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DE ZOMERKARAVAAN (preparatory meeting for strategic partnership)
Start date: Jan 1, 2016, End date: Jun 30, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

This project report concerns the organisation of a preparory meeting or feasibility visit between the different partners as a prelude to a strategic partnership in the project THE European Caravan. In 2014-2015, Antwerp based socio-artistic organization Madam Fortuna developed De Karavaan; a project with the Roma community in a central position that, by means of music and theatre, stimulates dialogue and participation of socially vulnerable groups and individuals in European democratic life. De Karavaan consists of local, supralocal and international workings. The project grew from a partnership between three cities: Antwerp (Madam Fortuna), Brussels (Globe Aroma) and Ghent (bij' De Vieze Gasten). These socio-artistic organizations each connected with local Roma; in Antwerp they originate from FYR Macedonia, in Brussels from Romania and Bulgaria, in Ghent from Slowakia and Bulgaria. This is how the international connections for the project took form and how the initial local and supralocal workings of De Karavaan gained an international counterpart: The European Caravan. What strengthens these connections is the fact that all partner organizations share a common ground in working with notions of care and imagination, and in learning-based working with local diversity. Partners in The European Caravan (MF, Bij' De Vieze Gasten, Globe Aroma, Opre Roma (Belgian partners), MIR (FYR Macedonia), CSMI (Bulgaria), RSVB (Romania), Roma Education (Slovakia)) want to counter Roma's reality of exclusion and negative imaging by focusing on the pure artistry of their culture, and by reclaiming the common ground between Roma and non-Roma participants through music and theatre. In this story, MF considers youth as a specific target group; youth are more open to intercultural peer learning. They also have the potential to grow into coordinating the local workings of the project in each seperate partner country.The first edition of The European Caravan (then it was called: De Zomerkaravaan) was a cooperation between Belgium (MF) and FYR Macedonia (MIR). It could count on the support of JINT (the national agency). The application was positively assessed, the European Commission scored it 84/100. After Jint's visit to the project - which they regarded as well organised and valuable in terms of intercultural dialogue and social inclusion - the national agency pointed out to us the possibility of a subsidised transnational strategic partnership (KA2 - exchange of good practices) between MF and its future partners. MF looks upon this as a great opportunity to unify strenghs and experiences, and meet the challenges of cooperating internationally in this field, challenges that became obvious during the first edition. A preparory meeting or feasibility visit between the different partners took place (2016, april 24th-26th, venue: Antwerp, Belgium), as a prelude to a strategic partnership, in which a list of objectives (see the ‘objectives’ section under header 3) was set out to be discussed and formed into a general agreement on terms and conditions. These objectives all serve the same goal: to work towards a well organised international platform in order to offer participants a lasting learning process, and on a broader level: to show a collective will and preparedness to act as a union, both Eastern and Western European countries alike. During this preparatory meeting an agreement on terms and conditions was reached. However, the process of reaching the agreement posed certain challenges: language barriers, varied expectations about the functionality of the meeting, the challenge of engaging all partners into the discussion and financial issues. On the whole, the complexity of finding common ground between Eastern and Western European partners in terms of ‘meeting customs’ caused the process to slacken a bit. This complexity showed particularly in the meeting’s attempt to work bottom-up and use democratic conversation. Plans for the strategic partnership were taken up in the KA2-application for a 20-month period which we now know has not been approved by the Erasmus+ administration. In this application there’s room for improvement in the proposed formation of the partnership. We could have been more clear about what our shared responsibilities and engagements are and about how they will strengthen the partnership. The application focused more on what the partnership will do (with a detailed timeline) than on how we are going to do it on an interorganizational level. Also the part that youth (the target group) will play in this, was underexposed in the application. On a more positive note, this is not a blunt rejection. Jint, the national agency, gave constructive feedback on our application. They still very much believe in the project, in its objectives and ways to bring Roma and non-Roma youth closer together, and they encourage us to apply again.
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