During the first week of June 2023, from the 6th to 9th, ALDA's festival took place in Etterbeek, Belgium. ALDA, which is the European Association for Local Democracy, organised a festival which gathered together its members and partners, planning meetings, conferences, and networking’s meals, around the motto “Local Democracy Will Save Democracy”.
The highlight of this event was the General Assembly, which took place during the morning of Thursday 8th, at the Municipal Hall, in Etterbeek. ALDA’s members and numerous partners and friends of the association attended the Assembly, taking part of the presentation of ALDA’s activities in Europe and around the world, ALDA's instruments and efforts to strengthen Democracy as a pillar for peace and development, and ALDA’s future action plans.
When I arrived, the presentation, which was held by Maddalena Alberti (who was appointed as Chair of the Ordinary General Assembly) concerned ALDA’s budget and the future strategies. ALDA’s accountant and treasurer spoke about the annual account of 2022, specifically to the income and expenditure, the balance sheet, and ALDA’s financial situation, making comparison with the past years. Consequently, they spoke about the future strategy’s programme, like support Ukraine, improve members’ cooperation, make ALDA's voice heard and Local Democracy Agencies’ empowerment.
Participate to the General Assembly has been very interesting for me, because I understood how to apply what I studied during my Master in Dublin, in term of finance, budget management, strategies and partnerships. I experienced how an association has to be organised to reach its objectives and in order to grow and develop in the future, how it involves its partners and it is engaged with them.
ALDA has been a great example for me, in terms of work’s discipline, time management, project management, respect and carefulness of all the people involved and invited to be present to the event.
The second important appointment of the day was the Knowledge Fair, which took place at the magnificent and astonishing Maison Hap, in Etterbeek. The Knowledge Fair was the occasion for all the partners to show their projects that let them won a grant from ALDA.
I was welcomed by Nadia Di Iulio, who is ALDA’s Europe Coordinator, Civic Engagement Hub Coordinator and responsible for ALDA’s Community Projects. Since Nadia is the Project Manager of the STAR project, she is the person who constantly communicates and updates SAMA. She involved me during the event, introducing me to other ALDA’s members, such as Andrea Rilievo, ALDA’s Governing Board Member, with who I had an interesting conversation about a project that they organised some years ago, called SMART. Additionally, I knew Veronica, ALDA’s Membership Officer, who helped me with the registration to the events of the day and with the day schedule, and Matteo, who is part of ALDA’s staff, and who was very interested about SAMA’s project and collection.
The Knowledge Fair consisted of 10/12 tables, on which many projects have been presented to the participants and to ALDA’s members and partners. Many people came to our table, whether who was interested to know about SAMA or other possible partners, such as Monica from AGORA Central Europe (Czech Republic) or Miranda from SHOQATA Udhëtim i Lirë – Liberi di Viaggiare. During the event, I knew a fascinating social project, created by a social farm called Frutti di Marta, with the help of Cooperativa Studio Progetto, in Vicenza. Nicola Olivieri, one of the educators, told me how they want to involve disabled, creating vegetable gardens in a setting that is the historical and fascinating Villa Zileri, which was decorated by the artist Giambattista Tiepolo in the 18th century. The project’s aim is to promote inclusion, integrating agriculture, the community, the visitors to Villa Zileri, the historical dwelling and the monumental park.
Therefore, I read an interesting pamphlet about EPIC, that stands for European Platform of Integrating Cities. This platform aims to build strong support for European Cities’ integration services, creating more inclusive and sustainable cities for all. The features that all these projects have in common is the fact that they care about community, sustainability, inclusion, migration, participation, democracy, gender equality, youth and human rights.
This was my first time in Brussels and my experience has been incredible and outstanding. I have to thank SAMA for this opportunity and responsibility to represent the museum in the European context. Thanks to ALDA and all the people that I met, I improve my knowledge in terms of EU projects and I enhanced my network, because I was in close contact with people who came from every part of the world.
Honestly, I did not have so much time to visit properly the city because of my thesis’ deadline. However, I tried to explore the city as much as I could. Therefore, I saw Sainte-Catherine Church, Saint Michele and Gudula Cathedral, Brussels’ Park, the Royal Palace, the Grand Place and Magritte’s Museum. Magritte’s Museum was fascinating and captivating. It was the first time for me visiting a surrealism exhibition and it was really interesting see the way by which the artist used different kind of objects in the same painting. It is a completely different kind of art than that one present in Italian museums, which are mainly related to the Renaissance period.
To sum up my experience in Brussels, I can affirm that I increased and developed my knowledge and experience regarding ALDA and EU projects. First of all, regarding the General Assembly, the topics covered where relevant to SAMA, mainly because of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as inclusion, gender equality, participation, integration, respect, solidarity and much more. These goals were the foundation of all the EU projects which won a grant from ALDA and which were presented during the Knowledge Fair.
During the day, everyone was involved and was introduced, in order that every participant and partner was engaged and could understand how ALDA works. It was really clear for me to see how a good organisation/association has to be organised in order to reach its objectives, to develop and to engage more people from every part of the world. In fact, ALDA aims to develop and to spread around the world, not focusing only on Europe and the Balcans, but reaching other continents.
Moreover, one of ALDA’s strengths is that every member knows how to involve people, how to welcome them and make them participating to the association. In fact, I felt really welcome thanks to ALDA’s staff and there have been many opportunities for networking and to know people from every part of the world. Additionally, ALDA's daily schedule was impeccable, because everyone had had in advance the programme for the 4 days event, and knew everything in detail.
ALDA is a great example for me to understand how much is important to have a well organised timetable, to communicate to people, to engage with them and give them the opportunity to develop their network thanks to the presence of many partners.