Project We Propose!: Building Territorial Citizenship From School

Project We Propose!: Building Territorial Citizenship From School

Sérgio Claudino (University of Lisbon, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7110-0.ch015
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In 2011, the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning (IGOT), University of Lisbon, launched the We Propose! project. In the subject of upper-secondary school geography, making a case study that focuses more in particular on local problems is compulsory. However, it would go against school routines. The We Propose! project was designed in order to encourage work on a case study and it has taken up the challenge of promoting young people's territorial citizenship by means of overhauling school practices and forging partnerships among universities, schools, and the community, especially the municipalities in local government. Pupils have to identify what the problems are in their own residential areas, carrying out field work on them and putting forward proposals to help solve them. Their proposals are then shared with the local community. Apart from Portugal, it has now been disseminated in Spain, Brazil, Mozambique, Colombia, and Peru.
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The Challenge Of Public Participation In A Democratic Society

The calls made by civil society to build a democratic society are increasingly more insistent; its members want to take part in the destinies of their communities and exercise effective territorial citizenship – a concept which we prefer to spatial citizenship, owing to the fact that the territory is an appropriated built space with which the communities living in it, identify.

The aim is “to rescue the democratic spirit of societies” in which decision-making has been removed from the population” (Ferrão & Dasi, 2016, p. 237). Encouraging the population to exercise its own public decision-making in favour of governance, is linked to “networks of partnerships and multiple agentes” (Fernandes & Chamusca, 2009, p. 29) where everyone is free and should be able to take part in the process leading to development. This social participation is a key factor in order to consolidate democratic government and foment intermeshing among the actors working for development. In being particularly aware of the problem involving a democratic deficit, the European Union launched a White Paper on European Governance in 2001, and in 2013 it declared the European Year of Citizens. The number of Agendas 21 multiplied and people took part in discussing budgets which aimed at funding and designing action plans based on sustainable local development in joint work organised between local governments and community actors.

However, the apparent academic consensus about the importance of public participation in decision-making as regards the territory, and the relevance that the school could have in citizenship education, has not often been put into practice. In its on-going Reports on Human Development issued by the United Nations Development Programme or in the reports compiled by other international institutions and organisations, education is deemed to be a priority aim but it is not viewed as a way in itself, of transforming citizenship practices. Apparently, the effective contribution the school might make does not inspire confidence when building a more participative democratic society.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Geography Education: Compulsory education in geography that everyone should have regardless of their school and professional trajectories.

Competence or Skill: A combination of interrelated knowledge, abilities and attitudes that are called upon in problem-solving.

Territorial Citizenship: Responsible participation in decision-taking about special community-based problems.

Field Work: First-hand data gathering undertaken in places and with people, and supplemented by discussions and sharing the outcomes obtained.

Case Study: Research into, processing and communicating the results about a specifically defined problem.

Ibero-America: A socio-culturally based regional space in the world that is composed of countries on the Iberian Peninsula and in the American continent that speak Spanish and Portuguese.

Territory: Space wherein the possession, transformation and identification of a community belongs.

Education for Citizenship: Community-based learning, undertaken through the problem-solving of concrete issues, in constant dialogue with the community in question.

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