Sonntag, Juni 24, 2007


a weekend in lisbon

Portuguese dances. Fado. Folklore.
A Portuguese evening designed for tourists, impressive dancing. Elements that do seem familiar from tap dancing, Hungarian, Alpine or Russian folklore. Funny. A bit less funny – eating in the dark, eating while the performers are on stage. I am already super clumsy when eating, but eating in the dark – not such a good idea for me! I think the shirt I wore Saturday evening can be easily sold as a modern piece of art now, actually, I could be a fleece to be put on the wall. Fancy it? Anyone? You know my number!

Ok, I am sitting in a room in rainy Portugal. Yes! Rainy!
I am listening to speakers that tell many things but neither new nor even presented in an interesting way. I honestly do not have a problem with theoretical debates, sometimes there is way too little time allocated for theory and conceptual discussions. But this here is not theoretical, it is not practical either, it is just terribly boring.

Is it more difficult to dream away whilst making an effort not to fall asleep or is it more difficult to listen whilst making an effort not to fall asleep? This is a relevant question that I kept on asking myself mainly during conferences where I was tempted to fall asleep. Falling asleep is a temptation for many reason, let me list a few common ones: bad light conditions, lack of oxygen, boring or badly presented inputs, frontal teaching instead of interaction, general lack of sleep from previous days, information overload, eye infections, listening to interpretation all the time, melancholy and boredom - and sometimes all of them together.

And somehow I always have another taste then the chair of the session, there is once a contribution that seems interesting, that is worth listening to, that gives food for thought and relates different theories in a relevant ways with each other, but exactly this one is cut by the chair. And the next one, talking about everything and nothing, just informing the audience about common places, this one gets the double speaking time, because… well, no clue why, I guess because he is a friend of the chair of the session, no other logic explanation otherwise! But highly irritating, disrespectful towards the other speakers and absolutely inappropriate for a discussion format where practically all fit around one table!
I also get the feeling that the phrase “rich debate” is just a code for: “almost half of the people present managed to stay awake”. Such interesting questions, so much need for debate, and all ruined by self-centred speakers that do not stick to their time and chairs being incapable to just turn off the endless speakers microphones.

And then there is an additional obstacle for interaction. 80% of the participants speak only French, and when I say only, I do NOT mean mother tongue plus French, no, French only! Half of the participants are French and live in Paris or Strasbourg; two thirds of the speakers were French. There are some from Alsace that do speak a bit of German, but not really enough for a conversation. Well, bless them; they are all over 60, during their school time there was not much quality language teaching.

and just to make sure no one misunderstands, i do like lisbon, a lot!

Mittwoch, Juni 20, 2007


the graduate

My baby brother is – as the name explains – a baby. Fortunately he is that baby only in my memory. This still very strong and present memory makes it difficult to accept that he is now 19, has a job, has a car and lives an almost independent live. Last week he graduated from high school, since then he arrives back home when I have breakfast. He burnt his maths books and notes, he has his alternative civilian service arranged for the fall, and he is kinda grown up now, well, he still lives with our mum. Scary thing that is, cause in inference it means I am getting really old.

Dienstag, Juni 19, 2007


youth week

“You are turning into a penguin, stop it”
This is a quote from the “Hitchhikers guide to galaxy” where Arthur Dent says this to Ford. To understand the quote you need to know more about penguins.
Penguins like to stay in groups to remain warm and what they want most of all is FISH. Penguins are no daring animals and they do not feel the urge to explore.
But we want you to dare and to explore, we want you to stick up your head.

The European Youth forum is an umbrella organisation of almost 100 National Youth Councils and International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations. Together with our members we are trying to be advocates of social change, a change that would allow more people, already when being young, to enjoy the right of being who they are.

The European Youth Forum works to empower young people to participate actively in the shaping of Europe and the societies in which they live, and in improving the living conditions of young people as European citizens in today’s world.

The European Youth Forum defends the interests of all young people in Europe. As a platform, it is the representative body of its member organisations towards institutions and partners active in the youth field.

Whilst understanding everyone who wants to live a life as penguin, we will try to support young people in a way, so that they can stick up their heads and can go their own ways. And we will try to convert the cold wind blowing in ones face into a favourable wind supporting a young persons spine.

Youth organisations play a key role in reducing the gap between where decisions about society are made and where they are implemented. We do this by being there both when decisions are made and when they are carried out. We are engaged in opening up political processes at all levels, and making them accessible to young people. Our wish and ability is to contribute with a spirit of enquiry, new thinking and competence.

Different from penguins’ youth is not a uniform group, we are the ones understanding how to cherish diversity and knowing that our differences are our strength. We would like to explore – but still many barriers are hindering us, barriers such as visa regulations or bureaucratic obstacles.

One person that was never uniform and never stopped daring and sticking his head up was Peter Lauritzen. Many of you might not know him, but the hand full of people in this room who does know him, will be with me when I say that he was always committed for the rights of young people, he stayed young at heart and was a friend and mentor to many of us.

I hope the youth week will have a lot of success, with concrete recommendations and measurable conclusions. Enjoy the meeting and never stopp daring, because we want more then fish!

Sonntag, Juni 17, 2007


attempts to tidiness

To clean up and tidy everything in my apartment sometimes has the effect that I feel like I have straightened all my life. The purge in my larder and kitchen was urgently needed, but unfortunately, it did not sort anything else in my live but my pantry and my kitchen. And now I feel old, cause my body hurts as if I ran a marathon, but my whole flat seems much brighter, now that the windows are cleaned.

Freitag, Juni 15, 2007


enterprise -lessons to be learnt from NGOs

Why would a youth organisation be interested in Entrepreneurship?

As a representative body for youth, the YFJ is concerned with youth employment and has duly been working on the Lisbon agenda. As the EU has set the aim to foster an entrepreneurial mindset through education and training, we as youth organisations are relevant stakeholders in achieving this aim.

As we all agree that an entrepreneurial mindset is best fostered through real experience, I will outline some examples where such experiences take place on a daily basis within youth organisations.

When organising a concert night in a local youth club, one has to budget, plan the event, advertise and market it, find sponsors, pay the artists, and manage the event itself to ensure the evening runs smoothly.

When organising a tournament within a sports organisation, one has to arrange transport for the participants, ensure adequate facilities for spectators, secure media coverage and make sure the event is visible.

When organising an international youth exchange one has to take care of travel arrangements, board, lodging, the activities programme, and social programme, and coordinate a team of volunteers responsible for the running of the exchange, while maintaining contact with other partners of the project.

Through such daily work within youth organisations, young people learn how to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate projects. We are supported in using our creativity – to solve problems but also to devise and develop new ideas for projects and campaigns. We gain self-confidence, social skills and motivation. Planning time lines, budgets and media strategies - and ensuring they are in accordance with the rules and regulations set by the program or donors that fund us - and making sure that the project has visibility to safeguard future support for similar projects as well as keeping the volunteers motivated, are just part of our every day work.

Dividing tasks, lobbying public authorities for our demands and keeping constant advocacy contact with public authorities as well as networking with other stakeholders are key to the success of campaigns of youth organisations.

Nonetheless, it is clear that most NGOs are non-profit and people unite in these organisations for an idealistic aim and not to earn money, thus, the raison d’être and the incentives to work are significantly different. Yet, the work in a youth organisation can and does still foster an entrepreneurial mindset.

Whilst our education systems largely follow the sad tradition that young people who have just learned to walk and talk should now be forced to shut up, sit and listen, youth organisations - where young people gather voluntarily - are an important compliment to formal education.

Innovation is the key word in the policies surrounding this knowledge economy, and according to the American researcher Paul David and his French colleague Dominique Foray, there are two ways innovation comes about: firstly, research as a formal activity generates new knowledge. Secondly, individuals learn by doing and thus make discoveries, which can progress knowledge. Both approaches are central to the Lisbon strategy: producing marketable knowledge and educating human resources for the labour market. Youth organisations, in particular, can contribute to the ‘learning by doing’ approach.

But what is needed to make the contribution of youth organisations matter in the labour market?

-First of all, recognition by the labour market and the formal education sector of the skills and real competences that young people gain; non-recognition is de-motivating and definitely does not support initiative and innovation;
-One-stop shops for support to set up businesses and get start-up advice;
-Curricular reforms in formal education – which should also be supported financially by the EU, and which should move from an educator-centred approach to a learner-centred approach, best supporting students in their needs and abilities;
-Clear and accessible social security schemes that allow registration of businesses without risking one’s whole existence;
-Learning and profiting from non-formal education pedagogy in formal settings also;
-More and better mobility programmes that per se foster an entrepreneurial mindset;
-Credits and other forms of recognition for extra-curricular activities;
-Improved teacher-training allowing better guidance and help for learners;
-And finally, investments in youth organisations which truly stimulate entrepreneurial spirit in all projects, by enabling young people to take responsibilities and to grow with their tasks.

Support – Protection – Recognition – Reward

These words are key for education for enterprise, and are all basic principles for youth organisations. This is why so many young people who have been active in youth organisations establish companies in the fields of management, training, education, consulting, advocacy and lobbying; and this is why it is worth investing in youth organisations - not only from a democratic perspective but also from a business perspective.

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