This is a reference for Leila Usmani

We Have More in Common

The training activity took place
in Bala, Wales, UK
organised by UNA Exchange
6-13 December 2019
Reference person

Sheila Smith

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Aims & objectives

The idea for this project came from experience held by the project coordinator of 12 years of working with on international projects, together with that of UNA Exchange, a 45-year-old international youth work organisation. We have found over time that in the majority of international mobilities, aspects of intercultural evenings have been included to allow people to share culture & learn about that of others. However, this has fallen into a trap of focusing on national culture, & experiences of partners have shown that on some occasions this can perpetuate issues surrounding national cultures & identities, stereotyping & dividing us more than bringing us together. As mentioned by The UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights culture is defined as 'encompassing, inter alia, ways of life, language, oral & written literature, music & song, non-verbal communication, religion or belief systems, rites & ceremonies, sport & games, methods of production or technology, natural & man-made environments, food, clothing & shelter & the arts, customs & traditions through which individuals, groups of individuals & communities express their humanity & the meaning they give to their existence, & build their world view representing their encounter with the external forces affecting their lives.' This project & the inherent training course therefore looked to break down the idea of culture & identity by exploring it through a multifaceted approach, ending by bringing together the knowledge & underst&ing developed to realise that we have more in common than we think, & actually by celebrating diversity this can bring us together more than by focusing just on national culture as presented in tourism guides, but the varieties of culture that present themselves even within sovereign borders. We though it was important that youth workers develop this understanding, especially in line with the United Nations Population Fund describing young people as shapers of the culture of the future, stating Young people’s responses to the changing world, and their unique ways of explaining and communicating their experience, can help transform their cultures and ready their societies to meet new challenges. … Young people do not share their elders’ experiences and memories… Their dynamism can change some of the archaic and harmful aspects of their cultures that older generations take to be immutable. Through adolescence, young people develop their identity and become autonomous individuals. They develop their own ways of perceiving, appreciating, classifying and distinguishing issues, and the codes, symbols and language in which to express them. To be able to support young people in this, youth workers need to move away from culture as defined by nation, and that is what this project aimed to instill in participants for their youth work moving forward.

In addition, the objectives linked directly to the overarching & 2019 objectives of the Erasmus+ programme, as well as the action specific aims, (evidenced in more detail in the continuation of this project application). By empowering participants with the improvement of skills, knowledge, resources & support to promote cultural diversity & all of its facets, we hoped to increase their employability, as this underst&ing & ability to input it into project creation & management across a variety of fields utilises a number of transferable soft skills, such as critical thinking, initiative, communication, working with people from different backgrounds, teamwork, & initiative, as well as the fact that across Europe charities & NGOs are making a lot more effort to engage people from diverse backgrounds, employing experienced young people to undertake these projects. As well as the personal & professional benefit to the participants & the young people they go on to support, the training course has hopefully promoted solidarity between nations by giving them the chance to engage in intercultural & interreligious dialogue & identify common values & issues, in turn increasing capacity of the participating organisations to operate & an EU/international level, allowing for reinforced cooperation with partners from other countries, ultimately creating more cohesive & inclusive societies. The activity has hopefully created a greater awareness within the community of cultural differences but importantly similarities, with participants strengthening their bond with the community, as well as learn about how to engage with cross sectorial cooperation, locally, nationally & on a European level, enhancing the cooperation between youth workers & other influential organisations. The course spent time to allow for the exchange of concepts around culture & identity before the third EU Youth Work Convention, promoting diversity & allowing space to practice instruments, creating mutual st&ards for implementation that can be carried forward in a sustainable way.

The proposed project specific objectives were:
1. Develop underst&ing of multitude of different cultural differences held within Europe, from international - local - small groups - individual.
2. Learn to recognise that nothing defines us specifically. We are made up of so many aspects of different identities. We have more in common than we think - even though our differences are so vast.
3. Break down stereotypes related to nations, aesthetics & religion by exploring our own identifying aspects & those within the areas we live & work.
4. Develop a deeper sense of European citizenship by moving away from the focus of nation states defining culture to recognising that we are one Europe, even one world.
5. Consider creating a new type of 'intercultural evening' to be undertaken during E+ events

Target group & international/intercultural composition of the group & team

The activity brought together 30 participants plus 3 staff members, from 13 different countries, of which there were 3 females from Bulgaria, 2 females from Croatia, 2 females and 2 males from Czech Republic, 1 female and 1 male from Estonia (one originally born in Ukraine), 1 male and 1 female from Greece, 2 males from Hungary, 3 females from Italy, 3 females from Lithuania, 2 females from Macedonia, 2 females from Malta, 1 female from Portugal, 3 females from Romania, and 4 females from the UK (one originally born in France).

Training methods used & main activities

Methodology used during the project were based on the principles of non-formal education, including but not limited to voluntary participation (participants choose to attend, are not obliged by partner organisations) in a range of environments, experiential learning - offering space for active involvement of participants, cooperative learning & direct involvement in every stage of the project, with a shared responsibility to the project, empowering them by allowing for their continual input & sharing of ideas, knowledge & information, & allowing them to have influence over decisions in the project. Therefore, they are highly participative, cooperative & rather self-reflective, working on a knowledge-based approach with reflection as deemed necessary by the Youth Work Convention. These will be enriched not only with participant experience but also with numerous practical examples of projects that have brought about change & success in the subject areas covered by the project activities as well as topic specific workshops, & by calling in specific deliverers with direct experience in designated topics.

In brief, the following working methods were devised, with each topic being delivered through a variety of methods to allow for people with varying learning styles & levels of English to absorb knowledge skills & attitudes:
- Brainstorming sessions to gather ideas & opinions
- Participant presentations to allow for exchange of ideas & information
- Plenary discussions for sharing & exchange of views, thoughts, ideas, etc.
- Multimedia presentations such as videos, songs,
- Simulation exercises for skills & empathy development
- Work in small groups for the sake of sharing & developing cooperation, ideas & knowledge.
- Experiential workshops for detailed exploration of specific issues delivered by experienced professionals in the field if applicable
- Regular reflective processes using art, music, meditation, peer-reflection & Youthpass tools

Outcomes of the activity

One of the key results from this project was that 4 non formal education sessions were developed to share culture in a way that moves away from nation specific manifestations and stereotypes. These sessions built upon the learning obtained through the first part of the week, as well as a session related to developing non formal education activities. The outcomes were incredible, and it is hard to explain without being there, but the participants clearly had understood and learnt a lot about culture in its different forms, and how to explore commonalities, differences, visible culture and hidden culture, in a multicultural group, without placing the emphasis on the country, but rather the individual cultures represented. The first session looked at the culture of drinking alcohol across the continent, as an extremely visible form of culture, and explored what we drink, why we drink and when we drink in different parts of the world, creating connections between geography and types of alcohol. The second session looked at hidden culture in relation to notions of beauty and how beauty is conceived by different genders of different genders, in a very interesting exploitative role play session complemented by a video on different visions of beauty, which combined explored not only how beauty is perceived in different parts of the world, but also how the participants view on beauty is different to that which has the most visible coverage. The third session explored the idea of differences in culture around the notion of celebrations, using symbols to represent 'universal' celebrations, allowing us to recognise that although everyone lives in different parts of the world, the things we celebrate and the symbols we attach to these celebrations are broadly universal. The final session ended with an extremely provocative exploration around commonalities in culture, based on our emotional experiences to specific events. Given a chance to move to four corners of the room, to reflect if our emotion was pleasant or unpleasant, statements were provided about simple and extreme everyday scenarios, from being queue jumped to wolf whistled, and the add on activity involving writing down the specific emotion also allowed us to explore how similar emotions can be seen as pleasant or unpleasant, and how we give value and recognition to some emotions and feelings more than others.

Another important result to share is that many of our sessions were re-used to deliver to migrant women and children in Prague. A Czech participant wrote a 4 page report on how he used and adapted sessions on culture and getting to know each other to support the different families in the refuge to develop a sense of community by recognising their similarities rather than their differences based on the country they came from. The outcome of this is extremely moving, as the participant reported positive responses from the residents and more open engagement in following unrelated activities between the families and especially the children.

Another important result is the dissemination via a Presentation of project and E+ given to 300 high school students in Estonia by one participant. This was extremely positive as this participant, only 18 years old, does not live with his parents and has come from a very difficult background. He struggled to participate in the activity openly especially in large group settings however reported that his confidence and need to present in the school assembly was fostered by the project. This has meant that a broad range of Estonian young people have heard about his learning around culture, one which was originally very fixed on the notion of nation state as seen in his application, and also they now know more about E+ training courses and mobilities, hopefully expanding the amount of young people from Estonia who engage in E+/.

As can be seen from the project feedback, we feel one key result which was achieved was a broad sense of Participants feeling more European by virtue of realising we have more in common than we do different, when you explore the details of culture, as well as by recognising the international and historical influences onto their national culture.

Your tasks and responsibilities within the team

Lead trainer:

- session plan to fit timetable inc reflection and eve sessions, youthpass and Europass cv (if poss), evaluation

All training course elements must be delivered using non formal and informal education methods. This means additional planning as cannot rinse and repeat – must take into consideration space, and number of participants, as well as language

Must deliver session on YouthPass and Reflection sessions at the end of each day

Trainers must complete timetable ready to share with participants on first day. Some participants will need a copy of this before training as evidence for their employer.

- communication of timings and resources needed to coordinator/support person

- delivery of sessions using non formal and informal education techniques

A variety of methods and tools must be employed, not using same method (i.e. brainstorming / role plays) throughout the week. Participants must be actively involved in their learning and there must be time for an intercultural sharing space or two where participants can feed in their local experiences of the topic at hand.

- daily feedback sessions between team to communicate need for any changes etc

- feed into final report for coordinator on training course delivery details

Provide clear timetable with session plans and objectives for each session

- evaluation creation and delivery and collation

Ensuring that all project objectives and learning outcomes are in evaluation to gather quantitative and qualitative score in terminology that makes sense

I worked on this training for 6 days as a full time trainer.

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