Aktuális / English

Social inequalities in contemporary Hungary

 

It was already the third time that the School of Public Life held a training on critical social theory in a prison, this time in Balassagyarmat. In the following you can read the report of a participant:

“In the name of all of us, I can tell that we were happy about this program, and in the name of the group, I would like to thank you that we could be here and that you were here and brought some colors, some interesting things to our grey everyday lives. The discussions and the topics were good and interesting and thank you for the performance style and the preparedness of Mariann. It was interesting that the discussions on different topics were flowing freely, depending on what we were interested in, yet they happened with the help of Mariann’s questions and proposals, launching a chain of thoughts in everybody even if they had a firm belief on the subject.

We discussed topics that are significant in today’s society and faced by the majority of the people – especially when somebody is excluded or somebody excludes someone else – but still nobody really talks about them. Everybody thinks that they can’t do anything about them, so what’s the point in talking about them. In my personal opinion, such groups and initiatives are important. Because the power of words is bigger than the majority would think. The discussions that we have launch a chain of thoughts, which will later lead to action. If only one person from each group would relate differently even to only one of the subjects, then it is a success, because the change happens thanks to these discussions. Let’s say that because of such a discussion someone will not turn their head away when they see a homeless person, but give him or her some coins or a sandwich. And through these small changes, the world becomes a better, more livable place. We are thankful that with this series of discussions, they opened up windows for many undiscussed problems. Listening to each other, we could hear many different points of view, while getting to know each other better and ourselves, too.

In the name of the group, I would like to wish you success in your future work and I hope you will be able to make more people get to know these problems. Thank you for these 10 weeks!

Gergő

Succesful, straightforward and human – report on non-violent communication training

 

If you feel like „if not me, nobody will ever” because somebody is always expecting something from you, so anger has accumulated inside you, than go and participate in the training of Non-violent Communication at the School of Public Life.

„Never,” „nobody,” „all the time,” „always,” „somebody” are the keywords of violent communication and if you hear yourself use them often, it is very likely that neither you nor the people in your environment communicate non-violently.

On one hand, communication is necessary. On the other, it is good. You will be shocked if you go through with the two trainers the endless verbal and non-verbal labyrinths of manipulation, sub- and superordination and harmful communication.

You will be especially surprised when you get to know the small but powerful toolkit of non-violent communication. Respectful asking or telling, spiced with some empathy and some eye contact - without blame and vague references. Clean, simple, free from frippery.  Succesful, straightforward and human. Hard, but not impossible.

And, I think, it is the natural need of many many people. But we have to learn non-violence again because the games that we are forced into during our lives make us forget open communication that aims at consensus.

I am happy that I could take a really interesting journey in the honest world of words and gestures.

I recommend for everyone to get a taste of this training (too) at the School of Public Life!

Andrea Csengei

Photo: István Várady

„I learnt a lot about human rights and I know where I can get legal help” – report on the course in the prison of Eger

 

„I learnt a lot about human rights and now I know where I can go for legal support. We have heard about issues that we don’t get to know in everyday life” – this is how one participants summarized what she learned at the training on citizenship co-held by the School of Public Life and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. The training was held in the fall semester of the 2016/2017 academic year and its aim was to raise awareness about the opportunities for the enforcement of civic, democratic and fundamental rights and to develop participants’ abilities for self-advocacy. The course took place in a women’s prison in Eger and we were happy to see many returning participants: around half of the 18 women had already participated in our training on social inequalities held in the same institution in the previous semester.

At the beginning of the course, we got to know universal human rights. Participants discussed the rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and tried to agree on which ones were the most important for them. Although not every group managed to reach a consensus on the 10 most important human rights, the discussions were good and participants tried to convince each other with strong arguments. From the discussion, it became clear that human rights cannot be divided and are mutually related, creating a uniform system, where it is not possible to get rid of one element without endangering the others.

During our next session, we studied the relationship between civil, political and social rights and examined the importance of self-determination with the help of a simulation game. First, we looked at signing a contract with a phone service provider, entering into a loan agreement and submitting a request for social aid. Second, using a real medical information package, we checked the conditions for self-determination in the health care system, which information is useful for patients to make responsible decisions, and how to assert our right to information.

Then, we studied the role of the state, constitutionalism and the rule of law and we also discussed the advantages of democracy and the deficiency of the democratic institutions. In this context, we clarified the most important things we need to know in order to exercise our right to vote (within and outside the prison), and we also listed the opportunities of civic participation in between two elections. The participants had many questions about different types of elections and about how someone can become a candidate. From the conversation it became clear that before the training participants had little knowledge about the right to be elected, but our discussion made them realize its importance. Some participants expressed an interest in becoming elected representatives for their own communities.

During the last few sessions, participants got to know the institutional system of the state of Hungary. We focused on what kind of cases belong to which authority, law court or institution, and where we can go if we want to practice our civil rights. We dedicated a separate class to the topic of discrimination and the possible actions against it. Participants found these classes particularly useful. At the end of the course, we dealt with the rights of detainees and opportunities for advocacy after their release.

We ended the training by playing Sociopoly, a board game that simulates life in small-town Hungary. Participants couldn’t wait to try if they would succeed in breaking out of poverty. Then, sadly, what we learnt together is that regardless of the strategies they chose, it was almost impossible to break out of the desperate situation that many small towns and villages are locked in. It is clear that the only path, according to what the participants learned during the training, is: „we need to stand up for our rights” and „we cannot give up”.

Based on the experiences of this year’s training, we want to improve this course in the following ways:

1.     The detainees have noticed the decline of democratic institutions and the rule of law and their life circumstances before detention and after release are often characterized by vulnerability to state institutions. So, in the future, we will narrow the detailed exploration of the ideals of democracy and the rule of law, because participants are aware of this ideals – precisely because of their vulnerability. (In short, state institutions should operate exactly the opposite of how they treat these people today.) Instead, we are planning to put more emphasis on the development and acquisition of civic skills and knowledge for advocacy in today’s Hungary. We will also try to clear some of the more abstract questions about democracy and the rule of law through practical examples such as the difference between legal aid and interest-based advocacy

2.     In the future – during the courses held for people outside penitentiary institution – participants will have to develop an independent civic project and demonstrate an action plan. We would like all participants to think about how they could use the tool-kit gained at the training when they fight against social injustice. The others would give feedback about the action plans, so that participants in the future would use what they will have learnt immediately for the problems they experience in their environment or everyday life.

3.     In groups where trying different „life strategies” during Sociopoly is not particularly new because participants have already tried these in real life, we will pay particular attention to rework the game in a way that can help participants learn new ways of responding to injustice. If this game cannot be adopted to the needs and interests of the groups, we will try and find another game to end the training with.

Mariann Dósa and Attila Mráz

I thank a lot of new information to these two days – report on the strategic planning training

 

I was looking forward to these two days since I had the chance at a previous training to get a short insight into strategic planning. I definitely felt that the Living indepentently - in a community group, which I represented during the weekend, has a great need for this to operate more effectively.

The training was held by Borbála Iványi and Tessza Udvarhelyi, who shared with us a lot of practical examples and experiences over the two days. The aim of the first session, after a short introduction, was to get to know as much as possible about each other’s organzations, ant to make it clear where we all are the process of creating our own strategies. It turned out soon that we were quite a diverse group: somebody had a well developed strategy which was evaluated regularly with the other members of the organization, while others just recently formed their groups.

After lunch, all of us had to imagine what the world would like like where we wanted to live. On one hand, we talked about our own personal images and then we talked about the ideal world for our groups. The second part may have been harder for those who represented an organization on their own – such as me -, as I was not sure about how my own and my group's common image were similar or different.

In the morning of the second day we got to know the basics of strategic planning. We talked about the difference between vision and mission, the theory of change, and how long and short-term goals are derived from these. By the time we had discussed all the steps of the planning process, it became more clear to me how important it was that our everyday actions also helpe the realization of he mission, even though we often tend to forget about this.

After the theoretical introduction, everybody had to work out their own organization’s vision, mission and theory of change and then we talked about a few of these. For recreation, we played a strategic game, which was interesting and at the same time difficult because we had to resolve a problem without using any form of interaction.

The most exciting part of the training came Sunday afternoon, when we started to plan together the strategy of two organizations – The City is for All Pécs and Civil Kotta from Szentendre. On the one hand, it was very interesting to experience how strategic planning works in practice. On the other hand, it was good to play the role of a member of another organization and give them advice.

I received a lot of new information over these two days. Besides learning a lot from Bori and Tessza, it was instructive to hear other organizations’ experiences and problems as well. Now I can understand more clearly the process of strategic planning and I think that the knowledge I have gained will become valuable when we fill the various steps of strategy with actual content.

Zóra Molnár

Tutoring Roma and refugee students at CEU

 

In the past school year, our colleague Mariann Dósa was tutoring Roma and refugee students in Public Policy in the two master's studies preparatory programs of Central European University: the Roma Graduate Preparatory Program and the Open Learning Initiative. You can read an account of the classes by a student of RGPP below.

After gaining working experience with international organizations, ministries, agencies, local self-governments, as well as with Roma CSOs and networks in Serbia, I decided to pursue further academic development in the field of public policy in order to achieve more for Roma community in Serbia. As a next step, I have chosen the Roma Graduates Preparation Program (RGPP) of Central European University, where I have, among others, attended the ten-months-long course of Introduction to Public Policy.

During very complex and extensive, but foremost enjoyable course, I have been guided toward thinking analytically and critically about policy problems, solutions, and alternative perspectives to mainstream paradigms. The course was designed around raising awareness and debating fundamental policy issues, concepts, and theories in the field of public policy through critical readings, in-class discussions and presentations, and writing practice.

The course was a perfect environment and opportunity to explore the general questions like What is Public Policy, What is the relationship between policy, politics, and power?, as well as more specific: What are Social, Health, Educational, Employment, Minority policies. I have personally appreciated very much further course’s focus on theories and conceptual tools utilized in understanding, justifying as well as criticizing policies. This enabled me to learn about and practice using these explanatory and critiquing tools and applying it in greater depth on the policy issues that Roma communities are facing on a daily bases. Ultimately, during the course, I had the opportunity to learn about the research process and methods of pursuing research in the field of public policy, as well. Guided by the mentor, I have worked on a final research paper, at the same time learning about different research approaches and methods in public policy, which is the essential tool in bringing evidence to policy discussion.

At first,  I have applied to RGPP to advance my English language skills and to prepare myself for further MA Public Administration Studies. However, Introduction to Public Policy course gave me not only fundamental skills and knowledge about the field of public policy but moreover, tools and self-confidence to bring desired changes to my community.

Igor Kostic

„Our operation will be more organized and transparent” – report on the group-organizing training

 

As a member of the „Christians for Gays” group, I had the chance to participate in the training of the School of Public Life titled „How to organize a group?” Over the past years, we have often felt in our group that we do not have enough knowledge to lead and organize ourselves in an appropriate way. This is why we were very happy to hear that the School of Public Life offered such a training.

The themes of the training were very exciting: we learned and talked about things that are essential to the operation of a group. Over the two days, we engaged in many practical exercises, which we solved in groups. Besides learning together, these workshops were a perfect chance to get to know each other, the different organizations the participants represented and the challenges they face. The practicality of the training helped us understand the theory of group organizing, so we can apply it easily to our own organizations.

From all the interesting things, I would highlight the exercise that made us think about the barriers of expanding our group from the points of view of people committed to the organization at very different levels and in many different ways.
We also got an introduction to strategic planning by planning together the strategy of my own organization. It was a very positive experience for me to see how different participants helped me develop our strategy with so much enthusiasm and empathy.

All in all, these were very inspiring two days and I think our group will profit a lot from it. We will be able to clear a lot of undefined things and our operation will become more organized and transparent. Thanks a lot to Közélet Iskolája for the opportunity!

András Papp

Video advocacy – report about the training

 

See and make others see through the eyes of the camera! I was happy to read the call for participation in this training that my association received from the School of Public Life. And I applied! I told the chairman of my association on the phone that I know we lack the resources, but I will give it a try. And I succeeded!

The training was important for me because in the Association of Patients with Rheumatism for the Targeted Therapy, my job is to keep our webpage and other media platforms up-to-date. Video making was missing from my communication toolkit, because I didn’t have enough knowledge about it.

I travelled enthusiastically and happily to Budapest from the countryside to learn as a 67-year-old because I want to do a lot more for the people with disadvantages in my association.

I got to know István Gábor Takács and Ádám Surányi from Rightsreporter Foundation as amazingly helpful people with great knowledge. Nothing was impossible for them even when they had to solve the most unexpected technical problems. They did all this smiles on their faces, a positive attitude and with a huge amount of knowledge.
What did I learn? A lot of things in which I was always interested. On the first day, video advocacy theory and strategies that we analyzed through several examples. The second day was about production including the necessary equipment, camera settings, basic video knowledge, composition, interview techniques and image editing. I enjoyed it especially because it was a very active day.

The third day was the day of follow-up. We got to know the Blackmagic Design Da Vinci Resolve program. We practiced cutting, subtitling and other important technical things on our video recordings from the day before, and then we watched our completed works cheerfully.

The follow-up was a challenge for me because I progressed slowly due to my poor computer knowledge. But István and Ádám were there at the right moment and put me back on track. I am thankful to them! Now, what is left for me is practice, so that I can use this knowledge in my advocacy work as soon as possible.

Thanks to the School of Public Life for the opportunity! I wish them success in their very useful work and I hope I will have the chance to participate in another training in the future.

Lajos Weisz

Photo: István Várady

As a man I also suffer from the gender role expected of me – report about our gender training

 

I participated in the training about gender roles, because I didn’t know enough about the subject. I expected to get to know more about the discrimination that women experience today in Hungary. Compared to this, I got a lot more, because the training enlightened a lot more things for me. For example the fact that I do not treat women as equal partners in many of my relationships. I realized that I, too, suffer as a man from the gender roles expected of me. It is better for me, too, if I don’t have to meet expectations just because I am a man, and it is better for me, too, if I don’t expect things from the other person just because I suppose what and how they should do.

Instead, let’s talk with the other person – as we did in the training – and doing so, we can get better results as we work together.

Before the training, I was excited about how it was going to think about questions of which my social group is the cause and the maintainer. But the presence of trainers, Móni and Mariann, was reinforcing all along. First of all, it was clear that they are familiar with the subject – the two days were super-informative. On the other hand, they never made me feel that I am the oppressor, instead, they listened openly when I expressed my opinion.

I would recommend this training to everybody. Apart from the subject itself, one of the best things in the training was that I could meet people who I didn’t know before, and who I would happily meet again. We started out as strangers, but we got to know each other a little. I realized how narrow my world is, and how rarely I have the chance to think together with unknown people in such a calm and safe environment. It was super to meet so many kinds of people, who are out of my circle and experience that I can broaden the boundaries of my world by participating in such a training.

Zoltán Somogyvári

Photos by István Várady

War games for peace

 

In June 2018, I had the chance to take part in an Erasmus + training course in Sermugnano (Italy), which dealt with the topic of gamification. The title may sound surprising. War games? What does this have to do with the School of Public Life? The title was inspired by an American sci-fi from 1983, in which an adolescent boy used his knowledge gained from computer games to stop an all-out nuclear war. The topic of the training was using the theory of game design and games themselves in our educational and youth work.

For me the nine days I spent with teachers, youth workers and trainers from 20 different European countries were very useful and rich in experience. I had applied to this training because we have wanted to build gamification into the methods of the School of Public Life for a long time. Of course, I do not consider myself an expert as a result of this training, but did learn and understand a lot about this approach and I also had the experience of creating our own game.

The location of the training was unique. We stayed in Sermugnano - a medieval village with a population of 60 people - in a building maintained by the training team in cooperation with the local municipality. The building used to be a school, but unfortunately there are no children in the village any more so it had to be closed. With the current utilization, however, both the building and youth activity have been preserved! An organic part of the training was “service & care”, which meant that every morning we spent one hour in small groups to maintain the building and its garden. We did cleaning, washing-up, gardening and other tasks related to the training (for example managing the Facebook page of the training and administrative tasks) in a rotating system.

The context of the training was provided by the classic Dungeons and Dragons role playing game. On the first day, everyone had to create their own avatar based on the enhanced instructions of Dungeons and dragons. I will be honest: this was the first time I heard both about this game and the concept of an avatar as a basic element of game design. Also, already on the first day, we got the task of creating a one-page game - in any way we wanted about anything we wanted. At first this seemed a bit impossible, but then everyone managed to complete the task and we also played with each others' games, which was quite liberating.

We dedicated a whole day to the methodology of LEGO serious play. This approach seems to have many creative elements and I could feel that there was potential in it to develop self-confidence and self-knowledge or even to develop common strategies, but I don't think we managed to fully understand how this method works and what it is was especially good for. In any case, it was an important lesson that playing with LEGO is in itself a source of joy for most people. As it turned out, for most participants LEGO was among their favorite games as a kid - and for many, it still is. This is when I also realized that I was a serious LEGO builder when I was a kid and that I could use this passion today as an adult as well in both my free time and educational or activist work.

The training did not promote one specific political philosophy, which would have been impossible due to the participants' diverse backgrounds and fields of interests. There were museum employees, youth workers, union activists and university teachers among the participants, who all wanted to apply their new knowledge in very different fields. At the same time, it was important to me that we spent a whole morning discussing the dominant values in European societies as well as the values that are important to us personally and professionally. In order to do this, we used the theory of basic human values by Shalom H. Schwarz, and we analyzed current political messages focusing on the implicit and explicit values communicated by them (for example Viktor Orbán’s statements about the Hungarian nation, the Brexit-campaign and Apple advertisements).

We also took a peek into some training and gamification methods. During the short introduction to drawing and illustration, we became convinced that all of us are able to express our thoughts and intentions in an aesthetic way if we don't give in to the inhibitions socialized into us from early on. We also tried the group discussions method called ‘Council’ and some elements of improvisation theater. Another inspiring method was shared storytelling, which was hard to begin, but later we did manage to synchronize our feelings, knowledge and inspiration, and we created good stories together.

We also received information about the history of games, the mechanics of game development and the meaning of gamification. For me, the most useful experience was when we took a short walking trip in the vicinity of Sermugnano and simultaneously experienced the heros’ journey - the background story to almost any game or story. The theory about the hero’s journey originates with anthropologist Joseph Campbell, who studied stories and myths from around the world and created a nearly universal model to describe the development and motivation of characters. In fact, many games are built according to this logic and aim to find the perfect balance and combination of the milestones of challenge, extrenal support, failure, learning and  success, which can result in both a great game and learning experience.

We dedicated a whole session to video games: we discussed their pros and cons and spoke about their hidden potential. As this topic is very far away from me in all senses of the word, I could not participate in this discussion. But I definitely learnt that I should and could not neglect the fact that if millions of people spend their time playing with video games, which often transfer violent and negative values, then it is a field that should be recolaimed and used for our own pedagogical goals.

During the training, we spent a whole evening trying out different board games and this was the first time for me to try Monopoly. I not only lost all of my assets and investments, but also my dignity due to the success of the other capitalist players ;-)

Unquestionably, for me the most important part of the training  was the development of our own games. We did this in small groups according to our different fields of interests. In my group, we ended up creating a boardgame where the goal is to realize successful grassroots campaigns around given social and political topics while utilizing resources, opportunities and partnerships in the best possible way. We worked on the game for many days, we tested it, and then we finalized it in a local board game club where we had the chance to play with local residents. The groupwork was a great experience for me and I was amazed at how in such a short time we managed to become a real team and create a working and enjoyable game, which can actually be used in our pedagogical work. So watch out, this game may appear in one of the upcoming trainings in the School of Public Life! :)

In all, the War Games  training was very useful and rich in experience, and I'm sure  that it will have a long-term effect on my work in the School of Public Life. The most important lesson for me was that gamification does not mean simply using games during our trainings, but a lot more: it means adopting the theories of game design in an area outside of games - for example in public transportation, museums or teaching. If we want to use the learning and growing potential of gaming, it is not enough to use some gaming elements, but we have to build activities and processes consciously by using the heroes’ journey and other essential elements of game design.

Tessza Udvarhelyi

Tessza Udvarhelyi: How to use research for activism?

 

Thank you very much for this opportunity – it is such an honor to be here for both of us. in the next few minutes we will share some of our personal stories and experiences of how research changed our lives and led us to become activists.

I started out my life as a researcher out of pure academic interest in the notions of cleanliness and purity, following in the footsteps of my favorite anthropologist Mary Douglas. But I also heard of applied anthropology during my studies and had a feeling that I should do research that is not only useful for me, but also for society. At this point, I had no idea what this meant, but it sounded important…

For months, my co-researcher and I had been looking for a topic that would meet these two criteria. Then in 2002 we found a short article in a newspaper that reported on a new program launched by the mayor of Budapest to clean (and this is the word they used) the underground pedestrian passages of Budapest from 3 things: graffiti, illegal vendors and homeless people.
So we dug into this topic and stuck with it for three years. Over these years, I got more and more angry at what I discovered. In the interviews we made and the texts we read, the politicians and technocrats of Budapest kept trying to convince me that they were doing what all the so-called decent residents of the city wanted: clean the city of undesirables and give it back to us, decent people. In other words, as it turned out, homeless people were chased away in my name and to serve my imagined needs as a white middle-class resident.

I come from a safe middle class background with many privileges. One of these is a secure home and the other is almost unlimited access to quality education. Even though I was vaguely aware of these, this research forced me to take a harder look at my own position in the world and the things I take for granted. It was definitely a process of awakening.

More importantly, this research did something I never even knew was missing: it helped me discover my political self. It not only made me angry as an individual but also made me think about my role in reproducing injustice and about WHO was responsible for changing what I was angry about.

After we completed the research, we started thinking about how to make it “useful for society” as we heard it so often in school. We contacted different NGOs, sent them our study and were really HOPING that they would use our findings. One of these organizations was Man on the Street, an activist network fighting for the right to housing. And this is where my life changed for good.

This organization did not just thank us for our work, but invited us to join them. If you really want to do something about it, you need to take responsibility for it – this is basically what they told us. You can’t just HOPE that your academic work will be useful for someone somewhere but you actually have to TAKE ACTION to make this happen. You have to seek out opportunities, not just wait for them. You have to actively engage with civil society organizations and social movements if you REALLY want your work to be used.

They will never come to you and ask you for your help – you have to go ahead and make sure the knowledge you produced is available to as many people as possible. And this part they did not teach me at the university.

In the end, I did actually join this group and became an activist. For the first few months, I was telling myself that I was there out of a sense of duty: that I had to follow through with my research, making sure that the group understood what we found and knew how to use it for their own purposes. And then another important thing happened.

In 2005 the Budapest general assembly proposed a law that would ban begging in all the public spaces if Budapest. At first the group was not sure whether they wanted to step up against this proposal. However, as this was one of the topics that we covered extensively in our thesis, I showed them historical and international examples of how the criminalization of begging is nothing else than the criminalization of poverty. It took some convincing, but we finally did decide to organize against it and I found myself as one of the organizers of a protest in front of the city hall as the voting took place. We actually won and the ban was not passed.

The next day I was travelling by tram and as I was thinking about the protest, I suddenly had this very strong sense of power come all over me. It was a feeling that I never had before and will never forget. I know this sounds a bit cheesy, but this was the moment that I was actually born as a citizen. Now I know that before I was only the skeleton of a citizen. For the very first time in my life, I had actually managed to intervene into the life of a larger collective, the society I was living in and this was both necessary and liberating.

Since this moment, I have been an activist for housing rights. In 2009, I co-founded The City is for All, the only grassroots housing advocacy group in Hungary. A unique feature of this group is that its membership includes homeless, formerly homeless people and middle class allies such as myself. For nine years now, we have worked together, sharing our skills, knowledge and experiences to achieve housing rights for everyone in Hungary.

So it was through research that I found my citizenship, but only by consciously going beyond the academic realm and making a personal effort at achieving change. HOPE was not enough. It was through action that I was able to take responsibility for change.

Later, I realized that if research was something that could politicize and liberate me, it can have the same effect on other people, too, especially those who suffer from the most serious forms of oppression and exclusion. However, in the traditional university setup, these are exactly the people who are not present – or if they are, they are always the objects of research. Their ideas and needs are always being studied by other people, which definitely does not lead to their liberation – but often to further stigmatization.

As I was struggling with these issues, I was lucky to discover the world of participatory action research as an approach where people who are affected by a social issue are not studied as in a laboratory but actively engage in research themselves to understand the structural roots of their problems and then take action to change the situation. In this case, research goes way beyond the walls of the university and becomes a path towards full citizenship – something that is essential for oppressed groups to challenge their oppression.

In the School of Public Life, a community-based education center, where I work today, we believe – as one of our participants put it – that democracy is not a noun but a verb – it only exists if we do it. We offer courses, workshops and open forums where people can learn about social and political inequalities and develop their skills in both the everyday representation of their interests and more large-scale advocacy and movement building. Many of our students come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, but we also have many middle-class people who are interested in becoming activists or simply active citizens.

In the School we see participatory action research or PAR as a form of critical pedagogy. PAR is a long-term form of political education where people explore the conditions around them, connect the dots, draw the conclusions and also think about ways to take action. And in this process, they go through the same process of becoming a citizen as I did back in 2005. In our participatory action research projects people with no academic background and often little formal education who were the victims of different kinds of social oppression discovered their own citizenship and responsibility by asking questions, collecting data, formulating answers and planning actions.

In the PAR projects I have been involved in, we have explored the various forms of discrimination homeless people face in public spaces, uncovered the history of housing movements in Budapest and studied the conditions of independent living for people with physical disabilities – all with the people who are directly affected by these issues. I have learnt a lot during these projects – not only from what we discovered, but also – and mostly – from my co-researchers.

I personally don’t believe in individual research anymore. I believe in collective, participatory research where knowledge is not produced for the sake of abstract academic ideals or professional career building, but is shared broadly and is a means to empowering people to become fully fledged political beings in the world. In other words, I believe in research that produces citizens, who take responsibility for change. And I believe universities have a central role in understanding, embracing and promoting research of this kind.

Of course, I don’t believe that everyone should be an activist or that participatory research is the only valuable approach to the production of knowledge. I believe that there are many ways for s to take responsibility for change. What I do believe though, is that universities and other academic spaces have to be places where these questions are not only addressed as abstract topics or even worse, as niceties, but as key political questions that everyone has to find their own answers to. In a world where masses of people are deemed politically, economically and socially useless, the university and the intellectuals it socializes have to take a leading role in helping all of us discover the real meaning of our citizenship and challenge the political, social and economic conditions that dehumanize all of us.

Presented at the 8th Living Knowledge conference (Budapest, May 30-June 1, 2018.)

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