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YOUTH ENGAGEMENT: Building a Sense of Initiative and Intervention

- Community Social Peacebuilding & Grassroots Conflict Transformation -


So far, the project organised 2 trainings, capacitated 50 youth, created 9 follow-ups and benefited more than 300 people (residents and citizens) in Austria.


Community challenges affecting youth and society have been dramatically increasing over the past years even in the most developed European countries, but even especially in those countries such as Austria. Issues such as racism, hate speech, media bubbles, youth alienation, political polarization, radicalisation and numerous other incitements have gained particular popularity recently. This has led to new manifestations of violence on the cultural, structural and personal levels. Most of these issues have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This exacerbation opened a wider door to overly simplistic solutions to complex problems, resulting in declining social solidarity and intercultural dialogue. While young people are one of the groups most affected by these issues, the potential of their role and the impact of their actions were limited for various societal and structural reasons. However, several examples show how small actions by youth can create a significant positive impact on society and beyond when empowered by the right practical competences (skills, knowledge, and attitudes). Hence, in 2021 we initiated this project "YOUTH ENGAGEMENT" which is a series of recurring training courses on the topic of social transformation through the non-violent and peace education approach to offer a practical solutions-oriented intervention that addresses as many social issues as possible. In these training courses, we train youth between 18 and 30 years old on how to analyse community issues and design and implement initiatives to tackle a grassroots problem to achieve positive change. The tackled issues so far were environmental, social, civic, and political among other conflictual areas that affect the society and youth. As a participant, they chose a specific issue to focus on and tackle during the training. The range of possible issues to tackle varies from environment, inclusion, diversity, education, digitalisation, human rights, gender, integration, equality, solidarity, discrimination, justice, culture, and youth empowerment, to topics such as poverty, employment, and climate change. All these diverse topics were analysed and understood, in the framework of visible and invisible violence. Therefore we chose this framework as a method of finding solutions and developing transformation skills and tools to address these topics in a constructive way to achieve a positive change in the community. The project equips the participants with several competences and they get the chance also to make practical use of the learning outcomes and design and implement local initiatives. More trainings within this project are planned to take place!

In each training, the participants first learn about the framework of visible and invisible violence, including major concepts such as "violence", "conflict", "peace" and "transformation" to build a common understanding amongst all. They discover the relevance of this approach to social change. Further, the participants get introduced to tools to analyse an existing conflict and think about possible solutions. As a next step, participants work in small groups to design their own initiatives that address any topic that they wish to influence. Participants are further supported during the training to design a comprehensive local initiative with an actual implementation plan. All groups present their initiatives (problem, solution and intervention) and get feedback. After the training, all groups are further supported by the organising team to implement these newly designed initiatives as a follow-up to this training on the local level.

Reciprocity Participatory Method was applied in the initiation phase to assess the needs and issues and involve the target group directly.
Dimension has been incorporated creating a marketplace of ideas between participants 50-50 ratio between residents and citizens.
xercise has been integrated to build a robust theory of change with clear doable and measurable actions leading to local initiatives.
Multidisciplinary Approach has enriched the whole experience benefiting from the diverse backgrounds and experiences of all participants.

The first training was from 19 to 25 August 2021 and the second training was from 9 to 14 April 2022, in Vienna, Austria for young leaders between 18 and 30 years old who are based in Austria (both citizens &residents) with a moderate English level and who were eager to learn new skills, methods and tools to improve their conflict transformation capacities and better engage in the civic society. Teamwork, cooperation and mutual respect were the core principles shared by all participants. Both trainings were free of charge. So far the proejct has been financed by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe. Thanks to this generous fund, we covered all the costs for the training, materials, content, meals, breaks, and transportation. For successful participation, the participants had to commit to at least 80% of the training program and implement the local follow-up initiatives.

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