Glocalism is not just a new word referring to the entanglement of global challenges with the local economy, ecology, politics and social life. It also draws attention to thinking and understanding our societies on a global scale, and to finding our initial action point to change them at the local level. Since 2016, the ACT NOW Mayors’ Network has been bringing dedicated local leaders from Europe and the Middle Eastern region to the spotlight. They all have one thing in common: the capacity and the willingness to tackle global challenges at their local level, such as climate change, societal and political divisions, and all the effects of the coronavirus. These committed local leaders can find support and experience knowledge exchange with like-minded people in our network.
Inspiring those who want to act now
In its fourth year, the ACT NOW Mayors’ Network enhanced its programme and offers wide-ranging support for its members to implement local action that brings about change for the better. In webinars and personal consultations for project development and implementation, mayors and municipality representatives are provided with expert insights. Our experience has shown that learning from practice-proven innovative projects is a source of inspiration for all cities and communities. Thinking outside the box is an added value for each political decision maker. Thus, The Innovation in Politics Institute provides access to a treasure of around 400 best practices, presenting courageous political projects as indispensable responses to pressing challenges.
However, one important challenge for a network that encourages to think globally and act locally is that the cities’ contexts in the various member countries differ from one another. There are, of course, no one-size-fits-all solutions for each community. The network rather transfers the project ideas, their general approaches and learnings, and translates them into prototypes. It further supports to adapt these prototypes to the respective local needs and available resources and accompanies their implementation process.
Prototyping active local engagement
In spring 2017, the Italian Municipality of Spilamberto, led by Mayor Umberto Costantini, started the initiative Spilamberto and Us: Active Citizens for the Common Good, encouraging citizens to assume responsibility for small tasks within the community, such as taking care of common goods, such as public libraries and parks. The success story from Spilamberto inspired us to create a prototyped project on “Activating Local Engagement”, implying a wide range of approaches to improve civic engagement and unlock the potential of citizens by implementing small budget projects. The prototype not only seeks to provide space for residents to care, engage and pursue change, it also helps to create a strong sense of responsibility and solidarity in the community, as citizens feel their self-efficacy and potential when actively engaged. Through a process of inter-municipal learning and monthly exchanges, the members of the Network discussed the project refinement according to their local contexts. To date, four municipalities from Lebanon and one from Italy have been encouraged to start their own project which activates local civic engagement.
These four initiatives indicate that many cities and communities, irrespective of their size and location, encounter similar challenges that can be met with similar solutions but different strategies. That is why the ACT NOW Mayors’ Network has started a new process to bring like-minded local leaders together so that words are turned into tangible action by finding innovative local solutions to global problems and supporting their implementation at the local level. Driving local change means to proactively shape the living conditions for the better and sustainably strengthen the feelings of social cohesion in the community; it makes cities and communities all over the world resilient towards political and societal assaults. Therefore, the Network supports local leaders’ engagement for their communities. Their role is essential when it comes to shaping peaceful, cohesive and prosperous communities. As one member of the ACT NOW Mayors’ Network put it: We are no superheroes, but we feel that we can do something.