The Civil College Foundation is a non-governmental organisation which was founded by community development workers in November 1994. These people had been working together for 10-15 years and were led by the recognition of the following:
- Both the rapidly growing NGO sector and the battle for the seats of elected representatives showed them the fact that people were eager to seize new opportunities for local action. However, immediately when starting their work, they had to face obstacles which they could hardly or could not at all overcome due to their lack of knowledge on the field of democratic procedures. This was particularly true in villages where no form of independence existed before, as they were attached to other villages which were greater in terms of administration.
- According to our experience, in today's Hungary there is a lack of short-term training courses which encourage and help the finding of solutions to particular practical problems.
- Ordinary local citizens are hard to involve in any sort of training, except when they see immediate and practical outcomes which help them in their daily work and ensure them success. Poorly educated citizens are often to be trained under non-training circumstances, thus we need to have well-trained community workers in this area too.
- We have also recognised that although there is a number of organisations performing training for non-profit organisations, they mainly train those who have already formulated some concrete intentions regarding learning and who actually look for the training organisations they find appropriate for themselves. On the other hand, few, if any at all train the participants of local projects, the citizens who are willing to act and learn in order to achieve some set "civil" aims, following the advice of community development workers working together with them.
The main goal and area of activity of Civil College is to raise the awareness and develop the democratic skills of the participants of local action through training.
It aims at gathering the experts of the non-profit sphere, who can then act as facilitators during courses. Civil College provides necessary training materials as well as the spreading of training models.
Legally the Civil College is a company of public utility. Its supreme directing organ is the Board of Directors. The day-to-day professional and economical directing is performed by the director who is
appointed by the Board of Directors.
Why the Civil College picked Kunbábony as their place of settlement?
The fact that we have chosen Kunbábony as our place of settlement has both objective and subjective reasons.
- We were looking for a venue which - being approximately equally far from the country's borders - is easily accessible from any part of Hungary. Kunbábony met this need, as it is situated in the geographical centre of the country.
- Another important aspect of choosing the venue was that this abandoned building had been used as a primary school for the people living on the surrounding farms. Being a school, the building had been a basic community venue, probably the only one in the area. The 'genius loci' provides a great opportunity to maintain some serious and immersed activities here.
- An equally important aspect was that local people and their authorities were emotionally attached to the building. The local authorities did not want to sell it to entrepreneurs, as they insisted that the former school should remain a community place which can occasionally used by the local community. We did not want to exist as a 'parachutist' thrown to an unknown place which he has no contact with, since it is important for us that the place has some positive influence on its own environment. Thus, after opening the centre, our main concern will be the development of the Felső-Kiskunság small region.
- As the Civil College Foundation started out with almost no financial background, building from its spiritual power, the fact that the local authorities were ready to make financial efforts in order to achieve their goals was also very important. They offered and provided free skilled work for the renovation, the value of which equals that of the building itself.
- 30 years ago, the leaders of the Civil College project, Tamás A. Varga and Ilona Vercseg were the cultural & community leaders of the Technical University in Budapest. Within the scope of the movement 'University Students for General Education' they initiated 600 of the university's students into renovating and modernising the Community Centre in Kunszentmiklós together with local citizens. Same as it has to us, this experience has remained memorable to them since, and when at the first negotiations we were recognised as the leaders of the students who were once accommodated in the very building, both the mayor and the members of the Civil College decided to continue their past co-operation.
The situation in and around the village and the city of Kunszentmiklós, as well as the district of Bács-Kiskun, with regard to the people that live there, their economic and social situation, the minorities that live there, etc. (including figures on how many people live there, how many are employed, which ethnic groups are present, etc.)
The small region of Felső-Kiskunság is a primarily agricultural area of the country. Grains are cultivated here, and as the area is situated on the Plain, a famous pasturing area at the edge of the Kiskunság National Park, livestock-farming has a great tradition here too. Industry is mainly based on processing, partly on servicing. Like in many other agricultural areas around the world, the environmental conditions of the region provided its people with a secure living, but they were unable to provide the chance to get rich. Primary and secondary education, skilled and trained work dominate the area.
After the political changes, land was gradually being privatised and co-operatives were converted into private co-ops. Most of the unemployed today are those who were left without any property and/or are unskilled. As it is shown by the enclosed chart, the number of gypsies is high in the region, and since being unskilled is general among them, a large number of them constitute a good part of the area's unemployed. Although Kunszentmiklós is a spiritual centre with great traditions and many schools, it has little skilled work force and attraction - the fact that the local job-centre can hardly find local tutors for its training courses is a good example of the situation. On the enclosed chart we list the names of the villages constituting the small region, as well as the number of population.
After opening the centre, our concern will be to look for development opportunities in the region through revealing and considering human and physical resources, through getting to know the motivation and knowledge of the citizens, and through encouraging and supporting the activities recognised and considered necessary by them - primarily through providing information and training. The intensity of the work will depend on further projects and fund-raising activities.
The situation of NGOs in the region and the relation between NGOs and local and district authorities and agencies
Seven years after the political changes, ordinary people still find it unusual that they can found their own associations. They have the following difficulties in their local action:
- the lack of democratic practice: the lack of the skills of self-expression, listening to others, resolving conflicts and of reaching a consensus;
- the difficulty of taking responsibilities;
- the lack of persistence and time;
- uncertainty about the role of civil society. After a long period of dependence, people still have a certain fear of the local authority.
Elected local bodies, local governments experience the same difficulties as local people do, but as a body they have their own special difficulties as well:
- They are uncertain about their role. A few of them are starting to recognise that they have to provide public services for all, instead of acting as the local power;
- They distrust civil initiatives. According to a very typical approach, the management of a local community is the task of the elected local body and it is only up to them how they approach this task, it is no one else's business. They don't know how to take civil initiatives and they see them as rivals.
It will take a while before local bodies and NGOs recognise that the way they can act is different. If they manage to combine these two approaches, it will be beneficial for the whole community.
In spite of the above mentioned difficulties, we can say that the emergence of the civil society has started in our country, and although to a much smaller extent, it has started in the Felső-Kiskunság
region too. However, the NGOs in this region are not yet powerful enough to supplement the services provided by local authorities through introducing new services. Nor are they able to exert influence over their political decisions. The objectives of the Civil College are:
- to get to know the existing NGOs in the region,
- to encourage the birth of new ones,
- to achieve that NGOs can reach their goals through democratic co-operation, in a formalised relationship with their local authorities. This means that the college helps fill the gap between existing NGOs and local powers, and that it puts the stress on understanding and getting to know each other as well as on the need for citizen participation, the importance of realising interests and on the necessity of partnership-building between the two spheres.
The College intends to achieve this aim through community development projects and training in the area of small regional development.
The significance of the building and the foundation to the local community of the region and special activities will be organised for them
- The building will be important for the local people and NGOs, as they can hold their gatherings here;
- The local authority intends to use the building for regional meetings;
- The school of Kunszentmiklós organises its 'forest school' - a nature-lover residential camp for children - here every year.
As a spiritual power:
- the Foundation intends to act as the 'engine' of local and small regional development through the means of community development; it plans to increase citizen participation and to encourage the founding of local NGOs; it helps NGOs and elected bodies work more consciously; it helps in the identification and preparation of projects, in raising funds and in the realisation and supervision of projects.
- it helps build relationships between local people and the representatives of other villages visiting the school and it encourages their building up a system of relationships;
- it will give preference to local and small regional participants when considering course applications.
We are intending the training for the following groups:
a, local people, participants of local projects. We primarily think of those who have already been participating in some sort of civil action or project and who are already motivated to study in order to realise them, solve the conflicts and meet with success.
b, NGO leaders and representatives from small regions, strata and minorities (gypsies, unemployed, youth). We think of those who have already been working in an organised form in order to achieve their aims and for whom it is important to consider their activities in the long term as well as to be able to place them in the respect of historical and current national and international practice; for them it is also important that they find similar examples and helpers for their work.
c, experts and organisations connected with the civil sphere - village-agricultural counsellors, regional managers, mayors, village-clerks, humanities experts.
Courses and Curriculum
We are planning for 1997 20 short-term, 10 medium-term, and 2 long-term courses yearly. The courses concern about 640 people altogether. By our reckoning these numbers will increase somewhat in the future.
Medium-term courses are not necessarily organised on consecutive weeks, as the schedule is adjusted to the free time of participants, which they can spare for studying besides their families and work. In the meantime, participants work on their projects, or they are given individual study exercises.
Long-term courses are adjusted to summer- and other holiday periods.
The courses of the Civil College may be built on or completed by each other.
As the Civil College Foundation is a nation-wide service, its courses are attended by people from all parts of Hungary. The selection of participants is assisted by county and regional Community Service agencies. The Community Service Foundation is a nation-wide network of Hungarian community development workers in the counties of Nógrád, Hajdu-Bihar, Békés, Csongrád, Bács- Kiskun, Tolna, Zala, Vas and Komárom, and in Budapest. In each of these places, it organises its work through local projects, independent local media and community databases which process and store data concerning the NGO sector, as well as through the Partnership Service, which builds relationships among the governmental, non-governmental and business sectors.
I. Community training courses
a, Community courses for volunteers
1. Get to know each other! Organising self-training circles movements in villages - study circles, local history groups, community improvement, environmental and conservation work, etc.
2. Get to know your neighbourhood! Who live there, what do they want or need? Who take the leadership and who remain in the background? Are there organisations around?, etc.
3. What sort of world would we like to live in? Let's plan our future! Our neighbourhood in the future.
4. Democracy in our own neighbourhood - how to involve local people?
(Some methods of involvement: community appraisal, future workshop, development plan, etc.)
5. Conflicts in local action. Strategies for handling conflicts.
6. Helping each other. Helping those with family problems, those quitting school, those in need and those starting their careers. Facing the problems of our age (drugs, AIDS, etc.).
7. Communicating with each other and the world
- meeting young people from other places, countries.
- using international communication systems (E-mail, Internet). How to print, photocopy and fax?
8. How to organise local projects? Identification of needs, partners and resources.
b, Professional and post-graduate courses for community development workers
(with separate syllables, based on the previous 3 intermediate job training courses and the regular training courses at the Janus Pannonius University of Sciences in Pécs and the Eötvös Lóránd University of Sciences in Budapest)
II. Training for the representatives of local NGOs
1. Rights of gathering, unification and liberty in the new democracy. How to found associations or foundations? What is an NGO and what do we call the non-profit sector?
2. Possible fields of action for NGOs. Self-organisation and democracy. The means of democratic action: constitution, general assembly, board meeting, membership, etc.
3. How to prepare, organise and chair meetings, debates and negotiations. Elaborating alternative proposals. Ways of exercising pressure. The significance of compromising.
4. Should we make compromises and arrive to a consensus? How to negotiate with decision-makers?
5. The non-governmental, governmental and business sectors. How do we see each other? Dialogue among the participants of the 3 sectors.
6. Somebody is knocking on my door - lobbying at politicians.
7. Ways of promoting interests in local NGOs. Individual or community promotion of interests? The identification of common interests and the preparation of action plans.
8. The struggle for resources. Fund-raising.
9. Get to know other neighbourhoods! Let's meet NGOs from other regions, share our experiences and join our forces!
III. Training for local government representatives
Training for elected representatives about how they interpret their roles, and about the importance and methods of the division of decision-making.
1. Self-governing society. The significance of the new self-government Act.
2.What is my role in a democratic self-government? What is my role as a: mayor, representative or committee member?
3. How to fulfil my role? Initiating, decision-making, and carrying-out decisions with different partners. Who acts? "They" (local people) or I, or both?
4. The democratic, autocratic and liberal leadership methods.
5. Local authorities as local power or as services for all?
6. The role of civil participation in governing locally. The co-operation between local NGO-s and the local government and the establishment of the democratic circumstances of their co-operation - citizens' forums, public meetings, common preparation for decisions, committee work, etc.
7. The non-governmental, governmental and business sectors. How do we see each other?
Dialogue among the participants of the 3 sectors.
8. How to make local projects? Identification of the needs, partners and resources.
9. The struggle for resources. Fund-raising.
IV. Training for independent local media
1. The flow of information - local publicity. Local media, forums, NGOs, parliament, etc.
2. Openly and democratically - the role of the local media in the democratic development of the community.
3. How to organise local newspapers?
4. How to organise community radio stations?
5. Cable-tv, community tv.
6. Finding sponsors inside and outside of our community/region.
V. Training for the development of local community economy
1. Economic development in the community. The methods of involving communities in the identification of resources and decision-making. The development and usage of community resources.
2. Factors that promote community development in country regions. The application of some basic economic development methods (SWOT-analysis, cash-estimation, critical analysis of development schemes).
3. Collecting and understanding market and financial information. How to evaluate business schemes?
4. Ways of stimulating economic activities and involving people in community planning.
5. What is their secret? Examples to follow in community enterprising in Hungary. Making contacts with entrepreneurs and charity organisations.
6. Proceeding in the direction of macro areas: e.g. banking systems, the usage of resources through international structures, the European Union, etc.
VI. Regional training - training for local authorities, NGOs and for the representatives of business sector
1. Historical, formal and informal links among our neighbourhoods. Can there be absolute local independence? The villages, their environments and their regions.
2. Regional development policies yesterday and today. New actors in decision-making: private entrepreneurs, local authorities and NGOs.
3. Regional development: levelling differences with the help of the state or self-sufficient regional development initiated from below? Harmonising internal and external development. The principle of subsidiary.
4. Establishing regional co-operation: the identification of regional problems, the elaboration of an action plan and the preparation of planning matrixes and projects.
5. Local publicity in the small region.
The 18 main facilitators of the Civil College Foundation are highly educated community developers with one or two university diplomas and with reach project and training experiences. They expanded the social basis of the profession of community development and who within the Association for Community Development since 1989 have been working on its further possibilities. They are the ones who have held the first vocational training courses and who have several realised local projects behind them.
If necessary, the facilitators of the courses may involve co-facilitators in the tuition - e.g. from local authorities, NGOs, or from planning, economic and enterprising development areas. These facilitators can be training professionals, but at the same time they can be local people performing well in different areas.
Ways of dealing with issues:
1. Before arriving to the course students are given home work related to a particular issue. The home work invites them to rethink their current practice and to inform the other students about it.
2. Treating topics starts with outlining earlier experiences which in the same time serves as an introduction to each other.
3. Courses teaching methods of activating people begin with citing examples from the nation-wide practice (often through meeting representatives of projects that are related to the topic or through watching videos or more rarely through visiting projects). The participants then apply the method to their own projects. Among the training circumstances this is naturally more like simulation, but the goal is the acquisition of techniques for which the exercise is absolutely appropriate.
4. Wherever possible, the training emphasises on the mobilisation and recognition of relevant experiences. Participants get closer to feasibility through getting acquainted with and analysing cases, projects and conflicts. For example a tenant group negotiates with the representatives of local authorities.
5. When arriving at the venue, every participant is given a study pack, which he/she gradually fills with so-called reading sheets he/she receives during the course. Such a sheet contains key-concepts regarding the issue that has just been discussed, as well as it provides related exercises, case studies and some recommended literature.
6. The Civil College has several strong links with practical everyday life:
- the participants are motivated to attend the courses, because they want to solve specific practical problems or tasks,
- training will build on the mobilising power of good national and international examples. It's best to introduce these through building them into the process of training. This is possible through either:
- inviting those to the training centre, who practise their work well
- organising field visits for the participants.
We intend to collect good and bad examples, special solutions, instances of community enterprising and organisation, different solutions to the operation of local media, etc. thematically during our work. Participants trained by us will - most probably - will enrich civil society with further good instances, and their action will provide new participants with the opportunity to study them.
HACD's role in the Civil College project
The Association for Community Development is the founder of the Civil College Foundation. This is due to the following aspects.
When the association was founded in 1989, the following four important objectives or operational areas were specified:
1. Building networks
2. Promoting the development of local media
3. Collecting information
4. Training community development workers and local community leaders
The Association has organised training courses regularly in different areas in community development and community work. The following examples illustrate these:
- 1989: intermediate professional community development training in the county of Hajdú-Bihar (Eastern Hungary);
- 1990: intermediate professional community development training in the counties of Békés;
- 1990: training for potential community development tutors;
- 1992: itermediate professional community development training in the counties of Komárom-Esztergom and Vas, and in Budapest;
- 1993: the first 2,5 year long regular community development training course is launched at the Janus Pannonius University of Sciences in Pécs;
- 1994-95: co-operative development course titled 'The Development of Community Economy' in partnership with the Devon Co-operative Development Agency.
During the association's training courses we understood that the occurring training needs can only be met by an independent organisation which is founded for exactly this reason. Thus, in the end of 1994, we established the Civil College Foundation, whose board is constituted by the most experienced tutors in earlier courses.
The Association for Community Development, together with the organisations whose establishment was initiated and supported by it (Civil College Foundation, Community Service Foundation, Intercommunity Foundation, Foundation for Civil Radio Stations - the establishment of these is detailed in the previous point), has built partnerships with the following organisations:
- International Community Education Association, we are member and we are in the Board of the European Region too. Directorate is in Berlin, Director: Angelika Krüger, D-1000 Berlin 31, Prinzregentenstrasse 2. Phone: 49 30 2176471, fax: 49 30 2176471;
Activity: This is a world-wide association for spreading the spirit of community education. The ICEA organises seminars, conferences (e.g. HACD organised the 2nd European Conference in Budapest with some 120 participants from Western and Eastern Europe, in 1992, titled "Education, Economy, Environment")
- Combined European Bureau for Social Development
This is a European-wide charity, based in The Hague, mainly for the EU countries on community development. HACD is the only member from Central-Eastern Europe and it represents itself in the Board too. Director: Paul Henderson, Community Development Foundation North, Vassally House 20 Central Road Leeds, LS1 6DE, phone: fax:
Activity: exchange of experiences, experimental work, researches.
- EL TALLER - this is an international NGO and NGDO mainly for the Southern Regions of the World.
Activity: exchange of experiences, seminars, conferences, hosting students from Southern countries.
The Civil College is in partnership with Northern College, Barnsley, Wentworth Castle, Stainborough, Barnsley S75 3ET, ph: 44 1226 776000; fax 1226 776025, Minicom. 1226 776026. Project Manager: John Grayson tutor.
For further information please contact Ilona Vercseg Tel/fax 36 1 201/5728 firstname.lastname@example.org