Green Regional Eastern European Network
Which kind of education do we need for a socio‐ecological transformation? GREEN (Green Regional Eastern European Network) has committed itself to international exchange in the Eastern European green corners. We want to enable mutual exchange of best practices and discover existing potential in order to foster and promote it with students because they are an important part of society and are able to make a change towards a more sustainable future.
GREEN (Green Regional Eastern European Network) has committed itself to international exchange in the Eastern European green corners. We want to enable mutual exchange of best practices and discover existing potential in order to foster and promote it. Additionally, we also seek to draw from the Eastern perspective of sustainability practices. With this goal in mind we are organise seminars and workshops and try to raise public awareness for sustainability, especially in universities. With our interactive online platform we enable interested users in Eastern Europe to connect with each other. We assist them in realising their ideals for the education of sustainable development at their universities and beyond. Currently we support initiatives in Russia, Ukraine and in other non-EU Eastern European states but in the future we aim to cooperate more also with Eastern European (CEE) EU member states.
Our experience has shown us that the sustainability landscape is still very fragmented in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, there cannot be any socio-ecologically just world without effective cooperation towards transformation. Demand for networking with other like-minded actors in Eastern Europe and beyond is huge, but still very scarcely covered. We hope to fill this gap between various initiatives and actors with the help of the WECHANGE platform. Through different event formats we want to intensify the cooperation, make space for mutual projects and also pass on our best practices and useful tools for successful project management.
Most Eastern European universities possess a lot of untapped potential. On one side they bring together many young and active actors but on the other they do not offer enough free time, space, or the needed structures for civic engagement. We want to facilitate overcoming these difficulties. Organisations that combine both civic as well as institutional actors have proven to be more effective in long-term. This is why we especially encourage and support increased networking and cooperation between civic sustainability initiatives and local colleges and universities.
Which kind of education do we need for a socio‐ecological transformation?
What would you expect when going to a conference?
Starting seminars with three minute dancing sessions to Rodriguez, creating a vision in a Dream Journey workshop or watching a movie (“Tomorrow”) full of inspiring solutions? Every single participant offering workshops, contributing to a mini-library, giving each other hugs, reflecting and meditating together? This does not sound like one of those typical conferences you have visited so far, does it?
And yet, it was a conference. But it focused on the question: Which kind of education do we need for a socio‐ecological transformation? And for proving that “the way is [also] the goal” the organizers chose a rather unusual format so that the conference participants could “walk their talk”.
The organizer was the Kreisau Initiative and the conference took place in the beginning of December in Krzyzowa (Kreisau in German), Poland. Actors of non-formal education were discussing with schoolteachers, academic researchers and degrowth activists for five days: Which kind of education do we need for a socio-ecological transformation? In which framework? How do we build trust on the part of all those involved? Is there a way to increase curiosity and becoming open for other people’s perspectives? How do we share best practices? Do country-specific characteristics exist regarding
All these questions were actively discussed by 30 participants, who also presented their own activities in various formats and found potential project partners. Guided tours helped to learn about the significant history of the place and an excursion to Lower Silesia showed the group a local organic farm that engages itself on communal level. Marij Duhra recorded the conference graphically, proving that even in the case of reports “a picture is worth a thousand words”. education and sustainability? If so, what are they in Germany, Greece and Poland?
When having to leave Krzyzowa, the overall reflection concluded: „We had our doubts first. It’s because we somehow still expect conferences to be productive, inspiring and full of input only when they have very tight and rigid formats. But now we know better.“
A remarkable journey into the sustainable heart of Saint Petersburg
A 40-hour bus ride would sound for most of the people like a torture and when I stepped onto the bus on Monday morning I was really not sure how it would turn out. To spend almost two days on busses, crossing 5 countries, is not something you do habitually. But the time flew by faster than I thought as all the new impressions made me forget about time anyways. Hence, on Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock I stood at the central bus station of St. Petersburg with temperature around freezing point. I had crossed the border to Russia that night for the first time in my life and was now in a place where you cannot expect to find your way around by speaking English. The adventure had begun.
But why did I choose to go by bus in the first place? Well, if you head off to participate in a netzwerk n seminar on sustainability at universities, you try to shape your whole journey in this sense.
But I was not the only one embracing a long trip. Inken, project manager of the Green Regional Eastern European Network (GREEN), had been traveling in countries of the former Soviet Union for more than a month and came from Moscow by train. Tillmann, studying in Lund, Sweden at the moment and responsible for the website of netzwerk n, even got to go by ship!
The three of us first met on Thursday evening in a very nice and cozy hotel, which was selected by our local partner organisation – the Network of Green Universities St. Petersburg. After chatting for a while and discussing some remaining questions, we had a well needed sleep in a not moving bed. The next day, some of the participants of the upcoming seminar took us on a special city tour – a sustainable one. We got to see a local recycling station a little outside of the center. Here, you can always recycle your domestic waste. Unlike in Germany, there is no separate waste collection at home – not yet. But those who take the trouble to separate their waste do separate very effectively. There are even different containers for all different kinds of plastic. After this, they showed us a building with many small, local and unique shops. This was also one of several places with a container for second hand clothing, run by the second hand shop „Spasibo!“, which means „Thank you!“ They review the donations and sell the good stuff in their shops for an affordable amount. All the profit they make goes to social projects. I was surprised by how many second hand stores you can find in St. Petersburg.
After this very innovative tour – thanks again to our guides – we went to a small vegetarian and vegan cafe where we would meet all the other participants: around 20 people from 6 different universities (Ecological Studies, Forest Studies, Design, etc) of St. Petersburg, including the staff of the eco-office at St. Petersburg State University. We got to know each other quite fast by playing some games and talking about our ideas about sustainability.
The next day was dedicated to exchange: after a little energizer, we talked about netzwerk n, GREEN, best practices in Germany and got to know about the latest activities of the Network for Green Universities St. Petersburg, could share our experience and support the recently founded network. A highlight was a little impro interview for which the participants could write down all their questions they had regarding netzwerk n and we would pick one at a time and interview each other about the topic. We had a lot of fun and tried to answer as many questions as possible.
As important as organizational issues was the question of sustainability. We presented various concepts, engaged everybody in a fishbowl discussion and as a nice conclusion of the day, we went on a dream journey to a sustainable Russian university in 2050 where everybody could let their imagination run wild. These thoughts were afterwards visualized on paper and served to be the starting point for the following days focus: making plans and starting to work on them. For this, we shared some project management techniques. Since internal communication is always a stumbling block, Tillman gave an introduction to the functionalities and advantages of plattfom n, explaining how to collaborate online effectively. The next important step was to elaborate ideas and then come to a consensus. It became quite clear, that everybody wanted to plan a festival with at least 12 universities of the city participating. In this framework, all the other projects – creative, educational, scientific – could be realized as well. The project canvas offered a structured approach, so that the date for the festival could be scheduled for March 2017.
At the end of the seminar, everybody wished it had lasted even longer, in order to achieve everything and to learn from each other even more. Sadly, that was not possible, but the time we had was a great enrichment for all of us. Thanks again for the warm welcome, the great atmosphere, the enthusiasm and the innovative ideas! We are exited to see some pictures of the festival and we will definitely stay in contact.
Raising the potential for sustainability and creativity of a students’ initiative in Ukraine
„At the moment, a university is a system, that turns a creative student into a marketable product.“ This observation of a participant and the wish to make a change were the starting point of the first netzwerk n training for a students’ initiative in Eastern Europe, two hours north from Kiev. From 9th until 11th of September, 25 students and university teachers from or associated with the Chernigov Initiative of Creative Students discussed higher education, sustainability and how to improve both in Ukraine.
At the core of this strategy were existing and upcoming grassroots projects at their university – all of them developed by the participants. netzwerk n and WECHANGE trainers supported them with a variety of methods and access to both platforms.
The result? Happy participants, a clear strategy how to proceed and a message three days later: We started working on our new project. Or, as Natasha, one of the local coordinators, put it: „To see all these active, creative people makes me understand, that our country is not defeated.“
An Ukrainian TV Channel published a short video of the seminar which you can see here .
P.S. Those of you not understanding Russian, here’s a partial translation of the video into German of Inken Marei Kolthoff (the project manager for netzwerk Osteuropa) and one Ukrainian participant speaking.
Translated by Karina Bakhteeva (thank you!)
Inken Marei Kolthoff, project manager of netzwerk osteuropa: „We enable exchange for sustainability initiatives at universities. […] We see students as an essential resource to transform the society and develop it further.“
Our partner Marina Konovalchuk tells us: „We need to learn how to write project proposals for university and urban development. We have dreamed about changes to come long enough.“
Annual Report 2016
This report will give you an idea of the variety and nature of the seminars and workshops which we held as well as the methods we used. In so doing, we hope to widen your perspective on Eastern Europe and the positive impulses it holds for us. But most of all, we wish to encourage you to think outside the box (more often) and be inspired by changes taking place in the face of adversity. Enjoy!
The Eastern European project GREEN has been financed from 2015 until the end of 2016 by the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their program „Civil Society in Eastern Partnership and Russia“.