The Know-How Center for Alternative Care for Children at the New Bulgarian University invited non-governmental organizations active in community development, representatives of the government, local government officials, the school community and social services to participate in a conference on "The Role of the Community in Realizing Reforms in Education and in the Social Sphere".
Lack of trust among communities
The transition in Bulgaria has caused social, economic and demographic changes that continue to ruin the ties of trust in the community. Lack of trust deprives people of those close relationships necessary for their successful development and support. This process, called anomie, leads to an escalation of aggression among individuals and their subsequent isolation.
As we support the process of deinstitutionalization that has to bring children back to the community, we see how non-governmental organizations are developing services that support children and families. At the same time, as these teams apply certain methods to support individual cases, something that we would call community development occurs.
"Communities have enormous difficulty integrating children who have lived in institutions."
Dr. Galina Markova, Head of Know-How Centre, New Bulgarian University
Causes and dignity for children and families
As a research center, we have set a goal of outlining the field of community regeneration and development because we believe it would be of great importance to gather knowledge about good practices as well as about understanding children and families within the community.
"A community in Bulgaria can be recovered swiftly from the bottom up when some people understand that they have a cause and then when a danger has been created against this cause. When you have a cause, when you have accomplishments, you become proud, so you regain your dignity. "
Professor Evgenii Dainov, New Bulgarian University
"School is crucial because it should be the environment where the child finds its personality and leadership ambition."
Valentina Simeonova, Project Manager at Know-How Centre
Participants in the conference shared their experience and explained how and by what methods they develop communities, when the feeling that results are being fulfilled occurs, and how these communities offer a favorable environment and support the implementation of policies for child welfare reforms.
"Participation-based approaches/methods can play the role of a catalyst for social justice for the community."
Professor Andy Bilson, University of Central Lancashire, UK
"When we speak of a community, we have to realize that these inclusive education systems that we are trying to build are part of the greater drive that we all need to have for a more inclusive society as a whole".
Greta Gancheva, Director of Inclusive Education, MES
From practical experience to university programs
In addition, the participants considered it a good idea that this event should be part of a series of meetings and expressed the belief that the great purpose of these gatherings is to aim for this knowledge which we generate in a non-governmental way to enter university programs.
"Many of the things we discover through experience are not yet taught at universities. I think we have to allow a lot more of the life experience that our students have as citizens, as humans, in the study rooms. This change in methodology and perspective is something important that the academy needs to contribute if we want to use the community as a resource and as a place for human social work."
Dr. Rumen Petrov, New Bulgarian University
Open dialogue for future discussions
Some of the research questions raised during the conference on the multidisciplinary link between academic knowledge and practice were:
- Can we investigate communities, how can we explore them?
- When is there a discrepancy between the assumptions of service professionals and the real needs of the community?
- To what extent is community building a process that is managed and controled?
- How did education reforms contribute to the cultural transformation of communities?
The next step of the initiative was left open for dialogue and suggestions by all participants in the event.