Participatocracy: Nothing for Youth without Youth

SERBIA – The RYCO Local Branch Office in Serbia with the support of the OSCE Mission to Serbia have successfully closed for this year the serial of online meetups #AmongRYCOfriends that offered an informal dialogue venue on issues that truly matter to civil society organisations, secondary schools and young people aspiring to advance regional youth cooperation. 

The last online meetup Participatocracy – Excellent A+” was held on 14 October 202  and gathered 64 high school professors from all municipalities of Serbia who got a chance to better understand the importance of youth participation in developing project ideas and later implementation of project activities. 

Youth participation is of huge importance for RYCO funded projects and activities, therefore special focus was put on this topic, having in mind also challenges to implement all methodological and programmatic aspects of youth inclusion. 

During the event, the OSCE Mission to Serbia Youth Focal Point and Expert on Youth Participation Ms Milena Stošić presented and explained the Roger Hart’s Ladder of Participation to participants and with them discussed all levels of youth participation: from the lowest which are negative examples how young people can be misused to the most preferable, when young people initiate and share decisions with adults. 

Professors had a lot of inputs from their own experience as well as questions on some tiny  differences in youth participation. Their knowledge was tested in the interactive way by playing Mentimeter quiz that was followed by discussion with Mr Aleksandar Nikolić, GO Representative of the Union of Secondary School Students of Serbia as well Ms Dragana Popović, on behalf of school with boarding for children with hearing and speech  disabilities “11.Maj” from Jagodina, coordinator of the project “You need to know me to understand me” supported by RYCO within its second Open Call co-funded by the UNPBF. 

The speakers shared their experiences and concrete tips and tricks on what is the best way to ensure active participation of young people as well as how to include marginalized groups and their needs. Mr Nikolić emphasized that highschool students should be included in all levels of project preparation and implementation, even “small tasks” give them validation that they are equal actors in society and can contribute to all processes in society, not just to some small scale activities or projects. Professors and educators should trust more in young people’s skills and motivation and give them an equal role in the processes that are developed/developing for them. 

Furthermore, Ms Popović presented a video produced within the mentioned RYCO and UNPBF funded project that is an excellent example of how successful collaboration can be among professors, educators and young people from different groups (young people with and without disabilities) and what inclusion really means. She also shared how young people from her school were included in all stages of the project design and implementation, even in the process of switching to the online mode because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participation and inclusion of young people is a necessary step in order to assure high quality and also sustainability of school programs.

In conclusion, the event also included a follow up on info sessions on the “Superschools” program that were held in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, Čačak and Novi Pazar in the period between 7 to 12 October 2021. 

This final meetup was an ideal opportunity for high schools interested in applying to Superschools Western Balkans Schools Exchange Scheme program to develop their ideas in a more creative, inclusive, participative and youth-friendly way. 

The RYCO Superschools call aims at providing the ground for creating strong and sustainable bonds between secondary schools within the region and building long-term partnerships. By participating in this initiative, secondary schools will have the chance to apply and, if selected, implement school to school exchanges as well as to participate in the programme’s activities dedicated to their capacity building, networking and cooperation. The newly initiated Superschools initiative, is part of a multi donor project co-financed by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH together with RYCO. The call for project ideas is open until 28 October 2021.

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