How to involve young people in European cooperation?
The European Youth is interested in concrete actions on hot topics such as education, climate change, the labour market and policy making as reported in the Youth Manifesto. For the future of Europe, it is essential to show them how cooperation between regions and countries provides solutions for youth unemployment bringing economic and social development in their territories overcoming borders.
At the Interreg MED, we tackle such issues but not only. We have also strongly supported the involvement of young people in projects or in our daily work.
Since 2018, we have welcomed 5 volunteers as part of the Interreg Volunteer Youth initiative (IVY). This initiative allows young people between 18 and 30 to work in Interreg projects or Programme bodies, see them in action and discover their concrete achievements. This is how Paul, one of our former IVY, visited project partners and conducted interviews underlining the concrete impact of our projects. The results of his work have been then summarised through videos published on our YouTube channel with the aim to reach a broader audience.
Over the years, we have also welcome university interns thus giving them the chance to translate theory into practice. Agathe, student in her last year of master’s degree in European and International Studies, joined our team in February to explore and learn how a Programme works. Since her arrival, she has had the opportunity to take part in the preparation of the next programming period namely the development of our work plan for the next seven years and the launch of our very first call for proposals.
Working at the JS is a great first work experience for these young people, it can even serve as a springboard to start their career.
Some others choose to get involved in European issues by becoming activists and campaign for a specific cause such as climate change.
We met one of them, Mr Augustin Bollue from the Youth for Climate movement and invited him to participate in our MED for YOU capitalisation event organised in Athens in October 2019. He delivered an inspirational speech followed by a video of a fellow activists, Ms Adélaïde Charlier that she recorded while sailing to Chile for the COP26. They addressed EU officials, Programme authorities and projects partners and exposed them the movement’s demands about climate change and a fair society.
Involving young adults in our activities and encouraging exchanges between EU officials and young people at high-level policy meetings are some of the actions we undertook at the Programme level that meet the Youth manifesto expectations. What about our projects?
What about youth in our projects?
Several Interreg MED projects chose to raise awareness and involve young people in their activities thus allowing them to realize that they can play a key role in building a sustainable future. Their future!
Let’s take Maestrale and Blue Deal for instance: both projects are about Blue energy and involved school students from Italy, Portugal, Albania, Croatia, Greece, Spain, Slovenia Malta and Cyprus. They gave them the opportunity to experience the world of citizen science and European projects.
Under the supervision of the Maestrale’s experts, students from the Professional Technical School Tito Sarrocchi assembled a small-scale prototype of an offshore wind turbine with a vertical axis to concretely experience what Maestrale was researching and what blue energy meant in practice. During the BRIGHT 2018 European Research Night Initiative in Tuscany, the young scientists launched the prototype in the waters of a public fountain in the very heart of Siena city centre, showing Maestrale project to the local community and explaining in practice the meaning of blue energy.
"This project will be very useful for my future because I am gaining skills that I could use for my career. It is very nice working in a group and sharing our ideas. Besides, it is a pleasure working with a team of researchers to develop and produce the prototype for the contest” declared a student from the Italian Technical Institute Tito Sarrocchi which took part in the Maestrale project.
The experience provided by Maestrale has proven that the participation and involvement of young people in such a cooperation project is advantageous, both for them and for the project.
Based on these results, BLUE DEAL launched an international blue energy competition, "BLUE DEAL for the Future", to raise awareness and involve future generations in the development of a blue and sustainable future. The competition, launched from October 2021 to April 2022, aims at secondary school students from European Member States and IPA beneficiary countries. The contest allows students to broaden their knowledge of blue energy and improve their methodological skills.
The project also involved younger children in a YouTube challenge called "Water Wheel Challenge" in which children learned in a playful way how to produce energy using the power of the sea. The challenge aimed at building a water wheel using everyday objects such as plastic spoons, bottle caps and wooden sticks and make it work with the energy of the sea.
The Efficient Building Community went even further inviting high school students to the Mediterranean Energy Debate held in Brussels, during the European Week of Regions and Cities in 2019.
There, the representatives of EduFootprint and TEESCHOOLS projects were interviewed by students of “Zhani Ciko” High School (Albania), who also presented their climate initiative and the related short film.
The event then ended on an unexpected and pleasant note: a representative of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy of Albania who was in the room went on stage and promised the Albanian students that the Ministry will disseminate their video among Albanian authorities to raise awareness about the importance of climate actions at the school level. He also encouraged the students to stay involved and continue their actions in this area.
Finally, future generations asked authorities in the Youth manifesto, to take climate change seriously and act. For instance, by avoiding physical meetings to reduce their carbon footprint, tracking the impact generated by their activities or by finding ways to compensate. We, at Interreg MED have already taken actions in this regard: two of our projects ZEROCO2MED and WECAREMED are developing such tool that all our 2021/27 projects will use to reduce their carbon footprint.
All these examples show us that Youth has not been left out of the 2014-2020 Programme nor out of our projects and we are already working to see how we can further amplify our actions in this area for 2021-2027.
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