The School for Democracy is a program managed by Expert Forum that encourages critical thinking and active citizenship in local communities through supporting gymnasium and high school teachers in their efforts of using non-formal education to consolidate democracy. So far, we have reached almost 200 beneficiaries, more than 1000 members of the communities and students and more than 45 communities where we worked, in Romania and Moldova.
Our goal is to contribute at the improvement of the quality of the educational process so that the students’ interest in getting involved in the local decision process will grow as well. We work mostly at grassroots level, in small cities and rural areas.
The School is composed of a six-day training and a series of replication civic activities ran by the teachers, under EFOR’s supervision. Teachers learn about non-formal education, principles of democracy and how to write and implement a civic project to solve issues, with the participation of students and the community.
One of the priorities of the project is to exchange best practices with external stakeholders and partners on local participation and democracy. Special attention is given to the lack of voter education, fighting extremism, populism and discrimination, problems directly tied to the democratic derailments in the region.
The School started in 2012 and during the first years – until 2015 – was dedicated to young activities, while afterwards EFOR and British Council worked with teachers. The first edition started in 2012 and was dedicated to multiculturalism and gathered a number of 30 students from high schools in seven Romanian cities including Bucharest, Focsani, Cluj Napoca. Because 2012 was an electoral year, the follow-up civic projects were dedicated to electoral education. Therefore, several vote simulations, including mock-campaigns were organized in Bucharest (Gheorghe Sincai, Mihai Viteazu high schools) and in the country. More than 750 students participated in the simulations.
The second edition (2013) was dedicated to human rights, rule of law and fighting bad governance. The School gathered 20 activist students from all over the country. During the summer school, the participants teamed up and produced a newspaper called the Democrat, where they reported about activities, public participation experiences or projects.
In 2014 the main topics were clientelism, monopoly and state capture in failed states. The School brought together 21 young leaders from Romania and Republic of Moldova. EFOR organized for the first time a labyrinth theatre on the 23rd of August in order to make participants understand the importance of rule of law, through an experimental sensorial method. Several civic follow up activities were implemented, including a simulation of elections in Cahul and the development of an on-line database on EFOR’s website that contains information for the citizens on topics such as civic rights, electoral rights, labour regulations etc. See participants’ testimonials here.
In 2015 we trained 18 teachers and supported them to organize a number of ten civic projects in their localities, for 300 students. The main result is the fact that the young participants understood how the local administration works in a practical way and had the opportunity to express their needs in direct meetings with mayors and local councillors.
Some of the events in 2015 were attended by Mr. Gunnar Hæreid, vice-deputy governor of Sogn og Fjordane Region, Norway. Mr. Hæreid presented during several workshops held in Bucharest and Timisoara the work of the institution and good practices of local governance in Norway. The vice-deputy governor also attended a public event (How does the government engage in communication with citizens: experiences from Norway and Romania) about transparency and government engagement in Romania and Norway, held in January 2016. All the interventions have been highly appreciated and EFOR received requests from schools and teachers for future collaboration with the Governor’s office.
In April 2016, a team of EFOR experts visited Norway to better understand local democracy and the relation of the state with the citizen. A paper was published as a result of the visit – Democracy from the Fjords: civic participation and transparency in Norway. A personal experience. The project was implemented in partnership with the Governor’s Office.
In 2018, EFOR collaborated within an international program funded by the EU Commission through Europe for Citizens Program, Active Citizens for an Accountable Europe. The purpose of the project was to increase active citizenship in two urban centres in Romania – Cluj and Constanta – by engaging citizens on important local issues/subjects through various creative and interactive methods – debates, monitoring campaigns, and photography. EFOR, together with local partners, coordinated the efforts of young citizens to monitor how the local administration deals with important issues such as transportation, accessibility, and housing. We supported them in demanding more transparent and accountable administration through non-formal methods.
In 2019, we organized two editions of the School for Democracy, one for Romania and one for Moldova, as well as a networking event with all teachers from previous generations, in order to enhance their capacity to network and share experiences. 2020 started with a new edition, gathering 20 teachers from Romania.
More details on www.expertforum.ro/scoalapentrudemocratie/
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