Journeys to Citizen Engagement: Action Research with Development Education Practitioners in Portugal, Cyprus and Greece
Engagement’ is a term frequently used among NGOs and social movements, but there has been little exploration of its meaning. This report aims to provide an initial basis for further reflection and discussion amongst the DEAR (development education and awareness raising) community about ways to improve citizen engagement. It starts with a brief literature review in order to set the context, followed by an overview of the research methodology and the national context in each country. The research indentifies several key challenges to (effective) citizens engagement, especially on global issues that many people do not find immediately relatable to their local contexts. Although focused on development-related issues, the findings of this report are relevant for the GCE sector at large. This resource offers an insightful discussion on how the interviewed members of the DEAR community perceive the period of crisis (the report was written at the height of economic crisis in the participant countries) as both an opportunity (people more strongly feel the impact of global events) and a threat (increased apathy, lack of resources to fund NGO work, increased violence against marginalized groups). Participants in this research (NGO members) emphasize the need to connect with social movements and other CSOs in order to get in touch with the 'real world'. The report also offers some insight into problems of intelligibility and (ir)relevance of DEAR-related topics for general audiences. Somewhat paradoxically, the research findings suggest a need for a simpler, more accessible language, but on the other also a need to engage in deeper critique, as to remain relevant to lived experiences of the target audience. This resource can be of use to anyone working directly with target audiences on awareness raising and education, especially in developing contacts/partnerships with new movements and organisations, particularly those that are active in local contexts.