LIFE+ | KA2 "Youth of the World", Sofia, Bulgaria.

As part of the Erasmus KA2 project “Youth of the World”, the training on which this report is going to be about represents one of the very first trainings organised for the members of ICDET, the Bulgarian partner organisation in the project. The project aims are multiple. First and foremost, “Youth of the World” is focused on creating youth-led training opportunities that generate social inclusion and promote a multicultural society. So far, this has been done especially sharing and passing good practices concerning Global Education and raising awareness not only about taking a Global Perspective but also about the importance to transmit it to youngsters. This short training session on Global Education is therefore the result of a deeper process, which saw one of its defining moments in May 2018, when representatives from all the partner organisations gathered to meet, reflect and discuss about how to transmit this Global Perspective. In particular, we analysed and assessed a toolkit of activities realized throughout the project. This toolkit consists of a series of group activities that stimulate reflection and debate on Global Education common issues. It is therefore based on a cooperative learning methodology. The ultimate aim of the Staff training held in May was to test and improve it as a guide to be used by trainers and to deliver the training to their respective organisation members. As a temporary intern member of ICDET, I decided to take up this challenge and boost my Erasmus traineeship experience organizing this training for my organisation. As I am not a professional trainer, I decided to create a short version of the staff training held in May and implemented three activities of the toolkit during an afternoon: “String Web”, “Stereotypes go wrong” and “Our responsibility to respect the rights of others”. I chose these activities among in the toolkit because I found them the most flexible ones not only to be adjusted, e.g. in case the number of participants was more or less than expected, but also to touch many subjects related to Global Education, such as interdependence, sustainability, human rights, diversity and stereotypes. The training was attended by 10 participants aged variably between 18 and 30 years old. Most of them were university students or young workers. The activities were preceded by an introduction and starting evaluation part and followed again by evaluation and feedback of the participants. In order to recognize their learning outcomes, participants filled a competences form based on the eight key competences established by the European Commission a few days after the training and obtained a certificate released by ICDET. In this report, I am going to describe how I implemented the introductory and final parts, the activities and comment their results afterwards.

Introductory part: introduction of participants and evaluation

After a brief presentation about myself and the aims of the training, we focused on participants introduction and expectations. Once each of them introduced himself, we broke the ice with an introductory activity in which they had to write down on post-its their expectations and/or fears concerning the training and, after this, what they thought my expectations and fears were. I chose to start with this activity to introduce them to the concept of cooperative learning and build a connection with me based on some common points. In order to do this, I stuck their post-its on the flipchart and commented what was written on them. The most interesting answers about their expectations were to improve skills, learn something they love, improve communication skills, to learn more about non formal education and to have fun. On the other hand, their prediction about myself was mostly related to having fun, learn with participants and concerns about everything going perfect and active participation. As for my fears, they pointed at worries about communication misunderstandings and participants getting bored. The answers I got were certainly the ones I expected. This made me connect with them on the basis of common expectations and agreeing with the fears they wrote for me. However, some comprehension problems occurred in this very first part of the training. I had the impression that the group didn’t quite understand the purpose of the second part of the activity i.e. writing my expectations and fears. It is therefore very important to shape a good explanation of it. Moreover, I did realise afterwards that the activity wasn’t very interactive, probably because of the previous misunderstanding. In view of this, a simpler sharing activity with expectations and fears would have probably been more easy for them and for me, especially considering my experience as a trainer.

This activity was followed by an introduction to Global Education.

I started by a quick brainstorming and then proceeded with a brief theoretical explanation. Later on, we started the first evaluation before the activities. I took this activity from a toolkit published by Léargas (Hayes and McNally 2012). It consisted in answering some key questions to self-evaluate oneself using a bullseye. The more the participant sign or initials where close to the centre in the bullseye, the more the answer was positive. I chose this activity first and foremost as it is a funnier way to self-evaluate oneself and make them better follow their learning path during the afternoon. The questions to be answered were: “I know how this training will develop me as person.”, I can explain what GE is to someone else.”and “How much do you perceive the elements of GE to be important and how often do you think about them?”.

As we can see in the picture, most of the answers were medium or far from the center, especially as far as explaining Global Education is concerned. We had a debriefing moment after this where I asked:

  • Why do you think you are at that point?

  • Where do you want to get?

  • What needs to happen to get there? Who’s responsible for that?

Among all the answers I recorded, I feel I should point at some interesting ones that came out about the need for a “universal definition to explain Global Education” and “support from the education system” as they stimulated a very constructive discussion. This led me to think that the activity was successful, although not the whole group participated in the discussion.

First activity: String Web

In the first activity each participant was given a card with a character to be connected afterwards with one or more other characters present in the group. The characters were:

  • Fish

  • Water

  • Tree in the Amazon forest

  • Pair of cheap shoes

  • Multinational corporation in USA

  • Supermarket in Germany

  • Hydroelectric power station in Netherlands

  • Solar panel in Sweden

  • Oil field in Saudi Arabia

  • Fisherman from Iceland

This activity was done to raise awareness about the concept of interdependence of people from a political, social, economical and environmental point of view. I chose it because it is a multitasking activity, in the sense that it gives participants the opportunity to have a discussion on a variety of topics, from pollution to health issues. As we can see in the picture, a very complex web was created with a string and through the contribution of all participants that found many links with each other. Before the debriefing part of the activity, we reflected on the possible events that could damage the network, defining the specific elements of the web that could be damaged and symbolically dropping them to have a visual effect. The events that came out were financial crisis, deforestation and plague. Later on, we had a debriefing moment in which I asked them:

  • How do you feel?

  • Is something missing in the network? If yes, which elements?

  • Are there any missing elements that are essential for the well being of the network?

  • What does the network represent for you?

  • Is it a healthy network?

Among the feelings coming out we had “power” but also “powerlessness”. Missing elements such as “people” and “political affairs” were deemed to be essential for the web, while “money” was considered as not essential. Most of the participants agreed that the web represented reality but also capitalism. I consider this activity as the most successful in the training. It was inclusive, as all participants had the chance to express which element(s) they felt connected with, but above all constructive as they were all very creative in the links and this led to an interesting discussion about the damaging events afterwards.

Second activity: Stereotypes go wrong

The second activity was much more about trying to be in “someone else’s shoes” and reflect upon their feelings. We focused on three characters belonging to three particular categories, often targeted with stereotypes in nowadays society. The characters were:

  • Irina, 22 years old student, member of the LGBT community;

  • Django, 15 years old boy, member of the Roma community;

  • Somar, a 22 years old man, Syrian, asylum seeker in Bulgaria.

I chose this activity because I found it useful to reflect not only on stereotypes per se but also on how to empathise with these categories and how to deal with incidents that can occur. I asked the participants to think about four adjectives or statements, based on society general opinion and stereotypes, for each of the characters listed on the flipchart. Later on, every participant had to choose a character and walk in front of the rest of the group, one by one. The person in front of him had to choose one of the adjectives and tell it to the character. The most important factor in this part of the activity was complete freedom of expression. The adjectives that came out for Irina were “different”, “dangerous for children”, “transgender”, “mentally retarded”, “gender”, “strange”, “you show off”, “they demand their rights”, “vulgar”, “too much emancipated”. As for Django, we had “thief”, “bad person”, “good liar”, “fund user”, “steel recycler”, “not integrated”, “poorly educated”, “dirty”, “you have no rules”. Finally, for Somar we had “suicide bomber”, “cleaner”, “djihadist”, “goat lover”, “turban”, “terrorist”, “dangerous”, “human traffic”, “escaping”. During the second part of the activity, the atmosphere I expected wasn’t created. I expected this to make them really reflective upon what adjective to choose against the character they had in front. But after a few rounds the atmosphere was too much relaxed and even funny, which I believe shouldn’t have happened. This made me think about the fact that the activity was maybe too long, as I asked every participant to choose a character to be, so it probably turned out to be boring towards the end. A god alternative would have likely been to ask for volunteers. However, the debriefing brought participants back to the focus of the activity. The questions asked were:

  • How did being one of the character was like? Did you ‘ask for’ it? (follow-up on victim blaming)

  • How did you feel being the oppressor/enemy?

  • Did you feel something you have not felt before and what?

  • How realistic was the situation/violence?

  • Do these characters experience that in real life? Give examples (personal or of friends, etc.).

  • What do you think of all these stereotypes? In what level do they reflect reality?

  • Think of one specific LGBT person, refugee, immigrant, asylum seeker or Roma that you know personally. How much does the previous stereotypical image that was presented reflects the reality of this particular person?

  • Knowing what happened to these characters what would you tell them to support them?

Despite the way the activity took place, an interesting discussion came up about the concept of “choosing to be one of these characters”, as the group was divided on this topic. Some of them agreed on the fact that being an LGBT or an asylum seeker are both choices, as you choose to say “I am gay, lesbian, transgender...” or to “leave for another country and seek for asylum”. About correspondence with reality, we mostly focused on the Roma situation in Bulgaria. They basically all agreed on the fact judge othat the stereotypes we had corresponded to reality and that Roma people almost always wouldn’t let people help them, mostly for cultural reasons. Based on these considerations, I can say that this activity was the least successful. If the right atmosphere had come out, a more constructive discussion could have been made. It is therefore very important to stick on the importance of focusing on their temporary role during the activity, both the one of the victim and the oppressor, and to empathise with the person they have in front of them.

Third activity: Our responsibility to respect the rights of others

The last activity of the day was about human rights. I chose this activity because, despite the short time we had for the training, I considered this subject to be fundamental in Global Education as it is often neglected in formal education. This leads to poor awareness not only about blatant violations of human rights in the world but also about human rights themselves. I divided the group into two teams and gave them two cards with the main background facts of two cases of human rights violation that were supposed to be not so obvious. The two teams had 15 minutes to reflect upon the cases and find out: