dear 21


Article by Emilija Gagrčin, member of the EFIL Training and Intercultural Learning Advisory Body, and Milena Miladinović, from AFS Intercultural Programs


A first joint training between EFIL, CISV, Experiment and EEE-YFU themed “Developing Educational Activities from the Research in 21stCentury” (short: DEAR21) took place from 20 to 27 September in the context of 16th University on Youth and Development in Mollina, Spain. Volunteers who took part on behalf of EFIL and AFS were Inma Laguna (AFS ESP), Emilija Gagrčin (AFS SRB/GER), Jasmina Hénniova (AFS CZE), Kasper Jepsen (AFS DEN) and Milena Miladinović (AFS INT/SRB), and Jana Holla (AFS EGY) as a member of the prep team.

The joint training had the following objectives:

  • bridge the gap between recent intercultural theories and current practice through the development of interactive educational tools;
  • revise selected existing activities;
  • explore and critically assess intercultural theories from the past 20 years;
  • strengthen the collaboration between AFS, CISV, Experiment and EEE-YFU;
  • facilitate the exchange of best practices between trainers of these organisations;
  • explore the possibilities for further joint projects on intercultural learning.

Theories from the past 20 years which were gathered, explained and shared before the training were presented in the form of DEAR21 Talks (allusion to TED Talks), which not only explained the theories, but also critically assessed them. The discussion that followed brought us to a collective conclusion that at the moment we don’t share a concrete concept of culture, other than agreeing on the fact that it’s dynamic and fluid. Couple of issues arose from this:

  • There is still no new paradigm in intercultural theory, but in reality changes are happing – could exploring this be something we could further tackle in our organisations?
  • Many of standard activities we use with exchange students are based on different notions of culture (which are often static and rooted in national differences) – are we communicating contradictions to our volunteers and exchange students and how can we approach this issue? Or do we provide different insights and let everyone conceptualise culture for themselves?
  • The need for a shift from national identities in the context of our exchange programmes and more focus of multiple identities;
  • The need to consider the role social media and internet play during the exchange, on one hand in relation to identity management (How is exchange being presented on the social media? How might this influence the exchange experience?), and on the other hand, regarding the constant connectedness with the home country and the parents.

Further in the training we learned about game mechanics, learning styles and the learning cycle, and how to implement these while making up new activities. Creation of new activities was conducted in organisationally mixed teams and around topics we identified as important for our organisations at the moment. Groups worked on following topics:

  • Dealing with change within organisations
  • The impact of power and media in the society
  • Human Rights
  • Dealing with emotions during exchange
  • Group identity

The last part of the training was devoted to trying out new activities. Two groups had the chance to try out their activities in the local school in the village of Mollina, while other groups tried out their activities with participants of DEAR21 and participants of others trainings at the University.

The general idea of cooperating with other youth organisations was very fruitful. We found many similarities and differences and enriched each other with great inputs. Due to the tight schedule we didn’t manage to talk in-depth about everything we wanted, however we exchanged some energizers and came to the conclusion that we would all profit a lot from a closer cooperation on intercultural topics and sharing materials between organisations without threatening each other. At the end of the day, we all work for the same cause, and it is a pity to look at each other only from the perspective of the market competition. (Some of the participants have in the meantime subscribed to the EFIL newsletter and I’m excited to know they are reading this article, too. J)

Right now, the project is in the follow-up phase, in which the manual with new activities is being created. The manual will furthermore include revised widely used existing activities and a link to videos of DEAR21 Talks. The manual will be published in December and distributed in the networks.

We are all very happy for having the possibility to participate in this training and are looking forward to joint projects in the future!

For more details, please contact [email protected]


dear 21 group