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Democracy Needs Imagination action grants: second round Back

Democracy Needs Imagination action grants: second round

11 Dec 2019

In the second round of our Action Grants under the theme Democracy Needs Imagination we wanted to support people who are working for European democratic values. People who are fighting for their rights as citizens, for their right to public space and personal freedoms, and for their right to creative expression. The call ran from September 9th to September 27th 2019, and was a follow up to our call to action in the run-up to the European Parliament elections. Again, we received hundreds of applications, which strengthened us in our belief there are many of you out there working for a more inclusive, more democratic and more fun Europe. Meet the new grantees:


RECLAIM project

RECLAIM project – #IfWeDidThis campaign

The RECLAIM project will support a group of young people who are tired of politics alienating young people and failing to live up to their high expectations for it. Their campaign wants to rejuvenate democracy by showcasing how young people would be treated if they acted the same as some politicians. The group have created the #IfWeDidThis campaign to highlight the double standards at play and the solutions needed: politicians to stop using violent and dehumanising language and instead make commitments to draw many more young working class people into politics. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic we have adapted our campaign aims to address an issue that has been highlighted and exacerbated during the last few months – that of young people’s voices being missed from the conversations and consultations taking place as the country tries to ‘Build Back Better.’ This campaign will likely take the form of a collective of youth organisations (led by RECLAIM) asking for organisations and decision-makers to include the voice of young people in their decision making, and to do this in a meaningful way by pledging to spend time with young people, regularly, in their communities, to build a deeper mutual understanding, and to hopefully lead to better-informed decision making.


Hostwriter – Agora Europe

The Agora Europe project introduces the power of collaborative storytelling to European journalists and helps them to imagine a more diverse Europe by telling cross-border stories that matter. The Hostwriter team sees cross-border journalism as a tool to overcome national bias and prejudice, raising the quality of media coverage and encouraging underreported stories and underrepresented voices in international and local media. In the adjusted version of our project, we envision a digital 6-month program, were we funnel the lion’s share of the travel budget into emergency support, in the shape of immediate reporting grants. By doing so, we can offer an attractive opportunity to conduct quality journalism on underreported stories, while simultaneously contributing to the financial stability of freelancers at risk of leaving the profession. In order to be able to provide a meaningful financial contribution, we will limit the number of participants for the project to 20 journalists. This will enable us to provide an individual budget to be spent on living expenses, as well as a story budget to be split between the collaborative projects for project expenses. The adjusted group size will also enable us to go more in-depth while sharing experiences and expertise through digital channels.

Ideas Factory Association

Ideas Factory Association – Radical imagination residencies

Radical imagination art residencies are the opposite of innovative – these are the simplest and most logical solutions for a radically disconnected world – a space for encounter between urban dwellers and creatives on one hand and local, often culturally isolated inhabitants from villages of the poorest region of Europe – the Northwest of Bulgaria on the other. Artists are invited to live and create in local homes and surroundings, to be provoked by the unknown that is born out of a simple meeting between two humans. Radical imagination residencies intend to cocreate artistic content in one of the most culturally deprived regions of Europe and turn people`s homes into exhibition spaces. “Space for imagination has been taken away by isolation and disconnection – a void filled up with fear. We will create meeting points – an uncountable imaginative spaces born out of the simple fact that two humans are spending time together and sharing openly. We do not predict the results, nor we plan it thoroughly as the whole idea is based on building human connections and trust between the hosts and residents. The interaction in itself is creating a trust-space and is a belief in the possibility for quality human relation beyond ideology or partisan behaviour.” This project will now take place with a local artist in tandem to the international artists. The international artists that were supposed to be part of our rural residency will collaborate now with a local artist connecting those two localities.

East Street Arts

East Street Arts – Democracy Needs Queer Freedom

Democracy Needs Queer Freedom is a project that responds to the 175 million queer individuals worldwide who live under direct and indirect censorship. Over one week we will bring together an international group of artists as part of a longer-term project that interrogates how those within and outside of the EU can better promote universal equality and human rights. To that one week eastern artists are invited to collaborate with western artists. Screenings of LGBTQIA+ European films that have been censored or banned, followed by facilitated discussions, will hopefully build new allies.

Youth of European Nationalities

Youth of European Nationalities – Gather Up!

Youth of European Nationalities (YEN) is the largest network of youth organizations of autochthonous, national and linguistic minorities in Europe. Under the slogan “Living Diversity”, YEN represents 42 member organizations from 19 countries are represented in YEN. Their project is about bringing the results from their October 2019 autumn seminar on youth participation. Besides the different project ideas, which should inspire young people to engage themselves, the booklet gives an insight on project management as a tool for participation with youth organisations. The publication should become a useful tool for minority youth organisations at all levels, guiding them in their efforts of effective participation.

Escautville; Refugee community outside Athens, copyright Frank Theys

Escautville – Reinventing Society

When climate changes, society changes. It will cause disaster, inequality, mass migration and pose a threat to democracy. The documentary Plan B shows how the struggle for the climate and for democracy are connected. It shows different European civil movements at work reorganizing and reinventing society. Frank Theys is a renowned documentary maker. Menno Grootveld, co-director, and Michel Bauwens, co scenarist, are renowned activists, rooted in a large network of civil movements in Europe. The documentary is produced by Antwerp based production platform Escautville. This project has completely changed and will now be The Whole Earth Society is a 15-to-20-minute-long computer simulation showing how human life on Earth will evolve in the next century. The animation is not a film but a live computer simulation. Each screening will turn out differently according to the “intervening” audience. This will be screened in different venues across Europe.

European Community Organizing Network

European Community Organizing Network – Citizen Participation University

Central and Eastern Europe has been ground zero for radical right-wing and nationalist movements trading in the currency of racism and reaction. However, the CEE region is witnessing a renaissance of democratic resistance advanced by a new generation of leaders. For the past ten years European Community Organizing Network has helped cultivate these movements at an annual training and strategy school called the Citizen Participation University (CPU) which takes place each year outside of Budapest. It is a unique space that blends the “social science” of organizing and activism with the arts.

Over the ten years of its existence, the CPU has a proven track record of cultivating innovative movement activism, from initiating the resistance movement to the radical right in Slovakia, to cultivating collaboration between digital activists and community organizers in Hungary, to connecting the municipalist movements in Spain and Croatia to a wider network of activists in the CEE region. All the while, the CPU is built around bottom-up methodologies, creative expression, and a lot of heart-filled fun! This event is now postponed to the summer 2021.

Privacy Camp

European Digital Rights – Privacy Camp 2020

Going beyond cyber-optimist and cyber-pessimist arguments, Privacy Camp 2020 will seek to explore further dynamics in the activist-technology entanglements. Together with activists from diverse fields and scholars working at the intersection of technology and activism, this event will cover a broad range of practices and issues including surveillance, censorship, civic participation in information policy making, social media and political dissent, online civil disobedience, data justice, data activism, commons and peer production, citizen science and more.
Privacy Camp is co-organised by European Digital Rights (EDRi) which is an association of 42 civil and human rights organisations from across Europe, working to defend human rights and freedoms in the digital environment. They are now awaiting to publish their findings.

Tess Seddon

Tess Seddon – Say yes to Tess

Inspired by her experience of standing in the 2017 UK General Election Tess Seddon will develop Amateur Politician, a musical about democracy, and accompanying participatory campaign. The project is a call to action for all those who feel powerless in a political system that does not represent them; kickstarting imaginative, transformative approaches to democratic change.


Specimen – To Second European Languages/They Do Europe in Different Languages

The web-magazine Specimen launches a writing competition, open to all those who write in any European language. Still, in line with Specimen’s ethos and their idea of Europe, the submitted texts need to respect two guidelines:
1) they must present a form of linguistic hybridisation: it can be of any shape or form, in the language or in the theme, but it has to be key to the writing project;
2) they must be written in collective ways, involving and touching upon multiple strata and elements of society.
They aim to actively involve Europeans of all backgrounds [eg. detention centres, factory workers, religious groups, migrant communities] as to let every speaker feel part of a linguistic minority. Only the multiplication of minorities can form a true majority. Winner to be announced in September 2020.


Europa Reloaded

Building on the experience of Jungle Europa (a podcast series aired by La Republica, on the occasion of the EU2019 elections), Bulle Media will produce the podcast series Europa Reloaded, to be hosted by journalist Alexander D. Ricci. Europa Reloaded wants to provide a new window on European politics and society away from institutional politics and the Brussels bubble. With this Italian language podcast series the producers want to understand what drives European citizens in their democratic struggles across our continent; “From the grapples against gentrification of the inhabitants of the Alfama neighbourhood in Lisbon, to the fight of LGBTQ+ communities opposing conservative policies in Warsaw; from the engagement of activists in rescue-operations in the Mediterranean Sea, to the resilience of journalists against media censorship in Eastern Europe: why do these communities of citizens take action and engage in democratic battles? Can we find a shared understanding of democratic values and practices?” These topics have now been shifted to cover issues arising from the corona outbreak.

Sisters of Europe

Sisters of Europe – Stories

To empower women is to strengthen democracy. However, nowadays, men and women are still not equal in Europe. What can we do about that? Launched in 2019 by journalists Prune Antoine (France) & Elina Makri (Greece), the cross-border initiative Sisters of Europe follows a triple mission: telling stories, raising issues and taking political action. With this second edition, Sisters of Europe wants to promote more stories of inspiring women and alternative role-models, as well as impacting civil society by organizing tailored workshops providing answers and concrete help to empower women’s needs in different places. These topics have now been shifted to cover issues arising from the corona outbreak.


Compass – We the People, A Citizens Convention to Remake Democracy

Democracies across Europe are struggling to adapt to globalisation, climate change and new technologies. None more so than the UK, which has added Brexit to its list of seismic issues to address. “If we are to head off the threat of populism across the continent then we need new democratic structures and cultures.” That is why Compass, a UK based ideas and campaigning organisation specialising in new forms of democratic and political practice for transformative change, is launching We the People. They and partners in this project want to use the deliberate potential of a citizens convention to rewrite the structures of UK democracy and in the process prove that citizens have the ability to tackle the big issues society faces. They want to pressure the UK government into launching such a convention and then campaign to ensure its conclusions are heard and acted on. The citizen convention will be designed online and in the form of a conference (TBC).

European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture

European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture – European Manifesto for Roma Cultural Inclusion

The European Manifesto for Roma Inclusion invites leading majority institutions to share their infrastructure and cooperate with the Roma minority. This initiative wants to strengthen the ties between Roma and non-Roma actors within the cultural sphere, to build long-lasting cooperation, and to support the political participation of Roma through the visibility of Roma arts and culture. The manifesto disseminates the principles about the European identity built on the plurality of thoughts, histories, backgrounds and perspectives. It also invites museums to study their protocols and addresses where they appropriate Roma artefacts and heritage. The Manifesto revisits how time, space and movement are imagined and emerge differently within minority cultures, to reinvent outdated and irrelevant museum representations in Europe.

European Alternatives

European Alternatives – The citizens’ handbook for building democracy beyond borders
European Alternatives will create a guide book for young, upcoming and newly engaged citizens across Europe to navigate the scene of European democracy activism. They want to bring light to the jungle of opportunities that are on offer in Europe and give access to tested tools and methodologies. European Alternatives wants to provide the go-to place where the existential knowledge on transnational actions for democracy finds its home.


Waag Society – Gaming for the Commons

Gaming for the Commons sees (serious) games as a tool to re-imagine the commons in Europe – through design, play, and knowledge sharing. The current wave of democratic unrest, and threats such as surveillance capitalism and climate change, ask for strong civic response. We need a re-imagination of society and our environment as commons: collectively designed and maintained goods based on genuine democratic principles and practices.
To achieve this, people need easy, affective and diverse means to ‘live’ the commons. In Gaming for the commons, games take centre-stage. Games with a social narrative can be used to make people think about society and the world they want to live in. There are games that touch upon the democratization of public space and the commons, but there is great untapped potential to further develop and disclose these games.

TNI Fellow, Hilary Wainwright, in a Prague cafe in October 2019 speaking to the EastWest solidarity efforts captured in After the Wall, which TNI published in 1991

Transnational Institute – Reimagining democracy in Eastern Europe after 30 years of transition

Drawing on the rise of a postcolonial critique of Europe among progressive thinkers, the project Reimagining Democracy in Eastern Europe After 30 Years of Transition facilitates the cross-fertilisation and dissemination of new emancipatory perspectives from across the region. The project promotes the flow of fresh ideas, including the joint production of analytical works and the organisation of round tables and book presentations in major European cities, bringing together thinkers and activists from diverse national and social backgrounds to reflect on the current state of politics and economics in Eastern Europe and discuss new possibilities for collective action.

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