Increased visibility and credibility
Thanks to a stable secretariat, an active board and committed members, in the first decade of the new century EFIL has been able to meet the many challenges it was facing at the end of the ‘90s.
EFIL regained credibility with the European institution through research (“The perception of pupils’ mobility in the European countries” 2003, and the Individual Pupil Mobility Project 2006-2008, for which EFIL also ran a pilot project for the Commission after winning the open public tender).
Some partners in the west of Europe were lost (UK and Ireland) but several others were gained in the east and south-east (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the foundations are ready for the federation to grow even more.
EFIL helped the national offices to work more closely together through recurring meetings of the National Directors (HOO) and meetings of the heads of other departments in the national offices. Next to these meetings, an extensive annual training calendar has been put together and training opportunities were continuously offered to AFS volunteers and staff. EFIL developed an EPOT: “European Pool of Trainers”.
EFIL further enhanced its visibility in Europe with the Berlin International Educational Conference “Moving Beyond Mobility” of 2008 and the “Call for Action” and an official publication resulting from it.
Volunteers of Member Organisations were offered great opportunities of interacting with other areas of the world through large scale projects, like the EU- Japan project (2006), Worldoscope – Strength Through Diversity (2008), EurAfrican Partnership for Change (2010), all of them sponsored by the European Commission.
In the last years of the decade, EFIL launched three major annual projects, currently referred to as its “flagship projects”:
– ECTP (European Citizenship Trimester Programme) and the end-of-stay camp in Brussels focuses on the concept of European citizenship education in addition to intercultural learning;
– Through the annual Volunteer Summer Summit a sense of European belonging amongst our volunteers was spread;
– Through the European Day of Intercultural Dialogue (on the last Thursday of September every year), EFIL increased its visibility in the field of intercultural learning on local level.
The presence of the European Institutions puts EFIL in a unique position, providing tremendous opportunities to strengthen AFS through fund-raising for several training events, seminars, meetings, study sessions, projects and programmes, aimed at volunteers and staff of the Member Organisations, this way strengthening the capacity of existing partners and the position of AFS as leader in intercultural learning, by increasing public recognition, credibility and visibility for AFS.
It should be mentioned that the fragility of the Federation remains an area of concern, as few member organisations are growing, and quite a number of the members currently face difficulties of some kind.
Volunteer Summer Summit
Inspired by volunteer gatherings in the ‘60s, the initial idea of having a Volunteer Summer Summit was to gather a large number of AFS volunteers from all over Europe to share and improve everyone’s practices in volunteer work and training. Along with this great learning experience came a huge motivational impact that catches all participants. Started as a pilot event in 2008 in Vigy (France) the event visited Istanbul (Turkey, 2009) and Budapest (Hungary, 2010).
Intercultural Dialogue Day
Since 2008, on the last Thursday of September, EFIL and its member organisations across Europe hold their Intercultural Dialogue Day, or the celebration of culture itself that comes to the streets and reaches out to participants and unaware passers-by inviting them to the surrender to the spirit and join in the activities, reflections, festivities,…Events are taking place in some 300 locations all over Europe, including school workshops, youth debates, panel discussion, concerts, movie screenings, street entertainment, competitions, markets, flashmobs, etc. and get a lot of media coverage celebrating and promoting intercultural dialogue and diversity.
Comenius Project – Individual Pupil Mobility Pilot
After winning the European tender for the preparation of the European Commission’s new Comenius programme, EFIL successfully coordinated the various project phases, meanwhile building up good relations and an excellent network with partners in the field, with National Agencies and schools and with the European Commission. As a result of this project, the Commission gained an overall view of the legislative situation regarding secondary school education and the exchange of minors in 31 different countries in Europe (phase 1), and recommendations on the practical implementation of the action, based on the evaluation of the pilot mobility phase (phase 2 & 3: design of framework + pilot exchanges).