The value of democracy is at stake in Europe. In some countries, a sceptical or negative attitude to democratic processes has emerged. We have also seen the rise of political parties that reinforce this scepticism as well as the emergence of more authoritarian forms of government. It is becoming increasingly evident that substantial sections of European societies have either lost faith in the democratic process or feel there is no point in participating. This can lead to people searching for 'simple' or more extreme solutions to problems in society - anti-immigration sentiment, racism, far-right beliefs, religious radicalism etc.
This partnership will enable our target groups to participate more actively and more inclusively in the societies in which they live in their respective countries. It will give them the knowledge and skills they need to contribute in a positive and pro-active manner in democratic society, giving them an experiential understanding of both contemporary and historical socio-cultural issues and the political structures that have shaped them. Participants will be made aware that by contributing to the democratic process, every individual has a voice and that non-participation and passivity can lead to alienation, apathy and social exclusion. The concepts of rights and responsibilities, democracy and law will drive the development of the DEMOS project.
Our target groups will:
- Gain knowledge and understanding of both the political systems that govern our societies at local, national and European levels as well as the historical influences that have shaped them.
- Have opportunities to reflect on the beliefs and values which influence their attitudes and actions as both individuals and members of our communities based on the commitments of human rights, social responsibility and democracy.
- Have access to evidence of DEMOS activities which will be communicated through a range of media: e.g. video, website, blogposts. These activities will be summarised as part of one final, high-quality photographic video presentation which will highlight the overarching themes of respect, freedom, equality, solidarity and justice based on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The target groups of the DEMOS Project are people who may not be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities while living under a democracy. They may also display low levels of civic engagement and low patterns of voting e.g.
- New and hard to reach migrant groups, refugees and asylum seekers
- Younger learners especially those from marginalised and underserved communities
- Adults from marginalised and underserved communities
- Women – particularly as they are proportionately underrepresented in our parliaments.
Multi-sector partner groups are another target group of interest to the DEMOS project, particularly those who operate in the civic space and who work with underserved communities to promote civic and political engagement e.g. MEP’s, political institutions such as local councils, political parties, third-level Institutions - departments with remits concerning politics and civics, arts organisations who can collaborate with us on this project.
Most of the partners know each other from previous Erasmus+ projects. The coordinator was looking for institutions that offer political education as part of their provision, and for countries where societal and democratic marginalisation is increasing.
The coordinator sent out a draft of the application and invited members of the network to join the consortium and to send in examples for possible projects. After consultations with the Austrian National Agency, the coordinator had to exclude some interested institutions such was the interest in working on this project. Therefore, the coordinator identified the institutions most suited, using geographical criteria and by evaluating the quality and the degree of innovation of the example projects submitted. These are the partner countries: Ireland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria and Austria.
It is expected that partner and other relevant stakeholders will learn innovative methods for reaching marginalised groups and be able to integrate these into future educational provision.
This will lead to a higher degree of political and social inclusion and offer new perspectives to our target groups.
Herbert Depner has been working for Wiener Volkshochschulen (Vienna Adult Education Centres) since 1981 and has been involved in European cooperation projects since 1995. Since 2011, his work has focused exclusively on Europe and he has gained experience with Grundtvig, Leonardo, Interreg, and ESF. The Erasmus+ programme provided him with fresh motivation and has since led to his involvement in 14 projects. In 2017, Herbert Depner was appointed Erasmus+ ambassador.
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