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Youth Exchange: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion - Vienna, Austria

"Embracing Diversity and Inclusion" was a successfully implemented project that addressed a range of pressing issues of the modern day with a focus on diversity and inclusion. ​When analysing social exclusion, the search reveals a major underlying factor in this issue which is the challenge of our abilities to embrace diversity and enhance inclusion. This has been further challenged by the recent increased political polarisation. Therefore, building mutual respect for and acceptance of diversity is crucial to serving as protective factors that imply preventive measures that assist young people in being inclusive and proactively standing against exclusion and xenophobia. Hence, this project aimed at promoting intercultural awareness, social inclusion, and diversity among the young participants, while supporting their development as global active citizens.

In this fully-funded youth exchange, 42 young people from Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and Türkiye came together for 9 days, from the 4th to the 12th of September 2022 to dive into the world of diversity and inclusion. The youth exchange was solution-oriented, rather than problem-narrowed. Problems were discussed, but also sufficient time and resources were given to resolution. Overall, the project helped to increase personal confidence, enhance the sense of community, foster civic and social engagement and adopt habits that contribute to inclusion and diversity embrace and mainstream.

The physical mobility was preceded by practical preparations in the country groups where each group had home tasks to work on in advance. Each group searched the status of inclusion and diversity practices in their country and found good practices and also areas for improvement. All groups presented their country realities to build a common and wide understanding of the topics of diversity and inclusion from different perspectives.

The first part of the youth exchange was dedicated to getting to know each other, team building, intercultural exchange, and exploring commonalities and differences. Together we first agreed on the group learning principles and established the reflection strategy. This was followed by the discovery of the main and most important and relevant concepts such as diversity, inclusion, integration, and exclusion and what dimensions these concepts consist of in the theoretical and practical perspective in regard to belonging to a community. The start was quite challenging because for the majority of the group, this was their first transnational exchange experience ever and also the first time in a long time to connect with so many dynamic young people since the outbreak of the covid pandemic.

The discussion and reflections were intense, interesting, and constructive. The topic of inequalities rose and was discussed. The implications of social inequalities were then reflected upon and how they impact our inclusion practices and also diversity. These debates led to a slight modification in the agenda to give a space for individual reflections on our own identities and systems of beliefs and our own attitudes that we unconsciously do regularly.

The third day started with a group mission to explore relevant concepts such as Racism, Discrimination, Stereotypes, Prejudices, and Positive Discrimination. The group also recorded some videos to explain the differences between the concepts. In the afternoon, we learn about ways and dynamics of cooperating and demonstrating solidarity in conflict situations. 🌃 In the evening it was time for mingling in the city and discovering some places in Vienna.

The fourth day focused on intercultural communication and community dialogue through debating activities. The second part focused on shifting perceptions and learning how media and other elements influence our understanding of issues around us. As next, the group discovered together the phenomena of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation, and how they affect diversity and inclusion matters. 🌃 In the evening we organized a board game night to play some games together while discussing other points that were raised during the sessions.

The fifth day started with some energizing and outdoor activities to kick off the day before doing the mid-term evaluation. As next, the participants then were involved in group role-plays to depicture discriminatory scenes and also the solution to the different discrimination types in the scenes. In the second part of the day, the participants were surprised with an activity to prepare for a diversity and inclusion demonstration. Participants worked on different topics to address several issues and designed and painted posters and mottos. 🌃 In the evening we randomly joined a salsa party while discovering the city in the night 💃🕺

The sixth day started with an inclusion challenge followed by working in country groups to discuss what can be done to benefit from the learning outcomes after returning back home. Each country group made a presentation of possible local actions and they will try to implement them in the following months. Most of the actions are more individual to serve as a starting point for more activities. This was followed by presenting the harvested outcomes from the activity and doing the final visual and formal evaluation of the whole program. 🍕The lunch on this day was special because we organized one table for all participants together.

These future action plans which are connected to the youth exchange were implemented in the following months to deepen the learning outcomes, spread the knowledge and maximize the sustainable impact by benefiting and reaching more people beyond the project.

Eventually, the program concluded with the overall evaluation of the project and was followed by the recognition of the learning outcomes. All participants had time to document their learning outcomes and they receive the YOUTHPASS certificate.

🎯 The seventh day was dedicated to enhancing the connections and relations between all participants and bonding the group through informal and intercultural activities.

Overall, this project was very successful on several levels. Many action plans were designed, many friendships were built, and a greater result and sustainable impact were reached. Besides the 42 participants from the youth exchange activity, more than 100 others were directly reached through the follow-up events organized by the participants. The follow-up activities were supported by various multimedia resources which the participants created during and after the project. All these multimedia resources are compiled in one playlist on YouTube.

Besides the multimedia resources, some of the groups have already implemented in-person follow-up activities in their own countries. So far, these included a half-day workshop for a whole school class in Greece, and a presentation for a school class in Hungary, a presentation and a workshop for newcomers at the immigration office in France, and a presentation and a workshop in Türkiye.

"For me, participating in the program was a life-changing experience. I met so many amazing people from different backgrounds, and I learned so much from everyone. I discovered that, despite our differences, we all have so much in common. We all want to be accepted and respected for who we are, and we all want to live in an equal and just world." - A participant's review.
"One of the most important things I learned during the program is that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords - they have the real human power to bring people together and create tomorrow's fate. I also learned that it's up to all of us to embrace diversity in our own communities, whether it's through volunteering, participating in cultural events, or simply being kind and respectful to others." - A participant's review.
"I'm so grateful for this opportunity to participate in the exchange on diversity and inclusion. It opened my eyes to the significane of understanding and valuing others, and I hope to carry these lessons with me throughout my life. I can only recommend this program to tothers, and If possible, I really hope this very same program can be replicated for more young people because together we can create a more inclusive and compassionate world where we all inter-conncet" - A participant's review.

Overall, the informal and the formal evaluations by the participants showed significant satisfaction with the whole process and the content.

Some more impression from this activity ^.^

This international project was successfully realised thanks to the generous support of the Austrian National Agency Oead of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

The project with implemented with the following partners:

Croatia: Culture Clash Croatia

France: Maison de l'Europe des Landes Wipsee

Greece: You in Europe

Hungary: Youth Bridges Budapest

Italy: ICSE & co.

Spain: Servicio Voluntario Europeo (SVE)

Türkiye: Younclusion

More project details are on the ERASMUS+ results platform in its Project Card.

Role of EMOTiC in this project: Main Coordinator and Beneficiary.


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