Moldova is one of the poorest European countries trying to enter European Union (with a lack of job opportunities and estimated wage around 220 Euros/month). At the end of August Romanian community organizer, Iustina Neagu, conducted the training in Moldova as a part the “Minority Empowerment in Moldova” project. According her opinion one of the challenges of Community organizing in Moldova could be: local resources.
Can you formulate your own definition of community organizing?
The definition I use is not formulated by me and it’s like this: Organizing it’s a form of leadership development, that can mobilize a community to gather enough resources to build an organization, in order to grow enough power to generate change. It’s Chris Doby’s definition, with a small change.
Do still people in Romania mix the term community organizing with traditional way of social work (services)?
I couldn’t answer for people in Romania, but I can refer to various people in the NGO-world in Bucharest that we interact with mostly: Organizing has become clearer. In terms of people who hear about this for the first time, it’s natural I think, for them to try and understand it using their experience and knowledge in terms of community work.
In Slovakia there is only 1 or 2 groups doing real, long-term, structured organizing. If you compare the level of community organizing in Europe: Where you would place Romania and where Moldova?
Well, I think that’s a difficult question to answer to. I can say that in Romania we now have 4 NGOs (that we know of) asides my organization: CeRe doing it, and they are working with youth and with Roma communities.
In Moldova, from what I know, there have been various attempts to do organizing and it’s been a mix between this method and development. On the other hand, I think there are organizations doing organizing and not calling it that way, or using parts of the method in their work.
Your Community Organizing organization: CERE is based in Bucharest. How it is possible that your organization is able to recruit and pay organizers?
This has been a long-term effort and fortunately organizing is more visible now than 5 years ago and there are some resources for this method, but not in abundance.
You have a lot of experiences with neighborhood mobilizing and organizing in Bucharest. How have you prepared for training conducting experience in Moldova?
The training was for 60 leaders coming from 15 minority communities (Bulgarian, Gagauz, Ukrainian, Roma, Czech). It’s been a challenge for sure, but we’ve had a great team – Silvia Strelciuc from Moldova and Dave Beckwith from USA. We started with the Ograda’s vision, people’s needs and really building on what people knew, step by step. The training was the first part of a series of 3 trainings, and we covered mostly the listening part, building relations, one-on-ones.
The Resource and Consultancy Center Ograda Noastra NGO seems like interesting organization operating in the region for longer period. What are the biggest challenges and the biggest barriers in Moldovan organizing in your opinion?
It’s hard to answer, but from what I saw, a first challenge that comes into my mind is about local resources. In Moldova for now, organizing has been tried in rural areas. In Bucharest, for example we talk about Local authorities that have a lot of resources, therefor, it’s just a matter of priorities and how Local authorities spend the public money.
In Moldova we talk mostly about rural areas, with low local resources, so the matter is not only about priorities and about what do they spend the public money on, but also about where can they find more resources. This is why, 2 organizations that have already been trying this for some years, created a mix between organizing and development – in order to mobilize other resources from the community apart from the public ones (from people, from local economic agents).
Also, another thing to take into account is the local dynamics, and relations. When we talk about Bucharest we talk about a huge urban space and relations between people and also between people and Public Authorities are a lot different than those existing in rural areas, where everyone knows everyone and it’s rather difficult to have a confrontational attitude and a lot easier to be collaborative.
Was the different language and different nationality or ethnicity an issue in common sense, mutual understanding?
I could say that during the training we’ve had 8 languages in the room, so it’s been quite a challenge with translation, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of cultural differences.
How to motivate people to participate and be active in public life?
Generally, I would say that is a very good question, a question that we constantly ask ourselves. I would say we don’t have an answer, I don’t know if there is an answer, otherwise, I imagine we would only have active citizens, involved in public life all over the world.
But there are some things that we noticed over the years: Good examples motivate people, make them feel it’s possible and real. Also, having help from someone, being a little bit pushed; having a problem that makes you angry, that is something that makes you active. Sharing experiences with other groups doing similar work, facing the same challenges and obstacles, exchanging lessons learned and good practices. And last, but not least, wining an issue. A victory is always measurable, clear and real.
Text: Boba Baluchova (Slovak community leader, journalist & university teacher), Foto: http://ogradanoastra.org