The life experience offered by temporary and permanent migration generates a substantive transformation both at an individual level and at a collective level, i.e.: family, household, neighborhood, community, village or town). Țara Făgărașului, Rupea and Zărnești represent one of the areas of Romania where a significant proportion of the population holds such experiences. That has a deep impact on how local communities function and Țara Făgărașului’s future.
The Report on prospects for diaspora engagement in local communities from Țara Făgărașului was realized at the request of the Țara Făgărașului Community Foundation in order to identify ways in which diaspora could become more involved in local community activities. The Report conducts an analysis of: a). the migration experiences and its relevance for both the diaspora and their communities of origin, b). the openness of diaspora to contribute to the development of their communities of origin, and c). the factors and causes that determine a community engagement behavior among diaspora. To generate the data needed for the analysis we used two questionnaires that generated 75 responses and conducted three focus groups and 25 semi-structured interviews.
A significant number of people left Țara Făgărașului to live in other locations in Romania, or in other countries. This phenomenon impacts not only the local economy, but also the community life of the region. Although those who leave Țara Făgărașului retain a feeling of belonging to their communities of origin, remaining engaged in the local community is limited by distance and an insufficient organizational infrastructure.
The reasons for leaving Țara Făgărașului are related to the economic situation of the region, the national and local political context and the desire to further one’s education and explore the world. For the internal diaspora, lack of tertiary educational opportunities and lack of jobs in certain fields is also a core motivation.
Some of the challenges encountered by diaspora abroad include a challenging encounter with the local culture, limited knowledge of the language, difficulty in finding suitable jobs, a low level of cohesion in the Romanian communities abroad, and human trafficking.
The challenges encountered when diaspora returns to Țara Făgărașului after living abroad include, among others: finding a job, a negative experience in interactions with the local administration, difficulty in understanding how setting up and running a business works in Romania, challenges among children and youth in adapting to a new curriculum and to studying in Romanian.
Most of the people who left are willing to contribute to the development of Țara Făgărașului communities more than they contribute now. They perceive that limited access to information, low levels of trust, and lack of time limit their current engagement. Aspects that can increase diaspora engagement include: inviting contributions in the early years of migration experience, involving friends and family as channels for sharing information and generating involvement, and developing channels and mechanisms for involvement that are accessible and easy to use.
Based on the performed analysis, several recommendations have been put forward both for the Țara Făgărașului Community Foundation and the local authorities. These are included in the conclusion of the Report. The recommendations include, among others:
Given the complexity of the Țara Făgărașului migration phenomenon and its dimension and impact, it is important for the local actors to develop an integrated discourse and approach towards diaspora; There is a need for both diaspora and those living in the community (including authorities and organizations) to better understand the implications that result from such a widespread migration experience; The community needs a public and community discourse that appreciates both those living in the community and in the diaspora; The capacity of local authorities and organizations needs to be strengthened in order to better understand and address the needs of the diaspora. Recommendations for the Țara Făgărașului Community Foundation:
Develop an advisory committee that can continuously monitor migration and related phenomena and provide recommendations; Generate increasingly efficient ways to inform and be in contact with the diaspora in order to increase engagement and investment in local communities; Develop community engagement and investment mechanisms targeting diaspora; Involve diaspora in conceiving such mechanisms; Establish thematic or named funds that address the needs of the diaspora and that have an impact both in the communities of origin and of destination; Enhance synergies between communities of origin and of destination; Employ current experience with diaspora through storytelling in order to generate more community engagement and investment among diaspora; Address challenges encountered by those who return to Țara Făgărașului through financing relevant projects; Facilitate a community-wide consensus on an integrated economic development model for the region; Address the needs of diaspora through targeted educational projects (e.g.: teaching foreign languages, teaching Romanian for students who return from abroad, inter-cultural communication, international educational experiences, etc.); Address human trafficking. Recommendations for local public authorities:
Develop a coherent local public policy to manage migration and adapt the local institutional framework; Increase the quality of offered services; Reduce the bureaucracy for founding and managing business and nongovernmental initiatives; Develop a network of sister towns from the areas where Țara Făgărașului diaspora is located; Adapt local education to the needs of a community with a significant proportion of its population living in the diaspora; Support the business environment in capitalizing on the resources offered by having a large diaspora; Understand digitalization and its potential impact on Țara Făgărașului and create an integrated regional development strategy for the area; Address human trafficking challenges.