Important topics, exact schedule, professional speakers, useful networking sessions, a lot of opportunities to exchange international experience, nice discussions and music in the coffee pauses, amazing walks in the nature, very delicious food all the time…It is how I can summarize the 1st DYPALL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE on a topic “Youth Policy at Local and Regional level: Developing our territories through youth participation in decision making”. It was held in Portimao, Algarve, Portugal from 12th to 15th April 2016. I was there representing United Societies of Balkans and Greece NGO Sector.
DYPALL – Developing Youth Participation at Local Level - is a group of organizations from Poland, Portugal, Italy, Romania and Estonia that agreeing that is crucial to develop a new culture of youth participation, especially when it regards the decision‐making in the issues that are of direct concern and interest of youth, decided to develop a long term project that aims to support the creation and development of local youth councils. First step of their project is the Conference.
The first day of the conference was concentrated on the topic “Youth Participation”. After the warm greeting by Dr. Ana Fazenda - a representative of the Municipality of Portimao, we have the opportunity to hear a welcoming speech from Necmi Turgut - AGU (Abdullah Gül University) and a point of view as a key speaker of Paulo Pinheiro, Former Chairman of the Advisory Council of Youth, CoE. He inspiring tell us about the work of the Youth Department of Council of Europe and the method of decision making called co-management. It is a collaboration between government representatives for each state member and representatives of civil society (NGOs and not organized young people). He also mentioned what are the challenges they face in youth participation in Europe. The day continued with presentations and sharing of best practices about Youth Participation in Portugal, held by Carolina Diogo - Dream teens and Miguel Pinto - Casa da Juventude Amarante. Miguel spoke a lot about his work as a funder of the Youth Center and shared how positively his EVS experience influenced his decision to make the center. He was one of the first EVS volunteers in Europe.
The afternoon was dedicated to 2 round tables: “Education for Participation” and “Instruments and Structures of Youth Participation”. On the round table “Education for Participation”, it was very impressive the example of Teresa Ferreira - Municipality of Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal, where they elect a Young Major. In every school, they have one or more candidates between 14 -16 years old. They organized debates between them and every youngster between 13 – 16 years old has the right to vote for the candidate he/she prefers. The young major has a team and a budget that is decided by them how to be used for what activity or problem. This is a real example for participative democracy from very early ages. It can be applied in everywhere very easily.
The second day was dedicated on the topic of “Employment, Enterpreneurship & economic development”. After the morning key speech by Rodrigo de Melo e Castro - from organisators of Cooperativa ECOS - with a message: “Young people are not the future. You are the present.”, we have heard good examples of Innovative and Inspiring practices on Youth Employment, Employability & Entrepreneurship from Bulgaria (Dimitar Semkov - Maritsa Municipality) and Portugal (Carlos Santos - Bracara Augusta Foundation, Cláudia Meireles - Municipality of Cascais).
The afternoon started with work on the round tables and workshops on the topics of: “European Youth Capitals”, “Rural Youth Employment”, “Alternative Ways of Employment”, “Neither in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs)”. We exchange knowledge and practices for involving young people in the employment and entrepreneurship processes.
The day ended with Movie Forum with a movie on a topic of Participation in Transition, held by Nuno da Silva from Cooperativa ECOS.
In the third day of the Conference we discussed the topic of “Inclusion and Youth with Fewer Opportunities”. On the first panel we met specialists from Portugal (Sérgio Xavier - Municipality of Lisbon, Sofia Nunes - Fundação Aga Khan and more) and Netherlands (Elie Pierre - ADYNE Netherlands) with case studies in the inclusion of youngsters with fewer opportunities. Also such youngsters shared their feelings and experience as participants of these programs. The second panel was devoted to the networking fair of all the participating organizations and institutions. Every organization has a time to prepare its off line presentation poster and it was followed by the fair. We had a nice time to understand better a work of all the NGOs, entrepreneurs and municipality representatives and also to exchange contacts. USB was interesting for the Portugal youngsters with its options for exchanges, trainings and a rich experience in EVS programs. The day continued in the afternoon with meetings of local examples of people and institutions working with youngsters with fewer opportunities. We were in the Municipality of Portimao and the Youth Center, created and supported by it. We also received an inspiring sailing class from the local sport sailor - Luís Brito from Project Inclusion Vela Solidária - who is working with youngsters with problems at school, teaching them to sail and work together. The results of it are better marks and less problems at school for these youngsters. The day finished with an amazing walk in the nature in Wildlife Sanctuary-Park of Portimao which is on the sandy beach of the Atlantic Ocean.
The 4th last day of the DYPALL Conference was held as a workshop and we were sharing good opportunities and options for financing our social-entrepreneurship ideas. Most experienced participators gave us more details about different EU funds, giving a chance to everyone to realize his/her idea in a more relevant and convenient way. It was given also a field to spread our organizations’ future activities and to explain to auditory how everyone could take a part.
This conference was first for DYPALL network but I would say that it was a perfect beginning of a really amazing project, putting on one place Local Authorities and Youth Organizations for a fruitful and sincere dialog about youth participation on local level.
Written by Iva Veneva
Photos: Matej Likar and Patrick Dodt