Beyond the News

A MitOst Blog


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Drawing strength from what we have in common: THK coordinator`s meeting in Oberhausen

By Mariana Gabunia

Lucky stories are all about being prepared to seize an opportunity and go for taking new steps – which is what I did when I participated in the MitOst lottery for a shadow visit to this year’s Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg coordinator’s meeting, announced in the frame of the 20th anniversary of MitOst.
The meeting was held in Oberhausen, 19-23 April 2017 – in an interesting post-industrial building with very friendly hosts from the German NGO kitev.
Around 70 people from different countries attended the meeting. What unites them? Continue reading


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„Katalysator für lokale Akteure“ – der MitOst-Festival-Effekt in der Ukraine

Interview mit Alona Karavai, von Darius Polok

MitOst ist in Ivano-Frankivsk – der Gastgeberstadt des MitOst-Festivals 2015 – weiterhin engagiert und entwickelt als Partner von
Teple Misto einen „trans-sektoralen Lernort“ auf dem Gelände der ehemaligen Fabrik “Promprylad”. Anfang März 2017 besuchten im Rahmen einer Kooperation des Bosch Alumni Networks Kolleginnen und Kollegen aus Athen, Lissabon und London das Projekt und unterstützten Alona Karavai (MitOst) und Yuriy Fylyuk (Teple Misto) bei einer Diagnose der Örtlichkeit als zukünftiges nachhaltiges „Ökosystem“.

Darius Polok, Koordinator des Bosch Alumni Networks, kam bei dieser Gelegenheit mit Alona Karavai über die Wirkung des MitOst-Festivals vor zwei Jahren ins Gespräch.

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Das wandernde E von Ob_rhausen: Zugehörigkeiten neu denken

Von Johanna-Yasirra Kluhs

Seit vielen Jahren schon leuchtet über Oberhausen ein Leuchtschriftzug, direkt gegenüber vom Hauptbahnhof: „Oberhausen – Wiege der Ruhrindustrie“. Nur das E war schon eine kleine Ewigkeit außer Betrieb. Eine Lücke in der Selbstbenennung der Stadt, deren Entwicklung ohne Zuwanderung nicht denkbar wäre. In einem Projekt des Vereins kitev
 wurde die Neonleuchte kürzlich gemeinsam mit neuangekommenen Jugendlichen repariert – und auf Wanderung durch die Stadt geschickt.
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You can stop hiding now!

According to the author of this article, the “dissemination and exploitation of results” seems to be the Achilles heel of socio-cultural projects. How can great initiatives become more visible – and thus accessible – to a wider public?

An article by Magdalena Lapshin
Photos by Costanze Flamme, Magdalena Lapshin, Hawila and Head4Arts

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Velociped Festival – or how to make a first step

Did you always want to organise something interesting and impactful? Do you have amazing ideas all the time and a burning desire to positively change your environment? But in the end, and out of different reasons, it rarely actually happens? This is how I and my friend Vlad felt half a year ago when we heard of an opportunity to get support from MitOst for a socially relevant project.
1-downhill-contestAn article by Mikalai Vincheuski, one of the organisers of the bicycle festival and MitOst member project “Velociped” that took place 20 to 21 August 2016 in Belarus 
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Fırsatı Yakala Turkey: non-violent communication in violent times

By Hatice Yildirim (coordination team of Take the Chance – Fırsatı Yakala, the Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg cooperation programme in Turkey)
military coupIn its fifth programme year in Turkey, the Take the Chance – Fırsatı Yakala coordination team had planned to have a special educational year for the participants and alumni. Our Kick-off Seminar was supposed to take place 14-20 July 2016 in Siirt, Southeast of Anatolia. When we facilitators arrived on 12 July for preparations, there was already a big fear because the Eastern part of Turkey was not so safe. In the beginning, everything was kind of normal, and although the last months in Turkey had passed with a lot of social problems, conflicts and terrorists attacks the participants were very motivated to attend the first seminar of the year.
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Мы строим мосты между людьми: Российско-украинская программа “Привычка думать / Звичка думати” 2016

Подготовила: Ирина Бобровская (03/2016)
“Привычка думать” – это программа по развитию критического мышления у молодых людей из России и Украины. Ее авторы – Тарас и Реваз из Киева и две Лены из Сибири – работают в сфере неформального образования молодежи. Помогают школьникам и студентам учиться самостоятельно мыслить, реализовывать собственные инициативы, взаимодействовать друг с другом, участвовать в международных проектах. Их связывают дружеские и профессиональные отношения. Для них “Привычка думать” – это способ повлиять на сложившуюся ситуацию между странами, возможность честного разговора и во многом личная история. Почему? Ответ в нашем интервью. Continue reading


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Each town or village can be the center of the world | Ukraine

Interview by Svitlana Oslavska with Olga Diatel and Alona Karavai, translated by Liubov Hryb. 

UkraineLab is an interdisciplinary platform for effective and sustainable networking, which creates space for dialogue between active representatives of different sectors of society in Ukraine.
In 2015 two forums were organised by UkraineLab. One in Kiev devoted to the best solutions for culture and civil society in post-crisis periods, the second one in Ivano-Frankivsk with focus on peace building strategies. This year the activities will be continued and new meetings will be arranged. In April UkraineLab will be held in Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. Alona Karavai and Olga Diatel, coordinators of the programme, explain specifics and characteristics of UkrianeLab, this year’s topics and expectations.

What is UkraineLab in brief?
Alona Karavai: UkraineLab is an interdisciplinary platform for smart networking and cross-sectorial cooperation of change makers as well as a think tank where visions and innovations for civil society and culture can be born. With UkraineLab we also create a safe space for people to share, to exchange about and to collect all kind of practices of local development and to test them where they may be the most necessary at the moment.
Olga Diatel: UkraineLab is a space where you can develop new professional relations and partnerships, which will make your work more effective in the future.

What impressions did you get after the first meetings in 2015 so far?
Olga Diatel: I was skeptical about the large number of people we planned with to take part. It is not easy to ensure an efficient process in such kind of situations. Yet at the first forum we managed to create an atmosphere of openness, personal responsibility and everyone was very cooperative. Our aim and the aim of UkraineLab is to build a network of people, and I think we manage to build it step by step.
Alona Karavai: The second forum was organised as a kind of a partnership fair. It emerged people have a great actual need of building deliberate partnerships. Usually people partnering up right before the start of a project and they do not discuss their aims and values beforehand. This causes often the opposite of a long term and trustful partnership which would have the potential to create some impact. The format of the partnership fair will be further developed, so in Kramatorsk and Slovyansk participants will have more opportunities to present themselves, get to know each other and exchange.

Why have you chosen the topic “The development of local communities” for the upcoming meeting?
Alona Karavai: We actually asked the participants during the second forum in Ivano-Frankivsk 2015 where we already started to plan the next steps for 2016.
Olga Diatel: A lot of them mentioned they would like be involved somehow in the everyday life of communities in the town where the forum takes place and they want to share something with the residents. So we decided to give it a try and to work with local communities. And we see it anyway as an emerging topic which is quite important for our work.

Which social challenges you have in mind thinking about UkrianeLab?
Alona Karavai: I think that UkraineLab is facing social challenges such as the lack of communication between people and poor quality of communication. Obviously people do not communicate with each other even in small communities you can observe this phenomenon parties from different sectors of society or different social layers are not coming together.
Olga Diatel: In my opinion every place has its own potential. And it depends on the people who live there to which extent this potential is used. I would like to work with tools and ideas from the field of local actions and with capabilities that can develop the potential of a city or a village. My personal experience: it doesn’t matter whether you live in a city or in a village, if you have a good idea, people from all over the world come visit and join you. Each town or village can be the center of the world if you live there and develop it.

Why have you chosen Kramatorsk and Slavyansk for the next meeting?
Olga Diatel: “We should do like ordinary people: organise meetings in Kiev and house all participants in one hotel” – we often joke about how and especially where we organise our events. To be serious, in Kramatorsk, in this region we are running the projects “Rural Initiatives Workshop” and “Сultivator”. So we know a lot of locals and we are in close contact with them.
Kramatorsk and Slavyansk are located on the so-called periphery. Due to this fact there are a lot of challenges. On the one hand a lot of people have emigrated. On the other hand, in Kramatorsk you can feel some kind of energy and something positive is up. In fact there are a lot of problems also a lot of ideas appear. And you may become part of it.
UkraineLab will take place in two cities in the region: In Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. People will stay in both cities as well as the activities of working groups. We decided so because we cannot stay with 120 people in one city , so we use the potential of both cities. This is certainly not the easiest nor the most practical solution to organise and also for the participants. Yet it provides the opportunity to learn more about the region.

How exactly will the participants work with the local communities?
Olga Diatel: We will work in thematic groups and we organise workshops, which we call “local actions”. The workshops will combine theory and practice. We expect participants working hand in hand with local initiatives and organisations to make these “local actions” most effective.
UkraineLab is a format and network, which is shaped by its participants. We already ask in the application to bring in own ideas for workshops. And these workshops can engage a lot of people. So we are looking for people who understand this approach, who are open-minded, curious and like to create something together.
And don’t be afraid to visit Kramatorsk.

In September will UkraineLab meet in Berlin. Can you already tell us about it?
Alona Karavai: For now the working title is “Ukraine – the EU: Lessons that have (not) been learned”. We want to look at things that have changed in the discourse “Ukraine – European idea – the EU”. We will include also the topic “Subjectivity and introspection of Ukraine” as we find the discussion about the perception of Ukriane as an subject important in European context.  We want to consolidate most of the Ukrainian and Pro-Ukrainian figures in Berlin, in Germany, in order to create a significant event together. There are only few Ukrainian events in Berlin. And of course, we hope the Ukrainian organisations will be interested in exchanging experience, and willing to see how everything works in Berlin as well as to find partners. We would like to gain attention, we would like to be heard in Berlin.

You can find more information at www.dialogue-for-change.org/en and at Facebook UkraineLab. UkraineLab is part of the project “Dialogue for Change” which is designed to help overcome social cleavage by a strengthening of civil society and dialogue in Ukraine.


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UkraineLab: “We are not going to leave” | Ukraine

by Svitlana Oslavska, published in Ukrainian at zbruc.eu on 6th of April 2015. Translation into English yb Liubov Hryb and proof reading by Maciej Głomb.

“Leave this country while you are young. Nothing will be changed here” – the taxi driver was convincing me on the way to the forum “Ukraine Lab: Best practices and interdisciplinary approaches to civil society and culture in crisis and post-crisis times”. A bit hesitantly – it is pretty hard to argue with taxi drivers – I answered that I have stuff to do in Ukraine. And meeting around fifty more people at the UkraineLab that also know why they are here, I was picturing our response to the taxi driver that would be more convincing.

People were coming to the forum in order to discuss how independent cultural initiatives can endure and what is the meaning of NGOs’ work during the war. This forum is the first step of the project Dialogue for Change, organised by German association MitOst and the Ukrainian organisation Insha Osvita.

Why is this event different from lots of other meetings and seminars, and why should we talk about it? Forum mediator Ivanna Chupak partially answered the first question. “There are many forums for activists in Ukraine, but it’s rarely possible to find a format comfortable for everyone. Such a mixture of disciplines and topics is enriching”. Indeed, the forum brought together leaders from the public sector such as Crimea SOS, AHALAR Center, “Fond Klychka” (“Klitschko’s Fund”) –, independent media and cultural initiatives such as Art-Dvir (Art Yard) in Buchach, online magazines Ufra and Khmarochos (Skyscraper), Kyiv Theatre for Dialogue and others), as well as representatives of government agencies like the Department of Culture of the Lviv city council. I want to answer as a member of the forum as to what is its meaning.

“We have changed a lot”

The main thing that happened at the UkraineLab is the manifestation of the fact that almost fifty cultural and public figures remain here, willing to change the country without pathos, with small steps. It’s like we say to each other as well as to the taxi driver, “We do not agree with the fact that” everything is as before and nothing has changed because we have changed a lot. UkraineLab can be called a statement that denies the gloom. We look into each other’s eyes and honestly say, “We do not plan to leave, at least for now”. And we can even give the examples: here is the organiser of the festival “Respublika” in Kamianets-Podilsky Andrii Zakharko who came back to Ukraine after living ten years abroad.

Alona Karavai, programme coordinator of the project Dialogue for Change: “We developed this project in May 2014 as a platform which would bring leaders from different sectors together, those who want to share ideas how to work in Ukraine under these conditions and those who have open eyes and hearts to think about it together. We wanted to understand what to do after the crisis in Ukraine in 2016 or 2020, but one event is not enough to find the answer. First, we need to work long and hard, analysing what we have done during the last 16 months, and only then we can talk about the future. At the next forum, we are going to think more about the future vision, and we plan to invite organisations that finance projects for them to see what we need.
The interest in Ukraine has increased in Germany where I work. This leads to the fact that organisations that have never worked in Ukraine before have no Ukrainian partners; they come to Ukraine with external concepts and leave after three months. These are wasted resources. The main value for us is networking. If there are horizontal contacts, there will be a vision and joint projects.”

According to everything that was said at the UkraineLab, we see three most necessary needs for activists:

  • to reflect critically on the activities of NGOs;
  • to plan cultural initiatives map of Ukraine;
  • and what seems to be an obvious thing, to create a dialogue between the conventional: the centre and the periphery, junior and senior generations, east and west of Ukraine.

Errors and cynicism of ogranisations operating in conflict areas

What is the sense of countless trainings, seminars, workshops, meetings, forums and a dozen of other “creative” forms on the use of Western donors in post-socialist countries? The lecture of Polish-Georgian activist Marta Gawinek-Dagargulia pushed all to reflect on the efficiency of what is done in the public sector. Marta works in Zugdidi near the Abkhaz-Georgian border, where there are 36 NGOs, and only three or four of them are active according to her.

The example of Georgia clearly shows errors and cynicism of organisations operating in conflict areas. Once the problems are solved, journalists and NGOs leave the territory although the activities of NGOs make sense only if conflict is prolonged and regular. Another problem is the real participation of those whom the projects are created for to help. Most organisations work off the grant, and it does not matter how people are actually involved and who is involved exactly. The third problem is the equitable distribution of resources. Western donors are willing to give huge grants, and small organisations are not able to get them. “Who is getting all those big sums of money? Where are the results of the projects funded by Western donors in Luhansk and Donetsk regions?” asked Jaroslav Minkin, Chairman of Youth Association “STAN”.

Another problem of NGOs in post-conflict areas is the exploitation of the victims. We understand that grant money has flowed to Ukraine now for projects related to internally displaced people. Speaking without euphemisms, there is demand for immigrants. Organisations must understand the responsibility of their activities not to evoke the feeling like “they came to us, used and threw us away”, told the Moderator of Ukraine Lab from Tbilisi Teona Dalakishvili.

A cultural map of Ukraine

The other question that the most cultural leaders are interested in is the need to realise what is going on in the cultural sphere in different parts of Ukraine. In other words, it is a good idea to have something like a cultural map of Ukraine. Ukrainian Cultural Network (the project of the Centre for Cultural Management in Lviv) made an attempt to implement it, but languidly and without enthusiasm. Today it is clear that low-cost flights in the near future will connect the East and the West, the North and the South, so we want to see what is happening and where, at least online. Maybe we need a social network just for cultural activists? Today, thanks to personal relationships, we learn what is happening in other regions in Ukraine, but still it is impossible to see the whole picture. After all, Ukraine is not unique in this regard, but that was us who desperately felt the need to communicate, know and understand how other cities and parts of the country live.

Another aspect of this problem is those cultural sector workers or activists who due to various reasons are now living at Crimea and on the occupied territories in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Now it just looks like we want to simply forget that they exist. However, the experience of the same Abkhazia shows, if we lose these contacts, a few years later no dialogue will be possible at all. At the same time, it is unclear how to speak to each other, how both parties should overcome emotions and despair.

“The goal of UkraineLab is to create common space for people who could share experiences and give people time to reflect on their location relative to others, feel that they are not alone”, says Anastasia Maksymova, the Moderator of UkraineLab.

Processes in Kiev are no less important than those occuring in the regions

UkraineLab introduced people from Chernihiv, Ostroh, Kremenchuh, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, and gave them time and space to talk. Kharkiv Theatre “Na Zhukah”, Kiev Theatre for Dialogue and Playback Theatre “Plemia” from Chernivtsi got to know what everyone else was doing. Ostroh media laboratory J-Lab acquainted with Ivano-Frankivsk independent magazine Ufra. There was a dialogue not only between people from different  regions. People from Kiev saw that we also have good initiatives in distant areas – where you cannot go to by fast trains – which develop the smaller cities in the regions and which did not tend to leave to the centre, to Kiev. It gives a chance to understand that processes in the capital are no less important than those occurring in the region of Rivne like the Buchach Art-Yard or Pluhaky craft farm.

“My German colleague from MitOst, who occasionally comes to Ukraine, said that earlier at the forums for organisations he saw that people were not willing to cooperate by analysing their body language. Now he has noticed that people are completely open and realise that we have to help each other. I would like it to turn into a culture of consolidation”, says Alona Karavai.

The fact that large organisations are willing to share experience and self-organised initiatives are developing once again proves that there are new meanings and actions emerging in Ukraine. At the same time, I felt the absence of the representatives of the platform developing the culture strategy “Culture-2025” and Culture Activists Congress, whose meeting was held at the same time as the UkraineLab. Despite all the talks of unity, it is clear that we continue to exist in isolation – although no longer alone, but separately in little groups.

UkraineLab is an interdisciplinary platform for a smart networking and cross-sectorial cooperation of change makers as well as a think tank where visions and innovations for civil society and culture in Ukraine can be born. In the pilot year of 2015 the programme started with two big cross-sectorial forums:
“UkraineLab: Best practices and interdisciplinary approaches in the civil society and culture for the (after)-crisis period” im March 2015 in Kiev and “UkraineLab: Visions for peace-building and the new role of civil society and culture” in September 2015 in Iwano-Frankiwsk. Besides of this two big cross-sectorial forums an event was organised in May 2015 in Cherksay dedicated especially for facilitators and educators: “Non-formal education. Methods. Reality. Future”.

Read more about the development of UkraineLab in 2016: coordinators Olga Diatel and Alona Karavei share specifics and characteristics of UkrianeLab, this year’s topics and expectations in Each town or villag can be the center of the world | Ukraine.

 


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Moldotopia – A Gleam of Hope at the EU’s edge? | Moldova

by Valeria Șvarț-Gröger and Julian Gröger, first published on oya-online.de. Translation into English by Martin Hofmann.

2014_impulse

In his magnificent science fiction novel “Ecotopia” Ernest Callenbach has imagined a society in which resilience and community are a lived reality. Of course in his time and circumstances he chose the North-West of the U.S. as a scene. Where would such a place with such a promising future be located today? Maybe Buthan or Bolivia – but within Europe? Where could one imagine a profound change until the year of 2040? Resilience and inner peace would be just two catchwords. Which country would you count on?

It would rather be a small country, so marvelous changes could quickly be set into practice. This country should have good soil and many people experienced in agriculture. It should not be too industrialized, and less embedded into global substance flow. And of course it should possess enough natural resources in order to sustain its energy. Maybe Austria? But is it possible to realize such a utopia within the EU? And is it not a fact that Austrians use up too many resources in 2014?

We count on Moldova, or Moldtopia as we call our vision. Moldova – the Republic of Moldova, to be exact – is situated between Romania and Ukraine, at the edges of the European Union and has around 3.5 million inhabitants. Its capital is Chișinău (to be pronounced as kee-shee-now). On an area slightly bigger than Belgium the population is a one-fifth of western-Germany. The preconditions for a development towards Moldtopia 2014 are as follows:

Moldova owns very good soil. In former times Moldova had been, together with Georgia, the fruit and vegetable garden of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately due to this fact just 9% of the country’s surface is still covered by forests. Moldovans are dwelling with a much smaller amount of energy and consumption than people in Western Europe. Around 40% are active in agriculture, many of them in a semi-subsistant way. For political reasons the Soviet Union did not initiate large scale industry in Moldova as there were concerns that the country could reunite with Romania. This low level of industrialisation is still considered a disadvantage in 2014, but from our point of view it will soon turn into benefit. In matters of energy the country is still dependent on Russian gas, but the potential for solar and residue-biomass energy is tremendous. Most Moldovans are bilingual (Russian-Romanian) and more and more learn to see it as an advantage rather than as a burden. Romanian and Russian-Soviet culture with all their treasures are deep-seated in the cultures literature, cuisine or language.

But what exactly is Moldotopia and what do we want to achieve on this piece of land until the year of 2040? Moldtopia nourishes its population with ecological and regional cropping. The bicycle is the one means of transportation used most often. Within the cities some trolley coaches are going, for longer distances the railway transportation is electrified and well developed. Small neighborhood communities are living, working, eating and celebrating together in the cities. The majority of the buildings is erected with regional building materials. Moldovans are own a world-wide recognition for wood-straw-clay constructions. 40% of the country’s surface is again covered with forests. 10% are areas saved from human intervention. Agroforestry has become the established form of agriculture. There is no erosion of the soil and water from every source can be drunk. There is a feeling of abundance rather than one of deficit. Children are the most valued aspects of live and the whole community is taking care of them. Those are just some aspects of Moldtopia.

We, the Moldovan NGO EcoVisio, together with young people are working on the invention and realization of the Moldotopia-vision. Young people, of course, mostly have another idea of their country’s future. Political debates often focus on the strategic orientation towards either Russia or the European Union, whereas a form of regional pride is not very common. People have an emotional connection towards Romania or towards Russia on are arguing about this bias. The conflict on Transnistria interferes with the concentration on the own development, too.

Our programme “activeEco – Sustainibility in Action” adds new elements into this situation: What, if my future would take place here in Moldova and not on Rome, Berlin or Moscow? What, if our region could be a model for others? The requirements do exist and each year around 30 alumni of the programme come along, being able to spread the word about Moldotopia. We are in the year of 2014 and the power of the vision along with the energy of young people can lead us faster and faster to Moldotopia 2040. The joy of anticipating the future and a community in which big madcap ideas can be said and will be understood – that is, what we are working on. For the moment you still here rather of the conflict on Transnistria or the “Europe’s poorhouse”. Be curious what kind of news you will hear about Moldova twenty years from now…

Support: Eco-House as Traningspace in Moldova
Become part of building an ecological training space in Moldova to promote education. The moldovian NGO asks you kindly to support and help them to build an Eco-training center in Eco-Village Moldova. In the future this will be the home for activEco, one cooperationprogramme of the Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg. “We are collecting funds on betterplace. We’d be very grateful if you could share this link in your networks or even participate in the fundraising campaign yourself. Any small donation or share will be greately appreciated!”
Share and donate here betterplace.org/training-space-in-the-eco-house.

What has been achieved so far?
In just over a year we managed to build a 3-room straw-bale workshop, start an eco-club at the local school, plant over 300 walnut trees and engage over 200 volunteers from Moldova and abroad. Multiple activEco networking meetings and alumni actions already took place at the Eco-village Moldova site as well.
What we need your support for?
This year we need just a little more help to finish the 3-room straw-bale “workshops” building and to equip it with basic amenitiesto be used for seminars and technical trainings for up to 25 people.
Support and read more on betterplace.org.