Fully equal public space: LIVE LAB as advocacy in action for disadvantaged groups\' leaders

  • TunisiaCountry
  • The National Endowment for Democracy (NED)Donor
  • ENGLanguage
  • Public spacecapacity buildingTopics

The Applicant/ Leader (in English)

Kairouan Community

Background of the applicant

Kairouan Community, established in 2014 is a grass-root community type CSO/NGO, the 1st of the kind in Tunisia with representatives of 3 sectors (CSO, LA, Business) consisting of administrative board (5 people). Kairouan Community seeks opportunities to pursue Kairouan governorate and Central Tunisia sustainable development agenda. The main goals are sustainable environmental, social and economic development in Tunisia? mainstreaming of durable solutions to social & economic malaise and underdevelopment of urban and rural communities? political & social and economic empowerment and activation of disadvantageous and marginalized areas and vulnerable groups and communities.

Kairouan Community’s capacity is rich due to multisectoral experience of its members, i.e. association “We Love Kairouan” promoting ecology, active citizenship; association A.G.I.M  running daycare center with vocational training for PwD; association “Gouvernance Participative” organizing campaigns aiming to merge the awareness & foster participation of all citizens in public debate; Association ATDVER – projects on using alternative energy sources.

The project idea is a continuation of Fix Kairouan - civil e-monitoring tool, first such initiative in Arabic countries (Support for Democracy 2013, PL - project implemented by Press Club Foundation, PL & TACID, Tunisia). Kairouan Community was a partner in 2015’s project continuation focusing on access to public information & open debates on local government, implemented by Press Club Foundation, PL (Support for Democracy 2015, PL).

KC aims to support local initiatives in Kairouan - in 2015 launched a micro-granting competition on local initiatives, financed by local business: 2 pilot initiatives, chosen on the base of Fix Kairouan civil monitoring interventions http://fixkairouan.org/, supported with 500 euro each were implemented (efficient green zone & waste management/ensuring school pupils safety).

Contact Person for this Project


Mohamed Saied Baklouti – chairman of the Kairouan Community; project coordinator, city council member

Noureddine Loughmeri – Kairouan Community member; architect in Kairouan, expert

Other funding: n/a


Wojciech Szpoci?ski, Development Policy Foundation, chairman of board, www.fpr.org.pl, info@fpr.org.pl,

Jaros?aw W?odarczyk, Press Club Foundation, chairman of board, www.pressclub.pl, sekretariat@pressclub.pl.

Project Summary

The project is addressed directly to members of disadvantaged groups - DG (People with Disabilities PwD, mothers with children, seniors) of Kairouan, Central Tunisia, and indirectly to NGOs, local authorities (LAs) & civil society, to build capacity of DG leaders for advocacy in action, to foster their political participation on local level, enhance equal public engagement in decision-making process & equal creation of public space, by realizing micro-initiative in public space – fully functional and accessible installation, developed as a community project during public consultation charette-type event. Project activities include cooperation with MENA region partners, with an aim to bring the debate about public space creation with accordance to DG needs on international (MENA region) level.

Background Outline & Justification

Project answers the problem of underrepresentation of disadvantaged groups (DG) on local political scene and in decision-making process on local level, resulting in negligence of DG needs as equal part of local community and deepening social exclusion.  This tendency is followed by the narrow-minded policy and visible discrepancy between legislation in place and its enforcement in practice, especially concerning PwD, mothers and seniors.

Lack of interdisciplinary approach and know-how in architecture/design combined with social problems in public space affect mostly the DG – for whom accessibility & democratization of public space is essential issue (PwD, sand-blind people, mothers with baby strollers, elders), resulting in lack of joint initiatives or interventions with tangible results.

Perception of DG in public space by decisive actors strengthens the exclusion process – the absence of DG members in public space is related to design and adjustment of city infrastructure with total omission of DG needs, and by posing physical barriers, strengthen their exclusion of social, political and economic life – creating a negative, merry-go-round system.

The example of such negligence is historical medina of Kairouan, a tourism area and siege of various city institutions: a local NGO “A.G.I.M” running daycare center for PwD with vocational therapy workshops has no access road to its siege. Moreover, there are no benches, no adjustments for sand-blinds/blinds; according to public administration officials,  historical buildings can’t be adjusted to be accessible for people on wheelchairs, as it was not how originally building was designed. Completely invisible in public life are mentally-challenged people, being a subject of social taboo, resulting in their total social exclusion.

The underrepresentation of disadvantaged groups in politics has grounds also in the lack of competences, authority and charisma of their leaders. The absence of DG on local political scene and in decision-making process is caused also by the prejudices and social taboo, especially towards PwD, strengthened by their under-education (difficult access to knowledge, no access to informal education and on-line education), economic deprivation and political exclusion (physical barriers).

Project aims to strengthen the starting position of DG leaders in local politics, to let them become representatives of their communities and backgrounds and gain equal voice in public debate on local level. Moreover, project seeks to visualize the benefits of cooperation within community, involving equally DG members, to influence municipality/NGOs to support local initiatives, which will be possible thanks to the open consultation event in charette formula; it will be also an opportunity for DG leaders to present their ideas and opinions to a greater public and participate in the creation process of public space management.

Another problem in question is a low public participation in local decision-making process, caused by public debates formula and its unprofitableness. Civil society in Tunisia is lacking of interest and trust in efficiency of political promises and actions.  It is linked with the dysfunction of local authorities - unqualified old regime’s representatives, with chaotic competences, non-transparent procedures, low effectiveness of public consultations – unlikely to change in nearest future.

Public space and its accessibility in accordance to needs is hardly a subject of debate with citizens in Tunisia. Letting people to speak and decide about public space will sustain the collective responsibility for public domain, which is rarely noticeable in Tunisian cities. The innovative public consultations using the live projecting formula, with participation of local architects, NGOs, LAs & citizens will push public participation in decision making process on local issues and strengthen the dialogue between community and municipality.

The cooperation/joint initiatives about the creation of public space including DG needs, should be lifted to international level, covering whole MENA region, leading to know-how exchange, joint problem-solving discussion and dissemination of good practices. To achieve this aim, MENA region experts are involved in project activities (architects, engineers, NGO activists).

Despite several realized projects focused on public participation and engagement in the democracy building process, there is hardly any to combine theoretical workshops with tangible outcomes/tools to be used. Numerous workshops for Tunisian NGOs without practical approach and sustainable effect on local community, make civil society uninterested & untrusting. It results in lack of trust in effectiveness of political actions & demand for concrete, not apparent actions - the aim to be achieved by implementation of micro-initiative in public space.

Project is also aiming to boost regional cooperation in MENA region of NGOs, architects and town-planners in the field of public space creation with regard to DG needs, by involving representatives of these groups from Morocco, Algeria and Lebanon into charette event – with the view to disseminate project idea and exchange good practices in this field.

Overall objective or goal

- to build capacity: competences, authority & charisma of leaders from DG in Kairouan (People with Disabilities, mothers with children, seniors) as advocacy in action (by realizing project in public space chosen by citizens) - to ensure equal opportunities & representation of DG in politics & participation in decision making process on local level;

- to restore confidence in political actions & improve its effectiveness by increasing public participation in decision making process & showing practical example of tangible civil initiative to be multiplied & disseminated.

Description of the activities

1.         Needs assessment, promotion of the project, call for participants and recruitment meeting session and Kick-off meeting in Kairouan & press conference – (duration: 2 days; number of participants: 40).

Via its network and social media the applicant will promote the goals of the project and launch a call for participants: asking to define the possible place of intervention – public space being a subject of consultations – where an installation could be designed and placed + justification of their choice: which will serve as the first need assessment for the project (defining principal barriers, mayor problems, areas used by the DG but not in the first line of interest of NGO and LA). The site should be widely accessible, spacious and centrally-located,  to ensure the equal accessibility, functionality and attractiveness.

The meeting involving all actors the project addresses (participants representing local NGOs, municipality, representatives of DG & representatives of international partners) will lead to elaborate needs assessment.

DG representatives invited to participate in the project will be chosen among the community of Kairouan, of all possible backgrounds (taking into consideration Kairouan’s uniqueness, without any restrictions, preserving the rule of competiveness. The groups to be taken into consideration will be notified by all decisive actors being involved in the project & invited to the opening event. Among the gathered DG, their representatives will be chosen to participate in project’s workshops (8-12 people).

During the meeting rules of recruitment for workshops’ participants will be announced. The information about the call of participant will be spread via partners’ and local NGOs networks (including social media). The application to participate will be chosen only with cover letter. The final choice of 8-12 participants will be decided by applicant and partners, on the base of letters and meetings with potential candidates.

Press conference, with participation of local media, will enable the presentation of the project, its objectives, as well as all partners involved and project activities.

The issue of regional cooperation in public space creation adjusted to DG needs in whole MENA region will be a subject of discussion during the kick-off meeting. The role of MENA partners - architects, engineers, NGO activists working in this field will  be defined: know-how exchange during training sessions and charrette event, possibilities of dissemination of good practices; common problem solutions.

2. Capacity building – trainings for potential DG leaders

There will be 2 sessions of workshops for chosen participants among DG potential leaders (8-12 persons), run by Tunisian and international experts (MENA and Polish partners). Each session will last 3 working days, including presentations, lectures, discussions and group work.

Workshops will consist of 2 thematic parts:

1) Integration of DG - key problems: interdisciplinary know-how & tools to influence decision making process & facilitate the dialogue between local actors. The training’s main focus is to help DG leaders to define and formulate key problems / barriers, strengthening their personal skills, helping to enable them active start in local politics with a well-defined, tangible and communicative program (city council, local elections in 2016).

2) Creation of public space: accessibility, attractiveness, democratization, needs tailored - cross-cutting social/art actions in public space management;

Models of cooperation: municipality & NGOs; public consultations innovative tools & methodology – what are the most effective ways to foster public participation; fundraising – how and where to find funds for local initiatives in Tunisia.

The capacity building enables to foster the leadership skills of DG – the competences building goes jointly with using the know-how – in the example of advocacy for equal public space. The DG leaders will have an opportunity to use their skills in the presence of potential voters  - during the charette event – as the co-organizers of the event and its active actors.

Each training session will be supported by dedicated materials: glossaries and interactive / question based materials, widening the topic of workshops and encouraging the individual research. The same applies to handbooks of good practices, based on best Tunisian, MENA and European know-how, best implemented projects and democratization practices.

Each workshop session will be followed by the public debate in local media (radio audition) with participation of experts & working group. The auditions will be broadcasted online & published on the project website, and promoted via the social media. Its aim is to raise awareness of community of Kairouan about the necessity of participation in local decision-making process and to promote the knowledge about the DG problems and possible elaborated solutions.

Experts: workshops will be conducted by Tunisian and foreign experts: MENA region (architects, engineers of EAC, Casablanca/ENAU, Tunis)  and EU partners (Press Club Poland, FPR www.fpr.org.pl) – a prolongation of their activity in the region (MFA Poland, Support for Democracy Program 2013-2015).

3. Open public consultation event in Kairouan in charette formula: https://www.wbdg.org/resources/charrettes.php including live lab & voting for project of micro-initiative in public space  (duration: 4 days); number of participants: 50

The event will be organized in the family-friendly formula, open to all citizens, with participation of representatives of municipality, local NGOs, architects, town-planners and community members. In the charette formula, live lab design of public space in Kairouan will include presentations, discussions, creation and development of the concept project. The process will be supported by prepared materials: maps, plans, scale models that will be designed and re-created during the event, taking into account the participants suggestions.

Open consultation event will be co-organized with the trainings participants – as a first possibility to represent their groups and backgrounds in the discussion about city issues/public space management and build their advocacy potential.

The formula of the event will enable DG members to join the discussion on the equal position & with equal chances to express their opinions and ideas in the process of creating a project of an initiative in public space. Thus the essential issue is to assure the participation of DG members - PwD, including mentally-challenged people, along with their families/care keepers – as there are the most vulnerable and excluded groups (subject of social taboo in Tunisia), completely absent in public space.

Choice of site under the discussion during charrette will be determined on the base of need assessment and all decisive actors’ best knowledge. The site should be equally accessible and centrally-located, to play its role as functional and attractive, to be used by all community members – underlining the participation of DG.

The event will be animated jointly by Tunisian partners, MENA/EU including architects http://www.plus48.com.pl/ who have experience in social-focused architecture & design projects in Belarus live lab projecting & building:  https://www.facebook.com/331201520389266/photos/pb.331201520389266.-2207520000.1446433534./350454465130638/?type=3&permPage=1 ). MENA region experts (NGO activists, architecture graduates, engineers from Morocco, Algeria) – 1 representative of one country – will participate in the charette event. The representatives will be recruited via internet and MENA partners’ channels – with the support of partners.

Charette event will be reported by local media – to increase the pressure on local decisive actors about the benefits of such actions & among the community, to engage them more into local issues and problem solving.

On the base of consultation event, several designed propositions of installation in chosen public site will be voted on and one most popular idea will be chosen for realization. Voting process will be conducted via social media (Facebook). The technical design will be further developed by the architects.

5. Implementation of chosen intervention in public space (duration: 1 month)

The realisation of pilot initiative will be supervised by Tunisian and international partners and architects from Kairouan. In the building process volunteers will be involved. The materials and tools will be provided within the project.    

Example of initiative: butterfly bench:  fully fold up/collapsible tray bench turning into table or just entirely pulled up vertically/up to the wall - thus easy accessible for wheelchairs/baby strollers: perfect for rooftop bus stop/parks.

6.         Final conference/presentation of the results, debate on public space (duration: 2 days, number of participants: 40)

The final conference with participation of local media, will present the project results and possible multiplication and dissemination of project idea to other cities in Tunisia.

There will be a debate on public space in Kairouan scheduled, with participation of municipality, NGOs representatives, architects, town-planners, artists and DG leaders. The discussion will focus on possible actions to make public space friendly to all community – accessible for all its members, attractive and functional, combined with best design & modern architecture practices.

Final conference and debate will also have a political focus – related to upcoming local elections (end of 2016). By that time DG leaders will possess necessary skills to present themselves as possible candidates in the elections; their engagement in local-scale issues, as public space creation and management adjusted to the needs of DG, will  show to possible voters their value as local politicians and activists.

Project monitoring & evaluation

Evaluation will be based on questionnaires filled in after final activities? attendance lists? Internet statistics/references in social media? project materials. Upon the project's completion a final evaluation report will be drafted which will assess project implementation, its effectiveness & usefulness, participants’ involvement & the subject matter, organizational and financial sides of the project. The report will determine further cooperation & factors contributing to the project's sustainability.

The capacity of potential DG leaders to ensure equal opportunities & representation of DG in politics & participation in decision making process on local level can be measured by the observations of engagement of DG leaders in public debate and expression of needs of their groups, especially the right to equal access to public space; decision of DG leaders to candidate to city council or in upcoming local elections in 2016 and the results of elections; expression of postulates to ensure representation of DG in local policy making during public debates and consultations; proposed initiatives in public space. As a result, DG leaders will gain know-how and tools to build authority for advocacy and ability to solve problems and they will be prepared for active participation in local politics.

The increase of public participation in local policy making process and improvement of political actions’ effectiveness can be observed by strengthening of the dialogue between citizens & municipality & NGOs; making more needs-tailored investments in the city in accordance to results of public consultations; creating fully accessible, attractive and functional public space for all citizens. Its evidences will be: frequency during public consultation events & debates, number of initiatives proposed.