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Responding together

Responding Together is a project which has beeen co-financed between 2012 and 2014 by DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission and DG Democracy of the Council of Europe. It is aimed at mobilising citizens and resources at local level to reduce poverty and inequalities. In a context of crisis where conventional tools are insufficient to address the complexities of impoverishment, precariousness and inequalities, the Council of Europe proposes to develop experimental local processes that lead to concrete action by using available resources in alternative ways. The Council of Europe has developed over time an enriched experience of engaging citizens (more specifically, defining criteria on well-being for all and setting priorities either through local actions (SPIRAL) or online (Edgeryders)).

Moving from efforts of analysis, deliberation or mobilisation to concrete action, notably on a long-term basis, requires some methodological understanding and support. Among others, several key issues need to be tackled. First, the process of identifying and organising resources in view of reaching an objective for social justice. Second, the legitimacy to act. Third, the networking process or institutional framework of support. Fourth, the involvement of those who will benefit from the action and, last but not least, the evaluation of progress made in reaching the objective. This project involved more than 30 European cities (organised in clusters of exchange and interaction) as well as local citizens, communities and grassroots movements across Europe.

The underlying idea is to create, through the project, links that will enable local inhabitants of those cities, communities, etc. to take advantage of existing creative knowledge in terms of the identification, mobilisation, pooling together and organisation of resources. Emphasis will be put on the alternative use of abandoned or wasted resources and on the approaches leading to the common pooling of resources. The tool that links the local and the global is an interactive online website, weaving and facilitating the transfer of existing knowledge for real action.

The main guiding principles that the current project is based on are:

1. Progressivity - in an environment where there is an extremely uneven standard of living. Working with those who are in real need; who would otherwise not be able to access the default resources. Actions should ensure that we are progressing towards narrowing the gap in access to rights and well-being in increasingly unequal societies. We have to help to include the excluded because it is our moral, ethical and civic responsibility.

2. Practical empathy building (non-stigmatisation) - fostering attitudes of mutual trust and respect.

3. Commoning - moving from private towards common ownership, i.e. through the sharing, re-using, re-imagining and connecting of assets and resources, thus creating a sense of genuine ownership of the local resources. Dignity & basic human rights - more than ever do we need to raise public consciousness about dignity as a universal human right.

4. Scalability - Good ideas are welcome but they aren’t everything. We are searching for actions that show potential for growth and that can be replicated or tailored to different local contexts. Upon evaluating the potential impact of an intervention in a locality, the solutions most valued will be those that are partly or fully addressing specific challenges that have been defined in a particular city or town.

5. Speed of results - solutions that can offer sustainability and endurance in the longer term are more interesting and wholly necessary. Nevertheless, in this first iteration of the project we are also considering solutions that can offer quick but effective wins where possible.

Responding together allowed to collect a great diversity of citizen's initiatives, organized in 2014 in 12 thematic networks which have been determining to enrich the SPIRAL methodological framework, especially the fourth phase (planning/comparing) of its two first cycles. For more information please visit Responding Together website.