100 Sofia Voices: Deliberating Inclusiveness

The project intends to conduct a deliberative public debate on urban policies for inclusion with citizens selected to be representative of the socio-demographic characteristics of Sofia residents. The debate aims to test the attitudes of a this "representative" sample of citizens on specific local policies, but also to provoke citizens to propose public policies for the identified local problems. Proposals for public policies will be presented to the local government and we will engage in active advocacy for their implementation.
The objectives of our project are: 1) to bring inclusive urban policies into the public spotlight; 2) to engage citizens in inclusive policies; 3) to engage in active advocacy for inclusive public policies at the city level.

1) A city welcoming for everyone

Our aim is to engage citizens in city policies oriented towards the inclusion of social groups excluded or invisible from our common public life. Within the project we will define concrete inclusive policies to become the main focus of the deliberative public debate we plan to conduct. Concrete policies - accessible urban environments, public transport for everyone, accessible quality education (these are examples of specific areas we will choose from) - are a key through which we can focus citizens' attention on the need to build an inclusive society, to provoke them to think about excluded groups, the effects of exclusion for the social groups concerned, but also for society as a whole, to tempt them to think about an ordering of our collective living that recognises and supports the dignity of everyone.

2) Inclusive policies formulated by citizens

Our second goal is to engage citizens in the formulation and implementation of inclusive urban policies through deliberative public debate. In order to achieve this goal we will gather 100 people selected to be representative of the socio-demographic structure of Sofia's population (this type of sampling is developed using sociological methods, which is why we will work in collaboration with a sociological agency) - we will refer to this group as Sofia-100 later in the project. Sofia-100 will discuss within a day specific city policies on inclusion, city problems related to these policies, solutions that citizens would propose and commit to. The gathering of such a relatively representative Sofia-100 group overcomes one of the problems mentioned above, namely the involvement in public debates only of already engaged citizens. A second focus necessary for a truly deliberative process is for citizens to debate in an informed manner. This is why we will prepare the public debate in advance with informational materials that present public policy ideas, their effects on different social groups, and on citizens’ majorities. Experts will be involved in the deliberation processes at different stages. Initially, their role will be to ensure that citizens who participate in the debate are informed (this will be our second method of informing, alongside the information materials); the second expert function will be to inform citizens in their search for solutions to the problems they see, namely to discuss the institutional powers, the funding required, the legal possibilities and constraints in relation to the specific urban policies that citizens would like to see in practice in their city. The result of a successful deliberative process would be public urban policies formulated by citizens, representative of the people of Sofia, and with which they would be willing to engage.

1) Citizens’ public policies becoming reality

The final goal of our project is to convince public institutions at the local level to adopt and put into practice policies formulated by citizens. We are convinced that this is the move for citizens to engage in the political process in the long term and to participate in building an authentically inclusive society.
Period: October 2023 - October 2024
Coordinators: Milla Mineva, Kaloyan Velchev
Financing Organisations: the Transatlantic Foundation and the European Union
Social Contexts