What is your background?
I have worked as I trainer since I was 21 and have dedicated my whole life to education, adopting a comprehensive and increasingly structured approach.
The fall of the socialist regime in Hungary presented great opportunities for those who wanted a change and were open-minded. The words “training” and “community” were almost meaningless to us at the time because we were not ready to put them into the right context. Effectively the whole context had to be reshaped. It was like being handed a blank page; no guidelines, no standards.
So, as a young person eager to explore the training programmes, I started participating in lots of training courses and travelling to a lot of different places where the word “community” has a very concrete meaning. I travelled to India, Africa, the UK and the U.S. to experience and learn as much as I could. On continents like Africa, people have a perfect understanding of the meaning of the word “community” because they are so poor that they appreciate the fact they cannot survive alone.
I trained as a social worker and psychodrama therapist. This meant that I developed my personal training approach by combining psychology and practical approaches based on experience and the use of technology. What characterises my job? I would say that I work to integrate Eastern, Western and Southern influences into my trainings.
Tell us a bit more about your methodology.
First let me say that not everything is about training. Training courses, workshops and meetings all require different approaches and have to be carried out with different methodologies. I am very strict on what competence and capacity development are all about.
I developed a learning pyramid made up of three levels:
- at the bottom is ATTITUDE CHANGE which feeds into the top 2 or 3 things we want to address
- on the second level we address the skills which need to be developed so that attitudes can be changed (SKILLS TO DEVELOP)
-and finally the top level represents the THEORIES AND MODELS needed for the key attitudes and skills we want to develop.
Let us not forget that people have very different learning styles. I can identify four of them: the theorist, the activist, the observer and the pragmatist. This means that before every training session I make it clear what the outcomes of the session are and what the different learning styles of the participants are. People come to the sessions at different stages of the learning process; some are total beginners (they do not know what they do not know), next stage is they know what they do not know and the third is they know what they know, while others may want to improve their skills (they know what they know). And finally, you have those who have an idea of what they do not know, and this is the highest level of awareness.
So, in summary, just having a flipchart does not make you a trainer!
How are you working to make Hungarian society more involved and active?
According to the mission of Cromo Foundation we have been designing and developing different tools to involve local people since 2002. Our work includes training on active participation, putting on workshops to share best practices from Hungary and Europe, and organising and conducting local forums like the Citizens Jury Meeting by applying, for example, co-creation methods in order to bring local people and local authorities together to solve local issues with local resources. Alongside Cromo, I operate with Victum which seeks to address adult education within the economic sector. It is aimed at entrepreneurs and focuses on professional development.
Over the past four years Cromo has reached out to young people (15-20 years old) with the aim of mobilising them on a local level and engaging them in thinking about, and being active in, defining and solving local issues. This initiative aims to encourage adults to be more engaged in local matters with the belief that the problems and life situations of young people can better mobilise parents, teachers, decision makers and other stakeholders.
What is the key to engaging marginalised people or people living in rural areas?
One of the keys to maximising the level of participation of people living in rural areas is to identify those issues capable of uniting a variety of people. The following are just some examples:
- How can people in the villages/towns be discouraged from moving abroad and/or to the bigger cities?
- How can local resources be used for the sustainable development of the local area?
- How can the community live in harmony with ethnic minorities (mainly, with Roma communities)?
- How can the community become more inclusive and tolerant of migration and migrants?
The other key element is to engage local authorities, especially mayors, in taking part. In many cases this proves successful and the mayors show continued commitment to the project. However, in other cases they do not even respond to our proposal. Hungarian society is deeply divided when it comes to political preferences, and local mayors – especially between 2010 and 2019 – have been overseen by the central political entities.
The Cromo Foundation is part of several EU projects such as the Erasmus+ as well as many in the field of migration, whose goals are to engage local authorities in managing communication campaigns and organising events to promote inclusion and tolerance.
What value does the Erasmus+ programme add to you achieving your strategy?
I would point to two major aspects.
The first is that knowledge is transferred directly to the end users and the input and content of the training course come directly from the target groups. This sharing and exchange of knowledge would not be possible without active participation. Theorists have to engage with people so without people nothing would be possible. It is all about strengthening personal contacts, connections and experiences.
Second, marginalised people (whether they are Romas or people living in rural areas) would never have had the chance to travel, participate or interact without the Erasmus+ programme. For many, Erasmus+ is their only access to social networks and other cultures and their only chance to move internationally.
This is what I value the most.
Having said that, I would like to point out the relevance of the language barrier. Marginalised people struggle to understand and express themselves in English, so in my view more effort should be made to involve local interpreters in order to ensure that these marginalised groups can access these opportunities.
Are community development and mobility still possible during these times of forced isolation?
Coronavirus has forced us to react, to embrace technology and to digitalise ourselves… it has caught us all off guard. Digital literacy is becoming increasingly necessary, and today we are appreciating why. Mobility has turned into virtual mobility. We may even have to reimagine the future of mobility itself.
Talking from personal experience over the last few weeks, we started to develop online tools to continue our work by introducing and teaching a free-to-use Google service and other services for local authorities and communities. We are still in the early stages and are only just starting to test the tools now. This forced isolation has made people more open to online forms of interaction, so we strongly believe they have the potential to become popular and useful. Hungarian people are generally reluctant to use online tools, except Facebook, for discussion, training and meeting purposes, instead preferring to use these tools for private activities. In order to be more active as citizens, people need to be trained for life in how to use these tools, they need to have lifelong digital skills and when it comes to different levels and possibilities they need to think and act as active citizens despite this still being unfamiliar territory for most Hungarians. Our new initiative Citizens Watchdog Network, for example, would like to engage local people and those authorities where the mayor and local representatives have promised to be more open to citizen involvement and participation. This project needs to be run online in any case through Facebook groups.