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Radio Pata

Radio Pata is a 24/7 community radio, co-created with inhabitants of Pata Rât - a 2,000 strong Roma slum near Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Radio Pata is streamed through a custom mobile application, also implementing grass-roots community self-organization tools and a feed on public social services.
The project aims to empower the Pata Rât community, to connect the Pata Rât community and the larger social body of Cluj-Napoca, and to catalyse societal/institutional change.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

1. The problem
Roma inclusion is critical to Romania’s social protection system: the share of Roma on the labour market will reach 20% by 2050. At a national level, the at-risk-of-poverty rate of the over 2M Romanian Roma is 84% and increasing. 7km from the city centre of Cluj-Napoca - the second largest city in Romania, in the immediate vicinity of the city dump - there is a 2000-strong Roma ghetto, living in extreme poverty, marginalisation and isolation. Local public authorities are constantly criticised for poor availability, accessibility, efficiency, and effectiveness of social service provision.

2. The opportunity
AltArt Foundation teams have been working since 2012 with the Pata Rât community, developing cultural and artistic programs with the community, financed by Norway Grants, the European Commission and the Cluj City Hall. During these collaborations the idea of developing the community radio emerged, as a tool to empower the community and break the barriers of social isolation.

3. Objectives
Creating a more inclusive society, democratising the relation between the public administration and citizens, contributing to empowering the marginalised Roma community in Rata-Rât.

Radio Pata, an autonomous, innovative community service, fostering:
-local identity
-community organisation
-connection to the larger social body of the city
-improved access to services provided by public institutions

4. Beneficiaries:
-Roma community in Cluj
-Citizens of Cluj
-Public institutions, providers of social services

5. Future: In the following 4 years Radio Pata will be developed as a social business, to be maintained by the community. The engine of Radio Pata is Studio Pata, with the capacity to record/broadcast podcasts and music, master CDs, s.o.

6. Institutionalization: The Radio is actively seeking partnerships with local social service providers (e.g. child protection, health, education, work), in order to stream available services through the radio application interface, custom tailored for the Roma community and personalised for different user profiles. Along with its real-time feedback system, Radio Pata steps up as a radically bottom-up tool for innovating and democratizing social service delivery.

7. Scaling: In the next years, Radio Pata aims to cover 80% of the Pata Rât community, reach 20.000 Cluj citizens and pipe the services of 7 providers. By 2022 Radio Pata will compile its methodology and start exporting it. Marginalised communities that already showed interest in implementing a community radio include Plovdiv (Bg) and Izmir (Tr).

8. Course of action: During 2018-2019, AltArt organised workshops in storytelling, creative writing, poetry, audio editing for youth from Pata Rât, assisted by professionals from Radio Cluj. Workshop participants visited Radio Cluj and got acquainted to studio equipment, broadcast, etc.

9. Methods and tools used: All components of Radio Pata are developed through facilitated community consultations. Programme structure of Radio Pata is decided upon through co-curation. Content is produced by the community, for the community. The radio platform (server and Android application) are developed full open source and will be uploaded to GitHub.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

Radio Pata makes a case:
-for acknowledging the need for institutional transformation with the same emphasis as community transformation (as opposed to expecting that community empowerment will solve structural imbalances)
-for treating intra-community power dynamics and intra-institutional power dynamics as equal barriers that can block the adoption of social innovation (as opposed to assuming the administration as an ideal bureaucracy)
-for “slow” innovation of social relations (as opposed to the accelerated development cycles of technological innovation)
-for human facilitated innovation of social relations (as opposed to the current trend of automatizing human interaction for sakes of scalability)
-for trust, creation of safe places, an emphatic, non-threatening approach as prerequisites for intra- and inter-community dialogue (as opposed to assuming these by default)
-for applying restorative practices (as opposed to overlooking trauma caused by structural violence)

What is the current status of your innovation?

Currently Radio Pata is in the alpha testing phase. This means the team has already:
-co-designed the app interface
-programmed the app
-trained radio personnel
-trained anchors, reporters
-recruited volunteers
-acquired radio equipment (mics, mixers, laptops, recorders, server space)
-bought a van (a Mercedes Vito) to transform it into a mobile radio studio
-recorded 20 hours of audio material.
Right now the team is assembling the parts, i.e.
-checking the app for errors/usability problems
-doing trial runs with the crew
-testing the equipment
During this period, the team may:
-return to the design pad (redesign the app)
-further train the crew
-enhance the equipment.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Members of the Roma community in Pata Rât: community needs, user interface requirements, programme structure, programme content
Community Association of the Roma from Coastei: community participation/facilitation
AltArt Foundation: community facilitation, software development
Radio Cluj: studio equipment use, demo recordings, coaching
Cluj City Hall, European Commission: (co)financing of workshops

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Main stakeholder: the 2,000-strong Roma community in Pata Rât
-co-producing/co-owning the radio
-informing/organizing themselves
-accessing social services
-connecting to the city
-combating racism
The citizens of Cluj-Napoca
-connecting to the first community radio of Cluj
-opening intercultural horizons
-reducing racism
Government officials
-optimizing social service delivery with real-time information/feedback
-changing methodologies
-combating structural racism

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Results/Impacts so far:
Level of community trust increased - regular meetings with the Roma community Association from the Pata Rât ghetto are taking place.
Community involved - 12 youth participated in over 30 workshops in the past 2 years.
Professionals involved - 4 theatre professionals, 2 psychologists, 2 community facilitators engaged
Public institutions addressed - contact made with 2 public service providers to integrate the Radio Pata platform in their service delivery

Reach - over 22,000 listeners by the end of 2024, streaming 7 types of public services through the app.
Status - at this moment there is no community radio in Cluj. The ambition of Radio Pata is to set the standard for an intercultural radio promoting social equity.
Porting: By 2026 Radio Pata aims to have its first porting implemented. Interested communities include Plovdiv (Bg) and Izmir (Tk).

Challenges and Failures


1. Community trust broken
Being a vulnerable and traumatized medium, trust is breaking down easily.
Addressed with: transparent communication and constant presence in the community.

2. Structural oppression and institutional racism
Addressed with: patience and diplomacy.

3. Financing uncertainties
Addressed with: writing applications, reaching out to corporations.

As the context sketched above shows, the project has been a rollercoaster of failures and successes.
Still, it suffered no failure that could be quoted as major sofar.

Conditions for Success

1. Community adoption of Radio Pata in the long run: this will require constant community facilitation and conflict management.
2. Radio personnel trained: in collaboration with Radio Cluj.
3. Minimum financial resources provided: this will require EUR 2,000 per month to be raised after the social business is transferred to the community
4. Co-decisioning: will need to be fostered by all partners.
5. Institutional collaboration: the team needs to develop an open and supportive relationship the social service providers.
6. Roma activism: it will need also the continuous support of the Community Association of the Roma from Coastei.


Radio Pata is a pilot project. Regarding its portability potential: the number of marginalized communities may be comparable to the number of cities in Europe. Today there are over 12M Roma in Europe, most of them facing marginalisation.

By proposing a Toolkit, the project ensures the portability of its methodology for empowering other communities living in marginalisation and deep poverty (e.g. marginalised local communities, refugee camps) in Europe.

Importing the Radio Pata methodology in a community means fostering:
1. creative expression of cultural identity; 2. development of community cohesion/local pride; 3. planning/implementation/upscale of community processes and projects; 4. sharing public social service information; 5. better connection of citizens; 6. connecting with local public service provider institutions.

Lessons Learned

In recent years a number of social services have been improved using digital communication technologies. However, technology is far from being a panaceum universalis. The use of “innovative” technologies will not render public governance “more innovative” and even less “more democratic” by default. When relationships between the social stakeholders are unbalanced or broken, technologies may as well just regenerate non-horizontal or even oppressive relations (e.g. between public institutions and citizens). Again, social innovations do not become disruptive solely by using “disruptive technologies” - they will do so only when disrupting social relations. Therefore, in terms of democratising public service provision “disruptive innovation” must mean - beyond improving the efficiency of public service provision - changing the relation between the duty-holder and the rights-bearer to create a more inclusive and democratic society.

Rather then revolving around the Radio Pata-Cluj mobile application, the project sets the platform in motion relying heavily on “analogue” social technologies:
-community facilitation
-institutional facilitation
-mediation (through restorative justice among stakeholders).
In fact, Radio Pata-Cluj must be an intervention project built on facilitation technologies.

Anything Else?

Radio Pata will
-stream a 24/7 community radio, with the station programme produced by the Pata Rât community / later also the larger Cluj community
-pipeline social services for the community provided by the local public administration
-facilitate community initiatives
-generate data on social service provision (demand, supply, profiles of the clients, level of satisfaction etc.)
-facilitate communication among community members and local public administration
The platform will implement
-a channel for self-expression, cultural empowerment, a sense of self-respect and local pride of the community
-a social bonding tool to activate community members participation and self-organizing (by access to information, knowledge sharing and expanded capacity for developing initiatives for solving community problems)
-a tool to connect the Pata Rât community with the larger social body of Cluj-Napoca
-a tool that facilitates the opening of the public institution for dialogue


  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

11 February 2021

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