Brave New YOU - Reloaded will bring communities closer by building trust between different groups of young people as well as capacities to become active agenda-setters and actors for change at both local and European level to co-create more open-minded and inclusive Europe. The project tackles the issues of lack of participation of disadvantaged and less represented groups in communities around Europe. It gathers 11 partners from 10 countries around Europe working with diverse groups of young people in disadvantaged and deprived areas on the local level or representing them and providing space for their participation on the international level. A crucial part of the BNY Reloaded Project was the Youth Exchange (YE) Activity which took place from 26th of November to 11th of December 2020.
The original proposed idea was that the YE will gather 50 people from the 10 partner countries (5 participants per country). However, due to the consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic we had to adapt the exchange itself to the current situation. For this reason, we seriously considered the following factors:
1) the duration of the activities (we usually shorten them not to overwhelm young people);
2) the tools used (if digital - we use tools that are accessible and user-friendly);
3) the methodology followed (it is very participatory, with terminology known to everyone);
4) the linguistic barriers (we use activities that require more creative expression)
5) we ensure that the activities are fun;
6) we pay special attention to the creation of safe spaces where everyone feels welcome
Evidently, the YE was moved into the online sphere. Using innovative online facilitation methods, the trainers, in collaboration with the organizer and with the support of the YEU Secretariat and PET Coordinators developed an exchange program focused on sharing the experiences of the participants. The aim of the YE was to provide space for each of the local teams developed in previous activities to get together, share their identified hateful narratives, and work together on building each other’s competencies on how to tackle them, and share practices on how to create alternative narratives.
As far as the methodology is concerned, YE is based on the basics of non-formal education. Since it did not happen in one place (offline), certain modifications were necessary in order to adapt it to the current situation. There was a combination of online tools that enabled participants to contact, communicate and serve to bring them closer together. We tried to adapt the workshops to the online environment in order to keep the format of YEs as close as possible to the original concept of exchanging ideas, thoughts and knowledge. We chose to focus on this aspect as it is one of its most important elements. In order for the participants to have enough time to perform their daily duties we adjusted the format of the exchange and it took place in eight sessions.
Creating a secure online space that would allow as many participants as possible to actively participate was also a priority. This was done in several ways: first, we avoided using typical digital tools such as Zoom. For this reason, special attention was given to Gamification and to interactive tools such as Gather.town, Kahoot and other various types of visual presentations. At the very beginning of the exchange, we gave the opportunity to our participants to get acquainted with tools such as Gather.town. More specifically, Gather.Town is an interactive tool, in which participants have their own player, and can walk and interact with other participants and surrounding objects. During the sessions, the participants were asked to walk around the platform and interact with others in order to fulfill the tasks they were asked (e.g. find someone who is a student and ask him/her about their greatest student night). By creating custom maps and games, participants had the opportunity to get to know each other better which amongst other things also helped in reducing any potential fear of the online environment.
It is important to note that participants of the YE when asked what the best part of the activity was, they pointed out the presentations, the discussions and the interaction with other young people, their cultures and countries. So, let’s get a glimpse of what the local groups presented during the YE:
The local group of ActionAid International Italia Onlus (AAIT) presented their digital campaign fighting hatred and violence against women whereas the local group of the Association for Development, education and Labour (A.D.E.L) tackled the prejudices towards the Roma Community in Slovakia. CGE Erfurt e.V., reaching out to the local community in Thüringen region in Germany, presented also their activities. The local group of United Societies of Balkans (U.S.B.) which consists of teenagers living in the outskirts of Thessaloniki touched upon the issue of hate speech against LGBT+ People in Greece. The local group of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue (CID) discussed the issues of school segregation as well as the problem of environmental pollution in North Macedonia. The members of the Youth center BIT local group in Slovenia presented the issues that they are facing in their area, Bela Krajina and identified hate speech as the biggest problem of their High School. Open Youth Centre of Sauga (Sauga ANK) aimed to include in their local group young people from 4 different areas of Tori municipality and during the YE they showed a video introducing them and their work. Stiftelsen Fryshuset in Sweden has chosen to work with a group of males and females between the ages of 15-20 years, from a disadvantaged area called Vivalla. The local group that the Organisation MOJU – Associação Movimento Juvenil em Olhão is working with, talked about their activities and the hate speech narratives they are focusing on, concerning mainly racial discrimination and gender expression. Finally, YEU’S local actions will be developed through RainbowHouse Brussels (RBH), whose main aim is to fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. They presented the challenges faced and the solutions needed. Finally, they talked about a Toolbox developed called Challenging hate speech against LGBTIQ+: A Counternarrative for Young People.