The Funky Republic
– BUILDING A LOCAL NETWORK OF NGOs TO ENCOURAGE CIVIC PARTICIPATION –
In a nutshell: we're expanding
What is Funky Republic? It is the official name of a project carried out by Funky Citizens and the codename of a future civic network. 2023 The year in which Funky Citizens will expand from Bucharest to the country, by opening a variety of branches, coordinated by one or more representatives in the territory.
In a first phase, the expansion will be tested by co-opting 7 localities in this new network: Timișoara, Brașov, Bistrița, Târgu Jiu, Mediaș, Podu Iloaiei and Chilia Veche. The organizations that will join the Funky Republic will mediate the dialogue between the community and the local authorities, they will ally for good knowledge of the civil society at the local level.
Funky who, Funky what?
Funky Citizens officially exists since May 2012. Since then, it has been working with online advocacy tools, based on research and carefully collected data, to fulfill its vision: a modern, well-governed Romania (=with efficient institutions that understand role and manage public money with transparency), populated by as many involved and unsophisticated citizens as possible. Ideally, the funky citizen is a model citizen who:
- is active, rather than passive. He is not apathetic or fatalistic
- is not limited to just criticising dysfunctionalities but rather assumes individual responsibility
In short, Funky Citizens is a good catalyst for anyone who wants to get involved civically and thus contribute to the increase of the quality of life in Romania. If you are curious how it works, read though our whole strategyif you want to see Funky Citizens projects – take a look on website (including the blogor editorial projects such as Factual.ro project or Bucharest Bulletin.
Why now? Why so? Why network?
Because our 10-year experience has shown us that change can occur faster at the local level, and victories bring other victories, so they can be contagious and can also expand to the county, region and even country level. Because the world is a bit civically depressed, and maybe together we can boost each other.
Because we were in civic caravans around the country, we roamed various localities on the occasion of trainings and other events, we accredited voting observers and we did all this organically, by ourselves. Now we want to work a little more structured with all the people who believe in our values:
- Transparency and integrity
- Competence and efficiency
- Collaboration and communication
- Interdisciplinarity and inclusion
- Sustainable development and solidarity
What role does Funky play in building the network? We organize, coordinate, connect and advise (if necessary), as we have done on other occasions.
Benefits and setting expectations: We work in the medium and long term
Everyone in the network will be funnier thanks to the trainings and collaborative work with the Funky Citizens team. In the short term, their organizational capacity will be "developed", that is, they will benefit from punctual and constant support "from the center" (but also "from the territory") for their causes. And the network itself, if it works as we envision it – based on collaboration, exchange of best practices and advice – will be a force in advocacy of common interest.
The ultimate goal would be to have citizens as involved as possible (so civically educated), who ask the authorities to do their job, to keep an eye on the authorities, to demand that public money be spent wisely. All for a better quality of life in that community.
Opportunities range from networking between existing civic groups in the territory to new funding opportunities or joint support in related projects.
What activities will the network start with? We will organize a set of 4 trainings in each of the 7 initial localities, one for each priority area:
Civic education – how Romanian democracy works:
- Institutions and fundamental principles
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Tools for participation in city life
- How we promote ideas for the community
The decision-making process in local administration
- How does local government work,
- What tools do citizens have at their disposal to intervene in addition to their authorities
- About public policies in general: good practices / bad practices
- Public finance management - budgets, procurement, public investments and European funds
- Budget cycle, standards and basic legislation
- Budget classifications and how we find the data
- How we monitor investment projects from national or European funds and how we promote new projects
- Open budgets at national and local level – how we demand more transparency and participation
Journalism / Fact-checking
- About Law 544/2001 on access to information of public interest, its application rules, coverage area and pretexts invoked by the authorities (eg: GDPR) to violate it
- About how we can use public data and what you do when you can't get the information – eg how you sue the state
- About how to "follow the money" and public procurement systems - how we follow them and how we understand them
- About reliable sources and verification of information
Good to know about trainings
- We want to tailor their content to the needs of the local community. The approach will therefore be a practical, applied one, with an emphasis on identifying problems at the community level.
- These trainings will be designed so that participants can replicate them.
- We want relevant citizens from your community to participate in the trainings, including journalists.
- The training sessions will not be recorded and will be conducted exclusively offline.
What is the Local Transparency Index?
Another visible activity of the network, the Index that will effectively and objectively measure the quality of civic life in Romanian localities will function as an advocacy tool for network members by identifying the level of access to information and public participation, with the help of the selection of researchers from these areas, and in the following, we will expand to the rest of the country. The index will be produced annually and will constitute a starting point in the dialogue with public authorities and advocacy actions regarding the participation of citizens in the decision-making process.
oldies, but goldies
If not now, when the world seems to be pulling its soul a little from the civic ones, when should we close ranks? After 10 years of being in Bucharest and consolidating good relations with several other communities in the country, we want to expand in a more organized way to other areas.
With the help of sociologists, we identified a few places where we could have a greater impact if we found the right allies. It's what we called the "inner circle" and it includes the cities Bistrița, Brașov, Mediaș, Podu Iloaiei, Târgu Jiu, Timișoara and the commune of Chilia Veche from Tulcea county. But because we need all possible forces to make a more livablecountry, we've left the outer circle open as well, for people from other cities.
If you want to be part of the "Funky Republic", you can formally express your interest through a "membership application", which you can fill out online, in about 15 minutes, by clicking on the button on this page.
What membership entails
- you benefit from punctual assistance, when you need it, within the limits of the available time, in areas such as public budgets, local administration, civic education and journalism / fact-checking
- to begin with, those in the "inner circle" will benefit from specific training in four areas - local budgets, decision-making process in local public administration, civic education and journalism / fact-checking.
Short / medium term calendar:
- September 10 – we close the registration form
- September 19 – online calls with those selected
- from November - we'll also see each other offline, at trainings
Note: we will co-create, together, the identity of the network. "Funky Republic" is therefore only an intermediate name.
excerpts from the Official Project Description
In most settlements in the country, there is no coherent framework for constant dialogue between citizens, NGOs and local authorities. Out of the 105.000 local NGOs, only half are active, most in urban areas. In projects such as the Civic Caravan in 2019, we discovered that although many small settlements have several NGOs and active informal groups, they do not work with each other or do not know about the existence of others. We believe that authorities and citizens do not actively dialogue because they lack a real model, a successful precedent from which to draw inspiration.
The local level is the optimal one for a paradigm shift of the civic and political involvement of the citizens, with fast and impactful results, which can stimulate citizens to repeat the initiative. The interest for a continuous involvement in the public administration is small, although the turnout for local elections is exceeded only by the presidential elections. There is no strong culture of public participation, unlike in the Northern countries, for example. Moreover, the law governing decision-making transparency at the administration level provides a minimal framework that's outdated since 2003.
- We want to create a network of local organisations to support the development of active citizenship, as well as to stimulate constructive dialogue between authorities, citizens and local civil society representatives.
- Creating a methodology, with the support of Norwegian partners, to provide the enabling framework for ongoing dialogue focused on local problem-solving, focused on (1) local budgets, (2) decision-making process in local administration (3) civic education and (4) journalism / fact-checking.
- Implementation of the involvement model in the local decision-making process in Bucharest + 7 other communities through a series of 32 trainings in the 4 priority areas and by creating an index of transparency and openness of local authorities.. Produced annually, the index will be a communication and advocacy tool for the network.
- Organizational development of Funky Citizens, through internal trainings and formalization of procedures, in order to streamline internal activity and prepare us for the role of "umbrella organization".
- Sociological and market research through which we identified the geographical areas we will focus on and the needs present at the local level. Aside from Bucharest, these areas are the cities of Bistrița, Brașov, Mediaș, Podu Iloaiei, Târgu Jiu, Timișoara and the commune of Chilia Veche from Tulcea county
- Creating an „ABC of civic involvement” that is, a guide dedicated to citizens and partly to local authorities that includes the four chapters: (1) local budgets, (2) decision-making process in local public administration, (3) civic education and (4) journalism / fact-checking.
- Network capacity development through 32 trainings aimed at the associations and citizens of the chosen communities
- Launch of the network through a 2-day event with members of the inner cicle
- Developing the local transparency index which will effectively and objectively measure the quality of civic life in Romanian localities
- Advocacy at local and national level as a follow-up to the index
We will develop replicable tools and resources and we will implement a model of involvement in the decision-making process in 8 communities of different sizes: Bucharest, 2 large, 2 medium, 2 small cities and a village.As a coordinating organisation, we will also monitor the advice of stakeholders to ensure the smooth running of activities.
Funding and partners:
The project benefits from a budget of 276.980 euro of which 246.000 are awarded through the Active Citizens Fund Romania.
2 ani și 2 luni: 15 martie 2021 – 15 mai 2023
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The project is implemented by Funky Citizens in partnership with Bjerkaker Learning Lab and Rise Project Romania and benefits from a 276.980 Euro grant from Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Grants 2014 -2021. The content of this website does not necessarily reflect the official position of the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org. More details about Active Citizens Fund Romania are available at www.activecitizensfund.ro.
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