Community centres and ACTive NGOs


As we all know, the Coronavirus outbreak has changed everybody’s daily habits, and the way people live within their community and neighbourhood. What can community centres and NGOs do to continue offering their services in order to help those who benefit from them, especially during this challenging time?

On 8th April 2020, Levente Polyák (Budapest), urban planner, researcher and policy adviser at Eutropian moderated Cooperative City in Quarantine #4, a live panel on how community centres and NGOs are changing their working methods under this crisis, featuring guests from this sector scattered across Europe. Representatives and activists from five cities that are participating in the URBACT Network ACTive NGOsIrina Vasilijeva (Riga) – Active NGOs project coordinator; Petra Marcinko (Dubrovnik) – Lazareti Art Workshop, local stakeholder group coordinator; Tom Goodridge (Brighton) – Community engagement officer in  Brighton & Hove City Council; Jackie Rena  (Brighton) BELTA, Bristol Estate Leaseholders And Tenants Association; Marc Bassols (Santa Pola) – Local stakeholder group coordinator; Maria Tiilikkala (Espoo) – NGO cooperation coordinator, Espoo Municipality.

Probably all community centres in Europe have a lot in common regarding the way they work during this challenging and totally new situation. Community venues, normally serving as spaces for encounters and exchange between individuals and organisations, now cannot accommodate any activities and had to close their doors. Nevertheless, communities organised around these venues need social and cultural services now more than ever. How is the local situation in your country and city?

Irina Vasilijeva– I work for the Riga Municipality. In Latvia, the state of emergency has been prolonged until the 12th of May. However, half of the time I still work in the office. At the moment Latvia doesn’t count many cases – as of April 8th it’s 577, and as physical contact is not very rooted in our culture we are pretty good at keeping distance and at avoiding crowds.

Petra Marcinko – I work for Art Workshop Lazareti  in Dubrovnik. In Dubrovnik there are only about 60 cases, and Croatians in general are abiding by the rules. Many citizens joined the civil protection crew, patrolling the city making sure that people are alright and don’t act irresponsibly.

Tom Goodridge – I am a Community Engagement Officer in the Brighton & Hove City Council. I work from home, and I am also self-isolating. I contracted the virus myself, but luckily it was mild. In the UK there are approximately 60.000 cases and thousands of deaths. It is noted that the UK’s response was slow. However, we’ve been overwhelmed by acts of kindness coming from grassroots organizations and single citizens.

Jackie Rana – I’m one of the acting trustees of BELTA (Bristol Estate Leaseholders And Tenants Association). Many members of our community found were given relatively little warning about restrictions. So I’ve been making sure we would show a reactive approach to do what’s possible in order to serve the most vulnerable layers of society.

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