2nd European conference on citizen initiatives for global solidarity

Citizen Initiatives: Change Makers for the SDGs?

On Thursday 20 en Friday 21 juni
ENABEL Conference Center, Brussels


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The Sustainable Development Goals aim to leave no one behind but reaching these global goals is also everyone's business... or are they some people's business more than other's? How can we value our participation in Agenda 2030?

This two day network conference sheds lights on the role of a little exposed player in the SDG agenda: 'ordinary' people involved in North-South cooperation, the so-called 'citizen initiatives for global solidarity'. The conference starts from the finding that many European citizens are involved in cross border partnerships for international solidarity.

From different contexts and disciplines we will question the role of cross border citizen's initiatives in reaching the sustainable development goals and discover some tools to help them value their activities.

Three angles

What is the role of citizen initiatives (CI's) as partners of development in the south, as an actor of change in our own society and as opportunities to develop our personal experiences and competences? These are the three angles of approach on which we build this conference. What's in for them? What's in for us? And what is in it for me? And how can we provide an optimal framework of support to CI's on these three angles

Network conference

The conference will create a platform for European networking among the participants. Therefore it will consist of interactive workshops, initiated by panels of experts. In this way the conference will offer a unique platform for exchanges between an international community of policy makers, practitioners, academics and representatives of citizen initiatives.


English will be the main language of the conference. Translation from English to French and vice versa will be provided for most of the sessions.



Day 1: Thursday 20 June


Walk-In and coffee


Plenary session, including




Workshop session 1


Volunteering as a CV-building experience?

This session explores what opportunities working with Citizen's Initiatives can offer for one's personal development. What are motivations for volunteering? What skills and competences are developed? Which career tools does working with CI's have to offer?

Chair: Cap Solidarité (Lille, FR) / Welsh Center for International Affairs (Cardiff, UK), European Global Steps Network.


Citizens Initiatives in a Humanitarian Setting

Many Citizen Initiatives emerged from recent humanitarian crises: the tsunami, the earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti, the refugee crisis in Syria… The case of the migration crises on the Greek island of Lesbos is discussed to answer broader questions like: what roles can Citizen Initiatives play in a humanitarian situation? And, what impact can they have?

Chair: Hanne Haaland & Hege Wallevik (Adger University, Norway)


The impact of small scale development projects in an SDG-perspective

The aid projects of Citizen Initiatives play a potential pivotal role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Global South. But what impact can we expect from small development projects? Based on extensive academic research, this session explores the actual contribution of CIGS to the SDG agenda and questions the conditions under which Citizen Initiatives can be meaningful players.

Chair: Sarah Kinsbergen (Radboud University Nijmegen, Ndl)


Wrap up day 1 - Drink


Dinner (optional)

Day 2: Friday 21 June


Walk-in and coffee


Plenary opening Day 2


Workshop session 2


Challenging the assumptions towards a meaningful North-South mobility

International volunteering, who are you doing it for? We assume that it has many positive implications for the direct recipients of help... Or does it? This session discusses the do's and dont's of responsible and meaningful volunteering.

Chair: Lau Schulpen (Radboud Universiteit, NL), with Sebastian Van Hoeck (UCOS) and Simon Kuijpers (CAOS, NL)


Citizens Initiatives, are they effective awareness raisers and SDG-changemakers?

Achieving the SDGs requires substantial change of behavior in our own society. This session explores the potential of citizens initiatives to engage European citizens and become changemakers for the SDGs. What can the impact of citizen initiatives be and how can we measure that impact?

Chair: European 'FRAME, VOICE, REPORT'-network


Beyond the 'pitiful victim': new frames and narratives for citizen initiatives

Citizen Initiatives bring images from the South to the public in Europe. This session questions the 'frames' being used by Citizen Initiatives in their communications. What are the messages they spread when looking for funding and support from the public, how does it affect their audience and what are possible alternative approaches?

Chair: Myriam Vossen (NL), ID Leaks.


Workshop session 3


Raising Capacities for CIGS: Why and How?

Some organisations support CIGS, providing training and guidance to ensure their projects have a positive impact. Why is this support necessary? How can professionnals raise the capacities of Global Citizens? What do they finally get out of it? Connecting Global Goals and local actions: What support is needed to keep global citizens in action after returning home?


Empowering Local CIGS: Why and How?

Partnership is one of the main propositions of the SDGs. But empowering local initiatives in a sustainable way might need a totally different approach to partnerships. Can we 'change the game' and shift the ownerships of projects in to their hands? 'Change the game' challenges us with their experiences of empowering local CIGS

Chair: Natasja Insing trainer Change the Game Academy - Wilde Ganzen


Diaspora as bridge makers

CIGS with a diaspora background are bridge makers between us and the world. By sending home money to their families (remittances). By joining forces to undertake projects in their home countries. But also by being increasingly claiming their presence as actors in our society. How can we value them as actors of international solidarity in view of the SDG's? And how can we respond to their specific needs for support and recognition?

Chair: 4de Pijlersteunpunt (B)




Closing session

Panel with policy makers on how to value CIGS as actors of change and development and how strengthen the support we organize for them?

How to get to Brussels and where to stay?

  • The ENABEL-conference venue is the center of Brussels (Hoogstraat 139) at walking distance from the Brussels Central and Brussel Midi train station. It’s a 20 minute train fare to Brussels International Airport.
  • We have a list of hotels in the area at your disposal for accommodation. Please feel free to contact us with all your questions on how to organise you trip and your stay: info@cigsconference.eu.
  • Dinner on Thursday evening is optional, with a participation fee of € 25. Payment details will be communicated to you after registration.
  • If you already arrive on Wednesday, we can already accommodate you at the 11.11.11-office nearby with office space and meeting rooms.
  • Please note that European Development Days also take place during that same week in Brussels, on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 of June: a perfect combination with the Conference and a good reason for an extended stay in Brussels!


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