“Start the change” to prevent radicalization – first project year at Forum for Freedom in Education

From the promotion of volunteering for a peace building culture in Croatian schools to the international context. The Forum for Freedom in Education (http://www.fso.hr/forum-for-freedom-in-education/) project “Start the change”, co-funded by European Union (EACEA), could be considered as an extension beyond the national borders of the previous experience acquired by the organization in fostering the prevention of radicalization, sensitivity development, interculturalisam and its connected good practices.

The project was approved within the program Erasmus+ in partnership with Think Global (www.thinkglobal.org.uk) from United Kingdom, Centre for Creative Development “Danilo Dolci” (http://en.danilodolci.org/) from Italy and Youth Centre Dravinje Valley (http://www.mcdd.si/welcome/) from Slovenia and with Network of Education Policy Centres (NEPC) as associate partner. The project was granted with about 480.000 euros for a total duration of 24 months.

The overall objectives of the project are the prevention of violent radicalization and the promotion of democratic values, fundamental rights, intercultural understanding and active citizenship.

“Start the Change” focuses on developing and nurturing psychological thriving, emotional development and self-regulation, civic competences, connectedness, positive attitudes towards differences as well as multi-perspective and deeper understanding of the world.

Collaboration among partners from Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and United Kingdom will lead to project results such as established cooperation between 40 schools and local civil society organisations in implementing the intercultural and peacebuilding projects reaching out to over 2000 young people.

After the preparation phase, the project took off in February 2017, and it started with the organization of the research “If I was someone” that helped in identifying the opinions and visions of young people about the diversity in their lives and societies.

A training for trainers was successively held from 12th to 16th July in Zagreb, Croatia. It gathered experts from United Kingdom, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia who learned different methods on how to empower teachers to work with students in the topic of radicalisation. Some of the areas covered in the training of trainers were identity, creativity, emotions and interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution approaches, human rights, democracy, stereotypes and prejudice, media literacy.

In October and November, following the experiences and reflections came out from the training, the teacher training programs were implemented in each country.

Moreover, in all four countries, a survey was conducted with young people in order to find out the interests, needs, problems and ways of solving the current and everyday challenges of the students. A comparative research report is available, in English ().

During the first year of the project, two publications were developed. The first manual is “Start a Change!” that has the aim of empowering teachers, young people and their parents in understanding and recognizing the complexities and challenges of modern society and strengthening their personal, social and civic competencies.

A collection of “Start Change!” workshops has been developed for teachers for direct work with students. The collection is divided into three main areas: personal and social development, civic education and volunteer projects.

The publications, now issued in Croatian, Italian and English, will soon be available also in Slovenian.

In 2018 the project foresees, among other activities, the coordination of the peace building local projects, the collection of good practice examples, the development of the policy recommendations for dealing with diversities in schools, the preparation and the issuing of the “Book of Good Ideas” and the final conference.

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