The project will be implemented by Center Amalipe, Open Society Foundation – Sofia, Civic Participation Forum and nine schools in at least 50 municipalities in disadvantaged regions and communities outside Sofia. It will reach broad number of high-school-aged students, especially those that are underserved, from vulnerable Roma communities, from underdeveloped regions, etc. in order to significantly increase their knowledge, interest and motivation to be active in various forms of civic participation. They will be included in a set of interactive peer trainings (including Leadership academy), formal school trainings and campaigns / simulations. A set of online and paper tools will be developed and used. More than 3000 students will be included in (peer) trainings, 10 000 in campaigns, simulations and other similar activities, 20 000 in social media campaigns.

Problem Statement: A large share of young people of secondary school age do not have the necessary knowledge and do not show interest in important democratic principles, such as civic participation, exercising the right to vote, fighting racism, discrimination, hate speech, etc. In particular, this applies to young people from rural areas, underdeveloped regions (Northwestern Bulgaria which is the poorest region in EU, but also all the other regions, except Sofia), as well as young people from the Roma community and other ethnic minorities. This undermines the foundations of Bulgarian democracy, leads to the alienation of young people from the political process and favors the entry of extreme forms of nationalism, anti-Roma discrimination, Euroscepticism.

At the same time, our work in schools and marginalized Roma communities all over Bulgaria points out another problem. There are „underdeveloped clusters“ in the better developed regions – communities which are marginalized and the development of the region even sharpens the gap between them and majority population. This refers also for the young people in these communities. 

Program Goals and Objectives. The goal of the project is to reach broad number of high-school-aged students, especially those that are underserved (both in formal education and those who have dropped out of school), from vulnerable Roma communities, from underdeveloped regions, etc. in order to significantly increase their knowledge, interest and motivation to be active in various forms of civic participation, These forms will include different aspects: informed exercise of the right to vote, the protection of right of minorities, fight against anti-Roma discrimination and hate speech. 

To achieve our goal, we set the following objectives: 

  • Involvement of 3000 young people in a series of interactive trainings on democratic rights, civil participation, minority rights, combating anti-Roma stereotypes and hate speech ;
  • Involvement of around 10 000 young people in various activities such as campaigns, simulation of civic participation forms to stimulate youth participation, advocacy campaigns, etc.
  • Involvement of 20000 young people in social media campaigns 
  • Development of the necessary tools for reaching the young people through formal and informal education: an online civil rights online application (user-friendly and attractive to young people), set of pedagogical materials, etc
  • Introducing forms of civic intercultural education through the formal educational system: piloting in 20 high schools

The young people included in the project and reached by project activities will not be only Roma but also from other undrserved groups (including young people from underdeveloped regions and municipalities, young people with disabilities, migrants and other minorities. The list is not exclusive.).

Activities

  1. Inception survey. Its aim will be to create a clear picture about the attitudes, motivation, skills and knowledge of young people towards democratic processes and participation, as well as the methods that can better reach them. Special focus will be youth from disadvantaged regions and communities.
  2. Leadership Academy for Student Parliaments and Youth Activists. Amalipe has significant experience in organizing Leadership academies for Tolerance. (https://amalipe.bg/liderska-akademiya-2022/). This experience will be further developed and upgraded with skills for the various forms of democracy processes, civic participation, advocacy, anti-Roma discrimination and ways to combat it. Youth will be trained on how to plan grassroots advocacy campaigns and peer training. Special focus will be on organizing campaigns, advocacy actions and prevention of „vote buying“, prevention of corruption and bribary practices. This will be further developed in the follow-up activities: campaigns , peer trainings and youth advocacy actions.
  3. Interactive peer trainings at local level. they will follow the Leadership academy and will be conducted by the youth trained assisted by teachers and professional facilitators. 
  4. Campaigns, simulations and other civic actions. The aim of this activity will be to increase youth participation and give them the chance to put into practice the knowledge and skills gained during Activity 2&3.
  5. Online application. Development and testing of an online application for civil rights directed to young people. It will include also topics related to anti-Roma discrimination, hate speech (including online).
  6. Preparation of a package of training materials on civic and intercultural education, democratic rights and tolerance for high school students.
  7. Youth Conference and dissemination activities. The youth conference will be organized at the end of the project and will bring together all active participants to share experience, achievements, meet each other. It will contribute to forming an informal active democratic youth community.

The project is implemented within the Public Diplomacy Small Grants Program of the State Department through the Embassy of the United States in Bulgaria.