M.A. Center Germany, Odenwald, 15 - 23 July 2017
This summer, 250 youth from 21 nationalities joined together in Germany for an amazing week of learning, inspiration and cultural exchange. The main theme of the summit, Educate. Cultivate. Participate., addressed some of the most urgent issues facing our world today, ranging from integration and cultural understanding to civic engagement and sustainable lifestyles. As Amma, inspiration and founder of AYUDH, says: “there are two kinds of education: education for living and education for life.” While education for living is essential for success in the academic and material sense, education for life equips young people with the knowledge, skills and values needed to lead an ethical, empowering and socially beneficial life. It’s with this in mind, that the youth came together to explore the themes of the summit.
Learning, exchange and practical experience was centered in three categories in the form of interactive groups, facilitated by experts: peaceful and nonviolent societies, sustainable lifestyles and European and global citizenship. The working groups investigated the local-global relationship of these topics and explored how a change can be brought about on the personal (through one’s values, attitudes and lifestyle) and community level (through youth-led follow-up projects).
Opening by UN Youth Delegate
The first of the week’s talks was delivered by 22-year old German United Nations youth delegate, Mio Kuschick, whose talk was centred on encouraging youth to consider different ways in which they can contribute to a peaceful and more inclusive world. He highly encouraged the participants to invent, innovate and campaign in order to help reach the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A firm believer in leading by example, Mio stated that he will present the ideas and opinions from the summit participants to decision makers at the next General Assembly at the UN in New York. (Link: Press-report, German)
Following this was a short kick off panel, chaired by AYUDH Europe’s Director Andreas Nath Hirsch, featuring Milosh Ristovski (Executive Director of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue), Philipp Buddemeier (Accenture Consultant for Circular Economy in Germany), Bri Dipamrita Chaitanya (Amma's representative in France) as well as Mio. The panel set the scene for the rest of the week. As well as taking questions from the chair, the audience of 250 youth also engaged by asking about global citizenship, sustainability and living mindfully to each of the panellists.
‘Ignite’ talks - youth activists share their success stories
A new feature of this year’s youth summit, the ignite talks served as a means for the participants to wet their appetite. Several, short, inspiring speeches were given by young activists throughout the week, to offer unique perspectives on how youth can actively begin to make their mark on society in a positive way.
The first talk of this series on the 17th of July, was given by Vincent-Immanuel Herr of Herr und Speer. Vincent elaborated how a small idea can grow into a large movement. Conceived initially at a dining table, Vincent, and his business Partner Martin Speer’s idea, was that all youth in the EU should receive a free 30-day ticket for Interracial on their 18th birthday. Their idea comes from their belief that mobility is a basic right for all EU citizens, and their passion for intercultural exchange. In his talk, Vincent shared 5 tips on how to convert an idea into effective action. Concluding Vincent stated that ideas were the best resources we had, and that they move us forward, no matter how big or small they may be.
The second ignite talk took place on July 19th and was delivered by Sina Laubenstein of the No Hate Speech Movement, Sina spoke about tackling online hate speech, and, as young people, how it is our responsibility to affect change through our online actions and by supporting victims. “Haters are the minority, but lack of counter speech increases their visibility. We have to get active online and defend our democratic values and rights.”
The final ignite talk held on July 21st was given by Tatiana Rinke of CliMates, a 'Think and Do' Tank, which gathers students and young workers from all around the world to work on innovative solutions to climate change. Explaining her work as communications director at CliMates, Tatiana addressed the participants directly, “It might be scary for you to go into the decision room, but you have the power, go forward fearlessly”
In addition to the ignite talks, we were so excited to hear from AYUDH Kenya Co-Chair Sheena Shah about all her projects and leading teams with the Permaculture Research Institute Kenya, educating young minds on the benefits of permaculture and living sustainably. Sheena also presented the ongoing efforts of the White C(r)ane project with Matthias Hofeld. Recently, a benefit dinner in Kenya raised €30,000 for the project, enabling the sourcing of more white canes for the children.
The main talks of the week were carried out by three experienced speakers, who have spoken a number of times at the summit.
Br Shubamrita, one of Amma’s senior disciples and a teacher of stress management and mindfulness, spoke on embodying the values that the summit’s theme encapsulated. Using a broad variety of examples, Br Shubamrita encouraged the youth: We should educate ourselves, cultivate with commitment, and participate fearlessly. “Failure is not the opposite of success, it is a part of success.”
Bri Dipamrita, head of ETW France and one of Amma’s senior disciples lead an interactive reflective session detailing the importance of nourishing the soul as well as the body. Just a we need good food for the body, it is important to also take good food of the soul. “Let’s strive not to live in an exclusively self centered world. Try to feed positive thoughts and live life objectively. You want to change it? Take action.”
Finally, Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist, Brand Marketing at Google treated the participants to a rousing speech and subsequent short workshop on imagining radical solutions to problems they encounter, and how innovation can come from anywhere and everywhere. “At the end of the day all projects take on a deeper meaning when you take on the sense of what you’re solving for, the why. People do it because they want to make a difference in this world.”
Prayer for world peace
Participants were also guided through a process of personal introspection and value assessment, facilitated by Br. Shubamrita and Bri. Dipamrita on the evening of 19th July. Accompanied by chants of the ancient Sanskrit prayer ‘Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu’ (May all beings in creation be peaceful and happy), participants lit candles and let them float on M.A. Centers pond, with a prayer for world peace.
Amma repeatedly highlights the benefits of Yoga and encourages young people to include it in their daily routine. 200+ youth also took part in an Amrita Yoga sun salutation session on the morning of July 19th. Tara, a young participant from France said “It was so inspiring to see so many youth get up early and take part in this group session, I want to continue this practice after the summit, and will be encouraging all my friends too as well.”
Intergenerational Dialogue with Policy Makers
The outcomes of the weeklong reflections at the summit were presented on July 22nd during the concluding event entitled ‘Towards a Culture of Caring: The Role Of Education To Foster Young People’s Active Citizenship’. This event was conducted jointly with UNESCO MGIEP and followed a specific format developed by MGIEP, called iTAGe (‘independently organized Talking Across Generations on education’ event), bringing together 9 summit representatives in a face-to-face flat dialogue on education with 3 senior decision makers. (Link: UNESCO MGIEP article)
The dialogue stressed the importance of Global Education, citizenship education and personal development through formal and non-formal systems. It was a call for a paradigm shift and the transformation of global educational systems, through curriculum changes and the strengthening of non-formal and informal learning. The event was streamed online, enabling youth from around the world to participate by tweeting in their questions. (Watch full live-stream)
During the week, an iTAGe youth working group had examined the critical contribution of education systems and its implications at the individual, societal and policy levels. AYUDH youth representatives, from diverse backgrounds such as fashion, medicine, and law, took the stage alongside senior decision makers. The youth were joined by Judith Klein from RORG., Norway, Dr. Daniela Worek from ENTEP (European Network on Teacher Education Policies) and Veronica Fedorchenko from UNESCO, SHS Division. The event gave a platform for them to present their outcomes to policy makers and their fellow summit participants.
“We strongly believe in the extraordinary power of non-formal education, and for us, non-formal education must be an integral part of the whole education experience” said Mr Claudius Siebel (German National Agency of the European Union's ERASMUS+ program) in his opening address, he went on to highlight AYUDH Europe and the European youth summit as good examples of non-formal education. Radhika Bhatnagar, communications officer at UNESCO MGIEP, said “We are very excited to collaborate with AYUDH. Over the past few days, I have interacted with some of the young people and some of the panelists, and I am very interested, because they have very insightful comments and contributions to make”.
iTAGe was not merely a stand-alone event; in the four weeks leading up to the conference the summit participants took part in an intense online discussion on AYUDH’s social media platforms, reaching 210,000 people and recording 8000 interactions. (Watch video summary)
The youth activists who participated in this panel discussion all commented how this was a new experience for them, to have their opinions listened to by senior policy makers. Furthermore, AYUDH now has a comprehensive youth statement on education, ranging from curricular changes, to teacher education and inclusion of open dialogue spaces in schools. Accompanying this document is a set of policy propositions formulated by the youth. The final outcome from this event is having actionable strategies that can be implemented by youth in the form of the projects presented in the introductory event.
Our aspiration is that events such as iTAGeAYUDH, continue to increase in popularity and visibility, both in the mainstream media and on social media networks, resulting in mainstreaming the collective voice of the youth into the highest levels of policy making.
Activities for mindfulness and creative exchange
To further intercultural exchange and encourage an environment where talking and listening absent of scrutiny are practised, the youth also participated in sharing groups. This new initiative provided an open space for participants to deepen their comprehension of the week’s themes, get to know each other across country borders and share personal experiences. Not forgetting that we thrive on action, participants had the option of taking part in 13 workshops, including meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, dance, arts and sports.
To wind down and integrate the intense program of the day, evenings included youth-led community-building activities, such as a fashion-exchange fair, to foster sustainable consumption, bonfire and music circles and screening of the award-winning documentary ‘Before the Flood’.
Music and dance festival
As is customary at AYUDH’s European Youth Summits, a big intercultural festival marked the end of an action packed and highly eventful week. OdenWorld 3.0 was an amazing showcase of both local and international talent, creativity and cultural diversity. AYUDH participants, as well as international acts from Germany, Greece, Switzerland and Spain entertained a modest crowd of youth and locals alike. From singing and dancing to enjoying pizza and ice cream, there was something for everyone at this cultural spectacle which was open to the public.
After an action-packed week of innovation, rousing sessions from youth and experienced speakers alike, a bonfire, a 50m water slide, and a panel event which saw 9 youth activists talking face-to-face with high level policy and decision makers on education, we not only have a sense, or hope for young people to have their voices heard, but have tangibly experienced it first-hand. Participants went back home with a sense of empowerment and inspiration to not only create a change in their own lives, but the world at large as well.
As Amma says: “If our youth arise and act, they have the strength and dynamism to create a huge impact in society.”
Partnership & support
The summit was co-funded by the European Union. It was carried out in partnership with Embracing the World, the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development, Everyone is Beautiful, and the No Hate Speech Movement. iTAGe is a youth-driven inter-generational dialogue on education designed by UNESCO MGIEP and hosted independently by AYUDH (iTAGeAYUDH).