Community Alphabet is an international long-term peer learning program for European community leaders and practitioners who are interested in inclusive participatory processes, and want to learn together and from one another.
Community Alphabet participants deepen their knowledge, build skills and reflect on their practice together. The program is based on learning by doing and individual and peer reflection on practice. By deepening their grounding in inclusive participatory approaches, program participants become better equipped to help communities identify and mobilize local resources, work towards shared community goals in an environment of listening, trust, respect and mutual recognition, and build bridges across divergent views.
In Community Alphabet, participants:
- are exposed to community building approaches that are inclusive and participatory and skills to help them work within communities
- engage with other community builders across Europe for support, including national, regional and/or cross-country interaction to pursue common interests
- explore their own role in community building and ways of approaching work with communities
- test community building ideas and practices in their communities
- develop a resource tool for community practitioners, leaders and citizens/citizen initiatives outside of the program
The program works with community leaders and practitioners who are nurturing civic engagement at local level. Community leaders and practitioners - people who are supporting local citizen-led action - are in a unique position to help local communities search for common ground, increase social trust and work with divergent views.The 2023-24 program engages up to 20 community practitioners and leaders from 8 European countries (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Spain, Albania, Sweden).
Community initiatives in targeted European countries have the knowledge, tools and support to confidently pursue inclusive participatory processes with communities so that they can, over the longer-term, play a meaningful role in developing places where: people with different views work towards shared community goals in an environment of listening, trust, respect and mutual recognition, people enhance the community through use of local skills and resources, and people assume shared responsibility.
Participants engage in multi-day workshops, site visits, self-directed e-learning, peer exchange and support over an 18-month period, and also develop and implement a project in their own community where they test and apply learning from the program. Program participants and staff will also collaboratively create a supportive resource tool with practical tools for community leaders and citizens beyond the program.
2020-2022 PILOT PROGRAM
Through the 2020-2022 Community Alphabet pilot program, we guided 26 community development practitioners and program managers from three non-profit organizations from Serbia, Hungary and the Czech Republic (TRAG Fondacija, Via Foundation and Közösségfejlesztők Egyesület – Köfe/Hungarian Association for Community Development) in advancing their knowledge and skills around inclusive community building, participatory mapping, resilience and conflict/tension transformation. The pilot program included online and in-person workshops, a site visit, peer exchange and support and staff guidance to participants as they applied the learning to their practice.
The pilot program participants incorporated program learning into their support of communities through e.g.:
- Asset mapping in a village, which then enabled quick mobilization of resources to help Ukrainian refugees
- Development of a network of community leaders across a city to share knowledge, contacts and equipment
- Mobilization of local assets in a community school garden project, which was so successful that an external grant remained unspent and citizens continued to think of solutions using their own resources
- Mapping to identify resources and create a sense of belonging in a village museum project
- UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) Czechia podcast about migrant integration based on the ABCD approach of identifying and appreciating local resources
- Use of ABCD principles in Agency for Social Inclusion – Via supported projects in socially excluded localities in the Czech Republic
- a case study on a participant´s project to create a network of community leaders in her city
- a case study on a participant’s project to engage residents in creating a community rain garden
- an article about one of the pilot program workshops by two participants
- the 2020 initial assessment report, which details how Via, TRAG and HACD support communities Changing the paradigm: Reflections on Community Support in Three Central and Eastern European Non-profit Organizations
Community Alphabet responds to societal fragmentation and citizen disengagement in public deliberation. Disheartened by the multiple stresses that societies face today, many people turn to their closest environment - their neighborhood, district or village - to find sure footing. But even at local levels, it can be challenging to bridge differences in views and experience. Increasingly, it seems, people are fragmented into narrow social bubbles that afford little interaction with divergent viewpoints. When citizens cease to exchange opinions and discuss their differences, when there is little motivation to find shared aspirations amidst those differences, social cohesion becomes strained and fragile.
Community Alphabet follows on Via’s previous international program, ViabilityNet 3.0, which supported community leaders and organizations in the Central & Eastern European region from 2016 to 2019 through grants and learning opportunities.To learn more about ViabilityNet 3.0’s impact on program participants and on one of the participant’s communities, see the following case studies:
For more information about the Community Alphabet program, please contact Helen Lenda at firstname.lastname@example.org.