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Start date: Sep 1, 2014, End date: Mar 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

All over Europe policy makers are deciding things that influence our lives and our future. These decisions are made locally, nationally and internationally. How much can we, young people, change and influence these decisions? Do we only get to vote between good and bad, or sometimes bad or worse? Or can we make a difference? Can we participate more in the policy-making of our local communities and beyond? How objective is information? How free is our freedom of speech? How much power do the people have? How democratic are we really? How do we allow our target groups to participate within our own organization? Do we make decisions top-down or bottom-up? Our training-course took place in Belgium (near Brussels). Starting from 25/01/2015 until 1/02/2015. The training was organized by Spirit of Freedom INGO and Surf The Earth Projectn (STEP) Romania. The questions mentionned above were answered by 27 participants from 8 different countries and published on social media as well as the new tools they developed during the training. This training course gave youth-workers a unique experience in democracy and participation. Together we tried to provide an answer to the questions above. Or at least started a dialogue between participants about these toppics. We learned non-formal teaching methods on how to help youngsters think about how they are participating in the decisions that are creating ther own life. And developed some ourselves. We targeted the following toppics: Use of media and internet for research, independent media, international political systems, European policy-making, European democratic structure, local political structures, participation of youngsters in policy-making, democratic decisions within our organizations, and argumenting & debating. All of these toppics were targetted through non-formal methods or experience-based learning. Participants gave input themselves, gathered from analysing games and excercises. Together we formulated our findings and matched it with teoretical content. All participants now know new methods to use when working with youngsters on themes like democracy, participation in policy- and decisionmaking, elections and so on. In case studies we questioned some European issues, identify differences in democratic systems and gave words to the the benefits and threads for our democracies. We found out that no country is the same and learned from each-other. The results of our case-studies are published on social media platforms and participants are still vistng and publishing new content. This training-course was the start of widening the network for our organizations, our personal view on democracy and contribute to the general understanding of Europe. We wanted to provide a new approach, a new way of looking at how policies are made. We wanted to promote a clearer understanding of the meaning and relevance of democracy as a core value with human dignity and equality of opportunity. We believe this project has had an impact not only on the youth-workers but also on the local communities and organizations they come from. Our participants became more involved in local policy-making and the participation of youngsters in any decision-making field. In some cases our participants have started a different, more grounded dialogue with their local municipalities. The work done through experiential learning methodologies and based on the principles of non-formal education itself ensured a holistic approach where the participants developed skills and knowledge as both attitudes. In this case, and based on the theme of the project, democracy could not be more appropriate as a context for the development of personal attitudes such as tolerance, respect, empathy, solidarity and equality of opportunity. We believe that in order to build a new future, we have to educate this future. We have to make youngsters aware of the possiblities of democracy as well instead of only pointing out the problems. We wanted to get youngsters crazy about democracy and ready to innovate it over and over again. We believe altough we threw a small stone in the lake, the ripple effect is still spreading this message: the future of democracy starts with the vote and voice of the future.
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