ERGO approach for change
Social practices and public policies towards Roma are the expression of how our societies deal with diversity. For Roma this continues to result in discrimination and structural inequalities. The underlying cause is widespread antigypsyism, which is rooted in how majorities view and treat groups stigmatized as 'gypsies'.
Roma will only achieve equality in our societies if we can accomplish fundamental change in both spheres: on the one hand to put public policies in place that effectively address the inequalities many Roma face; and on the others to achieve respect for Roma as equal citizens. The struggle for these intertwined changes is a complex and dialectic process, of which civic action (as the basis for and the expression of emancipation and empowerment) is a necessary and crucial component. ERGO Network seeks to support this component.
Constituency, agents and levels
Our constituency, and the ultimate beneficiaries of our work, are Roma communities: that is, the collective of people living in a certain locality or neighbourhood or identifying themselves as Roma in their societies. Our agents are ‘civil society actors’ in a broad sense: they may be NGOs and their representatives or staff, individuals or collectives, informal leaders or resource persons in a community, or activists that support the cause of their people in public spheres. To not define their statute or formal position of our agents is a conscious and deliberate choice, because we know that processes of change are highly context dependent. The common reference point for our agents is the core values we share.
We distinguish three levels of agents:
· At local level are the people who work directly with or for local communities. They may also be activists who focus on a specific theme that directly affects communities. These agents directly serve our constituency. Typically, they are leaders of local NGOs or individual activists who have close relations with communities and have earned their trust. This is the ‘grassroots level’.
· At the national level we find many of our member organisations: these do not usually (or mainly) work directly with communities; they facilitate, support, and connect local level agents in informal or formal networks of exchange, collaboration and (mutual) support. They can have a regional, metropolitan or national scope and almost always engage in national advocacy work as well, often in cooperation with other civil society actors.
· At European level, ERGO Network bridges the gap between local realities and policy processes that are mostly abstracted from these realities. We act as a two-way resource centre: we collect evidence from the ground to inform policy development; and we disseminate policy information and develop tools and methods that enhance the capacities of our agents. ERGO Network also ensures a strong common voice on Roma issues by formal and informal coordination of the efforts of wider civil society at European level.
source: ERGO Network Strategy 2020
We use here the term Roma throughout the text to indicate several groups that face similar prejudices and disadvantages in different countries, and which include Sinti, Travellers and manouches and others. ERGO Network is a cross-European network that is open for members representing any of the groups that are associated with this type of discrimination.