I am grateful to the School of Public Life for being able to participate in the “Who cares about elections?” workshop. I left the room as a conscious voter at the end of the three-day workshop. It helped me become not only a more effective member of the civil society organization I am volunteering at, but also a better citizen.
The workshop equipped me to be able to ground my reasoning on hard facts and real life examples in the upcoming election period. Hopefully, I will pass on what I have learnt this weekend convincingly wherever I can.
It was also a great experience to meet the other participants, get to know their issues, and share our knowledge. It is a very valuable aspect of the workshop that people from outside Budapest also participated in it, together with participants from Budapest who are not part of the usual NGO and activist circles. The workshop provided participating organizations an opportunity to develop their network, learn about the working methods of other organizations, and develop the programs of our own organization through some specific, practical exercises.
The expertise of the facilitators made a very difficult and broad topic accessible and digestible. There was no idle time or any futile moments in the course of the weekend.
This year, I had another opportunity to participate in the Advocacy and Base-building training of the School of Public Life. Even though I had already participated in a similar training, I learned a lot from this workshop, too. The reasons for this are rooted partly in the essence of the training, and partly in the ever-changing nature of my community where I will apply what I have learned. This time I felt that the group organization exercises were the ones that would help me a lot later.
It is part of the constantly renewing nature of the School’s trainings that different organizations are represented every time by different members. Therefore, each time a new community is formed, where you can meet new people while also see familiar faces. Besides, the training is very practice-oriented – we used real-life examples and shared our experiences – which makes it always very relevant. The methods and the training materials are also always updated, which is yet another proof of the facilitators’ professionalism.
The atmosphere was very positive throughout, as an small community was formed out of the participants in these two days, and I am sure I will be able to use the knowledge I learned here when I get home.
Antal Nagy (The City Is for All Pécs)
It is a curious story, how I found the autumn film club of the School of Public Life. Having lived abroad for many years with my partner, we decided to move home in summer. We had to re-discover Budapest and the intellectual spaces close to our worldview. Since we did not want to miss the smaller places that offer exciting programmes either, we found our way to Gólya Bistro, where we saw the flyer of the film club organized by the School of Public Life.
During this 8-week program, different social problems and processes were introduced and the social and political answers given to them through the emergence and operation of various social movements. The topics covered included housing, environmental justice, and the situation of disabled people in the world. According to the program, each screening was followed by a discussion facilitated by Mariann Dósa from the School of Public Life. She has great theoretical and practical knowledge about social movements, therefore we always felt as if we were participating in a professional discussion. Besides, she encouraged us to think about and discuss what we saw.
I think it is crucial to improve critical thinking and the culture of deliberation in Hungary. Today, extremely simplified and often victim-blaming messages dominate the public sphere, therefore it is very important to have organizations that promote a different approach and seek to the improve critical thinking and the exercising of democratic rights in Hungary. The film club was an excellent instrument for this and I hope that it will eventually be continued.
Personally, in the future I would like to watch movies about and discuss the procedures that led to the development of the above-mentioned problems. I am grateful for the School of Public Life for the organisation of the film club, the great discussions, and the important work they do in Hungarian public life!
Lately, I’ve been feeling that the knowledge I had gained so far was not enough to realize all I had set as my goals. So I participated in a three-day practical training, organized by the School of Public Life, titled ‘We must communicate – but how?’.
The training covered three topics, introduced by acknowledged trainers: first, we learned about nonviolent communication from Kriszta Hoffmann and Judit Wirth. Then we were acquainted with the tricks of facilitating discussions by Tessza Udvarhelyi and Panni Végh, and finally,Boróka Béni presented to us the restorative approach of conflict-resolution.
To sum it up, I had a chance to learn about communication methods that help to tame conversations and create an atmosphere for decision-making in which everybody can open up and share its opinion with the others. I was also introduced to decision-making mechanisms that I had never encountered before. I could see how important a role the leader of the discussion plays in these situations - either as moderator, mediator, or facilitator. We gained practical knowledge through the trainers, who are credible representatives of the topics they covered. Situational games became comic when we recognized the characters from our own private lives, and we could get a perspective on our own ways of working.
The participants came from different backgrounds, with different values and personalities, but these differences did not cause any conflicts, because we could develop in an atmosphere of democracy, acceptance, and respect thanks to the organizers’ professionalism. In this atmosphere, I could make new observations about myself and I recognized how I should communicate in order to be an active participant of the world around me, and be able to support others to do the same.
I would NOT recommend the training for those, who are planning to withdraw from the world and become a hermit, but for everybody else I would strongly advise it!
Bíró Annamária (Panni)
I was glad to hear about the training in data request, because we had already started requesting public data from maternity hospitals in KANGA Association when we heard there was a training about this. In the training, we learned how to use the Kimittud interface that is fully transparent, therefore our requests and the responses are accessible to everyone, and besides, due to the legal references provided by the interface, the institutions take it more seriously if we request data through it.
The questions we posed at the training can be grouped in the following way:
Before the training, 17 maternity hospitals responded to our request, and since then 73% answered us. I am especially proud of the fact that every home birth institution responded to us, as well as Róbert Károly private hospital that is not even obliged by law to provide data.
We followed the procedure that we had learnt in the training; we sent the request and we received the responses within 15 days, and no one asked for a fee or an extension of the deadline for data provision. Then we sent out the edited spreadsheet to provide an opportunity for the institutions to correct any mistakes. Having received the responses, we shared the database. Very soon it triggered a pretty huge reaction. :)
We are currently working on making commenting possible on our website in addition to our Facebook page.
And since this initiative is voluntary, community donations are very welcome, so that the database stays available for everybody in the future, too.
I am very grateful for the chance that I could take part in this effective and useful training!
Maróy Ditta, KANGA Association
In 2017, we had two types of trainings in the refugee education program of Central European University (OLIve: Open Learning Initiative). The participants of these trainings are refugees and asylum seekers, who wish to pursue education on the MA level, but to do so, they need to improve their English and their knowledge in the subject they want to study.
OLIve has an advocacy module that reflects the commitment of the organizers to the idea that theoretical knowledge is not enough for one to be able to live a life as an active citizen – it always has to be complemented with practical knowledge about social-political participation and representation. With this in mind, in three terms of the 2017/2018 academic year, we cooperated with Menedék Association in holding 12 workshops for OLIve students.
We used interactive educational methods in the training and, building on students’ personal experiences, we covered topics such as forms of political participation, mapping power relations, social movements and key ingredients of their success, citizen journalism, community-based and participatory action research, and the responsibilities of intellectuals. By the end of the academic year, students will plan and carry out their own advocacy projects individually or in small groups.
The second type of training that we are holding in cooperation with OLIve is individual tutoring in Public Policy of a refugee student from Afghanistan, who would like to study this field after the training year. We are glad to be able to take part in this program, and hope that our cooperation with OLIve will be long-lasting.
I’m no longer surprised by anything: I have been going to Budapest lately as if I was going home (it would be great to do this even more often). But if you knew how prejudiced I was towards Budapest! And today I feel I would be in a better place there, than here in Miskolc.
It was about a year ago that I got in touch with the „movement life” of Budapest and esoecially The City is for All (A Város Mindenkié, AVM). At this time in Miskolc, one could only see the rudiments of something (possibly) happening. Since then, to the best of my opportunities, I’ve kept in touch with AVM, the Streetlawyers and the School of Public Life. It was last August that everything changed: AVM held a two-day long civil rights and advocacy training in Miskolc at the invitation of Miskolc Has a Voice! Facebook group. This was when I realized that I was really needed in Miskolc.
I was eagerly waiting for the Nonviolent Communication training of the School of Public Life. Fortunately, I got in and everything went smoothly. I gained experiences that have provided me with enough ammunition to stand in the gap here in Miskolc. (This is how I feel every time: It’s simply good to be with you all.)
It was a great idea to collect and categorize our thoughts and expectations regarding the training at the beginning. I was also glad that by writing our names on stickers we were able to call everyone by their names during the training. The training started with such momentum and naturalness that it immediately had a grip on all participants. There were 24 of us with everybody representing a different vulnerable group. We started out the day as bunnies and finished as lions. This form of education should be institutionalized: beyond the acquiring of knowledge, it also builds community and strengthens us as individuals.
In the small group discussions, we got so close to each other during the constant flow of ideas as if we had known each other for ages. Our young and enthusiastic trainers had such an amazing impact on us that we sky-rocketed together. They explained everything in a plain and well-illustrated way and also made us play out what we had learnt. The training almost immediately inculcated in us and it left a lasting experience in all of us. At the end, we received everything we had learnt in writing, too.
I receive an unforgettable experience and KNOWLEDGE from the School of Public Life, every time we meet. Thanks to you and to all the participants in the training. Thank you for the experience of getting stronger and for making me feel that I’m not alone. We are many, and more and more of us have a desire to acquire knowledge.
I recommend the trainings organized by the School of Public Life to everyone, as they are unforgettable and unsurpassable.
Knowledge Gives Power
Ps: Big thanks for the materials, photos and notes you sent afterwards!
Photo: István Várady
On Tuesday, 13 June, after two postponed votes, the Hungarian Parliament adopted the Law on the Transparency of Foreign Funded Organisations. The community of civil society organisations united in the Civilizáció campaign continue to believe that the law is unnecessary, stigmatising and harmful. Unnecessary, because Hungarian civil society organisations are already transparent in their operations, provide accurate information about their donors and finances in annual reports and carry out their activities before the public. Stigmatising, because the law implies that organisations which work for the benefit of Hungarian society by receiving foreign grants for their work pose a threat to the country. Harmful, because it undermines mutual trust in society and questions the right to freedom of expression.
We, as civil society organisations, are diverse. However, we are united in our protest against being stigmatised and the efforts to stop us from carrying out our mission. We help millions of people each year by serving homeless persons, giving free legal advice or welfare services, educating or supporting disadvantaged children or senior citizens, or by protecting our environment. We work on genuine and pressing social issues that receive less attention than needed and often do the job of state authorities.
There is reason to fear that the newly adopted law will not stop the several years old governmental campaign to denounce Hungarian civil society organisations. On the contrary, this is a new step in a longer process that aims at fully discrediting civil society organisations. However, there can be no real democracy and civil liberties without independent and critical thinking and a strong civil society.
We, civil society organisations, cherish our diversity but stand united in our goal to make Hungary a better, more liveable place. All organisations affected by the law will keep this in their mind when they make their respective decisions on implementing the law on “foreign funded organisations”. We are convinced that the new law is in breach of Hungary’s Basic Law and many other international treaties ratified by Hungary because it unjustifiably restricts the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression. Hence, by using all opportunities afforded by law, we will continue to protest against the ‘foreign funded NGO’ law before all available domestic and international fora. We are here to stay and to continue our common work as we must not abandon Hungarian society and the people who need and count on our support.
In April, 2017 we held a training on grassroots organizing at the Central European University, which is currently under attack by the Hungarian government, so the topic was very relevant to our everyday realities. The student who initiated the training reports back about her experiences.
I contacted The School of Public Life for a grassroots organizing workshop because I saw a gap in my formal education on human rights and wanted a practical approach to social change. A few months before, I had started a student group hoping to find like-minded activists. However, few of us had experience with social movements. We were passionate but lacked a framework for how to accomplish the change we wanted to see in the world.
The workshop gave us useful insights into how momentum and organizations interrelate and the differences between community development and community organizing, strategies and tactics, and activism and organizing. One of the key takeaways for me was to have a conscious methodology, a strategy for reaching a goal. After being provided with clear examples, the workshop participants collaborated on plans for achieving various kinds of social change.
When the workshop ended, we were not only more knowledgeable about grassroots organizing, but energized by people from diverse backgrounds who were able to work together on important social projects. Even those who have had a lot of prior experience with activism had a lot to learn and think about. The 8-hour workshop gave my classmates and I a taste of grassroots organizing, and we hope to dive deeper into it thanks to the very inspiring workshop led by Tessza and Mariann.
Lot of people ask the question worldwide how to assert their interest as a group when they are supressed, they suffer encroacments on their rights or similar problems. We learnt a lot about these in Budapest in the past 2 months in Közélet Iskolája through films – by discussing and interpreting the films as well as reading related literature to the subject.
How to start with it - what is the recipe?
We need a smart group of people. One of them should be a leader who can speak for the group and who is able to communicate coherently. We need a plan, and a strategy. If we document our work there is more chance to be successful. It is advisable to ask for lawyer’s help in order to support our fight for a legal act, arbitrament or modifying paragraphs. There is always a possibility to get intarnational help and it is worth quoting international norms. And people will support us as they realise we are fighting with all our hearts for a good case,or trying to solve a problem, which could affect all of them.
What kind of films did we see?
We came to learn several cases, like homeless ,disabled persons from Hungary, Africa, and from the United States, victims of police agression, factory squatters, enviroment protectors, victims of countries at the edge of financial bankruptcy. The lecturers helped us to focus on the relevant issues and put us in the picture regarding the actual situations. The historical study handouts were of a great help for us and made us able to become helpers ourselves to people struggling with similar problems.
We decided to keep in touch as a group, which was made up by a lot of different people: students and long-time activists like refugee helpers, environment protectors, as well as disabled , unemployed and homeless persons.
We met members of the Movement of Public Workers, and the activists of The City is for All as well as organisations participating in a program of Védegylet.
You will probably hear from us soon!
Photo: István Várady