Active Communities for Development Alternatives

Activating Communities Through the Chitalishte Community Cultural Centers in Bulgaria

In April 2009 AGORA Platform started the implementation of Activating Communities Through the Chitalishte Community Cultural Centers in Bulgaria project, supported by the America for Bulgaria Foundation. 

The project goal is to develop, apply and widely promote a mechanism for stimulating civic activity in small settlements through the Chitalishtes. 

For a period of 12 months the project will be implemented in six pilot municipalities with diverse socio-economical and geographical profile. The six partner Chitalishtes that will apply the model are: 

  • Chitalishte "St. St. Ciril and Methodius", the town of Topolovgrad;
  • Chitalishte "Napredak", the town of Nikopol; 
  • Chitalishte "Svetlina", the town of Cherven Briag;
  • Chitalishte "Svetlina", the village of Momchilovtsi (Smolyan Municipality); 
  • Chitalishte "H. Nencho Palaveev", the town of Koprivshtitsa;
  • Chitalishte "Liuben Karavelov", the village of Kurtovo Konare (Stamboliiski Municipality).

The project will provoke change in the civic activity of the small settlements residents through diverse participation methods and tools for community development. Representatives of diverse community groups will be involved in public discussions on local problems, consensus decision making and mobilization of public support for finding solutions. The Chitalishte will serve as a mediator to encourage the dialogue between the residents and the local institutions, authority and business representatives and will improve the interaction in the community. Thus, the trust in the effectiveness of the civic initiatives will be built. Six local problems will find their solutions relaying not only on project funding but also on mobilizing local resources. The citizens will have the information necessary to get involved in key local development issues decision making and to develop their entrepreneurship and initiative. 

The project activities are as follows: 

  • An induction training seminar for Chitalishte representatives and community leaders from the selected six localities will introduce the project approach and will equip the local teams with practical skills for mediation, conducting and moderating public forums and debates. 
  • Organize and carry out community forums in the selected six localities for identification and prioritization of local problems and finding a way to solve one of them with consensus. The Forums will strengthen the role of the Chitalishtes as community meeting point for discussions and public debates on local issues. They will build the skills and competence of the local communities to use civic participatory approaches for problems solving, development of local policies and influence over the whole local development process. 
  • Solve the local problems chosen with consensus in the selected six localities with the wide participation of citizens in the process of mobilization of additional local resources, voluntary labor and advocacy campaigns. 
  • Systematize the experience and transfer the knowledge by description and promotion of good civic participation practices through the Chitalishtes. 

The accumulated experience during the Forums will be analyzed and used as a basis for compilation of a Guide for Organizing Public Forums and Discussions at the Chitalishtes. The knowledge and skills for application of the approach will be widely promoted and disseminated among the AGORA Chitalishte network. This will influence positively the building up of Chitalishtes' capacity as centers for community development and will outline the public image of the successful modern Chitalishte.