On 4-8 June the Exchange Voices! Training funded by Erasmus+ took place in Leuven. The training gathered 29 participants from the EFIL and EEE-YFU network to discover advocacy and especially the links between European and national level policies impacting youth exchanges.
The trainers team was composed by Ivan Vasiliev (YFU Bulgaria), Sara Brandt (YFU Denmark and Board member of EEE-YFU), Elisa Briga (EFIL Advocacy coordinator) Viktoria Bedo (AFS Hungary/France). The team combined the expertise of the two organisations and also a wide range of knowledge and skills, ranging from advocacy at national and European level, non formal education methods and psichology in negotiations. The trainer team were supported by Valentina Pomatto (Advocacy Coordinator at EEE-YFU) and Paola Cane (EFIL intern).
In the EFIL group there were 9 members of the European Pool of Representatives and 7 Advocacy Liaisons. This means that almost all EPORies were present and that Advocacy Liaisons made quite of a big group allowing for a fruitful exchange on the diverse experiences in advocacy at national level.
The training started with an introduction to what advocacy is, why and by whom it is done and at what levels. The group had the chance to explore right away the world of advocacy by visiting Brussels and meeting two representatives of European institutions, namely MEP Ulrike Lunacek at the European Parliament and Marko Grdosic, member of the Advisory Council on Youth of the Council of Europe.
(MEP Ulrike Lunacek at the European Parliament with EFIL and EEE-YFU participants)
Also, participants met the secretariat of the European Youth Forum and learned how a Platform can advocate towards the European institutions. The day in Brussels ended with a pic-nic with French fries…under the rain and a lot of fun.
(EFIL and EEE-YFU participants at the European Parliament)
After the team-building field trip on European advocacy, on the second day participants went deep into what advocacy is at national level. We were pleased to have Guido Frey from Intermundo, the umbrella of exchange organisations in Switzerland, providing a presentation on national advocacy and the value of coalitions among stakeholders. Also, we had videos from AFS and YFU organisations explaining various advocacy initiatives. Participants shared the ‘mapping of national advocacy environments’ which they had drafted in preparation for the training and by the end of the day, participants were able to find links between national and European advocacy on specific advocacy topics such as visa policy, the academic recognition of the year abroad, intercultural dialogue, the recognition of competences developed through non formal education.
On the third day the group explored the macro and micro level of advocacy, namely how to draft and advocacy strategy and what are the interpersonal skills needed in advocacy. Participants had also the chance to meet separately by network-AFS and YFU- to discuss how to use the competences gained through the training in their organisations and reflect on how to better cooperate between the European organisation’s secretariat and the national level: for AFsers this discussion was also based on the input received at the EFIL General Assembly.
On the last night, participants ‘played advocacy’ putting into practice all they had learned in the previous 2 days: everyone had a role during the simulation of a Public Hearing at the European Parliament on the visa directive! This resulted in the funniest advocacy event ever!
On the last day participants challenged themselves in drafting an advocacy strategy and then wrote a personal action plan with reflections on what will their role in advocacy be and how will they raise awareness on advocacy within their organisation.
Participants were an amazing committed, smart and fun group and we thank them for the motivation and enthusiasm they had in dealing with the often mysterious topic of advocacy. The awareness on advocacy has now considerably increased and we have empowered volunteers and staff to act as multipliers and advocates. Moreover, this training was only possible thanks to the cooperation between EFIL and EEE-YFU and thus showed how coalition building with like minded organisations is key when there is a common issue to be addressed and both organisations can benefit from its solution.
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