In 2017 EFIL will focus on the topic of ‘Inclusive intercultural learning: exchange organisations contributing to equal opportunities for young people’. Throughout the year numerous activities will take place around Europe focusing on different aspect of inclusion.

This  topic is a logical continuation of EFIL’s previous thematic years: ‘Diversity Education’ (2014), ‘Citizenship Education: contributing to a more just and peaceful world’ (2015) and ‘Building peaceful societies through intercultural education’ (2016).

It has been apparent that AFS/EFIL needs more effort to open up towards less advantaged members of the society, to fulfil its objective of promoting intercultural understanding and justice. In order to claim real impact, AFS needs to change the image of “middle class Western educated club” and address all layers in the society, namely reaching out to those that do not believe in intercultural understanding, yet. This might mean offering intercultural learning activities for youth in vulnerable communities, providing the space for people from different backgrounds in the same society to meet and learn from each others’ diversity. This need of opening up has been true for a long time but it has become evident recently, when so many Europeans refuse to accept culturally different newcomers, and when exclusion and marginalisation has led to tragedies. In order to contribute to peace and justice in a diverse world threatened by inequality and intolerance, we need to do more for the promotion of intercultural understanding and sensitivity.

Through the support of the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe (EYF) and Erasmus+ of the European Commission (E+) we are able to conduct the following activities on this topic:

ICL Seminar ‘Intercultural learning for all: inclusion in youth exchange organisations’ (March in Hungary, with the support of EYF):
This seminar will ask (and try to answer) the following questions: As AFS/EFIL, which groups are we reaching and which ones are we missing, among beneficiaries and volunteers? What are the barriers for less advantaged audiences to be involved? Which good practices are employed by other youth NGOs in this area? What values and messages are we promoting through our programmes and how inclusive are they?

Advocacy seminar ‘External relations and profiling’ (May in Belgium, with the support of Erasmus+):
The seminar will involve key decision makers  in the AFS network in Europe to improve the quality of non-formal education activities for intercultural dialogue, either at national or European level, and develop effective strategies to make this happen.  Quality in intercultural dialogue includes addressing the issue of social inclusion, and the outcomes of the first seminar of the year on the specific topic will be presented. The outcomes of this seminar will be brought to the EFIL General Assembly in May, to inspire the future directions of the network and will feed into the training on  chapter development since most of the promotion of intercultural learning in AFS is done at local level, in direct contact with communities and exchange-programme participants.

Seminar ‘Chapter and leadership development’ (June in Finland, with the support of Erasmus+):
The seminar’s objective is to empower volunteers in building and running a sustainable local chapter of AFS, providing quality non-formal education activities on intercultural learning. In the programme there will be a session focusing on the current political situation in Europe (migration crisis, populism, unemployment) and how AFS as a promoter of intercultural learning can contribute in this situation by fostering social inclusion. Participants will explore how AFS is currently promoting social inclusion, looking at the outcomes of the first seminar of the year, and what more can be done through chapter work. The outcomes will feed into the next activity, namely the Volunteer Summer Summit.

EFIL Volunteer Summer Summit ‘Inclusion through education’ (August in Iceland, with the support of EYF):
The Volunteer Summer Summit will include parallel workshops to set the ground and address equal opportunities as a general topic. In these sessions topics such as everyday racism, sexism, etc. will be addressed as well to address how the “isms” prevent equal opportunities and what we can do to counter it. The community project will be planned in cooperation with the Search and Rescue Team, the Red Cross and a LGBT association, which are  volunteer based organisations in Iceland. Apart from that the programme will include 4 training slots which are organised in 5 parallel tracks. The tracks are:  1. Inclusive intercultural exchanges, 2. Equal opportunities in practice, 3. Intercultural Learning and Equal Opportunities, 4. Inclusive volunteering, 5. Inclusive leadership.

Training for Trainers ‘Reach out to enrich‘ (November in Ireland, with the support of EYF):
The Training for Trainers will be the last activity within the annual theme. The event is an opportunity to put the idea of including new audiences directly into practice, by delivering training sessions to local externals. The event participants will be active volunteers from EFIL membership, committed to reaching out to new (especially less advantaged) groups. They will then be expected to be trainers at local/national level not only for these new audiences but also for the peer AFS volunteers – fostering more inclusive approaches among them.

EFIL is coordinating an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership which aims at enhancing secondary school teacher’s intercultural competences through training, and develop tools they can use to promote intercultural learning in the school, following a cross-curricular and whole-school approach. Enhancing the intercultural competences of teachers is key for social inclusion, given the diversity present in classrooms nowadays, which reflects the society pupils live in.

The annual Intercultural Dialogue Day will also be under the theme of ‘Inclusive Intercultural Learning.’ On the 28th of September grassroots volunteers from around all around Europe will organise events in their local communities to promote Intercultural Learning and Inclusion.

2017 Year of inclusion