Published 13th July 2022

Citizen Participation University

4 – 8th July 2022, Civil College, Kunbabony, Hungary

Organising for Climate Justice in Times of Crisis

At last years Citizen Participation University (CPU) event I travelled alone to a Hungary still on the ‘amber travel list’. Needing 4 ‘third party’ tests to complete my week away. This year I was joined by CEO Nick Gardham and community organiser Moussa Sylla Anime from Selby Trust in London. Together, armed with our negative covid test results, we headed off to Hungary, eager to participate in the event. Our collective goal was to learn new skills, reinforce our knowledge, and strengthen connections.

The people attending the CPU were creative change makers, community organizers, movement leaders, activists, artists, community development workers, and adult educators from across Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and United Kingdom). There were also representatives originating from North America (USA, Canada).

CPU GOAL

The aim was to create a space for participants to think critically about their work in relation to ‘crisis’ in general, and the climate crisis in particular. To develop our collective capacity to organize affected, building the power and solidarity we need to win systemic justice.

CPU OBJECTIVES

  • Share experiences and practices on organizing for systemic justice in Europe
  • Analyze the connections between systemic injustice and the climate crisis in Europe
  • Develop strategies for organizing in times of crisis
  • Network, build solidarity and alliances among movements in Europe

CPU AGENDA

The agenda for the week was split between whole group plenary sessions, learning labs and creative workshops.

The daily learning labs followed three themes:

Learning Labs Day 1

  • Climate Justice Organizing
  • Strategic Orientations to Crisis
  • Discovering Our Own Power: Intro to Public Narrative and Story of Self

Learning Labs Day 2

  • Organizing for a New Green Deal and a Just Transition
  • From Emergency Response to Organizing
  • Sharing Community Power: Introduction to Story of Us

Learning Labs Day 3

  • Mobilizing and Organizing for Climate Justice
  • Organizing Under Authoritarianism: The Hungarian Election Campaign
  • Facing Power: Introduction to the Story of Now and Linking the Pieces Together

The plenary sessions were an opportunity to come together and share our expertise and knowledge.

The plenary sessions included:

  • Introduction: Organizing for Climate Justice in Times of Crisis
  • Building the Collective Power of Frontline Communities
  • Climate Justice Simulation: Decision Points Game (whole day event involving small group work, large group work, forum theatre and power mapping)

Other activities over the week included:

  • Action Learning Circles
  • Marketplace (the opportunity to show off your countries food and drink whilst introducing people to your organisation)
  • Open Space
  • Evening Activities (including open stage, bands, decision making circles, personal stories etc)
  • Meditation and Mindfulness

WHAT DID I LEARN FROM THE WEEK AWAY?

It was a motivational week. Learning new skills, developing my practice, refreshing knowledge, and developing ideas. The feeling of solidarity in the space was incredible and inspiring.

All the countries represented were facing many of the same issues that we see here in the United Kingdom.

  • The fear of climate change and its effects on communities.
  • Governments that don’t listen or fail to act
  • Racism and xenophobia – including institutional prejudice against people with disabilities
  • A sense that there is a growing gap between the rich and poor
  • Access to food and basic human rights
  • The lack of access to Wifi, and the incapacity to access services
  • The levels of ‘real democracy’, and citizen’s abilities to challenge power.

I also sensed how there is a growing movement of younger activists that want to see systemic change in the world. To create a fairer society that takes on the challenges of climate change.

NEXT STEPS

There is an overwhelming drive to build on the solidarity that we felt at CPU.

Community Organisers are planning to run a series of workshops in collaboration with the European Community Organisers Network (ECON). The workshops will follow a narrative of connecting with each other, identifying the key issues that affect us all, creating strategies and agreeing on joint actions.

Organising for Climate Justice in Times of Crisis has never felt more relevant, important, or urgent.

Many organizers with different backgrounds work in neighborhoods all across Europe every day. Each has unique stories to tell about their successes, challenges, and lessons learned along the way.
European Community Organising Network (ECON)

WHO ATTENDED

Here is a list of some of the amazing grassroots organisations represented at CPU:

The workshops will happen in Autumn/Winter 2022 after our national event – CO22.

 

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