described a best practice from the field, on how civic spaces were created or maintained within their organisation. 
  3. The final step was for the partners to have conversations with youth and youth workers about their view on the (lack of) civic spaces around them. By doing this, we ensured their involvement in the process and managed to get their thoughts on how to improve the civic spaces, to learn from them and to think about solutions – together. The aim was to learn from them and use this knowledge for the fulfillment of the report.

By gathering all this information, ICDI was able to produce an extensive report on the context of youth-led civic spaces, and came up with several recommendations on how to tackle this problem yourself – whether you are a youth, a youth worker, or just want to make a difference (for the youth) in your community. Want to know more about the report, read the recommendations or the ideas that we gathered from the youth and youth workers? You can read the report here.

Want to join the dialogue on civic spaces and how to make them (more) youth-led? Go to our chat and share your thoughts!

Written by ISA

Supporting the youth in Hungary

Supporting the youth in Hungary 2560 1707 our civic space

Supporting the youth in Hungary

We at OSA see that many of our participants have a low socio-economic status, have difficulties in many areas of life, often live in a fragmented family situation or child protection institutions, and live or have lived in unsatisfactory housing conditions. These youth lack stability, regularity, and often a primary caregiver from whom they can be guided unconditionally. School drop-out is a common phenomenon among the youth we target, despite their still being compelled to attend school by law. As a result of all these phenomena, players who come to us, regardless of age or gender, are likely to be involved in crime to some extent (such as theft or drug trafficking). To be able to tackle these social problems, we aim to include youth in our programmes as much as possible and retain them – which still proves to be one of the biggest problems for our organisation.

OSA’s goal
One of the cornerstones of our association’s activity is football trainings held in different locations on a weekly basis, during which the goal is not necessarily to acquire fitness and perfect ball play, but rather to create team building, social inclusion and to overcome (gender) differences. On the other side, in order to establish a more open relationship, our social workers participate in trainings, keep in constant contact with the players and – in the case of our younger players – their parents and relatives. Once a more confidential relationship is established, we try to support our players in social assistance, be it solving a housing problem, mental health counselling or emotional help during a medical examination.

What have we done
Throughout our programmes, we have achieved great results among the youth. A scholarship programme has been held, in which the youth are monitored in their development. Several different English language sessions have been organised – for both under 18 and 18+ players – with a consistent attendance. In order to thrive, it is not enough for them to be able to play football well, it is important that they can also tell the other participants about their experiences. English education plays a big role in this, as those who play football well and attend English classes regularly are more likely to join the team traveling to foreign football tournaments and participate in scholarship programmes provided by OSA. By participating in these programmes, they become active in shaping their own life. Additionally, over 30 employability and employment workshops have been organised, impacting the lives of over 350 youth. Nearly 100 girls have been supported through psycho-educational methods through OSA’s girls’ club. 

One of OSA’s clear successes, has been the cooperation with international football organisations, and the development of good relations with them. For example, the UEFA Foundation for Children and the FIFA Community Programme both made a major contribution to OSA’s operations in 2019. 

Due to the less communication between social groups from different backgrounds, we faced several challenges. Keeping in mind the goals of the programme, we always try to reach different groups in the society. Talking with these different groups it is crucial to highlight common ground for the future and attempt to open up to acceptance of differences.

Written by OSA

Magnambougou’s basketball field

Magnambougou’s basketball field 1200 800 our civic space

Magnambougou’s basketball field

In 2019 together with other (local) organisations, ISA invested in a new 3×3 basketball field to create a safe space for the youth and children in the community of Magnambougou in Bamako, Mali.

Currently, more than 70 percent of the total population in Mali is younger than 39 years old. Within their communities, young people face many difficulties: the lack of drinking water, electricity, adequate youth sport spaces and criminality.

A lack of (civic) space is often an issue in large, fast-urban areas. Having this space, however, is no less important for the local community. With the help of ISA, over the last five years, the community members, coaches and youth in Magnambougou have committed themselves to creating safe spaces for the youth and children. After observing and receiving the backing of the community, ISA decided to invest in a 3×3 basketball field for the community. The most important aspect for this field, is that it should not become an ISA field, but should be developed, built and maintained by the community itself. For ISA, the main objectives of this project was not only to create an adequate sports space for inclusive participation of youth in sports, but to go a step beyond and create a space for passion, spark and pursuit. To make the voices of young people heard on issues that concerns them. Different activities for positive youth development are organised in and around the community field, which have helped increase (girls’) participation and given the youth a place to speak up and share their thoughts.

ISA chose to invest in the sports field of Warima, a former ISA coach. He did not own the field, but due to being well connected in the community, he was able to make sure that the field benefited community. The existing sports field was damaged and unusable, partially due to heavy rains. The decision to invest in a new sports field for the community of Magnambougou, was based on Warima’s outstanding efforts to empower the youth in his community.

ISA has developed the field together with the community, using the expertise of artist Shon Price to develop some designs based on local ideas. The youth from the community brought in ideas for the field and picked out the final design of the field themselves. One of the key aspects for ISA, was that the field be developed and created by the community in order to create local ownership. By letting the youth paint the field, there was a large advantage in terms of cost reduction. But most importantly, it provided them with the opportunity to be involved in the process and be proud of the impact they created. The field now is used by athletes, youth, coaches and community members from across the country. By involving these different target groups throughout the process of developing this field, an increased sense of ownership was created among the youth.

The grand opening of the new field was organised through a bottom-up approach in which the community and youth involved local rappers, MCs, politicians and many other stakeholders. This event showed that the new field became a stage for new types of activities and investments. The dedication of the youth, and investment from ISA’s part, has also led to even more investments in the community for this new public, safe space.
A local businessman, Mamadou Soumaoro, decided, he wanted youth and children to be able to play at all times and decided to donate lighting for the field. Additionally, many different stakeholders have requested to be able to use the field for local, regional and national events – empowering the (members of the) community of Magnambougou.
Every evening, seven days a week, around 35 young people from the community get trained by Warima and his colleagues, among which there are also more and more girls participating. This is evidence for the effect the field has on girls’ participation in sports and other activities within the community. When there is no training going on, children and youth can always be found playing sports by themselves. This community 3×3 basketball field attracts the youth and helps them escape from drug abuse and other unpleasant behavior that is going on around them in the community.
Looking back on this journey of providing an exceptional space for youth to be involved in sports, we have noticed that civic space needs active and motivated citizens, to make it work. The community taking ownership and responsibility is very important while creating a civic space. Get people involved at the very beginning until the end by working with them and listening to their needs and ideas.
The most difficult part of this journey was that it is not always easy to find local organisations who can help to financially support an initiative. By getting in touch with potential local people and organisations in an early stage, it will give them more time and space to look at the contribution they can make. Finally, by investing in monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) after the programme is implemented, it is possible to create insight and possible improvements to create an even bigger impact on local communities.
In the end, an investment like this in hardware will further support the development of the region and can enable local youth to think of new ways in which they can continue to contribute to their community.
One of the biggest partners for this was the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which provided most of the funding.

Four lessons from Magnambougou:

1. In order to make a civic space work, active and motivated citizens are necessary. The community needs to take ownership and responsibility – getting people involved from the beginning of the process can support this. In our case, the most important aspect was that the created field should not become an ISA field, but should be developed, built and maintained by the community itself. This is not necessarily always the case, but the support from the community does help in ensuring the civic space is used for the right purposes.

2. For the 3×3 field, one of the struggles was the lack of local organisations willing to financially support the initiative. By getting in touch with potential local people and organisations in an early stage, it will give them more time and space to look at the contribution they can make – although this is not a given.

3. The field is not only used by members of the community, but also by athletes, youth, coaches and community members from across the country. This ensures that the field does not only have a local presence but is acknowledged and respected by people beyond the community and creates a sense of pride for the community.

4. By investing in monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) after the activities are implemented, it is possible to create insight and possible improvements to create an even bigger impact on local communities. This aspect was less considered during the creation of the 3×3 field.

Written by ISA

The Romanian youth foundations and their legal framework

The Romanian youth foundations and their legal framework 1200 800 our civic space

The Romanian youth foundations and their legal framework

In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was taking over, the Ministry of Youth and Sport launched a public consultation on a draft of an implementing regulation of Law no.146/2002, an overdue plan derived from the Government Emergency Ordinance undermining the integrity of the youth foundations by reinstating the demand that 3 out of 5 board members are named by the respective county councils. Simultaneously, a harmful legislative initiative was making its way through the parliament, intending to repeal the legal framework under which the foundations function and their subsequent dissolution. These two initiatives, received much attention from some students’ associations, which prompted a poorly researched and ill-intended crusade against FITT and the youth foundations.

FITT’s goal
FITT’s main objective was preserving the status quo in terms of the youth foundations’ legal framework, strongly believing that interfering with the board structure and taking the legacy away from the youth and into the hands of the county councils would certainly have critical consequences on both the foundations themselves, as well as the young local community that benefits from their activity.

What we do
The main strategic direction that FITT followed was debunking the claim which constituted the heart of the initiators’ reasoning: that the existing youth foundations do not undertake projects that are relevant for the young people in their areas. Therefore, FITT took on an “emulsifier” role, bringing together all county youth foundations under the umbrella of a website that transparently outlines their activity, as well as give information on their local members, their employees, partners and strategies.
Another popular argument among the supporters of the two proposals was the supposed misuse of the patrimony. FITT illustrated how assigning the patrimony into the administration of public authorities might in reality not be the much-praised solution some think it to be. On the contrary, experience has proven that some buildings and land belonging to the former communist youth which were given into the custody of the county councils have over the years turned into private businesses and shopping malls, aspect which had been conveniently left out of the public debate. This double-standard approach was called out by FITT in an open letter to the group of supporters, which emphasized the damage one-sided stories can cause if left unattended.

What have we achieved
FITT’s extensive network on both national and international level has been vital in creating public pressure on the ministry to prolong the duration of the consultation process, as well as create a working group to amply discuss and debate the context with the civil society, including those targeted directly by these proposed regulations, the foundations. The ministry’s inbox was flooded with letters from local, national, and international structures condemning their proposal.

The issue of the youth foundations’ legal framework is still ongoing, but we are hopeful that our cause is supported by hard facts and truths that are impossible to dispute. Despite the piles of research and frustrations behind this fight, there is a silver lining in the fact that it has for the first time brought all youth foundations together, a collaboation that might start a ripple effect to ultimately update the current legislation in the youth field, in line with current European principles.

When talking about the matter of Romania’s youth foundations and FITT’s recent battles to prove how beneficial they truly are for the local youth community, Mihai Vilcea, president of FITT and leader of the movement to empower youth foundations, says:
“It is inspiring to see that through the unceasing hard work of a few an otherwise harmful initiative can take on new valences and potentially influence young people for the better, by forcing an honest discussion about the entire existing patrimony, not only the part managed by NGOs, but also the one managed by the state. We hope that this will compel the state to assume responsibility for its past shortcomings and develop a strategy to rebuild and refurbish the patrimony that has fallen into disrepair, for youth’s benefit.”

The FITT team has gone through 30 years of history as part of the research carried out to understand the journey of youth foundations.

Written by FITT