Being an adult means being a citizen. Whether you are actively involved in society or you go to vote because your surroundings forced you to. But do you know that you have many more opportunities to get involved in social events as a citizen? None of us lives alone like a finger. And if we want to feel better in our country, we should participate together in decisions and improvement of the current situation.
In the podcast, political scientist Michal Vašečka told us the importance of getting involved in social events and other important topics.
Slovakia is a democratic country. Democracy allows us, as citizens, to directly or indirectly participate in the running of the state. In an indirect democracy, we do not decide on specific issues ourselves, but we elect representatives who choose on our behalf. Direct democracy is based on our direct participation. There are several ways you can get involved.
Individuals can use various civil participation tools such as complaints, petitions, initiatives, proposals, comments, strikes or demonstrations. They can even be invited to multiple working groups at the national, regional and local levels and thus actively participate in creating and implementing public policies.
The creation of public policies in a participatory way, that is, with the active participation of citizens, has many benefits. There are better policies and more complex solutions; decisions’ legitimacy is increased, trust is built, and capacities are created for future implementation.
One of the direct tools for influencing public events “from below” is writing a petition that people can sign. You can read about what a petition is, what form it should take, and the rules and options for writing it in the article How to write a petition correctly.
A referendum is a well-known form of how you, for example, can influence the adoption of specific laws. Unlike a petition, in the case of a reference, the initial initiative does not come directly from citizens but from the state, which offers citizens the opportunity to express themselves. For example, you can learn more about the referendum function on this page.
Activism refers to the intensive promotion of specific goals out of conviction or personal motivation in various areas of social life. In short, you are actively involved in public events within a specific topic. We often hear about environmental activism, for example.
A demonstration is a mass expression of agreement or disagreement with something. Through the protest, you can visibly express your opinion on, for example, a political decision or a cause.
A participatory budget is a tool of participation and one of the most influential democratic tools. It allows you to be directly involved in the decision-making on the redistribution of part of the public finances of the city, municipality or higher territorial unit (self-governing region). It opens a public debate on implementing interventions and the future vision and form of the city or territory. You can learn more about participatory budgeting on the Ministry of the Interior website.
It is a process in which people take action to solve public problems. It can be done collectively or individually. The main goal is to make the world a better place for everyone. It is currently on the rise, as there has been an increase in social and environmental movements. Today it is pretty easy to get involved in some civic initiatives.
Why is it important to get involved?
There are many reasons to get involved and the benefits of being more involved in your community.
It supports better relationships, growth and development. When you join a civic collective, you create strong ties with stakeholders. Civic engagement can also increase the number of community members and strengthen their skills, improve access to information, increase motivation and contribute to change.
It improves the community and the level of education. When you work to improve the community, you can directly see your impact on the people you help. You are also likely to read and discuss news more, share information with others and develop your critical thinking.
It helps improve governance and increases social cohesion. Citizen engagement is essential for a functioning democratic government. It builds a sense of trust, belonging and reciprocity.
It builds individual responsibility. You will be part of the community and feel responsible for contributing and improving your surroundings for the benefit of all.
The following two worksheets we have prepared for you will help you move forward in the area of your civic engagement. You can find them by clicking on the names of individual exercises ready for printing as documents or below in the gallery as images.
Non-governmental organisations are a large and important part of civil society and participation. The word non-governmental means that it is not managed by anyone who participates in the government and does not have representatives in the government either. In Slovakia, they most often take the form of civic associations, foundations or non-profit organisations, but also many others. It is common to encounter the third, civil or non-profit sector label.
It plays the role of a counterpoint between the state and the private sector – its mission is to improve the living conditions of citizens and the entire society in areas such as education, work with children and youth, social and charitable activities, the environment, culture, sports, human rights and minorities. If you want to get a more concrete idea of what this sector includes and the different ways NGOs help society, read some of our blogs, for example, an interview with Kristina from the Depaul organisation that helps homeless people, an article about the SAIDE organisation that builds bridges between school and work, or an interview with Jakub Andacký from #Fridaysforfuture, who organises strikes for the future of the climate.
Non-governmental organisations are citizens’ activities independent of public authority, and their purpose is not to make money. This sector often works thanks to volunteers. A volunteer is a person who does not expect a salary for his work but can draw experience or contacts from it and improve and advance his surroundings thanks to it. A separate category is expert volunteering, which you will learn about in our article Help yourself and others. You can read about how you can get involved in volunteer activities in the article Volunteering – detailed instructions on how to get started.
If you want to learn more about the functioning of the non-profit sector and informal education, listen to our podcast with the founder of the civic association EduEra, Petra Papierníková.
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