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Face of The Month - Milan Kajo Zboril

Posted by (econ) on 07.05.2014
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ECON FACE OF THE MONTH

Name and surname:

 

Milan Kajo Zboril

What do you do? (position)

Civic Program Director

National Democratic Institute (NDI), Moldova

What is your connection to ECON?

I was one of those they establishing ECON in 2008 and I am one of three members of ECON Coordinating Team.

Why did you chose community organizing?

To finish Velvet Revolution and other revolution we started in 1989 to change our authoritarian societies to free, democratic societies. To balance share of power between citizens, government and corporations.

How would you explain what is CO to a child?

People have a right actively expressing their opinion about decision (of public authorities or other stakeholders) or situation in their communities influencing their lives and community organizing is a tool - managed process, how people can express their opinion and influence a those decisions or situation in community.    

How did you start organizing?

Everybody knows „wet socks story” from Zvolen :)

I started in 1996, when I was 23. I was hired to organize in typical Slovak neighborhood, in Zvolen, city in central Slovakia. I started with “door to door”, I spoke with around 2oo people. There was a large primary school with more than 1,000 students. But on the way to school there was no sidewalk and after every rain or snow melt water were everywhere and everybody trying entering school get wet. When I heard during “door to door” one mother for first to said something about her daughter's wet socks, I thought, “what is she is talking about, change socks and wash them". But when I started to talk to other people, they also said that there is a problem and that their children are getting sick.

I realized – it is really important to listen to people's problems, to know what we are doing and why.

We started with “sidewalk campaign”. Some people said - “let’s write the petition” I asked them if they think that the petition will help. They answered "no”, but still wanted to write it. I asked them why they want to collect signatures if they think it will not bring any results. And they answered - all write a petition to solve the problem even they do not believe in. Sometimes it is very difficult to convince people, because they have certain stereotypes.

At the end I get people to organize a meeting with the mayor in different way. Before residents never invited mayor to the meeting. Always mayor organized meeting with citizens. The mayor was also surprised that the people invited him to a meeting and they had only one topic for discussion. The meeting lasted about an hour, the mayor was nervous because he did not control the meeting. And he was seating there for approximately 45 minutes, listening complaints from mothers. Finally after that, moderator asked mayor just one question - whether he would support demand of people to build new sidewalk or not. And of course, like a good politician, he said, "Yes, I would like to, but ..." And another moderator interrupted him and asked question again. So 3 times the mayor tried to answer "yes, but ...", and he was always interrupted after “but” and finally said, "Yes, I will support you." And meeting was over. He was very surprised, because he listened to people for almost an hour, and just said "yes, I will support you," without chance to give boring speech and empty promises.

 

What motivates you?

 

I was always active. During Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia (November/December 1989) I was active in students led movement against communist regime. I was young and naive, so I believed that goal of revolution are free and fair election. We had general election in free Czechoslovakia in summer 1990, but I realized that maybe revolution is over but now we are facing evolution – how to „raise” responsible politicians, politicians listening to citizens.

What is the victory you are proud of the most?

In 2006-2007 I organized group of refugees in Slovakia and they achieved several changes in national legislation. It was for first time that opinion of refugees has been accepted by national legislators.

What makes a good organizer?

Ability to listen, to „understand” community and be accepted by community.

When I first started, I was focused on the word "organizing". So I always thought how to organize a meeting, how to organize a specific structure, how to organize different activists, how to organize responsibilities. Today I also think and about the community. For what community is ready. Indeed, some communities are ready for confrontation, while others do not want to oppose the government. Then we have to think how to cooperate.

What would be your advice to young organizer?

Think not only about what should be done tomorrow or next week, but think how you want to see group you are working in next 5 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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