Board games nights of financial education, planting of trees, dancing events for the whole family, training for beginner runners – the implementation of the initiatives within the participatory youth process Com’ON Sfântu Gheorghe has come to an end. The initiatives were proposed and carried out by young people in informal groups, whose creativity could thus blossom. The initiatives that received support for implementation were voted by the community, on the basis of the principle of participatory budgeting.
The initiatives carried out between September and November were held in 22 locations and gathered around 3,000 participants. The concept of this first edition was “Sfântu Gheorghe Plus”, and it wanted to encourage the involvement of young people in community development, emphasising certain topics and priorities relevant to the current urban reality in Sfântu Gheorghe. Spaces in Plus – means identifying and activating spaces in Sfântu Gheorghe, as well as rethinking existing spaces which can acquire another function, even if a temporary one. Topics in Plus – means bringing to the public attention a number of subject, ideas and initiatives that bring a novelty to the community life of Sfântu Gheorghe, generate a debate and a constructive exchange of opinions. The novelty can be related both to the subject itself and to the approach used in the implementation. Plus Experience – means initiatives that address the process of maturation of members of the local community from an early age by which they become active citizens of the city (especially children and young people). Plus Stories – highlighting and bringing to light the individual stories that highlight the diversity and multicultural aspect of the city, as well as the human interconnection between community members through these stories. Relationships in Plus – strengthening the relationship between the departed and remaining residents of Sfântu Gheorghe, strengthening the motivation to return home.
“Encouraging the involvement of young people is one of the most important of my tasks, because young people represent the future of Sfântu Gheorghe. I am very pleased that, through the Com’ON Sfântu Gheorghe program, we were able to support the implementation of the numerous initiatives, so the young people could have a direct impact on the city life. If we look at the variety of events, we see that the young, active population of the city is interested in all aspects of life, and this fact gives me hope. I encourage everyone to develop their ideas in the future, to work for their realization, and the municipality will continue to be an open partner”, said Antal Árpád, the mayor of Sfântu Gheorghe.
“It has been proven that the statement that young people are not interested in the environment and the city in which they live is not true. Moreover, they want to do something to make Sfântu Gheorghe a better place for them and their fellow citizens. We were amazed by the originality, the nature of the initiatives proposed by the youth groups and the dedication and responsible attitude demonstrated in the implementation of the initiatives voted by the community. I wish to emphasize the responsible financial planning undertaken by young people, their attitude towards the efficient use of public money. Last but not least, I welcome the attitude of the municipality that has supported a courageous process, by which I am convinced that it has become closer to the inhabitants of the city. Some global effects may not yet be visible, but such initiatives will change the city over the next ten years and turn it into a city where it is very good to live”, said Farkas András, strategic director of PONT Group, the coordonating organization of Com’ON Sfântu Gheorghe.
Com’ON Sfântu Gheorghe is a participatory budgeting process for youth in the city of Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania. It was initiated by PONT Group and organized in partnership with the Municipality of Sfântu Gheorghe, with a financial support from Bethlen Gábor Alap, Hungary.
This is the third PBY process in Romania after Cluj-Napoca and Timișoara. Both previous cities have a population over 300 thousand inhabitants and are effervescent university centres, while Sfântu Gheorghe has just over 50 thousand inhabitants. However, the city had become a cultural hub and a reference for cultural consumption in Romania in the past few years, so while there was a challenge in addressing the young people because of the size of the city, the cultural life had already paved the way for a youth participation program. Com’ON Sfântu Gheorghe was also connected to the thematic Year of Students.
The call for initiatives was launched at the beginning of March 2019 and in the course of 5 weeks, 62 initiatives were submitted by 61 informal initiative groups. After the technical verification, 57 initiatives went on into the voting phase and received in total a number of 6323 votes. 31 initiatives, out of which 2 were submitted by groups consisting of underprivileged young people received funding of 2500 lei (about 530 Euros) for implementation.
The call was addressed to informal groups of at least 3 young people aged 18-35, while the votes were cast by anyone regardless of age, as long as they lived, studied or worked in Sfântu Gheorghe. The initiatives needed to connect to one or more of five priorities: Plus Stories, Plus Places, Plus Experience, Plus Subjects and Plus Connections.