In August 2020, activist groups from across the Baltics gathered in Estonia for a four-day event – Festival Y?! 2020. Lucky to have been able to squeeze a festival in between the lockdowns, this crew was thrilled to see the enthusiasm of the participants when discussing the issues that they all feel so strongly about- decolonisation, environmental justice & expansive human rights.
After the event, joined by new members, the team established themselves as a Baltics-wide Collective Y?!. Their goal remains connecting grassroots movements and organisations within the region. Naturally, they didn’t want to let go of the momentum and decided to start building something even bigger: a network. While the pandemic still holds the region on hold, they pushed pause on the festival for a bit. Instead, they are building a region-wide Solidarity Network Y?!, consisting of organisations and individuals who share the same values and are fighting the systemic and structural injustices through their various initiatives and platforms.
At Collective Y?!, everyone volunteers and operates in a horizontal structure, making decisions together by voting for or blocking propositions. Solidarity Network Y?! and the collective work in two core (capacity building and finance) and two ad-hoc (website and communications) teams. Currently, the collective consists of four active members, although the number has been fluctuating since 2019, when they first gathered. Ezmi Roz and Živilė Mantrimatė have been taking care of the monetary side of the collective – namely coordinating participatory and emergency funds. Meanwhile Ieva Salna and Rytė Jarmoškaitė have been focusing on capacity building – organising network calls, brainstorming sessions and trainings. They have also been curating inner and outward communications of the network.
The key to Collective Y?! activities and planning is an intersectional framework. They treat all the injustices as overlapping and interconnected, that is why they seek to connect various grassroots initiatives to collaborate and work together as a result of networking. Their own activities are concentrated on creating networking opportunities that would lead to building Baltics-wide social movement, resilient enough to stand against the elitist decision-makers that are currently failing people by passing discriminatory laws and supporting right-wing politics.
The format of the network allows for recognising the issues that are most pressing at a given moment, since it would be impossible to take them all on simultaneously. For instance, last year the groups that first applied for the part fund were concentrating on LGBTQIA+ issues, resulting from homophobic and sexist discourses surrounding the Instanbul convention. Meanwhile the emergency fund attracted initiatives dealing with refugee crisis and climate justice issues – both direct responses to what was happening at the time. As all of these groups expressed interest in staying in the network, they expect these human rights and climate injustices remain in the spectrum, besides what other urgent needs may come up. It is important that by remaining in the network, these activists would collaborate, thus avoiding the risk of becoming a reactive, rather than proactive movement. For these reasons, they are organising face-to-face meetings, which allow for mapping the issues at hand and looking for the ways they could address together.
Guerrilla Grant 2022
Community led groups and volunteers, which are the focus of Solidarity Network Y?!, often lack knowledge to seek out international funding. The financial public backing is also insufficient due to the recent historical context reducing the support for the left. Over the next year, they hope to further improve solidarity and collaboration among grassroots groups and activists fighting for environmental and social justice in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. They will do this by providing participatory funding to develop and run collaborative activities. In 2022, they want to increase these funds to support more activists in the Baltics and the Guerrilla grant will provide a good chunk of these resources.
Building the network through activist funding:
– Participatory fund will aim to support at least 10 new projects.
– Emergency fund will aim to support at least 3 requests.
– They will establish a facilitation team from the groups for larger involvement and decentralised decision making.
– They aim to impact at least 500 people, many from marginalised groups. The projects will indirectly reach more people via online and promotion activities of the groups.
Groups meeting for strategy:
To map the issues, and strategise, they will organise a face to face gathering of groups, organisations and activists.
– The meeting will gather around 30 activists for 3 days.
– They will map issues faced by the left movement in the Baltics, followed by trainings and skillshare sessions on topics identified by the participants.
– Finally, they will collaboratively plan projects and a wider strategy for intersectional organising in the Baltics.
The meeting will strengthen the operational and organising capacity of the network groups, aiming for a stronger leftist movement in the Baltics.
Collective Y?! will support network members by completing administrative financing tasks, guiding the process of decision-making and supporting the network’s facilitation team. The Collective will also be responsible for internal and external communication and expanding the network. Through their external communications they aim to reach at least 10,000 people in the Baltics. They have established two staff member positions, voluntary contributions to support the work of the collective and the participatory fund’s facilitation team.