Sustainable Development: What it is and how we could move beyond it

Being a member of the Eurodesk multipliers has been very rewarding! 

One of the privileges for being a member of the Eurodesk multipliers is to be able to know and collaborate with other Eurodesk multipliers. In this context, we were invited to support the youth festival organised by another Eurodesk multiplier, Sports and Cultural Lab. Amerissa Giannouli contributed with a workshop related to sustainable development, offering the opportunity for 50 young students from the region of the Peloponnese to reflect critically on the notion of sustainable development. At the end of the workshop, participants built their own awareness-raising campaigns on socio-ecological issues that matter to them.    

The workshop started with a “walk and talk” activity in the small forest near the University of Peloponnese in Tripoli. In pairs, participants shared their perspectives and experiences related to food.

What kind of food do you like? What kind of ingredients do you use? Who usually cooks? Do you buy or make your own food? Where do you buy your food? With whom are you usually sharing a meal? Do you regularly eat out with friends? 

These were a few questions that stimulated the discussion among participants and opened up a more in-depth conversation about climate change, the ecological footprint, the informal economy and unpaid labor, as well as reproductive work mainly done by women. This simple exercise revealed the role that economic, social and environmental dimensions play in our lives. 

We also had the privilege to rest on benches made out of tree trunks which were constructed by a group of university students under the context of the European Solidarity Corps programme!

After this introductory activity, it was time for an energiser! We used one of our most loved activities called “the barn – the sheep – the wolf”. There is no better energiser than letting young people run into the forest chasing each other and trying to protect themselves from getting caught. They liked the activity so much that they wanted to do it again!    

However, it was time to provide some more input and theoretical content regarding sustainable development. We spoke a bit about the definitions and origins of the Sustainable Development Goals and then opened up the floor for critical reflections. We spoke about conflicted interests and goals, limits and technological optimism, as well as democracy and decision making. These issues brought up very recent social and environmental movements against destructive development projects and the oxymoronic scheme of green growth. 

Then it was time to take a long break to refresh ourselves before going back to the classroom to recap what we had learned so far and introduce the next activity. The aim of this last activity was to create campaigns dealing with issues that are important to the young people and could contribute to a “better” world and life. Even the word “better” was up to the young participants to be defined and described! 

The students were presented with a few very basic tips and questions that are important for building their campaigns. 

What are you aiming for? What do you want to achieve? What is your target group? What kind of content are you planning to use? Data? Bold statements? Pictures? How are you planning to disseminate your campaign? These were some of the important questions they had to keep in mind when building their campaigns.

In groups of five, the young people had the freedom to create any kind of campaign they liked within 15 minutes (eg. a poster, a play, a speech, a song…). Most of the groups created a poster and accompanied it with a speech. One of the groups surprised us at the end with a powerful and energetic song! A fun fact was that the flip chart papers used for making these posters were actually recycled. One side of the flip chart papers included drawings and notes about “good life” from another group of young students representing different countries and realities. This gave participants the opportunity to get into the mindsets of other people living diverse realities and likely with different values. We do not know if the previous creations affected their campaigns but we know that at the end of this activity everyone was very excited and happy! 

The final fun fact and rewarding moment was when some of the students decided to show our morning energiser activity to the rest of the students, who had attended other workshops that day. No matter the content and theme of the workshop, having the young people taking ownership and assuming responsibility for something is a true bliss for a youth worker! It reminds us why we do what we do and what really matters.