Bridge 47: A call for civic action!
When it comes to problem-solving and challenging power structures, we can sometimes underestimate the power of civic action. We as citizens, both local and global, hold a level of strength and wisdom that can cause real revolutions – especially when we join together. It is time to release the 'power of togetherness' and the Melton Foundation's contribution to the Bridge 47 Global Event at the International Civil Society Week 2019 in Belgrade, Serbia is a testament to the same.
To explore and empower these ideal, Bridge 47 called out to civic actors from all over the world to join forces at the International Civil Society Week 2019, celebrated in Belgrade, Serbia from April 8th – 11th. As global citizens in constant pursue of connections across borders, a delegation of Melton Fellows made their way to Belgrade to learn, share, connect, and explore novel approaches to Global Citizenship Education.
Check the happenings and take-aways of an active week ahead!
The Bridge 47 Global Event engaged civic actors across the globe to share, discuss, and reflect upon different initiatives and ideas regarding Global Citizenship Education (GCEd). Guests and attendants meet to connect, inspire each other, and join forces to grow as a bold, powerful global community for peace.
The beginning of Bridge 47
The first day started off with the grand opening of the International Civil Society Week. The auditorium of Kombank Hall in the center of Belgrade was full of people from all over the world, ready to kick off an exciting week of learning and sharing; and how they did! We got to reflect with Serbian comedian Zoran Kesic, who shined a satiric light over our world and Serbian culture; listened to Marija Lukic, Serbian activist of the #MeToo movement; rocked to the Girls’ Rock Camp’s performance, from the Femix Network of Female Creativity in Serbia; and tightly held each other’s hands, while lawyer and disability rights activist Yetnebersh Nigussie fired up spirits with her words, that would mark our journey for the rest of the week:
“As civil societies, this is the time when we need to stand together as close as possible, and condemn any action or omission threatening diversity, inclusion or voices all over the world. With understanding that new problems require new solutions, let’s open spaces for everyone, to come and contribute for a better and inclusive future we want to see in 2030 and beyond.”
Civic actors at work!
The team woke up early to attend the first Morning Plenary, a small talk hosted and represented by the Steering Group Chair, Rilli Lappalainen, to get the day started by setting reflections and topics to explore, through thought-provoking questions about global media, the most urgent issues affecting our global society today, and the current tools, skills, and strategies the civic societies of today hold to empower themselves for social, political, and environmental change.
GCEd: Reclaiming Power was the first session, a workshop to make Bridge 47 participants break the ice. During this session, we unlocked the concept of GCEd. Our Melton Fellows participated with people from tenths of countries in different activities to learn how to stand before inherently different realities and cultures, and to recognize power structures and cultural bias that affect our lives, and the ways we stand up to challenges in our specific context. How trustworthy is our own life perspective? In this workshop, attendees were taught to test every value, flip every reality, doubt every rule, and question every question.
During the second part of this session, GCEd: The Power of Sharing Power, Bridge 47 participants were invited to reflect on their conclusions and share their personal take on the role they own in GCEd in their communities. When reflecting upon the act of questioning, Junior Fellow Kwabena Ankrah, shared:
“There are three types of lies in our journeys. The lies we are told. The lies we tell ourselves. And the last, but most dangerous of all, the lies we decide to believe.”
Kwabena invited the Bridge 47 community to critically look at our own values and never stop asking questions, in order to always defy structures and be open to conversation, empathy, and eventual agreement and collaborative success.
Time to meet, time to explore
On the third day of the Bridge 47 Global Event, participants woke up to a second Morning Plenary to start a new day. Today, we would explore different realities and experience in different workshops from more specific global citizenship and civic action issues. The plenary session, focused on concepts and issues like activism, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and community-building for impactful civic action, became a warm-up for what would come next. This day was going to be really active!
After lunch, the action began: all Bridge 47 attendees split up to join different workshops, each of them with a special appeal and particular topic to touch, providing skills, knowledge and inspiration for further civic action in their own way and context.
From the Resiliency+ Framework in the Organizational Resiliency workshop, to finding new social narratives in a Hope-based Communication session – from the Civic Charter on how to improve coalitions for civic actions, to Armenian activism in the Red Velvet Revolution workshop… The possibilities were endless, and all passions, challenges, and learnings were put on the table to meet and bond in a great instance for human connection and idea-revolution. Through various activities, Melton Fellows could also connect to individuals with similar dreams and ideas. Senior Fellow Cynthia Muhonja, who attended the Civic Activism in the Armenian Red Velvet Revolution workshop, shared her insights on this experience:
“It is always great to acknowledge the importance of when different organizations come together to actually work as partners. So I think one big takeaway is to go out… and be amazing. You are here! Partner with people, speak to people, talk to them. Get to work together to actually solve the world’s problems. It is the only way and here is where you can really see it.”
After lunch, the Melton Fellows delegation attended together a Storytelling Workshop where, through games and fun activities, they learnt how to pitch their own impactful stories and how to express themselves not only verbally, but physically and emotionally as well. After exercising expression and authenticity, participants were invited to create and host their own workshops for the rest of the team.
Melton Fellows, led by Cynthia Muhonja, created a #100Act Workshop to share the Melton spirit around! In this activity, other Bridge 47 participants got to know the Melton Foundation and create their own act of Global Citizenship, in which they compromised to engage in the next weeks. All the best to all civic actors doing their small action for global impact!
After a hectic day of deep networking and learning about each particular topic and issue, the third day culminated in a fun party by the Sava River. Sided by music from all around the world and a powerful live performance of Pussy Riot, this night was once to let go of all work tension, have fun with new friends, and just enjoy the views and vibes from one beautiful Serbian riverside!
Farewells and takeaways
On the last day of the Bridge 47 event, attendees were invited to a second row of workshops to identify and attend. As the final working session of this week, participants got to dive deeper into the different issues and topics that trouble or change the world today. From diversity and inclusion within organizational work, to collective action to end child marriage, participants of the Bridge 47 got a new chance to look at the world’s problems and challenges, and find new approaches and new friends to rely on along the fight.
By the end of the day, Bridge 47 participants joined together to share energy and unite for a last civic action activity, the Freedom Run.
The Freedom Run took hundreds of delegates of the International Civil Society Week to the street in order to raise a voice for freedom, unity and solidarity in our societies, in the symbolic action of running together and fill the streets of Belgrade in a massive, united movement. For all the injustice in the world, for those who remain unseen by our systems, for those who need the movement, today we move. We are #FreedomRunners! Senior Fellow Sabreesh Sekar, shares:
“If you have nearly over one thousand people and ideas that come from different cultures and different parts of the world – when you have all this put together, you end up with something great. The output is just something outstanding. This is what I have learnt the most. Just how we can just put people together in a room, and just let the strength of action take its own path – let things be great!”
“The power of togetherness!”
The Bridge 47 Global Event was a great opportunity for our Fellows to grow community and inspiration in the Global Citizenship advocate spaces. The chance was there to listen, learn, and be inspired by civic actors from across the globe who, just like us, are looking for a better future, and to give a hand to those who are willing and ready to become part of the movement. Like Zoran Kesic said, the world is full of authoritarian leaders, threatening challenges, and powerful detractors. But when we count ourselves together and join forces for good – we are the true majority.
The power, the opportunity, and the responsibility is now ours to take. After learning from social revolutionaries to political activists from all continents and nations, the picture is clear for us: in a world of injustice, silence and abuse of power, change is possible.
Now, we only need to stay strong – and together!