In addition to a degree in Economics from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Porto, she holds a Masters in Tourism and Urban Culture from ESGHT of the University of Algarve and is a consultant in the Oficina. Find out a little bit more about her career and the association.
We know you have a degree in Economics from the Faculty of Economics of Porto, but after this course you have had many other experiences that led you to the Oficina, tell us a little bit more about those experiences and what did you take from each one?
After my graduation, I had my first professional experience in the UK, specifically in London. It was where I learned to use my analytical skills and attention to detail for the benefit of my professional career. This experience has given me contact with a great cultural diversity, at all levels, museums, concerts, theatre, urban art, etc., but also the possibility of living with people from all over the world. However, I also faced the difficulties of living in a big city, far from my family, where I hardly spoke or wrote in Portuguese, and all the stress that comes with it. So after a few years I decided to go back to Portugal. I ended up choosing Faro to live in, where I went and completed my Masters degree. The plan was to stay for a year, but I'm still here! Coincidence or not, I ended up meeting Nelson Dias, with whom I work since then, I have learned a lot of things and developed many other skills.
The Oficina identifies itself as a "space for both construction and deconstruction of realities with a team specialised in providing consultation services in the areas of planning, evaluation and promotion of participatory democracy", but we would like to know from Simone, how does the Oficina interpret it?
The Oficina is a non-profit organization, committed to finding solutions to some of today's problems. We have been acting in various fields, such as social cohesion, housing, education, interventions in priority territories, participatory democracy, among others. In any of the areas, we try to understand well the context of intervention, to ensure a deep diagnosis, that is, to "deconstruct" a problem in several dimensions at the "micro" level, to perceive its dynamics, evolution and main challenges, and then to "build" a strategy or action plan, with the definition of objectives, goals and other indicators.
What kind of projects can be part of the Oficina? For example, do cultural projects find space in your action program?
At the moment, we have two major areas of activity: the promotion of participatory democracy and planning and evaluation. Basically, all of them imply a detailed knowledge of reality, the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of that strategy or methodology. Can culture be part of the Oficina's projects? Yes, it can. We are even involved in the Magalhães project, in a partnership with the Intermunicipal Community of the Algarve (AMAL), to develop a training program and a support guide for the sector of Cultural and Creative Industries, which will touch several entrepreneurs in the Algarve region.
We have other ideas for the culture area. With the right partnerships, we can develop new projects in this area.
Which project did you enjoy doing the most?
It is difficult to choose only one project, because there are certain tasks that I appreciate more than others. For example, I particularly like the diagnostic phase, because with that I can get to know the socio-demographic and socio-economic dynamics better. It's such a complex and fascinating variable that it affects everything else. For a given territory to manage in the short, medium or long term, to decide for one project at the expense of another, it is essential that it knows in depth what is happening, and this is not always the case. As a person who loves "numbers" I feel like "a fish in the water" doing this kind of analysis and studies.
Within the projects which had the most social impact in the short and long term?
Some of the projects developed by us predate the formal existence of the Oficina. But there is one in particular, with which the Oficina is currently continuing. This is called the Rede de Autarquias Participativas (RAP). This initiative arose within a project called "Portugal Participa", which was based on training the technical and political staff of the municipalities for experimentation and implementation of participatory democracy methodologies. It was from there that the idea arose to create a community of practices, for sharing and exchanging experiences among peers. For me, this is an important successful case, because it was something that emerged in 2014 and is still "alive" today. One of the most important products, besides the "Practice Observatory" and dissemination guides, was the creation of the "Quality Charter for Participatory Budgets", an idea that has already been adopted abroad (Scotland, Slovenia and Georgia). We are about to take the next step, which is the creation of a "Quality Assessment System for Participatory Budgets". These two RAP products are pioneers in Portugal and extremely important to ensure the quality of participatory budgeting in our country, and perhaps abroad.
Thank you Simone
S H A R E S O M E L O V E ❤