14 SES 10 B, Place-Based and Place-Conscious Education III
“À Descoberta do Mundo Rural [Discovering the Rural World]” was a fifteen month-long project, a partnership between the Portuguese Institute of Educational Communities (ICE) and the Portuguese Association for Local Development (ANIMAR), financed by both national and European funds. With the purpose of identifying and giving visibility to formal and informal local development initiatives, taking place in the rural context, in 26 of Portugal’s municipalities, the project also aimed at presenting and discussing those which were considered “good practices” in such fields as the arts, culture, citizenship, heritage, sports, inter-generational activities, education, health, environment, social/supportive economy, community development, etc.
Aside from these general goals, the project was designed and executed according to other more specific purposes, such as: creating value for these initiatives through the promotion of their visibility and the recognition of their importance for local development processes; promoting the sharing of experiences between several relevant actors, while fomenting synergies between them; identifying new kinds of initiatives; and, especially, stating the diversity and the movements that exist in the Portuguese rural context.
The territories were selected based on three criteria: 1) some territories/initiatives previously known by ICE or their collaborators; 2) some territories/initiatives previously known by ANIMAR or their associates; 3) territories about which neither organization had great knowledge, particularly due to great social-economical changes that had taken place in previous years. In all three cases, an exploratory approach was adopted, with the purpose of identifying initiatives that were still unknown for the project’s partners.
In order to be identified as “good practices”, the initiatives had to:
- Facilitate/promote knowledge and critical thinking;
- Promote their member’s active participation, putting the actors in movement;
- Foment the construction of alternative future histories, favoring the existence of locally-based shared utopias;
- Reveal the capacity to constantly inspire people and their actions, innovating in their own territories;
- Promote the requalification of the local from the inside out, working the endogenous resources collectively, and exploring collective and individual memories.
As an outcome, a Good Practices’ Guide was published, in which twenty of these initiatives were analyzed considering aspects such as people’s participation/engagement with the place, the promotion of the place’s memories and histories (from a rehabilitating point of view), the ability of collectively working over difficulties and searching new ways of improving the place one inhabits, the appreciation and promotion of local (natural, cultural, human, material and immaterial) resources, and finally the democratic nature of decision-making processes.
Based on this analysis, in this presentation we wish to discuss the role of citizens’ associations in local development processes: on the one hand, highlighting some tensions pervading the association movement which may question its fundamental principles of democracy and solidarity; on the other hand, setting out alternatives that are appearing at the social, economical and political levels: the humanization of economy and the revitalization of participative democracy.
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