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Mind the Gap

- Mind the Culture in Participation A training course on realising participation in different cultural contexts 9-15 April 2011 Adrasan, Turkey


Introduction The Youth in Action Programme is actively promoting young people’s active citizenship and participation through giving support to a number of projects across Europe. However, participation practices vary to different levels of autonomy and responsibility depending on a number of factors. Our CULTURE influences how we understand and realize participation. This can cause misunderstandings and become a barrier in international co-operations, unless it is reflected and taken into consideration.

It provided tools and methods for participants to increase their ability to realize participation considering diverse cultural contexts. This course was a pilot attempt to reflect and consider differences more carefully when realising participation in various cultural contexts. Training course brought together 22 participants from 9 European countries. Most of them had some experience with the Youth in Action programme being group leaders, youth workers, mentors, ex-participants of projects or trainers. The richness of diversity within the group was a source of learning and valuable contribution to the course realisation.

The training course “Mind the Gap – Mind the Culture in Participation” enabled participants and the team to explore and analyse different approaches and practices of participation in relation to different cultures.

Training team:

Venue and logistic support: Adrasan Training and Implementation Centre, Serap Yeter – Assistant responsible for Youth Initatives and Youth Projects May 2011


Photo: training venue

Handan Boyar, TCP officer at Turkish National Agency of the Youth in Action Programme, Ilknur Yüce – Action 4.3 and 3.1 officer at Turkish National Agency of the Youth in Action Programme Evelina Taunyte – trainer, Gulesin Nemutlu Unal – trainer, Nerijus Kriauciunas – trainer,

Aim and objectives The main aim of this training course was to develop youth leaders’ and youth workers’ critical awareness of the meaning and understanding of ‘participation’ in different cultural contexts and realities in this way contributing to ‘participation’ quality in the Youth in Action projects.

Specific objectives were: Photo: United Buddy Bear,

• To reflect and share participation concepts and practices in different cultural contexts and realities of Europe through the exchange of experience in the international group – 90%* • To learn tools and methods for critical analysis of interconnectedness between culture and participation – 90% • To get knowledge on different participation concepts in order to develop informed understanding of participation – 71% • To evaluate participation culture critically by analysing own projects, organization, community and society –

62% • To explore values behind the idea of participation and establish the connections between personal, organizational, cultural values – 81% • To develop contacts and ideas for projects/practices which considers participations seriously – 67% *This number shows percentage of people in the group who evaluated the reach of the objective highly (from 4 to 6, in the scale where 1 was minimum score and 6 was maximum score).

“In my opinion, the participants should have a clear idea about “what do they want to learn”, “what are their objectives” and like that they can easily find their answers and explore the field” Participant


Concepts and understandings The training course focused on participation, cultural diversity and interconnectedness between culture and participation. The main idea was to become aware of various “gaps” created due to cultural differences – different perceptions, understandings and practices of participation – and how these “gaps” influence participation.

Culture From the perspective of anthropology, cultures are defined as ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. Participants were introduced with the Iceberg Model of Culture, which is often referred in youth work to explain the concept of culture. T-kit No. 4 Intercultural learning p. 18-20,

Identity Culture is lived in a different way even by people coming from the same cultural backgrounds. Each person is the mixture of their culture, their own individual characteristics and their experience. Personal identities of people enrich diversity with in the shared culture. Participants reflected and shared their identities using the Onion of Identity. All different - all equal, Education pack p. 29-30, Shrek on Onion of Identity,

Media Cultures From the perspective of media and communication studies, cultures are distinct by the dominant way of communication, which ultimately defines specific characteristics of cultures and people. With the change from one dominant way of communication to the other, cultures and people develop new ways of perception and understanding of themselves and the world around them. One day in a programme participants were learning through storytelling of interactive theatre plays. Storytelling is regarded as learning way more common for oral cultures, which is still alive in many parts of the world. Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man Walter J. Ong, Orality and literacy: the technologizing of the word “In this course, nobody is going to give you a definition of any term. Like we are used to. But you’ll find out that your brain has really worked hard on subjects which probably you haven’t so far. So you learn a lot.” Fatma


Cultural Citizenship The concept of cultural citizenship stresses the centrality of culture for a concept of citizenship and is the response to the rapidly changing multicultural context of contemporary Europe. Cultural citizenship is not simply equated with nationality and is not about assimilation or tolerance, but instead is based on the recognition of the right to be different and to belong in a participatory democratic sense. Participants were introduced with the idea that citizenship includes not only the citizen-state dimension, which is strengthened through learning rights and duties, but equally important dimension of citizen-to-citizen, which is learnt and exercised through everyday life situations. Gerard Delanty, Citizenship as a learning process, http://www.

Photo: interactive theatre play

Oppression Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. Oppression may be exercised between the individuals, groups or even entire societies. A person may feel oppressed also because of the more pressure arising from the difference in personal identity and shared culture or because of a system, which disempowers people. Participants were exploring the notion of power and its appearance in abstract sense but also in daily situations where cultural differences play a role. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “For the future, thanks to the course, we will be able to see how we are different and some in a lot of ways. And I can say that participation will be more meaningful for me.� Murat


Pedagogy of the Oppressed Pedagogy of the oppressed argues for education as a transformative process during which people get liberated from the roles of oppressor and oppressed and are empowered to overcome injustice relationship. This is possible through the education, which confronts reality critically, simultaneously objectifying and acting upon that reality. Pedagogy of the Oppressed enable learners to unveil the world of oppression and empowers them to commit for the transformation towards more justice world. Participants experienced this kind of education through being involved in the interactive theatre plays. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed,

Systems Theory and Systems Thinking Systems theory is an interdisciplinary study of the abstract organisation of phenomena attempting to understand its principles and functioning. Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. It is an approach to problem solving, by viewing “problems” as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific part, outcomes or events. During the course several attributes of systems were explained, such as interdependence and regulation using as an illustration an exercise that points out the importance of the invisible relations and communication patterns between the parts of the system. Photo: group dynamics activity

Cybernetics Cybernetics is the study of feedback and derived concepts such as communication and control in living organisms, machines and organisations. Its focus is how anything (digital, mechanical or biological) processes information, reacts to information, and changes or can be changed to better accomplish the first two tasks. The ideas of cybernetics, presented in this training course as a short input, was in order to encourage meaningful actions as a youth worker not only in assessing the needs of the target group, but also in analysing these actions from a broader perspective of the society. “The course is the beginning of a trip… It will not give you a final answer but a lot to think about! You can see yourself in the mirror. And you can see others – just the way they are!” Veronica


Practical tools and methods Participants of the course experienced and learnt various practical tools and methods whilst addressing the topics of the course. During the course it was often stressed that different tools and methods should be used with a clear purpose in mind. In the choose of methods one should carefully consider the cultural context.



...other purposes

...learning to learn

Photo: Participatory observation method

Tools and methods for...

...cultural awareness

...critical analysis ...decission making

“You have been gapped! Do you jump in it or over it? When there is something wrong with the Euromood, who you gonna call? The Gapbusters!� Participant


Appreciative Inquiry Photo: succesful participation sculpture

Appreciative Inquiry is about the co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. The four stages of appreciative inquiry are Discovery, Dreaming, Design and Delivery. Participants practiced first stage of the appreciative inquiry discovering successful practices of participation from their life and work experiences. Appreciative Inquiry Commons, http://appreciativeinquiry.

Participatory Observation Method Participatory observation is a type of research strategy. It is widely used methodology in many disciplines, particularly, cultural anthropology. Its aim is to gain a close and intimate familiarity with a given group of individuals (such as a religious, occupational, or sub cultural group, or a particular community) and their practices through an intensive involvement with people in their natural environment, usually over an extended period of time. Participants practiced this method by involving themselves in the field task in one of the districts of Antalya city. Sociology central,

Theatre of the Oppressed Theatre of the Oppressed is a range of theatrical forms used as means of knowledge and transformation of reality in the social and relational field. In the Theatre of the Oppressed, the audience becomes active, such that as “spect-actors” they explore, show, analyse and transform the reality in which they are living. Participants practiced elements of such interactive theatre by creating, performing and reconstructing situations from real life where cultural differences play an important role. Augsto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed,


“It is a good way to realise that participation may have a broader meaning and may be understood differently by different cultures. “Mind the Gap” might also become a tool to overcome it”. Participant

Evaluation results Participants evaluated how much topics met their learning needs and how much methods were appropriate to explore various topics. Numbers express the percentage of people in the group who evaluated topics and methods highly (from 4 to 6, in the scale where 1 was minimum score and 6 was maximum score).

Appropriate methods 62% 67% 90% 67% 67% 71% 81% 71% 75% 90% 85% 85% 71% 90% 71% 38% 95%

Topic met needs 55% 50% 85% 70% 40% 80% 95% 75% 79% 95% 89% 74% 55% 85% 70% 30% 100%

Topics and methods Picture Participation: Smile! Drawing and sharing in groups Values Behind Participation. Group work and interactive input Different Culture, Different Participation? Game with “golden steps” Systems and Power. Silent exercise and interactive input History and Presence of Participation. Timeline exercise and cases Successful Participation. Sculptures on the beach Identity Onion. Reflecting and sharing personal identities Fine Eye: Participatory Observation. Field exercise in Antalya Fine Eye: Participatory Observation. Reviewing experience in plenary 1000 and 1 Story. Interactive theatre plays by participants 1000 and 1 Story. Interactive theatre play by trainer’s team Open Kiosk. Workshops in parallel Impact of Participation in Youth in Action. Interactive input Realising Participation with Others. Facilitated exchange of ideas Introductions of the Training Programme. Walking on the floor Learning-to-learn. Personal diary and learning friend Group Dynamics. Mission impossible, map, stage, My flavorite night

“First I thought that I did not learn enough tools or theoretical stuff about the topic. But after the evaluation I recognised, how much I really gained and how much I could profit by participating in “Mind the Gap”!” Marie


Shared youth work experience during the course

Participated actively during the course


1 yes no don’t have


7 13

Quality of the course organisation yes Received the needed information in good time before the course


The course was held in an environment comfortable to learn


Learnt from other participants during the course


Appropriate resources were available to use and take away


Possible to apply learning on this course back home in reality

Participants appreciated most of topics and methods during the course. Individual comments suggested to balance better the rhythm and timing of the course. Participants wished to have more structured inputs, enough time to reflect and discuss learning experience, better balance the intensity of the course.




A need for proper reflection time was expressed by participants in order to digest intensive learning experience. But the time with personal diary and learning friend was not sufficient, appropriate or in the right moment. Interactive theatre methods were appreciated well because it suited best for exploring the main theme of this course.


0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% “Participants were nice, I learned a lot about their personal life and the work life which was very interesting for me. Besides that we made some new contacts/networking and I see forward for future cooperation�. Participant

all the time most of time sometimes seldom

The course organisation was well appreciated by participants and the team. The venue, location and surroundings were evaluated highly suggesting this combination for the future courses.


Conclusions and recommendations During the final evaluation team made the following conclusions and recommendations for the future developments of the course: • To consider well the number of participants and length of the course. Participants commented that the group size was appropriate or could be even smaller. They mentioned that having more days could have been better.

• To reduce the number of theoretical inputs introduced during the course. Priority should be made for depth of exploration and understandings. In this way it would be possible to balance better the learning intensity.

• To consider well the group balance ensuring equal representation of South-North Europe and more equal number of participants from each participating country.

• To be sensitive to personal learning and development of participants since the course topic is very involving and touching. It is important to be aware that by reflecting cultures, where is often a risk to put people and cultures into boxes. However it is equally important to realise that learning of self and others is an intensive process.

• To revise the programme of the training course including more time for group building at the beginning of the programme and by shifting the heavy sessions of the first long day to the later of the programme. Include “gaps” in the programme enabling participants to include their content according to their learning needs. • To introduce the training course at the very beginning of the first day enabling participants to orientate themselves better and be informed about the objectives and the flow of the sessions in the programme. Spend more time on identifying better learning needs of participants enabling them to shape the “gap” sessions by offering their content and methods. • To swap the focus of the course, beginning with the exploration of culture and cultural diversity and only after that making links by exploring participation.

• To pay attention that selected participants are working directly with young people. Their working experiences enrich the course and enable them to reflect their practice and apply learning once back home to their realities. • To consider the intensity of the course by reducing the planned sessions up to 3 planned sessions per day leaving “gaps” in the programme for participant’s contributions to the content and/or digesting of the learning experience. • The course is emotionally intensive and participants need time and space in the programme to reflect and accumulate new learning experience.

“Don’t change very much. It’s good!” Participant


Final programme Day 1, Sat

9 April 2011

Day 2, Sun

10 April 2011 Welcome and opening

Day 3, Mon

11 April 2011

Day 4, Tue

Day 5, Wed

12 April 2011 13 April 2011 8.30-9.30 Breakfast

Day 6, Thu

14 April 2011

Day 7, Fri

15 April 2011

Steaming out Review of the participatory ob- Realising particiGetting to know servation practice pation (personeach other ally) 11.00-11.30 Break 11.00-11.30 Break Participation Open Kiosk: sharTransfer to Picture 1000 and 1 story Magnified: ing Antalya participation: of participation: systems and resources for smile! case studies power participation 13.00-15.00 Lunch break Arrival of Impact of participarticipants Historical Values behind Fine eye: 1000 and 1 story pation in Youth in Departure of pardevelopments ticipants Action participation: why Participant of participation: and current participation at observation case studies (conRealising practices of all? practice in town tinued) participation participation (with others) 16.30-17.00 Break 16.30-17.00 Break 1000 and 1 story Successful parof participation: ticipation in youth Introduction Free time case studies (con- Evaluation of the work practice training protinued) training course gramme Learning to parSteaming out ticipate 19.30-21.00 Dinner break 20.00 Dinner out 19.30-21.00 Dinner break Welcome evening My flavorite night Organisation fair Good-bye evening Different cultures, different participation!?

Fine eye: observing participation culture

Mind the Gap - Mind the Culture in Participation