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The Engaged Jiu Valley: a green, innovative, sustainable and just transition
Organisation : Valea Jiului Development Society Project (NGO in Jiu Valley, Petrila) , Romania

The Engaged Jiu Valley is a civil society coalition made up of 21 local NGOs active in the Jiu Valley, and launched in 2019. Offering a framework of organisation & cooperation for NGOs & civic groups, it aims to implement projects spearheading the region’s core systemic change, including numerous initiatives across 4 transversal priorities: strengthening local civil society, promoting sustainable development, fostering quadruple helix collaboration, and promoting investments. Its foundation lies on the need to boldly shift the Jiu Valley to a smart epicenter of sustainability, creativity, innovation and inclusiveness, leading to societal, economic and environmental changes in our former mining region.

EU Green Deal Policy Areas Addressed
Climate actionSustainable mobilityBiodiversity
Eliminating pollutionClean energyBuilding and renovating
Sustainable industry
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Apply innovative financing approaches
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
  • Support open data standards
  • Ensure new policies take socio-cultural changes resulting from innovative technologies into account
Context
ValeaJiuluiSociety / Making of mural picture in Petrila 2022

Jiu Valley, Romania’s former largest coal mining area, 135.000 inhabitants, 6 towns, 30 years of badly done transition, has a new opportunity to revitalise and reinvent itself, especially in the context of the Green Deal. The NGOs of Engaged Jiu Valley coalition got rid of the pessimism specific to the last decades of the region and started to strongly collaborate for its sustainable development.

Defining its post-mining identity, improving the quality of life of marginalised families and its citizens, and deciding its innovative future in a green sustainable environment are Jiu Valley’s priorities. We strive to be creative and collaborative in transforming it into a sustainable, digitised and innovative destination, overcoming the impact of past economic politics, brain-drain, underestimated potential, and major contrasts. With huge investment potential in green energy, tourism, high-technology, urban regeneration, and with rising civil society aiming to make it more attractive for people, tourists, and investors, Jiu Valley's future is resilient, sustainable, and bright.

In Action
ValeaJiuluiSociety / Making of mural picture in Petrosani 2022

“Jiu Valley is the most beautiful place on Earth! I’m extremely happy there are more local people that consider the same and we manage to attract around us more & more involved people, confident in the Valley’s future, actively contributing to its sustainable development!” (Adina Vințan, Coordinator)

EngagedJiuValley is a co-design and co-implementation, work-in-progress, joint action. Scope: the social, economic, cultural development of the Jiu Valley, by strengthening local civil society, promoting involvement of civil society & citizens in the development of public policies and strategic documents, encouraging collaboration at all levels (locally, regionally, nationally and European). Some initiatives:

COLLABORATION & COOPERATION: EngagedJiuValley started in 2019 with 4 local NGOs, now 21 members actively involved in the just transition of the Valley. At our initiative, we signed the Protocol of collaboration for the Jiu Valley with the 6 Mayors, University, Mining Company to be restructured, research institute, private sector, syndicates, and NGOs. Together with the 6 city halls, JiuValleySociety and UrbanLabVJ created www.investinjiuvalley.com, aimed at promoting Jiu Valley as an investment destination, offering needed information and support for potential investors. Cofounders of the Association for Integrated Territorial Development of Jiu Valley, which coordinates the Jiu Valley ITI instrument, the first entity of its kind, are 4 local NGOs (selected by EJV members), together with city halls, the University and county council. External-collaboration: European events for regions-in-transition, presentation of EngagedJiuValley as a best-practice example for other communities-in-transition. CommunityLab 2.0, implemented by JiuValleySociety, in collaboration with NGOs from Poland and Czechia. Cofounders of ClimateKicHub in Romania. Members in EUWorkingGroups for just transitions.

REGENERATION THROUGH CULTURE & INNOVATION: Coordinated actions for the reconversion of the former Petrila Mine into an administrative, economic and cultural centre, with the local community based on tactical cultural events, including the promotion of the PetrilaPlanet documentary (an ex-miner uses art and absurdism in a struggle to keep the town's history alive), and the RoboticsValley festival (IT & robotics event for youngsters), events started were held in other former mines in the Jiu Valley as well: 30 events, 35 artists, 3,000 participants.

VIBRANT JIU VALLEY: Civic-engagement, activation & revitalisation of public spaces: 3 mural pictures on buildings in the Petroșani University Campus, former Petrila & Aninoasa Mines, including activities for children, youth, the eldery: workshops, guided-tours, art & sports competitions, community-picnic, RoboticValley, cyclodrezine-rides, parties: 8 days, 42 activities, 700 participants. Other mural-picture & activities happening now.

LOBBY & ADVOCACY: Public letters, petitions, lobby activities for Jiu Valley through civic participation: 21 involved NGOs, 6 consulted public authorities, national and EU institutions.

More about projects: www.valeajiuluiimplicata.org and on presentations attached to application. Local-businesses founded their NGO, closely collaborating with EngagedJiuValley on different aspects (consultations, participation & support provided for some projects).

Integration

EngagedJiuValley aligns its direction of action on 3 main levels of strategic framework: local & regional, national and European. EJV members were involved in the development of the Jiu Valley Strategy for Transition from Coal, Just Transition County Plan, Jiu Valley's cities local-development strategies, in addition to providing inputs for other national and European strategic-documents by participating in surveys and consultations (Romania’s Urban Policy, World Bank Country Strategy for Romania, Romania’s Western Region’s Development Strategy, National strategies for Competitiveness, Employment, Sustainable Development, European Green Deal, Cohesion Policy, Agenda 2020, Just Transition Mechanism).

We are members of the European Just Transition Working Groups, contributing to the just transition of other EU regions-in-transition; we founded Romania’s ClimateKicHub together with 4 other entities, we closely collaborate with European non-governmental organisations working on just transitions (Greenpeace, Bankwatch, WWF, ClimateRealityProject, EuropeBeyondCoal). By participating in joint-workshops, we developed with our partners strategies & plans for our collaboration in the context of the Green Deal. We are also founding members of the entity coordinating the ITI instrument in JiuValley.

We establish our future direction and implement projects in accordance with the framework documents’ objectives that we contributed to, being aligned to the local, national and European priorities. Our projects aim to stimulate civic, public and private involvement in JVs sustainable growth, and we constantly launch advocacy & lobby initiatives that directly address local and regional public-authorities, but also relevant national ministries (Ministry of Investments & EU Projects, of Development, of Labour & Family, of Energy, etc). We try to bring the public actors closer to the needs of our community and encourage them directly.

We actively support mine-closure and the end of projects that are unfriendly towards the environment, such as the hydro-energetic plant projects we managed to stop in Jiu Valley and Romania. We are actively involved in ecologisation activities, tree planting, awareness-raising activities for protecting nature & the environment.

Our main concern (which governs all our projects) revolves around the area’s just transition, aspiring to contribute to its post-mining revival, transforming it into an attractive place for people, investors, tourists.

Results
Jiu Valley potential investment sites

From 2019, the EngagedJiuValley's action impact could be quantified by:

  • 21 NGOs members of coalition (all apolitical)

  • 73 active volunteers

  • 23 local-partners

  • 5 European non-governmental partners

  • 35 projects implemented

  • 4 knowledge-exchange participations

  • 9 presentations of EngagedJiuValley as a best-practice

  • 4 painted murals (1 in progress)

  • Events: 12 cultural, 5 educational, 3 tree-planting, 9 ecologisation

  • 3 high-level diplomatic visits

  • 9 lobby & advocacy actions

  • 30 public-consultations

  • 40 integrated-project ideas

  • 600 projects ideas collected for Jiu Valley

  • 3773 followers, 165.410 reach on social-media

As overall benefits, we are happy to say that we managed to arouse the interest of the local community in the revitalisation of the area, and we have received more friendly reactions from public authorities, awakened the curiosity of local companies and foreign investors, brought dozens of artists (painters, musicians, actors) to our events, educated the population (especially children & youth) through numerous workshops, and convinced pupils & students to become proactive in their home’s regeneration.

I was inspired by the close relationship between the community and the city, between people and modern technologies. In other words, I took an atypical urban landscape and reconstructed it as I saw it. We deconstructed the world divided into 'Us' and 'The Rest' to visualise together a possible future, perhaps a better one. That means progress to me.” Obie Platon, street artist

Impact

These past 3 years, the Engaged Jiu Valley managed to build a community & engage citizens, companies, and public institutions in a joint-vision for the just transition & development of the Jiu Valley. Local media also became interested in our actions, constantly promoting us. We put local resources in the spotlight, tested new financing sources, promoted digitisation & innovation, became a living knowledge platform & a dialogue bridge among local urban actors. We reprioritised nature as a pillar of the community's well-being: we reduced local activities' negative eco-impact (we stopped polluting projects, degrading autochthonous biodiversity) & organised environmentally and climate-friendly initiatives (increased forested areas, ecologisation of green-blue spaces, eco-education and awareness). Our transformative action is a catalyst for societal change and green evolution, with care for people & nature.

The latest results include getting the European Commission & World Bank's support through the www.functionalareas.eu project, discussions with German investors for a site visit, a future study visit of American students (Rhodes University), a successful visit of the European Commissioner on just transition in the Jiu Valley. The Vibrant Jiu Valley pilot project was so successful that we decided to transform it into a yearly festival.

We measure our impact (which was quantified in the previous section) by counting event participants & tracking social media, press mentions, engaged public officials, attracted investors & international partners, funding obtained, work groups, etc. To this, we add countless work hours and sleepless nights, all for a common goal: more citizens involved in their home's development=more attractive place=better quality of life for the community.

Step by step, people open up to our initiatives (regardless of education, social status/position) and become more confident in the Jiu Valley’s future. They get involved in our just transition projects. 3 years ago, this community was our purpose; today, it is our reality. More & more people understand now the just transition process: they bring project ideas for Jiu Valley and are willing to be active in the region's sustainable development.

Challenges and lessons learned
ValeaJiuluiSociety / Launching of the Engaged Jiu Valley Coalition

Engaged Jiu Valley shows that social (demoralised citizens, not believing in an area's recovery), economic (emergence from coal industry), political (manipulation, public authorities’ disinterest), environmental (nature’s regeneration, post mining decontamination) challenges can only be solved through a common voice. We strive for resilience through patience, time, commitment, courage, perseverance: the process is in our hands. We still face past economic politics’ impact, but we can do better by creating stronger collaboration with all local actors, EU actors, establishing partnerships with companies sharing our beliefs, constantly pressing public authorities to take action, enhancing the local community's bond and keeping young talent close to home.

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Contact

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
European Secretariat

Leopoldring 3
79098 Freiburg
Germany

Tel.: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 0
Fax: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 19

E-mail: info@sustainablecities.eu
Website: www.sustainablecities.eu

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