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Raising the quality of sexual diversity education
Start date: Aug 1, 2014, End date: Aug 1, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The COC Amsterdam is an NGO promoting the wellbeing and rights of LGBT people in Holland. Our organisation has been active in adult and student education against LGBT discrimination for over 20 years. We communicate frequently with LGBT organizations across Europe and we seek to broaden this collaboration using tools such as those presented by pan-European organizations. Our organisation has identified 4 main goals: (1) to improve the quality of the education our volunteers offer and thereby changing people’s attitude toward LGBT people, (2) to professionalize our organisation and by this make our organisation more stable, (3) to take on a leading and exemplificary role amongst all the COC educational groups in the Netherlands and (4) to focus explicitly on internationalization by becoming a member of GALE, which will offer a platform for European cooperation and exchange of knowledge and expertise. This project is specifically designed for the training needs of our volunteer educational group, consisting of 54 volunteers, most of them a member of the LGBT-community. We will select a group of volunteers from various religious and social backgrounds, who have acquired substantial field experience in learning institutions dealing with a wide range of difficult questions, from stereo-typified false acceptance to extremely homophobic reactions. We will achieve our goals as follows. We cooperate with 3 partner organisations: GALE, In Dialogue and CESIE, of which our selected volunteers will attend 5 courses. In the GALE courses, our volunteers will learn a range of strategies and tactics on how to deal with strong homophobic opinions, where they originate from and how such behaviour impacts on themselves as educators and why they might be blocked to respond effectively. Additionally, in the Netherlands it is difficult to engage educational institutes to offer adequate education about sexual diversity. This is the main reason why we offer informal (peer) education sessions, which have the added bonus of fostering real-life meetings with homosexuals trained in engaging dialogue – one of the most effective ways to create understanding and tolerance. Since our peer education works with volunteers, they are not always skilled in group facilitation techniques and may need support in telling their personal story in such a way that it elicits a discussion about equal rights. Next to the GALE courses, with In Dialogue our volunteers address a more meta-level of training and teaching, that is, learning the skills to make people truly listen to each other, instead of being focused of making their points or failing to reach a conclusion after a long discussion. Also, our volunteers will learn to set goals and overcome difficulties in a relatively short time. The courses are highly practical, focusing on what works and enabling our volunteers to practice different coaching techniques. Finally, through the CESIE course, our volunteers will learn how our perception of the body and body-related themes such as gender, age and sexuality is influenced by cultural differences and affects our intercultural communication. Intercultural communication is something our volunteers face on a daily basis and they therefore need to enhance their awareness and their skills dealing with cultural conflicts. In summary, these methods will enable our organisation to become stronger on the inside as well as on the outside. Through this, we will ensure the growth of our organisation on all 4 fronts. Within our organisation, the trained volunteers will train the rest of our volunteers through a series of workshops, presentations and reflexion groups. The quality of the education our organisation offers will improve substantially. Our volunteers will be more effective in setting their goals, in facilitating and leading a discussion, in dealing with homophobic opinions, in reflecting on their own role and emotions while educating and they will have a better understanding of intercultural dialogue. Our organisation will become more stable and can serve an example to the other COC groups in the Netherlands. On the international level, our learners become members of GALE, which will offer a platform and framework for European cooperation. The results of researches in participating countries will also be published on the GALE (Global Alliance for LGBT Education) website and discussed in the “European strategy” groups of GALE. This will secure European dissemination and impact on an international level. Ultimately, we believe this mobility will enable our peer education volunteers to better address issues related to strong opinions as well as cultural and religious boundaries in peer education on sexual diversity and acceptance. Furthermore we believe our participants to become fully adept at disseminating skills and techniques in sexual diversity teaching, training and coaching, to peers both within our group as well as in a pan-European context.
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