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Active Communities for Development Alternatives

Final Project Meeting "DAR"

Friday, 28 January 2022

On January 28, 2022, Platform AGORA held the final meeting of the project "DAR - Digital Alternatives for Development", funded by the Active Citizens Bulgaria Fund under the financial mechanism of the European Economic Area with the support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The project is intended to stimulate the capacity of 50 community centers (chitalishta) from the AGORA network in their path of recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and continuing active work, while adapting to the opportunities and challenges of working in a digital environment, reaching new audiences and implementing new policies.

The "DAR" project took place from February 2021 to January 2022. The initial training for the 50 chitalishta was on how to work in the Zoom platform, which was used to conduct the consecutive online trainings in the months to follow. Within 7 thematic webinars and 21 online sessions, community members acquired knowledge, skills and exchanged experience on the following topics:

1/ Pros and cons of social media

2/ Writing compelling visual narratives and creating video stories

3/ Writing and implementing strategies for reaching and attracting new audiences

4/ Integrating the principles of gamification in planning and conducting traditional and online community events

5/ Identifying local ‘treasures' of tangible and intangible cultural heritage suitable for digitization

6/ Writing, adapting and implementing crisis plans and virtual platforms for culture in the work of chitalishta

7/ Communities resource management in times of crisis.

The final meeting, held online on the Zoom platform, was attended by representatives of the Chitalishta included in the project, the five experts and trainers, Mr. Yuriy Valkovski, Deputy Minister of Culture, Dr. Silva Nalbantyan-Khacheryan, head of the "Regional Activities" department at the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Bulgaria.

Deputy Minister Valkovski gave a special and warm welcome to the participants of the meeting, emphasizing the role and responsibility of the chitalishta as an organization of the future and outlined some of the priorities in the policy of Ministry of Culture this year. Silva Khacheryan, PhD, reminded the participants that the register of the Bulgarian intangible cultural heritage is open for submission of new applications in reference to some of the videos presented on the new Youtube channel, launched within the project.

One of the highlights of the meeting was the presentation of one of the two digital products realized during the project - the new YouTube channel for short video stories by chitalishta, named "DAR". The channel already presents 21 videos created by the chitalishta as a result of their training in the project. The channel is designed as a platform for short visual stories for chitalishta, which wish to present their "gifts", exciting projects and discoveries to the general public, and is open to new proposals. The representatives of the community centers were encouraged to use the acquired skills and knowledge as a starting point to produce their own short online content to promote their achievements, uniqueness and cultural heritage.

The finale of the meeting and the project was set with a discussion among the representatives of the community centers which was focused around applying the digital skills in their activities, their vision for new digital alternatives for their community centers and communities. At the closing of the discussion it became clear that the largest part of chitalishta in the project already work in the digital environment and produce hybrid and digital products. Among the good examples were the production and distribution of visual stories with ethnographic content on ancestral memory, culinary traditions and livelihoods, digitization of cultural heritage and its inclusion in national and regional registries, organizing virtual festivals with participants from all parts of Bulgaria and beyond. As examples were shared the organization of an altered reality exhibition, the restoration of old tape recordings on discs, online art classes and amateur activities. Other highlights were ideas for adapting alternative / open cultural spaces by broadcasting and projecting community events on outdoor screens, making virtual maps with mobile QR codes for stories about local landmarks, etc.

The participants' common conclusion about the project was that they had found motivating examples for their future projects through sharing and discussions.

The second digital product of the project is an online brochure with summarized topic presentations and discussions.

We thank all participants in the "DAR" project for their dedication, curiosity and desire for progression!

The news is written by Irina Koteva, "Digital Marketing for Important Causes" program.

This document was created with the financial support of the Active Citizens Bulgaria Fund under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. All responsibility for the content of the document is borne by Platform AGORA and under no circumstances it can be assumed that it reflects the official statement of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Operator Active Citizens Bulgaria Fund.



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