Accept the challenge
Bridging the gap between community initiatives and public institutions by creating a safe space for citizen engagement.
Name of project: Accept the challenge / Prihvati izazov
Serbia’s second largest city – Novi Sad – needs to increase participation rates in democratic and institutional decision making. This challenge team believes that a bottom-up approach to solving society’s most pressing issues starts by creating an open dialogue.
Working with a local community partner, Kulturis Association, the Novi Sad City Library aims to turn public libraries into local community agoras – or public squares – where people can discuss important local issues and create change, helping to break down the polarisation between civil society and the public sector.
The challenge team is prototyping the model of an ‘express citizen lab’ in public libraries, which will act as a bridge between local community initiatives and cultural institutions. The uniqueness of the format is that everyone’s opinion counts equally. Witnessing the direct impact their contribution is having on collective solutions empowers citizens and builds up democratic capacities. The ready-to-replicate model can be adapted and implemented by the local community.
The aim is to motivate and empower citizens, particularly those from disadvantaged groups, to take a more active role in the most pressing questions facing their local communities.
The community is very much involved as a co-creator of a prototype for the initiative. The ‘challenge journey’ started with a survey among the citizens of Novi Sad to prioritise the topics that they wanted to discuss in greater detail. They created two labs to help test and define their prototype: one dedicated to mental health issues and the other to ecological awareness among younger generations.
The challenge team is eager to showcase their prototype among other public libraries and cultural institutions in Serbia, as well as among colleagues on a regional level. By welcoming new ambassadors for their idea and developing new partnerships, they would like to expand their network and mission so that it has a lasting effect on citizens’ wellbeing, as well as on the democratic values of Serbian societies.