Cities need engaged citizens who can understand, communicate, network, and organise – empowerment helps them address civic problems and co-create solutions. This was the idea we wanted to explore in the Citizen Matters Civic Changemaker Roundtable – we organised two meetings in Bengaluru and Chennai in March 2023.
The meeting brought a number of civic changemakers to one platform, to exchange knowledge and experiences of working on civic change. These were activists and active citizens working in different fields and areas such as animal welfare, environment, climate change, transportation, etc.
We discussed motivations, Encouraging organic leadership, ownership, handling differences and politics, persisting and not burning out(!), stepping back, and letting go! We learnt how each of us approached organising, what modes of engagement worked and what did not, and how we used media and social platforms for learning, amplification and lobbying. How did we effectively engage with governments and navigate legal systems? How important are funds for initiatives, and how do we evaluate success and deal with failure?
Participants agreed on a few key points: To bring about a sense of civic responsibility, we should reach young people. Groundwork is essential to understand systemic issues. It is also necessary to network and build a support system to sustain the work over time. Technology helps lay citizens start with simple goals – for example, getting fundamental issues resolved by raising complaints on local government apps. This event saw the participation of over 25 people in each city – it was a wonderful chance to learn from each other and come up with ideas to collaborate on. In Bengaluru it was held on the 19th of March and in Chennai it was held on the 25th of March. It was a physical meet up and participants enjoyed connecting in person!