Everyday activism and action communities like democratic thinking
Five years ago, five friends and colleagues rented 248 m2 in a commercial property at Pustervig Torv in the middle of Aarhus. We researchers and consultants had the slightly airy thought of creating an organization with the quirky name “Sager der Samler”. The goal was to use our professionalism in new ways and show that, as committed citizens, we can take greater part in the development of our society. Then we began to invite people from our city and ask them: “What would you engage in if you could?”
During the five years we have worked with Sager der Samler, a wealth of initiatives has evolved from our community, each of which is strong tales of empowerment in everyday life, showing new ways to create solutions to specific societal challenges.
One example is the Skraldecafé – the Wastecafé, which Annbritt Jørgensen and Steffen Sand are behind. They have been on cash aid for many years and live with mental diagnoses. In the Skraldecafé they use surplus food from the supermarkets to make communities and help people like themselves out of isolation. Now they are employed in flexjob in an association they have founded and are setting up a physical base in an urban development area at the South Harbor in Aarhus, where they build a bridge between an emerging creative business environment and the resting places for different groups of vulnerable citizens who for many years has been in the area. See https://civilian.one/skraldecafeen
Another example is the laundry. Pia Stabell Hjort and Katrine Knudsen are social educators and have for many years been working on housing for disabled people. They have started a laundry in the joint laundry in Søvangen in Brabrand. The laundry is both a company, a handicapped development course, dreaming of a common job outside of protected jobs, and it is a new community for the residents and the area’s residents, which makes many safer and break loneliness and isolation.
There are many more initiatives. For example, Social Health, started by Kristina Louise Bliksted, who was a student when she started. In her own family she had experienced the inequality expressed by people living with abuse, homelessness or mental challenges, often having difficulty in using the healthcare system. Social Health organizes health professionals as bridge builders between vulnerable citizens and healthcare. By accompanying, supporting and motivating contact with the hospital, they make a difference in one-to-one relationship in the short term. In the long run, they want to learn how they as future healthcare professionals can make a difference to those who have the most serious. The attitude among the students is: “We may not change the system, but we can change ourselves.” Se https://civilian.one/social-sundhed
Researchers and opinion leaders often use the concept of “ad-hoc volunteering” to describe the kind of commitment that Sager der Samler stands for. But it is based on a misunderstanding. We have chosen to call it “everyday activism”. The new workforce cannot be directly compared to the classic volunteering. Everyday activism expresses a more entrepreneurial approach, where we as citizens are not either users or volunteers. Here is not someone who will be put to something. On the contrary, as citizens, we break out of the usual roles, become political individuals and create platforms through our initiatives to speak a case and point to constructive solutions.
There is a need for new communities that can back up the action in everyday life. Communities that inspire me to get started that help me when I’m challenged and give access to shopping opportunities and resources when I’m ready. Change does not come from good ideas alone. It comes when we grab and are ready to stand a distance. We need community support. Sager der Samler are such a community.
Today, the community is in a nice backyard in Vestergade 43 in the middle of Aarhus. The door is open and new everyday activists are welcome every day from kl. 9 in the afternoon or evening when the day’s to-do is done.
For us, who started Sager der Samler, the matter became the democracy itself. The democratic channels in our political institutions are proving that fewer and fewer sign into a political party. Therefore, we must develop new communities that can be platforms for our commitment as citizens, create new solutions and bring our political participation close to our everyday lives.
Paul Natorp, co-founder Sager der Samler