Reviving civic engagement in rural communities
The urban-rural divide is a longstanding reality in any society. Life in urban centres naturally differs from rural areas, but in recent years, citizens living outside urban centres have increasingly sensed a growing disconnect with political institutions and elected representatives. This disconnect is amplified by economic stagnation, deteriorating civic life, and often finds expression in protest votes. Additionally, these areas grapple with challenges such as depopulation, an ageing population, and high emigration rates.
The question we face is how to reverse this trend. How can we counter the perception of feeling left behind, and what actions can politicians take to bridge the gap between themselves and citizens outside major cities?
As civic educators, we believe in the transformative power of civic empowerment. To this end, we’ve recently joined the Ideas for Europe (I4E) project. I4E is dedicated to fostering political participation by working closely with citizens residing in peri-urban and rural regions.
I4E’s approach encompasses three core pillars: education, empowerment, and engagement.
The first pillar focuses on enhancing citizenship competencies through idea generation. Capacity-building programmes on European citizenship education will be organized for local actors.
The second pillar seeks to empower a broader spectrum of citizens. Partners will engage citizens in discussions on methods to promote active citizenship. Feedback will be incorporated through inclusive demonstration debates and training sessions with local authorities.
Finally, inspired by a diverse array of ideas, connectors within established networks, and citizens, together, will co-create prototypes that bolster democratic participation. This approach fosters the understanding that every citizen can have a meaningful impact on political and social issues.
In sum, the urban-rural divide presents challenges, but with initiatives like I4E and a commitment to civic empowerment, we believe that the trend can be reversed.
The programme is funded by the European Union.