Were there any obstacles?
Of course! For example, it was not so easy to find local partners. There are some cities where schools have stricter rules regarding hosting events about politics, even neutral ones. Eventually we decided to move our activities to other cities. A further challenge occurred during the summer when we planned to recreate the European Parliament elections. To simulate the European Parliament which has more than 800 members, we aimed to host a big group of participants, but most of the young people were on holiday. Our local partners, teachers and volunteers of the association helped us spread the word. We had a contact list as well from previous events which helped us reach our target, around 40 participants!
How did you engage young people in the activities?
It depended on the group: we had activities with young people who were well-informed about what is going on at the European level, and especially, about the elections. In other activities, we had to start from the basics, introducing the European Union and its main institutions. Moreover, some young people were not used to expressing an opinion, so we started each activity with energisers and games to break the ice. This loosened them up and helped us to gauge their level of knowledge about the discussion topic. Firstly, we identified different development projects from the participants’ area, and explained how the European Union was involved there, especially with funding them. When youngsters started to feel comfortable to talk, we could then steer the conversation towards the elections.
Why did you choose to focus your project on the youth of Bacău county?
As ADA has been active since 2012 in this county, we have experience in cooperating with local NGOs, schools and young people through several projects. We noticed that young people are not aware of the importance of participatory democracy and the role they have as citizens, especially those aged 16-24 years old. Therefore, for the entire year of 2019, we focused on promoting participatory democracy for them. Outside the main city of the county, it can be difficult for young people to participate in youth opportunities. So, we decided to visit them instead! We chose eight cities for our activities and held them in local high schools or at our local partners’ offices, which everyone could reach easily.
What were the main phases of organising the project?
After identifying the needs of our local community and the issues we felt passionate about, we formed the team and applied for the funding. Thanks to the application form that has detailed questions about all aspects of the project, we clearly understood what we wanted to achieve, how many people to reach, how many magazines to publish and so on. It is important to establish these targets and goals to ensure that your plan can work. We identified our partners, created a logo, discussed the calendar and organised logistics with our partners. Activities were always followed by feedback sessions with both participants and partners, to evaluate our performance.
How did you use the feedback?
For example, in the European Parliament simulations, we brought the original versions of some laws to analyse with the group, but most of the participants were not used to this official language. The second time I did this activity I made a summary of the law in my words. It was more effective like that! We learned that the environment counts too, classrooms were too formal so we preferred halls not used for regular school activities. In case of good weather, we went outside, so that students didn’t consider us professors but rather their colleagues.
Are there any follow-ups?
Since the pandemic we have concentrated on developing our Facebook page and website content and a new issue of the magazine, featuring the impact of coronavirus on youth participation, will be published in December 2020.