NOW Promising Practices

Social Cohesion in our Communities

#promisingpractices

The series “NOW Promising Practices – Social Cohesion in our Communities” showcases living examples improving social cohesion and youth participation in various communities in Europe and the MENAT region.

engage.ch

Bern, Switzerland

Presented by:

Simon Anliker, Team Leader Gemeinden Dachverband Schweizer Jugendparlamente

> Poster

Initiative:

Engage.ch is a digital platform that supports municipalities in Switzerland that want to include young people and their opinions and concerns in decision-making. By giving young citizens the chance to submit requests and ideas, the website builds a bridge between them and their municipalities.

Approach:

The website gives opportunity to young people to articulate their concerns and make requests towards their city or municipality and thereby make them heard. Thereafter, local events take place where the local authorities discuss the issues and requests and also the possible implementation of projects and ideas with the young citizens.

Result:

There have been events taking place in five municipalities last year. As a result, there have been changes made and 135 projects and proposals were implemented, taking the requests of youth under consideration.

Learnings:

Young people always want to engage, but not all of them want to engage in the same way, therefore different paths and structures to participation have to be offered, online and offline.


Social Cohesion Summer Camp

Habbariyeh, Lebanon

Presented by:

Merhej Najm, Advisor to the Mayor of Habbariyeh

> Poster

Initiative:

The Social Cohesion Summer Camp was initiated by the municipality of Habbariyeh in Lebanon, with the main goal to bring together displaced Syrian with Lebanese children.

Approach:

The municipality gathered 60 young people for a week and engaged them in games and cultural activities, lectures to learn about their rights and customs with regards to education, health, family life, society and environmental issues as well as the use of social media.

Result:

Not only did the children involved grow together and form lasting relationships, the camp also offered a chance for their parents to build connections, since they came to visit the camp.

Learnings:

The camp of Habbariyeh served as inspiration and example for other municipalities that have established similar programs now.


Rights 4U Live-in

Gozo, Malta

Presented by:

Suzanne Garcia Imbernon, Task Manager, Office of the Commissioner for Children, Malta

> Poster

Initiative:

Rights 4-U aims to bring together young people from different backgrounds, informing them about their rights, with an emphasis on digital rights and the safe use of the internet.

Approach:

The Office of the Commissioner for Children in Malta puts together a three-day live-in program for young people from 13 to 15 years old once a year, informing youth about their rights. The activities focus on education about digital rights and interaction with others online, as well as learning how to live respectfully and inclusive with their peers. Staff is always available and ready to listen to feedback and take it into consideration with regards to the program.

Result:

Considering the fact that the majority of young people did not know each other beforehand, it was great to witness the intense bond they formed within only three days. Furthermore, the participants help shaping the program in the following year by giving feedback and evaluating.

Learnings:

All young people have something to say and it is up to adults to provide them with space, time and tools to articulate their needs and ideas. As far as the live-in program is concerned, it would be better to have more flexibility next time in order to react to feedback and be able to adapt and change the program if necessary. Moreover, vulnerable groups have to be targeted specifically and once the program is over, everybody needs to be encouraged to continue being active (e.g. Youth Panels)


Students As Experts 4 Change

Vienna, Austria

Presented by:

Rebekka Dober, founder of YEP – Voice of the Youth

> Poster

Initiative:

Students As Experts 4 Change is an Educational Design, with the goal to make active change agents out of school students by accompanying and supporting them to develop their own strategies to have a social impact.

Approach:

Students identify social challenges that matter to them and come together to actively create and design solutions for them, while viewing themselves and acting as experts and leaders during the process. Furthermore, participants are encouraged to produce videos and share the content on social media in order to activate their peers. Besides digital approaches, methods used include theatre pedagogy, storytelling and gamification.

Result:

Engaged, motivated and ambitious students, showing initiative and interest in engaging in dialogue and co-creation. The initiative also led to the founding of the Youth Empowerment Project “YEP – Voice of the Youth”. YEP offers inspiring surroundings, helpful tools and a dedicated community for young people who want to participate and realise their own ideas.

Learnings:

Establishing a project within school proved itself a bit challenging, since it’s hard for the students to think out of the box, surrounded by their daily school environment- therefore at least leaving the classroom was helpful. Moreover, it showed to be necessary to have follow-ups, to let students realise their ideas and show that their engagement actually results in changes. Also, for people working with youth, it is essential to not confuse the possible frustrated reaction of students who feel like their voice doesn’t matter with indifference- instead it is necessary to empower them, hand over responsibility and create space for them to think big.


Home for Cooperation

Nicosia, Cyprus

Presented by:

Lefki Lambrou, Director, Home for Cooperation

> Poster

Initiative:

For almost 3 decades, there has been a separation between the two main communities in Cyprus – the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots – with a buffer zone patrolled by the United Nations being in place inbetween them. Therefore, a need for cooperation and intercultural dialogue was evident.

Approach:

They created a safe space within the buffer zone by renovating a derelict building into a community centre in the heart of Nicosia, and use it as a hub of cooperation: First of all, to give a new meaning to the so-called dead zone and secondly, to make it a place where the local community, the public sector and civil society can come together, exchange ideas and maybe create projects.

Result:

People’s mindsets were changed and intercultural trust has been strengthened by creating and implementing projects together, like community workshops, film screenings or educational programs. The community centre functions as a bridge-builder between divided communities.

Learnings:

The success of the Home for Cooperation is based on a couple of conditions: The community centre stayed flexible enough to adapt to the needs of the communities and change its vision along the way, as well as keeping its workshops and programs free of charge in order for everyone to be able to join. Furthermore, in order to avoid miscommunication, everything is provided in 3 languages – English, Turkish and Greek- and their approach is an informal, often non-verbal one. They also recommend to use strategic arts based on peacebuilding, which means developing projects where artistic mediums are used to heal a personal and/or a collective trauma.


My School, My Vote!

Kitwe / Zambia

Presented by:

Ekaterina Petrikevich,Senior Int. Project Manager Democracy 21

> Poster

Initiative:

My School, My vote! was a project of two schools in Zambia that focuses on bringing democracy and the right to participate to life by showing students how their efforts and decision-making have a direct impact and outcome on the communal life.

Approach:

Almost 4000 students participated and designed proposals for projects that benefit a larger community and tackle issues of many students. Afterwards, the students had to narrow them down, campaign and later on vote for their preferred initiative and allocate money towards it. The winning project aimed to renew school equipment to increase the quality of education.

Result:

Not only did the initiative produce meaningful projects, it made the students engage on a high level and also feel empowered because they could witness the impact they can have on their own environment.

Learnings:

The project showed that local partnerships (e.g. with NGOs) are very helpful, in order to understand the local context and maybe also adjust methodology. Moreover, besides treating students as equals, so they have a good first experience with democracy, it is vital to convince teachers of the educational benefits of the project so they are involved as well.


Social Act

8 Municipalities in Kosovo

Presented by:

Sihana Bejtullahu, Project Manager of Peer Educators Network (PEN)

> Poster

Initiative:

“Social Act” was implemented by PEN, an NGO from Kosovo, as a tool to improve social inclusion, by increasing capabilities of youth regarding critical thinking, advocacy and leading social innovations as well as teaching soft skills- for all population groups of the local communities involved.

Approach:

The program is based on 3 steps: First, soft skills are strengthened and information is given regarding the status of the respective community and its stakeholders. Secondly, a 2-month-period starts where youth engages with municipal representatives in order to learn about community projects and goals. Lastly, the young people get support from PEN in order to draft and implement their own initiatives.

Result:

Not only were the participants able to improve their skills and develop ideas and projects with the support of PEN, there were also immediate outcomes like one of the participants who was actively involved in the strategy for municipal development in one of the communities.

Learnings:

The key learnings were to give youth space to share their thoughts and develop ideas, offer support and guidance during and after the process and create trainings in a fun, yet educational way.


Cuckoo’s Nest

Hameln, Germany

Presented by:

Tjark Bartels – Head of District Authority of Hameln-Pyrmont, Germany

> Poster

Initiative:

Rohrsen, a small residential town in Northern Germany, is home to a lot of families with migration background and struggled with exclusion and disadvantages due to financial or social impairment.

Approach:

With the Cuckoo’s Nest, the town of Hameln and the District Authority of Hameln Pyrmont established an initiative almost a decade ago, in order to tackle the issue of social imbalance and to include all the families equally. They rented out an apartment in the area to support people in need: From educational help to care services to language courses, there are various offers that are getting evaluated by potential users regularly.

Result:

Due to popularity and publicity of the project, a lot of institutions and partners have gotten involved over the years, which enables the initiative to offer customised approaches and solutions to the families.

Learnings:

It is crucial to include parents and improve cooperation with them, in order to make social work with children efficient. The participation of beneficiaries (= parents and children) in decision-making and designing projects and thereby making their voices heard as well as appreciation towards cooperation partners proved themselves valuable.


Mobil in the Vally

Zweitälerland, Germany

Presented by:

Pavlos Wacker & Pablo Rebholz

> Poster

Initiative:

“Mobile in the valley” aims to give young people in rural areas access to ride shares in order to be more mobile while reducing the usage of cars in the area.

Approach:

As a result of a survey among youth, a mobile application called “TwoGo” was created, in order to enable people to share rides. Furthermore, a conference was held where all stakeholders including mayors were invited and co-operations with the city as well as local companies were secured.

Result:

Car usage in the valley was reduced and the young people involved got inspired to become politically active and some of them even spoke at various specialist events.

Learnings:

It is essential to have co-operations and networks with relevant actors. Moreover, what needs to be taken into account is the project’s sustainability and continuity, as well as its funding.


Protecting Myself, Protecting Others

Sjenica, Serbia

Presented by:

Maida Kasumovic – Head of Economy and Development Dpt., Municipality of Sjenica

> Poster

Initiative:

The goal was to gather and educate the community, especially young people, on reproductive health as well as protection from and prevention of health issues- regardless of taboos and different backgrounds, overcoming varying levels of knowledge.

Approach:

Visits to 500 secondary-schools by groups of experts in Sjenica: Doctors, psychologists, social workers, municipal staff, teachers. The groups provided information, lectures and trainings and engaged attendees in discussions.

Result:

Raising awareness of importance of gender equality, health care and knowledge about reproductive health. As a consequence, the Gender Equality Council became more visible to fellow citizens and much more preventive medical examinations took place.

Learnings:

In order to overcome traditional taboos, it is crucial to activate a wider community and gain information through focus groups on various topics. Similar projects in the future should also involve fathers to include all the responsible actors for the prevention and care of physical health and also as role model for boys.


Education Fair

Essen, Germany

Presented by:

Lasse Paetz – Founder of Bildungsfestival / Education Fair

> Poster

Initiative:

The education fair is a 4-day network event involving over 100 students from disadvantaged schools, engaging them in project groups. There are 3 thematic tracks for the event: Sustainability, diversity and personal growth.

Approach:

The education fair effectively improves and boosts the student’s confidence in their own ability to achieve their goals by involving them and letting them make contributions to and take responsibility for agenda items like workshops, performances, or organisational matters.

Result:

Positive impact on the students’ self-efficacy, open-mindedness, their behaviour at school and at home and their political interest.

Learnings:

It is crucial to let youth practice and experience responsibility in order for them to grow.


Improving Educational Structures by Civocracy

Lyon, France

Presented by:

Emily McDonnell – Head of Partnerships and Communications, Civocracy

> Poster

Initiative:

Civocracy implemented a project together with the City of Lyon, offering the opportunity to students, teachers and parents to have a say and participate in local education decisions like activities outside of class or child care.

Approach:

Civocracy online platform, including an open forum-style debate and surveys.

Result:

Six major structural changes were made in Lyon.

Learnings:

Young people want to be involved in political decisions that affect their daily lives as well, but they need to know how to participate and also to experience their impact.


Pop Up on Vivid Street

Postojna, Slovenia

Presented by:

Tatjana Hvala – Advocacy Manager BOREO

> Poster

Initiative:

Enabling children and youth participation to make them feel more welcome and included in Postojna, with engagement of all relevant stakeholders in the local environment: Municipal administration, educational facilities and civil society organisations. The long-term goal being an inclusive participation of children in the local community which will result in curious and active young citizens.

Approach:

Festival “Stop on a Lively Street with Youth” with several activities like workshops regarding different topics (e.g. sustainability, communication, tools and skills like woodworking), art installations, sessions of the children’s council, a literary evening, children being tourist guides in the city, a storytelling festival, stage performances, the presentation of the UNICEF dolls.

Result:

Children and youth, planning and implementing the project, working together with the supporting organizations; a lot of attendees and also publicity through media coverage.

Learnings:

It is key to involve all stakeholders and establish an encouraging environment for children so that they can participate and see that their ideas have been taking into account.