PRAGA SPEAKING.WAW.PL is yet another example of an NGOs’ consortium-based governance arrangement carried out in the framework of the Local Systems of Support within the programme ‘Family for the years 2010-2020’. The City of Warsaw has allocated approximately € 400,000 in the implementation of the project, which is 90% of the total budget. The rest, like in the case of other LSW projects, derives from other agents. The project has a duration of approx. two years (2013-mid 2015). After that the project will either be prolonged or suspended. Whereas the preliminary opinions about the projects within LSW are positive, their continuation depends on the final evaluation and decisions taken by the main coordinators – the city authorities.
The aim of the structural pattern of the project is ‘to strengthen the territorial community of the neighbourhood’. The basic method of cooperation between the partners of the consortium is interdisciplinary team work, operating with the principle of partnership and empowerment of members. The coordination of interdisciplinary teams remains a responsibility of the consortium.
The organisational objective of the project is to establish a good cooperation between the consortium and public institutions – predominantly schools, and to consequently monitor the educational achievements of students attending those schools. The project, on the one hand, directly supports the school in its educational function via educational activities, on the other it strengthens the motivation and interests of young people, building their self-esteem and sense of agency. It is assumed that the activities undertaken (analogous to the projects ‘BASE’ and ‘Partnership for Children’) support the beneficiaries by motivating them to take responsibility for themselves. Such action is considered a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for improving the situation of children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the district of Praga Północ.
The consortium members are organisations that have for many years been implementing specialised projects for the residents and the community of the area. The partners of the consortium activities are public and private institutions operating in the area, like street workers and animation centres. Coordinated action concerns first of all activities which diminish the possibility of social exclusion, concentrating on educational activities (providing learning assistance in the form of tutoring and help with homework) and therapeutic activities in form of socio-therapy, retraining, sensory integration and support from professional therapists.
The methods implemented are applied also within recreation and developing children’s interests – holiday trips for pupils, small scale financial subsidies for individual work with the beneficiary. The project makes use of modern technology (computers, the Internet, multimedia projectors etc.), as well as simple street working methods. An important component of the activity concerns the improvement of communication due to the formation of the Local Portal Support System www.tu.praga.waw.pl, the organisation of a final event and two ‘Family Festivals’ with the involvement of the local community.
The main objective of the project is to equalise educational and social opportunities of children aged 7-18 years; this way it directly concerns the basic issues of social and socio-economic diversity, i.e. providing assistance to families at risk of social exclusion. All activities focus on families living in the tributary area of two public schools (Primary School No. 127 and Middle School No. 30). The area concerned overlaps with the ‘Local Revitalization Programme of Capital City of Warsaw for 2005-2013’ in the districts of Praga Północ, Praga Południe and Targówek.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
The initiative analysed addresses undesired socio-economic diversity expressis verbis. It refers to the aspects of just development, analogous to those highlighted by S. Fainstein (2005), where social justice is to be produced at the local level (p. 16). The city authorities introduce a governance arrangement which fights negative aspects of social marginalisation, supporting dysfunctional families and children being at risk of social exclusion. The project aims at enhancing social mobility and fostering social cohesion, creating a fundament for the strengthening of social capital of the area in the future.
Main factors influencing success or failure
An important success factor of the initiative is the existing experience of the partner organisations. According to the organisers of the project:
“the basis for the preliminary success of the arrangement is the integration of many previous activities carried out by individual NGOs and the strong financial support of the City Office. The chance to be successful on one’s own and without public financing is low”
For example, since 1995 the foundation ‘Heart for Children’ (Fundacja Serduszko) has been establishing and conducting clubs for children of Praga: a social centre (day room) at the crossroad of Szwedzka and Stalowa streets, or the Praga Youth Film Festival programme in which young people under the age of 18 have the opportunity to make films: documentary and reportage, animation and video clips.
Another factor of success is the possibility to join efforts and exchange experience among the organisations engaged.
The main potential fail factor of the project is its short-term perspective. Although the tasks carried out within the Local Systems of Support are listed in the operational programme ‘Family’ (Urząd Miasta St. Warszawa, 2010), there is always a risk of suspending the initiative, which can have severe social consequences.
The project ‘PRAGA SPEAKING.WAW.PL’ is an example of a public-non-profit project within the innovative governance arrangement Local Systems of Support, where key importance is assigned to the coordination of different local activities with the support of the local government administration. According to the Director of the Office of Support and Social Projects “the long-term success, as well as the continuation of the project depend on its positive evaluation by the Office”. The evaluation will be based on a comparative analysis of all projects carried out in the framework of the LSW programme with respect to their direct and indirect achievements – the children’s educational performance and the precondition for the rise of social cohesion in the target area.