A focal point for the Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture programme by Boris Ruzic

Nested in the very city center, opposite to the historically unique county prison, lies RiHub, a place for contact, exchange and joint action developed and inaugurated by Rijeka2020 ECoC team. It serves as a place for coworkers, but also as a conference space and a stage for grassroots civil engagements aimed at furthering the city’s urban landscape and ecological/green footprint.

Participatory programs, part of the Rijeka 2020  ECoC, named “Civil Initiatives” and “Green Wave” involve citizens in creating cultural and social programs. During the year of their work, through education, writing project proposals and finally financing their ideas, citizens practice their citizen rights as informal governance body. It is a concrete and unique example of direct democracy: citizens deciding on citizen’s ideas for the benefit of all. “This kind of model enables the active participation of citizens in the production of cultural programmes, and at the same time allows for some decision-making responsibility on the relevance of the applied cultural programmes for the community in general.” Capacity building is the focus here: improving the production and organizational capacities of informal civilian groups and individuals in done by continuous education.

“Citizen Council” is made of thirty people randomly selected from the pool of applicants. Their role is to evaluate other citizens’ project proposals regarding community engagement activities and urban or green landscape improvement of the city. If the Civil Initiatives strives at bettering a city with all of its inherent tensions, Green Wave counters the same problem from a livelier angle: by filling streets with herbs, plants and urban gardens, by regenerating parks and by evolving the awareness of the sustainable production and consumption.

Rijeka is focused on keeping its industrial heritage precisely by underlining what is needed today: when the industry’s focus is reshaped by the capitalist transition from planned economy to the so-called free market, one needs to save what remains to be saved. From the industry boom of the second part of the 20th century to the post-transitional green and civic initiatives: Rijeka is once again reaffirming its identity as fluid. The ones that seems to benefit after a long dormant period are the citizens themselves.