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Culture Beat. Viel Graz - ein Rhythmus

Culture Beat. Viel Graz - ein Rhythmus

The idea
It was in Italy 2008 when an idea for a Mosaic project in Graz came up. In autumn the same year, a group of friends, all but one with strong CISV background, came together to create the project "Culture Beat. Viel Graz - ein Rhythmus".

The overall goal was to raise awareness for Graz as a multicultural city and awaken a desire to actively contribute to the city's atmosphere. What we had in mind was a mixture of a Seminar and a Summer Camp with a bit of Youth Meeting involved. Camp-setting and experiental learning methods built the core of our planned educational process. We spent one and a half years goal-setting, planning, fundraising, recruiting, and contacting Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The first camp
On 17 July, 2010, four staff and four freshly recruited leaders, some with camp/youth experience, and 31 youngesters aged 13 to 18 with different backgrounds from Graz, moved in to the campsite on the countryside, some 50 kilometers outside the city.

The first night we were unprepared for the lack of respect and lack of attention we were faced with. Our ideas for creating the camp differed significantly from most of the participants' ideas. We expected something different to a typical CISV Camp, but, the huge cultural differences and mindsets surprised us.

We spent the first three days of camp building a stable situation in which we created basic rules and the idea of cooperation. We focused on cooperation games, and established a stable day-to-day rhythm for the camp. We were far from evaluating our goals every day, instead, we tried to set new goals we could work with. Leaders meetings were reflection-hours, mainly about our observations of different group-dynamics such as individual behaviour and conflicts. We invested most of the time in resolving various issues constructively.

As the first part of the camp was dedicated to stabilising the situation and the second was focused on cooperation and responsibilities, the third part started off with some participants going home, because a point was reached, where after several face-to-face talks and basic progress, no more positive development considering violent and destructive behaviour was achievable.

From this point on, the camp atmosphere started to be increasingly constructive and inspiring. Activities such as Fantasy Graz (adapted from the game Fantasy Island) were held, as well as individual talks and discussions about cultures, violence, trust and cooperation.

The last hours of camp were filled with laughter and sharing as all the participants together with the staff and leaders left the campsite as one group to walk to the train station.

Thinking back, evaluating, many aspects and fields of needed development come up. It would have been easier if we had started off with fewer people, and included at least one professional streetworker in the team.

Some of the goals were definitely reached; some of them could simply be dropped off our list. Success in this case, should be measured individually. You have to take a closer look at some of the people involved:

  • Artan, for the first time in his life, self-reflected on trust and cooperation.
  • Anni, developed a desire to share her culture and her story with others.
  • Fatih understood the basic concept of democratic decision making processes.
  • Josef, started to reflect upon his destructive and violent behaviour.
  • Samir, developed ideas for projects to work on some critical issues in Graz.

As experiental learning was the method of choice for this project, we learned that this method requires certain conditions to work. These conditions involve the ability to listen, to receive, to actively participate and to cooperate with others.

The experiental learning cycle contains one major step which is fundamental to the method, reflection. As the project goals focussing on cultural aspects moved to the background a little, goals involving reflection of situations, issues, behaviour and group dynamics proved to be essential to the personal development of camp participants. And not only did planned activities help reach those goals, the day-to-day camp life lead to many learning experiences - for both youth and grown-ups.

In addition to reflections considering camp life, atmosphere, and effects, there are some major lessons in the field of project management and realisation:

  • Know your target group. It doesn't make much sense to set goals for realities you have no idea would exist.
  • Know your goals. A very complicated and complex set of goals can be created, but hard to work with.
  • Know your team and their limits. A good team can handle almost every situation that doesn't exceed the mental, psychological and physical limits of it's members.
  • Know your partners and don't expect everyone to help you. Not every NGO will rush to help you.
  • Manage your expectations - and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Wear sunscreen.

 At the end of the day it was, is and always will be a learning experience.

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