By Naila Ismayilova from Azerbaijan who attended the CitizensLab network meeting in Brussels as a winner of the “shadow visit lottery” for MitOst members.
Who is an active citizen? What kind of action should be taken in order to achieve significant change in a particular society? How can people from different fields of activity get together and join forces for a common future? I had lots of questions in my mind when I received an email from the CitizenLab team stating that I would be invited to attend the programme’s second network meeting in Brussels. I would like to highlight that this experience has a special place in my life, starting with the fact that it was the first time I ever won a lottery. I took it as a good sign, because in my culture we believe that the way you start a year it will continue all along.
The meeting was held in Brussels, 8-11 March, and brought together 47 local activists from 22 European countries. Change makers from different sectors of society met to discuss the main challenges they face in their daily work, to exchange experiences and make plans for further actions. From my point of view, it’s a great opportunity to learn from each other, to set new goals and codesign initiatives that create participatory, diverse and accountable societies. The meetings that were organised in the frame of CitizenLab took place in different parts of Brussels and connected actors from the cultural, the business and the political spheres. As I strongly believe that the 21st century is a century of networking where inter-sectorial cooperations are meant to shape our common future, this ability of politicians, entrepreneurs, artists and representatives of civil society organisations to sit together, to discuss and make plans for the future of their societies was what inspired me most – especially, as it is something I rarely observe in my own country.
During the second evening, we had a storytelling night where C-lab members shared stories related to challenges or dilemmas, but also surprises and successes that they encountered within their initiatives. I loved Wassila Hachchi’s personal story who is a former member of the Dutch parliament. It gave me hope that there are still politicians who want to serve people and make their life better. Also, I found a strong personality at the base of this short story, which can be a good example for young women who desire achievement and want to be active in society.
Another initiative that I found interesting was URBINGO which develops urban games as a matrix for collecting and arranging local stories and making young people become acquainted with cultural aspects of their neighbourhoods. It is a great educational tool for activating interest in the rapidly changing localities, and encourages citizen participation by gathering valuable empirical data on local material culture. I will definitely recommend it to the Time for Development programme where I am active in and am looking forward to further cooperation with the URBINGO team.
The three main messages I take with me from the CitizenLab meeting and will apply in my future activities are:
- Do not underestimate any input, even if it may be small.
- Citizens are not powerless; everyone can make a change in their community.
- It is not possible to change the whole world, but important to take action and create initiatives.
Finally, I would like to see CitizenLab growing as a network in the years to come and am looking forward to observe the implementation of interesting initiatives. I believe that it can be a great platform not only for civil society actors in European, but also in developing countries.
P.S. This is a picture which I would like to symbolise the CitizensLab network: it starts from one light and connects many others. I wish CitizensLab will grow the same way.