KALOTROPIO - Centre for Social Solidarity Economy of Lesvos
Lesvos-based consortium of 2 CSOs and 1 initiative with established cooperation in youth projects. Budget 50-50% between 2 CSOs, with initiative offering pro-bono venue, networking and communication
PEACEBUILDERS is a hands-on peacebuilding program, where multicultural, cross-generational and gender-inclusive local and refugee children, unaccompanied minors and youth, co-create actions, policies and a public campaign, that citizens, civil society, and policymakers can utilize across pockets of Europe, to systemically reconstruct a resilient civic fabric and shared democratic space, capable of curbing extremist ideology targeting the ‘other’ and the core values of our European community
LESVOS [GR]: Geographically-remote island hosting the largest refugee camp and population in Europe
Since 2015, more than 1 million refugees have gone through Lesvos and currently 25.000 diverse people live in abhorrent conditions. Lesvos has transformed from a geographically remote island to an active hotpot of right-wing extremism and nationalism spreading in Europe.
The systemic dissipation of civil society, have caused the civic fabric of Lesvos to disintegrate in front of the eyes of locals and the world. Democratic space, has been occupied by local and continental extremists, who weaponise Lesvos as a poster child in promoting EU nationalism.
With locals, refugees and civil society experiencing intimidation from extremists, police brutality and ethnic infighting, Lesvos is a magnifying glass for the spread of nationalism across Europe, poisoning our youth and future generations.
-100x Local & Refugee Youth: Excluded from civic participation, youth engage in co-creating policies and a public campaign to promote them.
-500x Local & Refugee Citizens: Citizens affected by the refugee crisis and disengaged from civic participation, engage in the youth-led communities events.
-10x Civil Society Organisations: Threatened by adverse nationalist measures, CSOs engage in the creation of a united advocacy front supported by regular meetings.
-10x Policymakers: Local and EU policymakers are engaged via the policy recommendations created by youth and advocated in direct meetings with them.
-100.00x EU CITIZENS: Citizens who are disenfranchised with European values are reached via the youth-led public campaign.
POLICY LABS: Bi-weekly workshops where local and refugee mentors empower 100 local and refugee youth to co-create policy recommendations and co-design a public advocacy campaign aimed at curbing nationalism and extremism.
CIVIC EVENTS: Youth and CSOs will produce 5 community-based civic events, aimed at reaching 500 diverse community members. The public events are: arts exhibition, conference, public workshop, urban game and music concert.
PEER-TO-PEER MENTORSHIP PROGRAM: 20 workshops empowering local and refugee youth to become ambassadors for the project and mentors to their peers, inspiring ground-up adaptation and systemic change in their communities.
WORKING GROUP: Monthly meetings comprised of diverse CSOs, aimed at sustaining a united advocacy front against nationalism.
Anticipating to locally observe:
• Curbing of nationalism and extremism through the reduction of violent incidents
• Invigoration of civil society through increased partnerships between organizations aimed at sustaining a united advocacy front campaigning for peaceful and diverse co-existence
• Unification of diverse youth communities and reduction of interracial conflict in youth
• Reconstruction of an open and shared democratic space, through the active civic engagement of diverse youth, citizens and CSOs
• Restoration of civility through the sustainability of democratic dialogue across civic life
• Increased awareness amongst diverse shareholder groups on the damage that has occurred to Lesvos’ civic fabric, and of tangible solutions towards its restoration.
-Empowers polarized local and refugee youth to establish a youth-led movement where diverse groups engage in hands-on co-creation of policies affecting them, and design a campaign to make their voice heard in the public domain
-Raises the empathy between polarised local and refugee citizens by bringing them together in a series of dialogues where they equally raise their voice on shared challenges they face (impoverishment, etc), and jointly find solutions to improve their well-being
-Mobilizes local and regional CSOs to create a united front that advocates and proposes solutions reconstructing democratic and civic space
-Brings together diverse shareholders (youth, CSOs, governments) to work towards systemic change in nationalism through youth-led antinationalism initiatives
With the civic fabric of our geographically-remote, impoverished and incredibly multicultural community, being deconstructed by right wing extremists, we witness the majority of youth turn to nationalism. With a similar trend spreading across the continent, the values that hold our European Union in place are being eradicated across neighborhoods and communities.
Our connection and attachment to the island as locals and as defenders of European civic and human rights, drives our mission to reconstruct democratic space and envision a resilient civic future for continental citizens. Our aim is to generate tools enabling youth, citizens and CSOs of Lesvos and Europe to work in tandem as a united advocacy front, capable of systemically challenging the spread of nationalism.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
2xCivic Educators (refugee+local):7000
2xCultural Mediators (refugee+local):7000
2xDemocratic Facilitators (refugee+local):7000
Video for communication:3500
Travel & Accommodation for partnering & dissemination:1000
*Already secured 15k to reach total budget*
Hoping for initiatives to reach out to us and vice versa, so we can generate new partnerships and a united advocacy front that will tackle the adverse measures taken across Europe in limiting civic engagement, democratic culture, solidarity towards diversity, and the inclusion of the ‘other’.
We are very pleased to have launched the first stage of our advocacy campaign against nationalism and marginalisation of the ''other''. The campaign utilises material and messages created by youth through our Policy Labs and our Peer-To-Peer Mentorship programs and is aimed at reconstructring a shared civic and democratic space not just in Lesvos bur also across pockets of Europe which are facing the same challenges. The campaign has been launched through our social media and we would like to ask for your kind support in helping us promote it. Feel free to share and like our posts, if you feel these are relevant to your organisations! Keep us posted with any comments and suggestions on how we can improve our actions to reach audiences in your country and region. Do our messages also resonate with your community?
We share with the community, some pictures of the zines produced by the youth during the policy labs as well as the group process followed. The zines produced by the youth are going to be the foundation of an advocacy campaign which will be launched in June 2021 and will be shared through our social media. Watch this space as more news will soon follow :)
For the past weeks our educators and facilitators have been assessing the results from our weekly policy labs. Policy labs are bi-weekly workshops where diverse youth work together towards co-creating policy recommendations for an inclusive Europe and co-design a public advocacy campaign aimed at curbing nationalism and extremism, not just in Lesvos but across pockets of Europe that face similar challenges. So far more than 100 youth have participated in the policy labs despite the many adversities caused by COVID-19. The main tool that we used in the policy labs, was the creation of zines, a DIY personalised magazine produced by youth which summarises their ideas based on prompts the educators and faciliators provided (see project journey April 10th). The prompts provided centred around European values (democracy, freedom, etc) and how the youth they feel apply to their everyday life in relation to instances of xenophobia and racism they have experienced. The visually stunning zines produced by the youth, not only carry elements of their homelands, journies and experiences, but also paint pictures of struggle, survival and solidarity. The youth which are predominantly unaccompanied refugee minors, have faced unimaginable challenges and dangers all across their journies from their homelands to Greece. But upon arrival in Europe they have also experienced instances of xenophobia, racism, verbal and physical violence which has affected the ways they view Europe as a safe haven for them. At the same time the youth feel a tremendous sense of luck that they made the journey succesfully, even as they face an overwhelming sense of rejection from local society. Despite their great efforts towards integrating (attending school, learning the local language, etc) they are very often gaslighted from peers, teachers, protection officers and asylum procedures. Almost all youth state that they experience racism at an almost daily basis, yet they perceive that as something of their established reality, as these are the circumstances that they had to deal with throughout their journey. Despite the adversities however, the vast majority of youth also feel a sense of streangth and empowerment, as they have managed to succesfully complete a very difficult part of their journey, and they have managed to attend school, acquire new skills and make new friends. For the youth, the highest priority in policy asks to be inclusion and equity. The belief is that through such policies, the public will become more accepting of the other and of diversity. Positive human to human interactions and building up a human network of solidarity are the driving forces that will help guide our community towards a more equitable future.
One of our greatest motivations when applying to the Civic Europe program, was its focus to empower organisations operating in civic deserts across Europe. As both Iliaktida (https://iliaktida-amea.gr) and Latra (http://latra.gr) are operating in Lesvos, an island that despite the severe challenges affecting citizens does not benefit from an organised and unified civil society space, we are proactively seeking to connect with CSOs and NGOs participating in the CE program which operate towards reconstructing a shared European democratic space. Our intent is to exchange knowledge and practices that can be utilised in similar settings across pockets of Europe, to systemically reconstruct a resilient civic fabric capable of curbing extremist ideology targeting the ‘other’ and the core values of our European community. From our end, we are able to provide collaborators with tools and methodologies that we are using and have proved effective towards that end, and are looking to discuss how strategies by organisations can be utilised across different settings and regions. Eventually, and as part of the CE program, we will also be able to provide organisations with a public advocacy campaign which they can utilise to campaign locally, enabling in that way the creation of a united advocacy front of CSOs across Europe which tackle similar challenges. Please get in touch if you are interested in connecting :)
For the past 3 months, we have been conducting bi-weekly workshops empowering diverse youth to address European values (democracy, freedom, equality, etc) and to discuss how these apply to their everyday life in Lesvos. The workshops are meant to serve as a first step and a prepatory action in the public advocacy campaign that will be co-created by youth, and is the focal output of the Peacebuilders project. However, our past experience and engagement with diverse, vulnerable and often marginalised youth, had taught us, that more often than not, youth struggled both to comprehend the scope of European values, and critically translate them into creative outputs that could be utilised in the context of public discourse, public communication or advocacy campaigns.
In order to overcome this challenge we utilised a ‘zine’ methodology. A zine -which stands short for magazine- is a DIY/self-made mini magazine produced by one or more individuals, and often in a single or limited amount of copies. Prior to the start of our Peacebuilders project, we had developed and tested the zine methodology in the context of an EU-funded project (https://system2020.education) with very encouraging results, and the outcomes encouraged us to use zines in the context of this project in order to test their efficacy in empowering learners to comprehend and communicate challenging topics.
Each zine is produced by an individual learner, and it takes approximately 6 sessions to complete, with each session lasting 1-1,5 hours. Although the zines are produced on an individual basis, the workshop is conducted in a group, encouraging conversation and dialogue between the learners. Each zine is made out of half an A4 coloured carton, which has been folded like a book, in order to produce 4 internal pages, one cover page and one back cover. In each session, the learner concentrates in an individual page. At the beginning of each session the educator/facilitator provides learners with a different prompt, and the learners have to reflect on that prompt through their creation of the zine. In order to make zines more attractive and relatable to learners, facilitators presented the zines to learners as ‘passports’ into their future. Examples of different prompts that we provided to learners include: (i) send a message to your future self (ii) send a message to your country (iii) send a message to Greece (iv) send a message to Europe, etc. After the zines are completed by learners, a session is dedicated in open discussion where the learners present their zine to the group of their peers and engage in meaningful dialogue alongside the facilitator.
The zines produced by the learners are in the cross-over between a mini-magazine, a private journal and an artistic artefact, all of which help in providing the groundwork for the public advocacy campaign which will be produced in a later stage of the project.
We found that zines can be powerful evaluative tools which tell learner-led stories of their experiences and nurture deep reflection and personalisation of a learning experiences across disciplines. Critically the zines empower position learners not as consumers of knowledge, but as critics, creators, and crucially, experts in their own communities of knowledge, who through questions and provocations can go from relating to reflecting on how new information might be relevant to their communities. Finally as the centre of the process is dialogue, safeguarding and open presentation, the zine can serve not just as a reflective exercise but also an additive evaluation tool both at the hands of educators, facilitators and cultural mediators.