"When we tell people at the youth centre that we're going to Romania, we get comments like: 'Oh no, you'll be robbed by gypsies,'" says Jenny Bereziuk of SKM Cologne. "And when we leave at the end of the trip, everyone's hugging," adds one supervisor who took part in an international youth work camp. The 40 young participants in the "Innovativ International" youth BarCamp, held at Berlin's Centre Français between 30 September and 2 October, all agree. Their view of the world has changed, they claim – they’ve become more confident. "I'm not at an outgoing person at all," says Teuta Berisha from the Kosovo, who attended international youth meetings organised as part of the project Trialog München – Ljubljana – Pristina run by Euro-Trainings-Centre ETC. "I used to find it difficult to approach other people and make myself understood. These international projects have changed me." How can more young people enjoy this kind of experience? What has to be done to make international youth work more visible? How can young people receive the social, political and personal recognition they desire? These issues were addressed during the two-day BarCamp.
The young people who attended the Berlin event came with different expectations. Some of them had participated in international projects themselves. Some had visited Denmark with the ewoca³ – for everyone project and started building a Viking boat which will be continued in Ukraine. Others had developed their own system of recognition in the form of “learning badges”, which are "certificates" that cannot get lost because they are stored online. Some young participants from Munich, Ljubljana and Prishtina had already worked together on the Trialog project. The Centre Français has organised a whole series of Franco-German meetings with original formats and ensured media coverage to raise public awareness of the results. First and foremost, the young participants are keen to share their experiences – they want to find out what others have experienced and discuss how more young people can benefit from such activities.
They call for greater visibility and the recognition of their projects and achievements. "I want to be able to benefit from what I've learnt in a project at school," hopes one participant. "The school could give us time off to attend international exchanges," suggests another. But they also expect a response from politics and society as a whole. "Politicians should listen when we have something to say. Our projects have a beneficial effect on everyone. Our public image really should be better," they concluded. But what exactly has to improve? With the help of Anne Sorge-Farner and Christoph Bruners – both from IJAB – an online questionnaire was developed. Aimed at participants of projects financed by the innovation fund, it focused on the advantages of participation in international projects and recognition of these activities. Some initial results were presented at the end of the BarCamp.
Another group consisted of members of the young editorial teams who have provided media coverage of the international innovation fund projects over the last two years. Their reports are published at http://innovativ-international.de/. The co-organisers of mediale pfade.de had developed a programme for them which supplemented traditional articles with multimedia features and reports. Workshops were offered on internet radio broadcasting, video streaming using different tools and working with YouTube channels. "There were lots of practical things to try out," said Vladimir from Dnipro in the Ukraine – no surprise, because YouTube professional Jan Karres was on hand to give advice. His video feature went online just a few hours after his workshop.
How would the two BarCamp themes – the subject of media coverage and the international focus – be brought together at the end of the event? Workshop presenters Stephanie Pickl and Marike Schlattmann repeatedly highlighted the connections between the international projects and their visibility, answering the question at the end of the workshop with a live stream.
The end – not just of the workshop
Then it was time to present the results of the two-day BarCamp. Albert Klein-Reinhardt, Desk Officer for European and International Youth Policy attended the event as the delegate of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, while the coordinating body for the German federal government’s youth strategy for 2015-2018 was represented by Nils Rusche. Both guests stressed their interest in incorporating the results of the BarCamp in their work.
The presentation was designed as a live stream for greater publicity, with participants Max and Sharon chosen as presenters. Sharon was nervous, but Max reassured her: "If you get stuck, I'll take over. If I get stuck, you can take over."
During the stream, the participants in the international projects start by discussing what they experienced. Some of them get emotional. This has clearly been a special experience. Friendships have been made across borders, maybe even lifelong friendships. The young participants hope they will be able to experience something like this again. The team that produced the questionnaire follows on from this subject. Over 30 young participants in the international projects have now completed the online questionnaire; an initial picture has emerged. There is a clear interest in more international projects. Those who have taken part in such projects want to do it again. They want to participate and have a say. Secure, long-term funding is needed. They feel that friends and family recognise their achievements. The situation could be better in politics, schools and on the job market.
By the time the stream finished, Sharon's nerves had disappeared. She and Max did a great job of presenting the meeting. So was this really the end of it all? The BarCamp’s end coincided with the end of the two-year funding phase that made so many projects possible. The project findings will be integrated in Germany’s independent youth policy, among other things. What next? If the young participants could have any say in the matter, work should continue...