Eva Riecanska – fellow from Slovakia

Eva Riecanska

Bratislava, Slovakia

Eva Riecanska is currently a Researcher and Project Coordinator with the NGO Utopia. The main goal of this civic association is to support deepening of democratic processes in society, building citizens’ active participation in running their own affairs increasing social inclusion. At present, Ms. Riecanska is involved in an international project to foster social and solidarity economy and create a support structure (incubator) for development of cooperative businesses in the Visegrad countries.

NGO Utopia is the main partner of the project. One of the main objectives of the project is to empower especially people from poverty-stricken and socially excluded communities, and to find inclusive, economically and environmentally sustainable, cooperative and community-driven solutions to economic and social deprivation.

In 2012-2013,  Ms. Riecanska became involved in the process of participatory budgeting in Bratislava. She had work within a thematic community “The Green City” that dealt with environmental issues and later as a volunteer she also co-facilitated meetings of this community. As a representative Ms. Riecanska served on the Board for Participatory Budgeting. The Board coordinated the work of all thematic communities involved in participatory budgeting, drafted proposals to improve the process, promoted it among citizens and communicated with the Municipal Office and the City Council.

Since 2012, NGO Utopia has been regularly involved in co-organizing the Europe-wide festival TransEuropa in collaboration with the European NGO European Alternatives and since 2013 Ms. Riecanska has been one of the principal program directors of the Slovak part of the festival.

In 2011, Ms. Riecanska cooperated with the Milan Simecka Foundation as a Leader of a research team that carried out an in-depth large scale qualitative study of Roma community centers in Slovakia. Through this research she had a chance to closely analyze several issues related to community work and community organizing in impoverished and socially excluded settings.

Previously, Ms. Riecanska worked for the UNDP Regional Center in Bratislava as a Research Officer for the democratic governance practice department focusing on conflict prevention, gender and capacity building for local development. Since 1993, she has been involved with the women’s rights organization ASPEKT with which she worked as an author and translator, website and newsletter editor and media campaign and outreach coordinator and which she represents on the Committee for Gender Equality at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic.

Ms. Riecanska studied Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology at the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia (graduated in 1987) and Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh (PA, the U.S., 1998-2002). After finishing her studies at the Comenius University, she worked as a researcher at the Slovak Academy of Sciences. In 1997-1998 she was a member of an international research project hosted by the University of Cambridge, UK.

Ms. Riecanska  has experience in academic teaching/lecturing – at the University of Pittsburgh she taught classes and led seminars on social problems, gender and race and global and comparative sociology, and has published academic papers and essays intended on topics related to minorities, women’s rights and grass-root civil society. Ms. Riecanska’s language skills include good written and verbal English, intermediate Russian and basic German.

Ms. Riecanska have already been to the U.S. as a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, PA,  in 1998-2002. She also visited the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar in 1997. However, this exchange program would be of a great importance to her, as it may provide her with an opportunity to learn from experienced practitioners and get her own hands-on experience of various approaches and methods of community organizing and citizen’s participation. Especially she wishes to learn more about how to mobilize people and motivate them to get involved in community projects and how to resolve conflicts and reach consensus.

Chicago, IL

Ms. Riecanska is interested in all issues related to community-based solutions to poverty, economic self-help and the like. She wishes to gain practical experience in all aspects of community organizing pertaining to these issues, but also more broadly to social exclusion. Back in her home country, she wants to promote community organizing in local development to combat poverty and social exclusion, as these themes and aspects are still rather overlooked in Slovakia. Specifically, she would like to gain skills in leadership, direct action and campaign planning. The groups she is interested is are the Roma, people of color, the homeless and women (esp. minority women facing multiple discrimination).

In her fieldwork before the U.S. trip Ms. Riecanska plans to work with the Roma, esp. Roma women, with whom her organization has already established some collaboration. The idea is to build and/or strengthen their skills and capacities for collaborative and community-driven activities to combat poverty and social exclusion and to fight against the vicious cycle of prejudice and discrimination through community activities that would build bridges between the Roma minority and the non-Roma at the level of their local communities.

In her free time, Ms. Riecanska likes to pursue her hobbies that include various outdoor sports, yoga, dog training, gardening, cooking, digital photography, documentary films, literature and arts. She also likes to learn about animals and nature and enjoys meeting new people.

Eva will be having her internship at One Northside (Chicago) together with Szilvia Suri from Hungary.