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While being considered a priority, education has consistently been under-funded from governmental sources for the past 20 years. NGOs cover a part of this unanswered need, by providing grassroots support, helping teachers become better and advocating for changes in the system. Choose the EDUCATION track to have a view of the vision, successes and challenges NGOs meet on this road, while trying to change Romania from the ground up.

Club for Alternative Education (CAE) - Policy Center for Roma and Minorities

“Toto and his sisters” is the name of a multi-awarded documentary on the life of three children in Ferentari, a poor neighborhood known for drug usage, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. It is also the name of a beneficiary of the Club for Alternative Education (AEC), a non-formal education program. In Ferentari, on a daily basis, children rarely graduate high school or university, and no one – not even their parents - considers they are able to succeed in the academic field. The Club gives a glimpse of hope for over 200 Roma and non-Roma children, to break the vicious circle of marginalization, poverty and hopelessness, through access to education, sports and culture.

Teach for Romania

Teach for Romania believes that education is a way to get out of poverty - and everyone, irrespective of their origins, is entitled and capable of a good chance through education. The organization selects and trains very talented and motivated young teachers, with demonstrated initiative and willingness, to ensure a high quality education for children in underdeveloped communities. The teachers are also involved in projects with a positive impact in their communities, thus serving as authentic leaders among students, parents, colleagues and local officials. After only three years of implementation, the program has recently been selected by the Romanian government as an example of good practice. Its theory, standards and practices will be replicated on a national level in the years to come.

Center for Educational Evaluation and Analysis

Teaching exact sciences in a dry and boring manner for the regular student can change today, with the Center for Educational Evaluation and Analysis. CEEA develops research and innovation for public education in Romania and brings to debate proposals for coherent policies in education and best practices from countries that have already achieved successful reforms of public education. The "Learning physics by inquiry" aims to reform physics curriculum, teaching methods and assessment, in order to improve the skills of students in science and to build the abilities required by the labor market.

Arts & culture:

We have chosen to organize visits with a focus on arts & culture as we see this as one of the most dynamic fields in Romania. Moreover, the cultural products, although very 'visible' on the international market and a motive of local pride, are produced in conditions of scarcity. Many of the NGOs active in the field don’t have a space where to produce or exhibit their work. Arts & culture is also an area where fundraising is tough, Romanians considering this more as a luxury then as a necessity. If you are interested to see the creative solutions cultural managers have found to this issue, this is the track to choose.

Homemade Association

Homemade Association is active in the Romanian cultural space since 2008 under the name lorgean theater. The objectives of the Association are to organize projects which invites the artistic events in the private and domestic space and to create and spread the concept of home culture by proposing the houses and the private spaces as an alternative for artistic activities on the cultural market. In 2012-2014 Homemade Culture organized the campaign "Play with an open house" and, in 2014, HomeFest festival appeared, the first and only cultural festival that takes place in houses and apartments in Bucharest. In 7 years, the association has produced more than 20 plays and performances and hosted more than 40 other plays, all of them related to the domestic space.

KOTKI visuals

KOTKI visuals creates live experiences in the field of multimedia & interactive art, performance & installation art, video design & visuals for music, contemporary dance & theater. The studio was founded in 2006, in Bucharest, by media artists Mihaela Kavdanska & Dilmana Yordanova, being among the first in Eastern Europe, to implement new technologies & approaches in visual & performing arts, live communication & advertising. During the last 10 years of activity, KOTKI’s portfolio includes almost 100 projects, realized for a vast array of clients & partners, in Europe and United States. Since 2012, KOTKI visuals are based in Bucharest & Linz.

Gabriela Tudor Foundation

Gabriela Tudor Foundation (previously known as Project DCM Foundation) is a leading cultural NGO based in Bucharest created by Cosmin Manolescu and Gabriela Tudor in 1997 with the aim to promote and support the development of contemporary dance in Romania. Over 150 dance projects have been organized since its creation including 7 international dance festivals, four national dance festivals and three Balkan dance platforms, over 25 international residencies and joint co-productions, numerous workshops, international exchange and research projects. The Foundation is also the owner of United Experts a label for cultural development created by Gabriela Tudor and the Swiss Cultural Program in Romania

Environment & urban planning:

The visits will focus on the work of organizations and projects in the area of environment and urban planning which aim at changing attitudes and practices of central and local authorities in Romania towards doing urban planning for the people and with the people (taking into account local communities’ needs), but also on educating and engaging the citizens to be more involve in decisions affecting their lives in the city and the environment. If you are interested in how a vibrant community of doers and thinkers developed around an unused space in Bucharest or what does it mean to build green and introduce environmental education in Romanian schools, this is the track to choose.

Greenitiative Association, Mogosoaia

Greenitiative is an environmental NGO focused on promoting eco-education, green building and living and the sustainable development of Romanian local communities. You will visit their headquarters, a green building with a permaculture roof garden, designed as an educational center for green building. We will discuss about their work with schools, students, teachers, companies and local authorities to change behaviors and attitudes and improve information related to environment issues such as climate change, energy sustainability, resource conservation, green economy and environmental-friendly development.

Nod Makerspace/Calup/La firul ierbii

Nod Makerspace was opened one year ago by young architects and designers in need for space and tools to do their creative work. Based on membership, the place offers access to various tools and equipment for digital manufacturing and rapid prototyping. Calup is an urban regeneration initiative aiming to support the creative industry and social responsible businesses to develop alternative and sustainable projects and services to reactivate unused spaces from Bucharest. The 2 entities partnered in gathering funds to renovate and reuse more space in the industrial building and opened “La firul ierbii”/ “Grassroots” as a space for meetings, public debates and civic initiatives addressing city’s problems. The centre will be launched for the public on June 2nd, with a public debate with the mayoral candidates for the 4th district in Bucharest (where the space is located).

The Creative Room/Urban INC

Odaia Creativă / The Creative Room is a non-governmental organisation based in Bucharest, using a mix of research, visual tools and new media to increase understanding of urban and regional development processes in Central and Eastern Europe for local communities and national/local authorities. This spring they launched Urban INC (Urban Insights Center) as a platform for ideas, people, resources and solutions for urban development challenges faced by Romanian cities. Resonating with the mission of “La firul ierbii”/ “Grassroots” they are now located in that space.

Active citizenship:

The track is full

We have chosen to organize visits with a focus on engaging communities and civic participation as we see this as one of the most difficult fields of work in Romania. NGOs need to do the ground work, mobilize great numbers of people and find a way to fundraise and advocate. It is a complex type of work, dealing with a lot of stakeholders and requiring creativity as well as efficiency. If you are interested in how people get involved in the life of their neighborhood/city and/or political decision and anti-corruption, this is the track to choose.

Funky Citizens

We get to visit the organization that keeps citizens "civically fit". What to expect in our visit to Funky Citizens? An interesting office, people who are "crazy about transparency", a team who dedicated their efforts to fact checking the promises of candidates running for public offices, how the public budgets are being spent, changing laws and behaviors so that citizens get actively involved in the political life of the country. And so much more. We are in for a discussion on how we can really support democracy, who funds this type of activity and how you can build a community around an abstract idea.

Corporeanima Association

How about we go visit a grassroots organization that is built around the idea that we need to create a space where the school, family and community work together to provide a personal development culture for the children we bring up to be the future. We will go in one of Bucharests neighborhoods, in the place where it all begun, at the home of the leader of this organization. One of the programs that they invest efforts into building year after year is the "Games of the neighborhood", a competition for the entire community.

CeRe (Center for Public Participation)

Their name in Romanian means "Ask for…". And they ask for the authorities to do what they promised, for the neighbors to form a real community and fight together for their rights and for the institutions to be transparent and non-corrupt. And for 10 years they have had a huge impact in communities around Romania. They have empowered citizens to follow the process and make sure they are heard by the authorities in major or smaller public decisions such as illegal construction of buildings, lack of parks, fraudulent budgeting etc. We are in for a conversation with the funder of the organization and one of their community organizers about how they fund their cause, how they use protesting and other instruments, and what are the most efficient tools in awakening the civic spirit.

Social entrepreneurship:

The track is full

Social entrepreneurship paves avenues of opportunity for those who would, otherwise, be locked into lives without much choice or hope for a better future. Social entrepreneurship drives social innovation and transformation in diverse fields such as education, health, environment or enterprise development. Join us for a day of discussions and observations on social entrepreneurship with direct interactions with local organizations, beneficiaries and supporters.

Meșteshukar ButiQ (MBQ)

Meșteshukar ButiQ (MBQ) is a network of social economy enterprises and craftsmen aiming to revalue traditional Roma craftsmanship. MBQ creates revenue by selling lifestyle products such as: jewelry, clothes and home-decor objects. Every object sold generates direct income for Roma craftsmen. MBQ has a network of over 50 active craftsmen and currently works with a team of 4 international designers on product development. They have exhibited at large scale design events such as Romanian Design Week and Vienna Design Week. MBQ provides premium lifestyle products with a story and design that stands out in any context. We invite you to find out the story and impact behind their products, a blend of centuries old techniques combined with contemporary design.

The Canvas Workshop

The Canvas Workshop is a social enterprise which carries on its economical activity with two main goals in mind: to offer an ecological alternative to plastic bags, and to support a social mission by providing jobs for people with disabilities. So far, The Canvas Workshop produced more than 50,000 bags, helped 8 people to enter the job market and hired 16 people during their 3 years of activity. The visit will introduce you in a world of canvas products made from untreated, unbleached and undyed cotton, 0 waste during production; a world where individuals, regardless of their disabilities are appreciated for their abilities. Learn more about their successes and results in a competitive market where cheap and fast are the key words of profit.

Therapy Café/ NESsT Romania

Therapy Cafe is the first therapeutical café in Bucharest, especially created for individuals with addiction issues – alcohol, drugs, designed to run phycho-therapeutical events, art and occupational therapy activities. The café employes people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and acts as a promoter of social economy through the products used in their menu. Regardless of its very distinct purpose, its doors are opened to any client who is looking for a friendly and relaxed place, in the heart of the city.After a hearty lunch at Therapy Cafe, we will learn more about the direct link between them and their beneficiaries, the impact they have seen so far and their future plans.

NESsT develops sustainable social enterprises that solve critical social problems in emerging market economies. When NESsT first started working on local-based activities in Romania in 2007, very little was known about social enterprise and its potential to improve the lives of excluded communities in the country. Today, the ecosystem is quite different, and many people and groups are involved in the social economy. Nonetheless, the message remains the same: social enterprises offer a lasting solution to social, economic, and environmental challenges—but sustainability requires time, patience, and some appetite to accept the risk of failure. Zoltán-Cristian Bereczki, Country Director at NESsT Romania will be your host for the afternoon. You will discuss with him about the social economy scene in Romania, in the light of the development of the field, legislation and policies in Center & Eastern Europe.