Youth Forum from the view of a young reporter
Cities of Learning is an international initiative and a network of online learning platforms, which are dedicated to finding informal learning opportunities in ones local environment. In addition to other activities of the “CLyouth” project, a group of 10 young people from Slovenia met between 15.7. and 20.7. 2022 to participate in the Youth Forum in the German city of Magdeburg. The aim of the forum was to prepare youth recommendations for politicians at the local, national and EU level. In addition, the participants could learn about learning in a VR environment or join a group of young journalists. I was one of the last mentioned.
Our journey started early on Friday morning, as a transfer to the airport was already waiting for us at the Ljubljana bus station at 4:30 am. We picked up our two fellow passengers in Maribor, and then drove together to Vienna, where a few hours later the plane took us to the beautiful city of Bremen. There we had a coffee break at the train station, then continued our journey to Magdeburg by train. When we arrived at the “villa”, dinner and an introductory evening were already waiting for us there, where we could meet other participants and, of course, also get to know each other, as some of us joined the Cities and Regions of Learning network for the first time.
On Saturday, after breakfast, we went to the Landtag von Sachsen-Anhalt – the regional parliament of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. There we learned about the history of the project and all the activities for young people that were part of the “CLyouth” project and led us to the final forum – from youth consultations to youth trainings, developing advocacy companies and online exchanges for young people. We also met young experts who shared their knowledge with us during the week. Each was an expert in one of the forum’s five main topics:
- Inclusion (expert – Arnold Kassing, Netherlands),
- Participation (expert – Liviu Andrei Taran, Norway),
- Sustainability (expert – Henrike Cremers, Germany),
- Informal education (expert – Kristina Stražišar, CPM Association, Slovenia) and
- Mental health (expert – Elodie Bink, Netherlands).
After a short break, we were visited by three representatives of the parliament, who shared their opinion on selected topics and answered our questions. They were:
- Tobias Krull (CDU member)
- Gordon Kohler (AfD member) and
- Anne-Marie Keding (Vice Speaker of Parliament)
After lunch, we went for a walk around Magdeburg, where we could see this wonderful city, get to know each other, and learn about our main topics during workshops with young experts. After returning to the villa, the young ambassadors made sure that we had a nice evening with a pizza party.
On Sunday, we first presented the advocacy campaigns that we prepared as part of the project at the Youth Seminar in Spain. We were able to walk between the stands of partner countries and groups, ask questions of our colleagues and get ideas for improving our work at home. After the break, there were workshops for the preparation of recommendations. Each of the participants chose 2 topics in which they wanted to participate. In the first part, we imagined our ideal world – How, for example, informal learning would look like in it. After the break, we switched groups, and our task was to figure out how to get to our ideal world. “What steps should we take? Which institutions would be responsible for the changes? In what environments would the activities take place?” were just some of the questions we asked ourselves. After lunch, we split into new groups and together we tried to transform all the ideas of the first part of the day into the first draft of the youth’s recommendations to politicians.
We were very active on Monday. The main day of the Youth Forum began with a greeting from the EU youth coordinator Biliana Sirakova. Then followed the “World Cafe” activity. We were divided into groups in which we had the opportunity to comment on and supplement all newly created recommendations. Since we did not participate in all the topics the previous day, we now had the opportunity to add some completely new ideas to the content, or just change a sentence a little, add something, or remove something. These recommendations were then reviewed and revised by a group of young journalists and our mentors (Duncan Hodgson and Buzz Burry). The same afternoon, however, we presented the newly created draft of recommendations to local politicians. Members of the regional parliament and other important actors visited us:
- Eunice Eisden, Curacao
- Vidmantas Mitkus, Lithuania
- Tobias Krull, Germany
- Anne-Marie, Germany
- Karolin Braunsberger-Reinhold, Germany
- Nicole Anger, Germany
- Gintare Joteikaite, Lithuania
- Franz Teresiak, Germany
One of the groups presented our work to everyone, and they were able to give their opinion and tell from their own experience how to approach different decision-makers in the best possible way so that they would listen to us. The visit was followed by the conclusion of the forum. We carried out group reflection, national reflections and planned for the future – Each national group received some funds with which we can further develop our ideas and, most importantly – share the prepared recommendations among important stakeholders in their country and/or local communities. For example, the Slovenian team decided to invite the decision-makers to dinner and present our recommendations directly to them. We also presented our plans to the national teams and we can’t wait to see how successful the others will be!
On Tuesday, the participants of the forum began to go home, and the Slovenian team was waiting for another night in Magdeburg. Most of us went on a trip – we visited the witches above the city of Hale and the charming town of Quedlinburg. On Wednesday, before the flight home, we also visited the city of Bremen. So we were probably all looking forward to our own beds when we arrived back in our native Ljubljana in the early hours of the morning.
Soon, on Monday, August 29, 2022, we met with representatives of the Ljubljana Youth Office, MOVIT – Slovene national agency, Youth office of Slovenia URSM, Zavod Odtiz – Institute for inclusion and Institute for Youth Policy of Slovenia, to whom we presented our recommendations over dinner and chat together about how we see the future of the initiative Ljubljana city of learning and where we can work together. We also agreed that during the next year we, the young ambassados will continue to meet and explore the 5 topics even further. We wish to create a learning playlist for each of them and share them with youth people all around Slovenia.
The author of the text: Karmen Dolenšek, a young ambassador of the Ljubljana City of Learning initiative.
Photographer Bennet Rietdorf