Annual General Meeting 2024 – Colloquium, Patriarchal Palace, Bucharest, Romania 

Wednesday 15/05 

Wednesday’s Morning Worship was led by Eurodiaconia Supervisory Board Member, Alfredo Abad of who spoke eloquently about the importance of peace. Following this, a short and warm welcome session saw Fr Ciprian Ioniță, President of the Filantropia Federation of the Romanian Patriarchate and Christine, Kjøs, Signo Foundation / Stiftelsen Signo (Norway) receive their Certificates of Membership from Chairperson of Eurodiaconia Supervisory Board, Olli Holmström, (Diakonissalaitos, Finland).

At the opening panel “Are there links between poverty and democracy?” guests got expert insight from Elena Dobre (Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity, Romania), Eszter Sandor, (Eurofound), and Matthijs Gillissen, (HIVA-KU Leuven) 

  • Elena Dobre showed how “Romania faces considerable risks of poverty and inequality, with significant disparities between population groups and regions” 
  • Eszter Sandor, Research Manager, Eurofound, showed findings of “a strong link between perceived insecurity of job (feeling that one might lose their job within a few months) and wellbeing” 
  • Matthijs Gillissen, Researcher at HIVA-KU Leuven explained how the INVOLVE report established whether and/or how much citizens collectively have stopped having positive expectations of their country’s political institutions, as shown by fluctuations in political trust. 

Wednesday’s second panel, “Empowerment through community mobilisation”, included Rosie Hopley, of Jubilee+ Voices (UK) and Carla Van Der Vlist of SchuldHulpMaatje (NL).  

  • Rosie Hopely explained that “church and social actors can do two things: mitigate poverty and reverse it” while giving lived-experience examples showing how “people can be lifted out of poverty and live in full dignity.”  
  • Carla Van Der Vlist showed what roles Christian organisations and churches can have in tackling poverty by sharing insights from the Kerk Debt Aid Buddy project: “tackling poverty is also about connecting different layers in society” 

Wednesday afternoon’s study visits included visits to a dental clinic, two social kitchens, two day care centres for children at risk, two elderly care homes, a centre for Palliative Care, and a Kindergarten. 

Wednesday evening was spent enjoying some traditional Romanian dance and cuisine at Hanu’ Beralilor 


Thursday 16/05

Thursday’s Morning Worship was led in song by Rollaug Waller, Eurodiaconia Supervisory Board Member of Haroldsplass Foundation, Norway. After some short introductions it was straight into our first plenary session on EU Elections, hosted by Malte Lindenthal of Diakonie Deutschland, Member of the Eurodiaconia Supervisory Board. The session gave insights into the critical issues at stake and their visions for the future in the perspective of the European Elections. 

  • Our guests, Jean Lambert – Former Member of the European Parliament for the UK pleaded for a more equitable Europe stated that “the fact that the EU still runs a food aid programme and demand is growing is obscene.”  
  • Ana Gomes – Former Member of the European Parliament for Portugal –  was incredibly assertive in her beliefs that “the European Union, despite all the flaws, is the space that provides all the freedom and opportunities to people all over the world.” 

Thursday afternoon was a packed schedule of Parallel Workshops with a variety of topics. Among the topics were: 

  • Artificial intelligence, digitalisation, and social services where Sara Speicher, World Association for Christian Communication and Irina Tache, Politehnica University of Bucharest, Faculty of Automatic Control and Computers, Romania gave an insightful look towards the immediate future. Thanks to Kewan Mildred for organising.
  • Essential services and the cost-of-living crisis highlighted how across Europe, price increases and eroding purchasing are impacting social service providers in their efforts to support people and families at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Thanks to Martin Schenk, Deputy Director, Diakonie Österreich and Annika Sparrer for organising.  
  • A workshop on S.O.R.A – Roma feminist community intervention method, highlighted case studies of the method in practice. Sincere thanks to Carmen Gheorghe and Anca Nica of E-Romnja, Anca Enache of Helsinki Deaconess for their insights. Thank you also to Elisa Alho-Kullström, Embassy of Finland, Bucharest, for her contribution on social institutions and life satisfaction in Finland. Thanks to Andrea Sánchez Caballero for organising.
  • The Stories of Participation workshop examined how community-based projects can foster better participation among people in vulnerable situations and empower them in decision-making processes in their everyday lives. Our members Slezka Diakonie (Czech Republic), Apostoli (Greece), and Asociacion Nueva Vida (Spain) shared their experiences by telling the stories of different people who through their participation in our member’s initiatives have reclaimed their integrity and meaning and have found their own ways to contribute to community-building. The session was facilitated by Romana Belova, Slezka Diakonie’s Deputy Director for Social Work.
  • What future for Civil Society? facilitated by Heather Roy, explored the challenges of the civil society movement from a number of angles – technology, extreme politics, challenges to legitimacy, and the role of faith-based organisations as bridge builders. 

 Thursday afternoon Capacity building sessions:  

  • European funding opportunities explored funding opportunities for social services through private foundations and the EEA Grants Framework. Expert contributions from Sotiris Laganopoulos, Sector Officer – Civil Society, EEA and Norway Grant and Ines Bulava, Project Manager, Diaconia Centre of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.  Facilitated by Glenis Balangue-Dalkiran  
  • What does the Green Transition mean for social services? In session probed the impact of the Green Transition on social services and lowest-income groups. We will discuss the impact of environmental policies on social services and people, and how to better adapt to this change. Speakers: Anna-Lena Guske, Project Leader Environmental & Social transformation, Diakonie Deutschland. 
  • In “Speaking from the margins”,  Maria Katharina Moser, Diakonie Österreich spoke to a theological context for Diaconia.  
  • Donal Brady led Communicating Diaconia – How personal stories contribute to shaping narratives where participants examined effective personal stories and left the session with a blueprint to create their own personal story campaign.  
  • Olli Holmström, Chairperson of the Eurodiaconia Supervisory Board Andrea Witt, Head of Operations, Eurodiaconia hosted a peer-coaching session entitled “Leadership in turbulent times” in which  CEOs and leadership team members of Eurodiaconia member organisations engaged in interactive discussions and exchanged best practice.
  • EU Elections – What is at stake for Europe? Mirko Schwärzel, Diakonie Deutschland, presented their new tool ‘Sozial-O-Mat’   

Thursday closed with the thematic networking café, an informal session connecting fellow Eurodiaconia members who conversed about each others’ work, current challenges, and best practices in a speed meeting format. 


Friday 17/05

Heather Roy led the Morning Worship which ended with singing the signing of the Eurodiaconia Hymn and then it was into the formalities of the Annual General Meeting Business Session, the highlight of which saw Cristian Pavel of Filantropia Timișoara, Romania ratified as a member of the Supervisory Board for a second term.It was a fitting close to a wonderful week in Bucharest where our hosts left no stone unturned to ensure we had the best possible experience. Indeed, all guests left Bucharest in total agreement that Bucharest lived up to its nickname “Parisul Estului” or Paris of the East!

You can access all of the presentations from our speakers here and access a full album of photos from here!