Event 2: Meetings and public presentations in the territories – International research seminar (Warsaw, January 2023)

Between January and May 2023, CO-GREEN partners actively worked to create participation paths aimed at  involving local communities , with the aim of identifying people’s needs, ideas and desires in relation to the “green” transition and practices of environmental sustainability .

During this process, very interesting scenarios emerged, although with very different characteristics. The Polish, Italian, Croatian and Greek territories have shown numerous points of contact, both in terms of critical issues and available resources and expectations for the future. CO-GREEN’s approach is in fact to involve local communities to create a consensus on methodological approaches.

In CO-GREEN, local communities from Poland , Italy , Croatia and Greece are working together to identify approaches that can support participatory processes involving citizens, local organizations and institutions.

Each territory identifies its own methodology, however, it is possible to identify some common points to use as a reference for local actions:

On  January 30 and February 1, 2023 , a two-day workshop was organized in Warsaw, by Polish colleagues from CAL and UMK. With the aim of exploring participants’ experiences on the methods and practices of participatory processes in local communities, the discussion focused on possible options to be used in different contexts. A field session allowed participants to meet a group of representatives from local public authorities, NGOs and citizens.

The first point addressed in the seminar work was to jointly examine the different contributions on the methodologies or approaches that the partners are using in their territories to support participatory processes.

Participants shared some points of agreement:

  • it is not possible to identify a single intervention model, one-size-fits-all,
  • it is necessary to enhance their respective approaches and practices, which are built starting from local specificities, including cultural and historical,
  • the opportunity for mutual learning, exchange and joint reflection on a transnational scale has great relevance as communities face the challenges of the green transition and the critical issues of climate change.

Some common concerns emerged from the presentations :

  • in CO-GREEN communities there is a common feeling of awakening; people realize that they now have the opportunity to change, focusing on green emergencies and developing actions to improve living conditions;
  • there is a need for community animators/activators who encourage individuals and groups to get involved, as an ongoing service that community members can refer to when organizing debates and events;
  • connected to the previous point, there is the question of the role of animators as professionals. Is it possible to provide paid work? Relying only on volunteering would reduce the effectiveness of their commitment and the continuity of their activities. The CO-GREEN budget can cover part of the animators’ costs;
  • there is a deep-rooted distrust towards public authorities; this weakens the will and ability of community members to take political action and demand lasting political change.

In practice, it was agreed that in each community the committed groups should decide what kind of action could be effective and could be designed and implemented.

The common analysis of the different approaches to citizen participation and activation has led to the articulation of some “building blocks”, constituent elements of the different approaches, found in the participating countries.

CO-GREEN Workshop Programme

On April 28, 2023, a stakeholders meeting was organised at the Department of Forestry, Wood Sciences, and Planning of the University of Thessaly as part of the European Project “Community-based Action for a GREEN transition (CO-GREEN).” The gathering brought together stakeholders from the Karditsa region. In addition to the Department of Forestry, Wood Sciences, and Design, participants included representatives from organizations such as the Energy Community of Karditsa SYN.PE (ESEK), Karditsa Development (AN.KA AE), the Center for Education for the Environment and Sustainability (K.E.P.A.) of Mouzaki, Limni N. Plastira Municipality, Karditsa Labor Center, 1st Experimental General Lyceum of Karditsa with the Climate Change – Climate Crisis Group, Itamos – Mouzaki AMKE, Women’s Center of Karditsa, and Energy Design company, among others.

The objective of the meeting was to share insights and perspectives of stakeholders on participatory processes and practices within local communities regarding environmental concerns. These experiences were assessed in terms of methodology, transparency, effectiveness, and their integration within the project’s context.

The consensus that emerged highlighted how participatory processes enhance decision-making and elevate its quality. The inclusion of opinions, needs, concerns, and proposals from interested parties aids in clarifying regulatory situations and individual interests. This, in turn, fosters the identification and formulation of alternative suggestions and solutions that better align with citizens’ needs and are more grounded in reality.

The points raised by the Karditsa community (Greece) focussed on the following contents:

Knowledge Gap: One of the challenges faced is the lack of information about environmental issues. It’s a crucial problem that needs immediate attention. To bridge this gap, it’s vital to disseminate information not only through social media but also through word of mouth. Together, we can empower our community with the knowledge needed to take action!

Motivating Youth: The community recognizes the significance of engaging the youth in green initiatives. They are the driving force of tomorrow’s change. By motivating and inspiring them, we can pave the way for a greener future. Let’s instill the passion for environmental stewardship in our youth!

Inclusive Structures: It’s crucial for local governments to establish permanent structures that foster participation from active citizen initiatives. By working hand in hand, we can ensure that our community’s diverse voices are heard, and real needs are addressed. Together, we are stronger!

Small Ideas, Big Impact: Karditsa believes that even the smallest ideas can create a significant impact. They’re gathering these ideas to kickstart planning actions for the next stage. From recycling initiatives to engaging photo competitions and involving the local forest school, there are countless possibilities for positive change. Let’s turn these ideas into reality. The community of Karditsa demonstrates a high level of involvement in participatory processes, with individuals engaging either as representatives of civil society organizations or as active citizens. This active participation indicates a strong commitment to shaping their community and influencing decision-making processes.

The Co-green project is part of the CERV funding program – ” Citizens, equality, rights and values ” -, launched by the European Commission in 2021 and active until 2027.The project is funded by the European Commission .