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European Londoners are a big group of potential voters – we must engage them!

People standing behind a table of community information leaflets including photo Voter ID

The Voter ID Awareness Campaign of the Bulgarian Centre for Social Integration and Culture has aimed to inform the Bulgarian ethnic, the Bulgarian Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) and the wider Eastern European communities in London of the changes to election law, make them aware of their rights, encourage them to fully participate in democracy and get them ready to vote.

The programme was funded by the Greater London Authority’s Voter ID Community Grants Programme – Phase one.

The programme was designed to reach the Bulgarian community, one of the largest London EU communities and one of the most vulnerable, via two different channels: delivering drop-in sessions in Bulgarian at different locations in Enfield, where one of the biggest Bulgarian community in London is based, and via live-streaming events which were delivered with the support of the biggest Bulgarian newspapers in London, e.g. Budilnik.

Undoubtedly, the biggest impact was made by the series of live-streaming events in Bulgarian which were broadcast on six Facebook pages of the Bulgarian community in London, our own Facebook page and the Facebook pages of partner organisations, including the newspaper Budilnik.

Reaching out to ten of thousands of Londoners from a Bulgarian background in their mother tongue via social media was a very productive and cost-effective method to engage with a large group of voters. The campaign was very successful due to the joint efforts of many partner organisations and the diverse network of the Eastern European communities in London we reached out to.

Another very productive engagement technique was the drop-in sessions we delivered in Enfield in Bulgarian. Engaging in one-to-one sessions in their mother tongue with the most vulnerable, making them aware of their rights, encouraging them to exercise their rights and participate in the political process was possible only due to the direct contact and trust we had with the Bulgarian community.

Delivering a project on this scale has been a learning experience for us, but we will continue to do this important work. Encouraging a community who traditionally is under-represented to participate in democracy and make them aware of the changes in election law was a huge task. The great results were due to the joint efforts of the many partner organisations we worked with. Hence, we are happy to note that all our participants reported an increase in their feeling of belonging to their neighbourhood and to London, and an increased confidence in using their voice in civic and democratic life.