Sustainable Community Development (ODRAZ)
I work for an organisation named ODRAZ, which in Croatian stands for 'Sustainable Community Development'. But 'odraz' also means 'reflection' and 'leap forward'. And that is exactly what we did during the lockdown caused by COVID-19: we reflected on what our options were and moved ahead with some new activities.
COVID-19 and mobility planning
First it was a shock - in early March 2020, we had to cancel a big international event on innovation on sustainable mobility two days before it was due to take place. The programme had been agreed, as well as the speakers and some 100 participants from seven countries had confirmed their attendance. We also had to cancel another four events and for one, we had even paid for participants' hotel costs. Although this change of plan was distressing to all of us, we decided to use this time to develop some new ideas and build some new partnerships by using online tools.
An online educational workshop on sustainable mobility for students and young professionals targeted students of traffic science, urban planning, architecture, sociology and geography, and also other young people interested in topics such as urban design, transport and mobility, participatory planning, with experience in implementing sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs). Some good practices were presented: innovative smart parking solutions and the design of public bicycle schemes during COVID-19.
Two workshops were also held on "The future of public transport - new technologies, innovations and planned development". Some 100 participants from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Northern Macedonia had a chance to listen to lecturers from different countries. There was an interesting presentation on public transport during the pandemic, giving an overview of how some cities have adapted to the crisis and the measures they have taken to help their citizens and communities during the pandemic. The results of a recent study on the mobility of the working population in Croatia during the COVID-19 pandemic were also presented. The current crisis and public bicycle schemes and micro-mobility were also discussed. During the second workshop, one of the lecturers was Tom Rye, a leading European transport expert, who gave a presentation on innovative measures for public transport and public transport in times of uncertainty. Although we all prefer live gatherings, these on-line workshops allowed us to host several EU experts, who would probably not have otherwise participated, due to the short timeframe involved.
We have continued with similar activities and recently organised an international webinar entitled "COVID-19 as a catalyst for change in sustainable transport planning", with some 130 participants.
Opportunity to work remotely with many secondary school professors
The other new activities were related to sustainable development, SDGs and volunteering and how to present these issues to secondary school students and teachers. So, we prepared some teaching tools for remote schooling, quizzes for students and similar activities. Together with our partners, we organised a number of webinars on SDGs, on how to cover SDGs in an interesting way through different subjects (from maths to history) and on how schools and students could be involved in the sustainable development of local communities. We had several webinars and panel discussions where good examples of activities and educational materials were presented and we held discussions with representatives from the Ministry of Education, different schools and civil society organisations. We were pleasantly surprised at the degree of interest from schools, as every event was attended by between 50 and 90 teachers.
We also organised a remote event for students from four Croatian secondary schools. The students discussed SDGs in relation to the following topics: Everyone has enough money to live on; Everyone feels good and healthy; All people are given opportunities to learn and work; The environment is protected and Our way of life is sustainable. The students identified problems in their local communities, proposed solutions and at the end, drafted a charter on SDGs that will be sent to local decision-makers.