Czechs narrow their focus to three topics
New forms of urban governance; citizen education and volunteerism and social inclusion will be the priority topics of the SEiSMiC project in the Czech Republic, participants agreed at the opening meeting of the National Network in Prague. The meeting, attended by 37 people on January 16 at the Impact HUB, was an opportunity for the Czech participants at the international SEiSMiC launch event to report back to their colleagues, and also to map out the next two years of Czech activities. A key takeaway from Brussels was that social exclusion is a common concern in all European countries, including the particular challenge relating to Roma. The topic could lead to some transnational cooperation as the Czech SEiSMiC partners plan to open a relevant discussion with colleagues from Sweden, which has seen a large influx of Romany. At the Prague meeting, the three priority topics at were front and centre. Regarding new urban governance, participant Roman Haken, who once worked in Brussels for the European Economic and Social Committee, drew attention to the Leader Programme, which introduced a novel system of citizen participation in funding decisions within the Fund for Agriculture and Rural Development. Haken said there’s a drive to adapt this system to other European funding mechanisms, and even to other levels of governance, including in towns and cities. He said it could be a big funding opportunity for civil society groups with expertise in participatory processes. There were separate presentations on citizen education and volunteerism. Participant Tereza Vávrová lamented that citizen education seems to reach the same social groups again and again while neglecting others. SEiSMiC’s activities on the topic should seek ways of involving everyone and, in this way, promote greater inclusion of marginalised people. Jiří Tošner discussed volunteerism, including the state of play in the country, the implications of the national Volunteer Service Act and some national best practices, including the Volunteer Center in Usti nad Labem. Emilie Horáčková spoke on the topic of gender and social inclusion. She explained that a basic problem with the Romany is that they were once nomadic and supported themselves by selling crafts from community to community. The traditional craftsmanship has been lost and with it a means of subsistence. SEiSMiC could play a role in teaching and promoting traditional Roma crafts to youngsters, she said. For the full minutes of the first Czech National Network meeting, click here.