EXPERIENCES OF DEMOCRACY IN THE UK AND IRELAND – NEW FEATURE ARTICLE

With the ongoing rise of populist politics across Europe, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the divisions exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and social media, European democracy matters more than ever. With people feeling increasingly distanced from democratic processes, the EUARENAS project responds to a major European challenge – the need to strengthen legitimacy, identification and engagement with democracy within our cities.

As part of this Horizon 2020 project, People’s Voice Media has been conducting research in the UK and Ireland – Wigan and Galway to be precise – to find out more about two case studies about how citizens can participate in local decision-making. We have written feature article over on the Community Reporter website to share with you what we learned from a small number of citizens about their experiences of the case studies. Later in the project, we will be releasing case study reports that share the insights from a range of research strands… but for now, you can read the key insights from people’s stories by clicking the button below.

CONTINUE PROJECT: PAN-EUROPEAN INSIGHT REPORT AND FILM

Over the past year People’s Voice Media has been working with a consortium of European partners on the CONTINUE Project. Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, the project has set out to gather the stories of young people across Europe, specifically relating to their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, PVM trained the project partners in Community Reporter methodologies so that they (along with us) could host story gathering workshops followed by story curation sessions with marginalised young people in our respective localities in order to garner insights from their lived experience stories. These insights were collated and put together in a series of reports, one for each partner in Germany, Lithuania, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Denmark and the UK. The individual insight reports (in English) can be downloaded here.

These reports were used as the backbone of a series of Conversation of Change events across Europe, one for each partner organisation. At these events, facilitated by the young people themselves, young people and project partners met with stakeholders, decision-makers and policy-makers to discuss the insights from the lived experience stories and begin to co-create ideas for social actions that would feed into the next stages of the project. The stories and events uncovered that there were three main areas in which European youth felt most heavily affected by the pandemic:

  1. Health and wellbeing – high levels of anxiety, poor mental health, reduction in physical health;
  2. Education and careers – disengagement with education, damaged career prospects;
  3. Social issues and inequalities – exacerbation of existing inequalities and social issues.

These three themes were discussed in-depth in the Pan-European Conversation of Change event, held online in April, at which stakeholders, decision-makers, and policy-makers working at the European level worked together to develop further insights and ideas for social actions. These insights have been used to create a pan-European insight report, which can be downloaded here, and a short film highlighting some of the lived experience stories told by the young people across the continent.

The project is now moving on to its next stages, in which the young people co-create social actions in each of the respective partner countries, while partners speak to local and European level decision-makers, policy-makers and stakeholders to develop knowledge exchange events and policy recommendations. Watch this space.

NEW HERITAGE PROJECT: HOME?

The logo for HOME? - A purple background with yellow lettering in the style of neon lights with an illustration of a house in the place of the 'o'.

We are working on a new and exciting 2 year project called Home? A project funded by the Heritage Lottery program that focuses on the recent lived experiences of migrants in Northern England. Through Community Reporter stories and Archive Research, we will be exploring what it is and has been like to migrate to Northern England over the past 10 years.

On this project, we will be gathering 100 stories to document authentic lived experiences, looking at how people have settled in (or not) to their new homes, how migrant communities have contributed to the places they now live and much more. Through the stories and archive research we want to give a platform to the diversity of voices that make-up communities across Northern England and explore our very recent heritage – making sure it is preserved for future generations. We will also be embedding a social justice and anti-racist agenda into this work.

These stories will then be showcased in the public arena at a variety of venues such as Museums, Libraries, Schools, Colleges, Universities and we will be creating an animation to bring the key messages from the stories together, as well as a toolkit that will offer guidance in exploring migration in community and informal learning settings. 

To achieve all of this we are not working alone and have partnered up with some great folk to help us bring this vision to life. Specifically, in Northern England we are working with: 

  • Refugee Women Connect, Liverpool 
  • Global Link Development Education Centre, Lancaster
  • Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network, Leeds 
  • Methodist Asylum Project (“MAP”,) Middlesbrough
  • Dragons Voice Greater, Manchester

These local partners will help connect the project and us into communities and engage different people in the heritage activities.

And on a national level we are working with NACCOM – a national network of over 140 frontline organisations and charities across the UK, working together to end destitution amongst people seeking asylum, refugees and other migrants who aren’t able to access to public funds because of their immigration status. NACCOM will be helping us to create the toolkit and tie in the issues and debates from the stories and research into national level conversations.

Stay tuned for more updates!

STORYTELLING AND FUTURE-THINKING WITH EUARENAS

For many years, storytelling has been applied as a tool for learning and change-making. In recent years, lived experience storytelling in particular, has thrived as a tool for social justice, via the creation of spaces for discussion and exchange. Over the last 6 months, we have been experimenting with combining our own lived experience storytelling method – Community Reporting – with future-thinking activities as part of EUARENAS.

Foresight – or future thinking – provides scope for people to think about the future and use this to model and respond to potential prospective circumstances. In an ever-changing world, it asks us to think about our future, what challenges are on the horizon and how we can address them to achieve shared outcomes. To explore the future of democracy in Europe, partners in Italy, Estonia and Poland have worked with citizens to share experience of democracy in the present day and use them to discuss what the future may hold. In these workshops, citizens used the three horizon framework to map various pathways for the future of democracy in their context.

In the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, they worked with 13 people who were active in their communities and involved in civil society activities. One of the ‘preferred’ visions for the future that this group stated, was that they wanted to increase the diversity of voices involved in democracy: “I only hope that these councils will not always be attended by the same people”. In Voru, Estonia they worked with young people to explore their ideas about democracy and hopes for the future. Similar to the citizens in Reggio Emilia, they wanted to enhance diversity as they felt that currently “the voice of a minority is often not heard”. Finally, in Gdansk, Poland they worked with a heterogeneous group of citizens. Reflecting on the workshop, the Polish team felt that the workshop’s methods supported citizens to speak up – “It is important to sincerely listen to people’s stories, and even sometimes when we lose the topic of discussion, let them talk – because for some people it is the first time that they have a voice.”

In July we will be launching a ‘Lived Experience Storytelling and Future-Thinking’ toolkit and later in the year, we will be sharing with you the learning from these activities as part of an Insight Briefing.

UNICORN Project: Berlin Training

Last week PVM joined UNICORN Project partners in Berlin to take part in a 4 four day training event.

The training, delivered by Vensenya, focused on four key aspects of communications and marketing – Audience Design, Storytelling, Distribution and Audience Building – and how these can be applied to NGO sector organisations.

The training was an opportunity to see how marketing methods and communications strategies traditionally used in the business sector can be applied to smaller, grassroot level, non-profit organisations. Partners were able to reflect on their organisation’s purpose, audience and aims, then think about how these strategically link to approaches to marketing and communications. The training was a success and provided lots of inspiration as to how PVM could improve in terms of the content we share and how we engage with our audience.

The next training will take part in Liverpool in July – stay tuned for more updates!