Forum Apulum started as an affinity group of people from Alba Iulia, Transylvania, stubborn enough to make a change in response to an asphyxiating political environment. They stopped waiting for superheroes and started as a group of 7 who chose to stay in Alba Iulia, a small town (pop. 63,000), and after several rows of protests decided to get involved with all their experience into building a NGO from zero and focusing its activity on teenagers and media literacy & production.
Their main goal has been from the beginning to help the younger generations become better citizens, better digesters of information, better community organisers and healers. They work a lot on civic education projects, cultural events, community building, or as they call it “artivism with soul”. Forum Apulum gathered dozens of teens around Alba Iulia, but the project grew and so they started working with teenagers from all over the country. The pandemic ironically helped out, because they were no longer the NGO from a small town 5 hours away from Bucharest, but instead they were online, like everyone else. They did not have to spend resources to reach young people physically, so they suddenly had a more level playing field alongside NGOs with much bigger operating budgets. And thus all the projects bloomed.
Now the Forum Apulum team is all over the country and is growing from one project to another. There is trust between them and the young generation, which is resulting in more functional and effective working relationships and tangible teenage empowerment is the goal, giving them a stronger voice in Romanian society.
The team currently constitutes of 7 adults, some new, some old, and the core of the teens team has approximately 15 people. The wider circle of the young people in all the projects reaches several dozen. They are from everywhere, small towns, villages, Western cities, studying abroad or working.
The Guerrilla Grant
There are three main objectives Forum Apulum hope to achieve as part of this project:
– Training 15 young people into better understand the media landscape, to be able to research and write news and be better prepared for a career in media/journalism.
– Reaching more than one million young people through social media accounts via this project, through written, audio and video content.
– Creating for them a habit of getting informed from reliable sources for more than a million young people in Romania, who in this way will better understand the Romanian realities and be able to appreciate democracy, the freedom of the press and tolerance. And in this way to resist a possible wave of extremism and far right sentiments which is taking hold more and more in mainstream media narratives.
The main activities are:
– Launching a public call for young people and selecting new ones – they select, train and coordinate a team of 15 young people from all over the country to curate, write, record and promote news on social media, in a written form, video and audio during the first month.
– Training the team – organising workshops with experienced journalists and activists – during the first month
– Curating, writing and posting 2 news per day, every day, for 7 months
– Creating a weekly short podcast about the 5 news that young people need to know
– Creating a monthly video talk show with a young person as host and a guest, broadcasted on instagram live and other appropriate media channels
– Training and qualifying the participants are just means to an end. And the end is growing the project to a level that can influence the national debates. They want to give a voice to young people so that they can soon shape and influence Romanian politics and a way that this can be achieved is by first making them interested in national and international current affairs and showing them that they can process news and deliver the reliable information to others.
In 2020 everything was frozen, the pandemic shutdown meet ups and in-person events, so Forum Apulum moved completely online and in December, when the general elections took place, they had the very unpleasant surprise of having a far right party elected in the Parliament. Florin Cîțu served as Prime Minister of Romania between December 2020 and November 2021, and the composition of his cabinet was criticised for having only one female minister. He was then succeeded by conservative Nicolae Ciucă, and under Ciucă’s premiership, Romania experienced democratic backsliding, with The Economist ranking it last in the European Union in the world terms of democracy, even behind Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.
During 2022, when they managed to restart offline activities, in all the interactions with several hundreds of young people, the Forum Apulum team confirmed that most of them distrust the media, all media, they are radically anti-system (and by system they mean everything done by adults and ‘officials’) and they are only informed about current affairs more so accidentally, rather than intentionally. The teens were most of the time unable to name a few reliable publications and said that the news arrived to them on their preferred social media channels, almost exclusively – Instagram and Tik Tok. That is how the core mission, of bringing the political news to where the youth are, in a form they understand and like, seems imperative now more than ever.