Sustainable and Transformative Education for Participation in Democratic Life – Lessons Learned


The STEP project was based on the idea that the schools are agents for social change.

Linking social action to education has the power to transform the social and cultural environment. This is why it is important for young people to be well informed, politically and socially involved. Raising awareness about the conditions in which they live and the issues they have to face is part of this.

As a result, we may observe young people being alienated from the socio-political developments. However, considering the numerous protests on socio-economic and environmental issues, it seems that people become more active and responsive when issues that directly concern them are at stake (eg. employment, human rights, climate change, migration, corruption). Furthermore, the ways and tools young people choose to use in order to actively participate in the community have moved away from the traditional means of participation. This raises questions about the society we live in and the democratic representation of young people.

In this project, it was assumed that schools should foster active citizens with personal and social responsibility, caring for the community’s well-being before wealth. In line with this, young people were to engage in experiences with educational value, stimulating their curiosity and desire to learn. To achieve this, the project generated activities that are participatory, experiential and involve participants into a process of questioning the challenges of our modern society (environmental crisis, social injustice, globalization, democracy). It started from their community issues and what changes they wish to make, while up-scaling their concerns into the global picture.

Alternative socio-economic systems and ways of participation in decision making and political life of our societies were explored. By getting in touch with alternative systems and stories of change, participants became more aware, more empowered and more active to take the initiative and try to alter something or support something else in their society. The way we see it, we cannot participate and get involved in democratic processes, if we are not really conscious and aware of our views and the choices we make.

By making use of their strengths and available resources, participants experimented on making their own activities, small projects and local events. Their enthusiasm and feeling of empowerment showed us that the method of the project was inspiring and important for their social, professional and personal development, making them more active in their own realities. The project offered them the opportunity to become more confident and allowed them to create their own space for participation in their community.

What we learned is that there is a need for more formal and non-formal educational settings that enhance critical thinking, participation and ownership for the learners. This has to do with the educational context, the content (pluralism, critics to mainstream theories, interdisciplinarity) and the methods applied (holistic, experiential and peer learning, reflection). If the formal educational system is unable to support such a context, youth workers and the civil society could offer spaces where young people can develop their skills, form, transform and lead the social change they wish to see in their community (youth-led initiatives and activities). Inevitably, public institutions will need to adjust for more participation, from youth councils to other interactive forms of public dialogue questioning “adultism”. This implies challenging their own structures and processes respecting the democratic values and securing their legitimacy.

Projects like this may open constructive dialogue within the community for applying changes in the way civic engagement and participation is realized. This may challenge and transform our social realities and institutions allowing for more direct and democratic responses to the socio-economic and environmental issues of our lives. Participatory and democratic education could be an ally for a more socially and environmentally just and ethical world.

STEP (Sustainable and Transformative Education for Participation in democratic life – STEP Forward)


Open Call for establishing a Working Group in Greece

We are looking for 2 young people located in Greece, interested in the project’s activities and concept of sustainability to create the STEP’s local working group. The members of the working group will meet regularly (face-to-face or virtually) to investigate, examine and participate in different concepts of sustainability and relevant initiatives. In specific, they will:- Develop skills of cooperation and sense of initiative;- Participate in STEP’s projects communication and dissemination activities; – Identify and promote interesting initiatives in Greece that follow the values of Sustainability;- Select useful material of non-formal learning activities related to Sustainability;- Organise and implement small scaling events to present relevant activities and STEP’s results. The members of the working group will have priority in the selection of participants for the foreseen mobility activities. To apply follow this giannouli@interaliaproject.comSTEP (Sustainable and Transformative Education for Participation in democratic life – STEP Forward) Co-financed by the European Commission: ERASMUS+, Key Action 2: Capacity Building in the field of youthProject Number: 589950-EPP-1-2017-1-EL-EPPKA2-CBY-ACPALADuration: November 2017 – March 2019Project Partners • Inter Alia (Coordinator) – Athens, Greece• Solidarites Jeunesses Vietnam (Partner) – Hanoi, Vietnam• Sedavp Ghana (Partner) – Tamale, Ghana • Asociacion Projuven (Partner) – Malaga, Spain• Brigada de Voluntarios Bolivarianos del Peru (Partner) – Lima, Peru• Resource Hub for Development (Partner) – Nairobi, Kenya• Xeracion Valencia (Partner) Gandia, SpainSTEP links active citizenship to formal education by drawing attention to the values of sustainability (ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, SELF-SUFFICIENCY, SOCIAL JUSTICE) and integrating them to non-formal education activities.STEP aims at promoting the application of active and participatory education through experiential activities and solution-oriented educational approach. By exploring alternative community models, social and ecological initiatives the project uses information and resources to design a new educational module with the scope to integrate these in the formal education system. The specific objectives of the STEP project are: – Introducing an inclusive definition of Sustainability;- Raising awareness about social and environmental initiatives; alternative economic models; new forms of cooperation and civic participation to youth;- Cultivating and promoting transformative, experiential and non-formal learning and its specific applications;- Fostering critical thinking and democratic education.In order to achieve the project’s objectives the activities include: –1 Training Course on Sustainability and Community Building; Participants will learn about the basic concept of sustainability; understand the role of community building and be able to map and describe particular socio-ecological and economic initiatives around the world; develop skills and competencies on creating their own non-formal educational methods; and enhance cross-cultural understanding.-6 Job Shadowing activities, the design of an educational module which will incorporate issues of democracy, civic participation and sustainability in a non-formal education format combining experiences from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America; The international working groups of participants will collect information for presenting the experiences of sustainability cases from their Job Shadowings mentioning their benefits for the community; the challenges and opportunities in a non-formal format that will be included in an educational module. –1 Training Course in the form of a Winter School to present and apply the module to youth workers and other professionals of the education sector interested in Sustainability and alternatives to the formal educational system; The module will introduce basic concepts of sustainable communities (how do they work, how could they be applied, their benefits and costs) and democracy, as well as, tools for civic participation and volunteerism, non-formal education methods. The Winter School aims to enhance the capacities and knowledge of the participants to educate young people, organize local events and also train other practitioners to apply the same and other similar methodologies. –7 local events for advocating towards sustainability and participatory education with the promotion of the module to the local communities

The purpose of the local events is to communicate and experiment on the produced amount of information to the different community actors (policy makers, teachers, professors, students, youth workers) in order to influence their work activities and materials that are already using for their work.

STEP target group refers to educators, youth workers, researchers, project managers, youth organisations, young people, local communities and the EU.

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To get involved in STEP’s activities please contact Amerissa at