Senior councils have played, and still play, an important role in encouraging civic engagement among elderly citizens, as well as in representing their interests when collaborating with local governments and various institutions. However, our research shows that councils are still rare. Only 18% of municipalities in Małopolskie Voivodeship has an established council. Additionally, according to an expert publication entitled “Senior Policy,” 80% of existing councils in Poland don’t receive any support dedicated to professional development of its staff, its members, and structures.
We responded to the problem by organizing trainings for representatives of selected councils and groups from the Małopolska Senior Council Network. Experts from Bjerkaker L?ringsLab presented participatory techniques used for building social dialogue and activating seniors. They used practices employed in Norway as examples. Representatives from Norsensus Mediaforum, an organization specializing in developing media and communication skills, conducted workshops on methods for creating and conducting informational campaigns within the civic sector.
We organized pilot participatory processes in two municipalities in Małopolskie Voivodeship, which resulted in local senior policy development. During the meetings of Małopolska Senior Council Network we had an opportunity to connect different senior groups, allowing them to exchange experiences and discuss challenges and achievements in their work. We have developed a plan of action, diagnosed the state of senior needs and paths forward for working with local governments. Finally, we have organized a conference, during which councils’ representatives and members of different, active senior groups from all over Poland, as well as other activists and partners exchanged knowledge on good practices and experiences in their work.
Thanks to the senior policies developed in Skawina and Nowy Targ we managed to bring closer the councils and local governments. From our surveys we have learned that individuals who took part in our trainings believe they have increased their competences in organizing informational campaigns. Meetings of the Małopolska Network allowed different groups to meet and exchange knowledge, experience, and best practices, as well as inspire each other to further action.