Ulrike Werner

We need more low-threshold methods

Traditional diversity-aware education methods are too theory-heavy and require strong language skills. This was one conclusion drawn by participants of the IJAB workshop on diversity and interculturality in international youth work, which took place from 30 May to 1 June 2016 in cooperation with non-profit organisation Villa Fohrde.

Around 20 experienced experts from the international youth work and diversity-aware education communities engaged in a critical analysis of various diversity and interculturality concepts, their methodologies, and the challenges they present in international partnerships and teams.

A presentation on the main principles of diversity-aware education came from Anne Sophie Winkelmann, co-developer of the approach (www.vervielfaeltigungen.de). She emphasised its political dimension and discrimination-critical perspective, which sets it apart from other diversity concepts such as those used in the business world. Other major aspects, she said, included the avoidance of pigeon-holing, which is judgemental and attributive, as well as a differentiated understanding of the subject at hand, an acceptance of the fact that he or she can belong to several groups at once.

To illustrate, various elements and perspectives of “classic” intercultural learning, which perceives culture as static and nationally flavoured, were compared with those of diversity-aware education. However, the group disagreed on whether this classic intercultural approach to learning is still practised in international youth work or whether it has long since been overtaken by other more progressive approaches.

In the days that followed, too, participants continued to argue controversially about the compatibility of diversity-aware and intercultural approaches. While some felt that the concept of “culture” was ambiguous and hence no longer employ it, others alternate between the two. A third group combines elements and attitudes drawn from the different approaches.

The keynote address on reflexive interculturality according to Hamburger, which could have delivered some further interesting insights, had to be cancelled as the speaker had fallen ill. However, it is an interesting aspect that deserves further reflection.

One special challenge in connection with the diversity-aware approach is collaboration in an international team and/or environment, as Markus Rebitschek from the European Youth Education Centre in Weimar reported in his presentation of the multinational project series “Non-Formal Education and Diversity in European Youth Work”. He emphasised the importance of earmarking sufficient resources when designing and preparing concepts for international projects, working with a mixed management team from various countries, and coordinating the team’s public relations. The circumstances governing one’s counterparts’ work in terms of social discourse, the political background, and the significance attached to civic education needed to be considered too, he said.

Further practical and methodological insights were delivered by Anna Müller (Servicebureau Jugendinformation), Stefanie Vogler-Lipp (European University Viadrina) and Aleksandra Pawłowska (German-Polish Youth Office), who all helped prepare the workshop. The workshop was led by education expert Julia Motta (Bildung und Beratung), who contributed input to the project from the very beginning.

During a reflection session on the various methods it became obvious that there is a clear need for many more intuitive, low-threshold exercises. It ought to be possible to engage in diversity and interculturality in international projects even if not everyone has perfect command of the foreign language, or participants are not all educated to a high standard. There is certainly still room for improvement in this area.

Based on the various discussions and inputs, a set of basic principles were drawn up that may help to continue to professionalise educational practice. During the final session, participants praised the work they did together and the conversations they shared as very positive and inspiring. There was strong interest in organising a larger barcamp-style event on the subject.

The workshop was part of Innovationsforum Jugend global and received financial support from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ).

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