Follow Through

November 2016 – July 2017

Follow Through stemmed from Inter Alia’s growing concern about the future of participatory democracy in Europe and the role of youth in shaping it. It set off from the observed inconsistency between the international reputation of EU countries with regards to the quality of democratic institutions (Democracy Index, 2016) and their apparent incapacity to uphold the values that made these institutions effective and popular in the first place. Ongoing challenges, such as recession, unemployment, extremism and xenophobia, are seen as by-products of Europe’s derailment from its constitutional values. Those challenges cannot be sustainably addressed by mere compliance with rules imposed from the top-down but necessarily through the demand of citizens for fairer, more inclusive and democratic, societies.

The role of youth work and youth workers in the process of augmenting, canalising and communicating this demand constituted the main theme of Follow Through. The aim was to enhance the role of youth work in fostering local level solutions to pan-European challenges of democracy and collective action. More specifically, Follow Through aspired to provide youth workers with new, effective and up-to-date tools for inducing trust of youth in EU values. The emphasis was placed on ways for enhancing leadership skills of youngsters for promoting social change through community building.

The project involved youth professionals, local stakeholders and youngsters. It included one international mobility – a Training Course for youth workers, trainers, project managers and youth leaders – from 16 organizations from 10 European countries, an event with local stakeholders organised as part of the training and a one local event with youngsters per involved community which took place after the training course. The overall aim of the project was to promote participatory democracy through community building and civic initiative.

The training was organised from March 24 until April 2 2017 and involved 34 person – youth workers, trainers, project managers and youth leaders  – who represented 16 organizations from 10 European countries. It was held in Epirus, in the remote village of Skoulikaria of the municipality Georgios Karaiskakis. The competition for a social campaign was organised in the city of Arta and included local stateholders (policy makers, local media, NGOs, youngsters). Local events were organised in 5 different communities and involved 15-20 youngsters aged 15-25 years old.

Follow Through training course made use of diverse non-formal learning tools including experiential learning, cooperative learning, peer learning, outdoor activities. Regarding the planning of civic initiatives, participants worked in teams and used the project cycle management method. During the local events in partner communities, youngsters used brainstorming for coming up with potential areas of intervention and team work and peer learning for building their idea and presenting it to the rest of the group.

The project had an effect on participants and target groups both practically and conceptually. While he project aimed at developing manifold skills of participants (section E.2), it also contributed in shaping a shared conceptual framework for democracy and collective action in Europe. Specifically, youth workers involved in the training course had the opportunity to develop their skills and broaden their area of expertise while putting their existing experience and new skills to effective use through the local events. FOLLOW THROUGH was designed and developed in order to have an immediate effect on involved communities through the development of partner organisations’ knowhow and to cause a multiple impact on European and international levels through the dynamics of the network.

Follow Through promoted cross-sectoral contact by involving local stakeholders (policy makers, youngsters, youth professionals from formal and non-formal education) in a competition for social campaigning organised during the training course. In this way, the local population benefitted from the cognitive outcomes of the project while the involved youth workers got a real life experience of negotiating an idea for social action.