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Promoting inclusion in international youth work

Assistance available in the form of new hands-on, interactive products

5 May is European Independent Living Day. What better date than this to hold a closing conference to present the hands-on and interactive products that have come out of IJAB’s international VISION:INCLUSiON project? The training modules and publications illustrate how international youth work can become more inclusive – and they are available in accessible format in German, simplified German and English. At the online event Ms Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Youth Ministry, delivered the opening address.

"It is vital to implement the call for inclusion in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in international youth work, too. International youth exchange organisers and their staff carry great responsibility when it comes to ensuring more inclusion. I am hence delighted that through VISION:INCLUSiON, we have been able to provide such effective input nationally, internationally and above all in cooperation with the target groups, ensuring that international youth work activities can become more inclusive.” Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Youth Ministry

During the virtual conference yesterday, (international) youth work experts, representatives of disability community organisations, policymakers, researchers and other interested parties from Germany and abroad discussed how to ensure that young people with a disability or impairment can access international youth work activities with ease. Together, they reviewed the work done over the last six years.

There was quite a bit of common ground to review, given that almost everyone in the audience had been involved in one way or another in the project and contributed to its outcomes. Some had attended the interim meetings, some had been at the international youth BarCamp, while others had been members of the international working groups or were part of the project’s expert group.

This form of collaboration between young people with a disability or impairment, disability community organisations and national and international youth work experts is the first of its kind in the international youth work community – and it is what makes the resulting products so special and hands-on. Organisations that want to offer more inclusive international activities for young people will benefit greatly from the publications, which contain exercises, videos, checklists and lots of reading material. 

Specifically, the VISION:INCLUSiON project has yielded two products:

  1. “Training modules: How to set up an inclusive international youth project” consists of a manual plus a wealth of multimedia materials (available in German, simplified German and English)
  2. The interactive comic “Yes, let’s do this! – But how?” is an illustrated set of hands-on instructions for planning, preparing, implementing and following up an inclusive international activity (available in German, English and in accessible format)

To conclude the project, Karina Chupina (expert and trainer for inclusion and diversity, Russia), Marie-Luise Dreber (Director of IJAB, Germany), Elżbieta Kosek (Kreisau-Initiative e.V., Germany/Poland), Florian Kufner (German Deaf Youth), Milanka Nikolic (activist, Serbia) and Katrin Rosenthal (Aktion Mensch, Germany) joined experts from the plenary to highlight what they believe are the most significant hallmarks of successful inclusion, and not just in international youth work:

  • Everyone needs to understand that accessibility is not the same as inclusion. In addition, we should get used to having open discussions about uncomfortable subjects, too.
  • Organisations need to make an official commitment to inclusion. Although much progress has been made in recent years, there still needs to be a clear commitment to inclusion if things are to change (i.e., someone needs to take responsibility).
  • As the VISION:INCLUSiON project has shown, networking and regular communication are incredibly important.
  • Practitioners, in particular, need COURAGE to embrace inclusion. Even small steps are valuable! Plus, organisations need allies. This requires them to actively reach out to potential new partners such as disability community organisations and special-needs schools.
  • We need to paint clear a picture of what an inclusive society can look like, and we need to talk more openly with each other. We need to teach children from a very early age how they can support and show respect to each other. This is the only way to allow everyone to feel they belong. Mixed-ability groups are an important part of this.
  • More than before, inclusion needs to be mainstreamed structurally. We need public-sector organisations to collect and disseminate expertise.
  • We need much more data. Having reliable information is crucial when it comes to including people with disabilities in programmes and policies.
  • We need more capacity building for young people with a disability or impairment! Training courses for experts and the teams themselves need to be more diverse!
  • We should not forget that the situation may vary from country to country. In Germany, thanks to projects like VISION:INCLUSiON we are in a relatively good place, but what about our partner countries?
  • If inclusion is to be made mainstream, it needs greater visibility! To make this happen, all organisations and individuals working in this field need to use social media more consistently.

The concluding “fishbowl” discussion was the last point on the very dynamic and engaging digital agenda. In closing, all participants emphasised how important it was to keep this new international network alive. And of course they expressed their gratitude to the VISION:INCLUSiON team Ulrike Werner, Claudia Mierzowski and Christoph Bruners from IJAB. “Without you none of this would have happened!!!! You are the heart and soul of VISION:INCLUSiON!”

We are pleased to announce that the team is currently working on a MOOC (massive open online course) on the training modules. This way, as many individuals and organisations as possible can learn about inclusion whenever and wherever it suits them.

>>Download publications<<


(This article builds on the press release of the German Federal Youth Ministry Inklusion in der Internationalen Jugendarbeit stärken [in German] dated 5 May 2021)

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