What holds diverse societies together? How can we determine the contours of peaceful, open and solidarity-driven coexistence in a context of diversity? This June, 100 young committed people from across Europe will come together to discuss this issue with activists, politicians and experts at our Young Europeans´ Forum (YEF19) in Berlin. We’re organizing the YEF in cooperation with the Aladdin Project and UNESCO.
As we face a swelling tide of populist voices and polarizing forces, it has become abundantly clear that cooperative living together is not to be taken for granted. Those who wish to ensure social cohesion is sustained, must commit to cultivating it, and to seeking connections across different lifestyles, worldviews and values. On the one hand, diversity of this nature – which distinguishes modern societies – makes living together more demanding. But on the other hand, diversity is also a resource that must be tapped in developing new and innovative ideas.
“Building Bridges for Social Cohesion” is therefore the theme of the YEF19, which brings together young committed people between the ages of 21 and 29 from across the European Union and from Turkey. Each participant shares a common commitment to promoting social cohesion, democratic values and a peaceful living together in the context of cultural diversity in their home country. Following the motto “learn - connect - transfer,” the YEF19 offers them a platform through which they can exchange ideas, experiences and good practices. “It's about learning from and with each other on how to shape social cohesion in local communities,” explains Julia Tegeler, project manager at the Bertelsmann Stiftung. “Our participants are themselves already multipliers for good practices. At the YEF19, they have the opportunity to work together on developing solutions, networking, and they can apply the insights they acquire here to their own activities at home.”
In various interactive formats such as networking sessions, good practice workshops and idea factories, the participants have the opportunity to explore various issues associated with social cohesion: What are the bottom-line values needed for living together in open, diverse and rapidly changing societies, and how can we defend these values? What can we do to promote intercultural dialogue and a culture of democratic debate? How can we strengthen public confidence in democracy and expand political and social inclusion – in our own city or community in particular?
Our studies show social cohesion has to be shaped locally, where people meet in everyday life and get to know and trust each other. Young people who demonstrate commitment to social cohesion in cities and communities, in youth organizations, social movements or neighborhood projects play an important role here. They are already co-creators of the present who have the opportunity to shape and influence our future.
This is reason enough for us as Bertelsmann Stiftung, together with The Aladdin Project and UNESCO, to learn from young stakeholders’ experiences, their views and beliefs at YEF19, and to contribute research findings from our projects to the discussion. Empirical research and practical aids on issues such as social cohesion, values education in pluralistic societies and the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2018 "Living diversity - shaping society" can also help facilitate the transfer of knowledge to good practice.
The YEF19 will take place in Berlin, June 25 – 27, 2019. But the exchange of ideas is already underway: The young committed ones selected by the project partners have already begun networking with each other discussing various issues. Our project uses the online tools Slack and Zoom for pre-communication and pre-networking before the YEF19 takes place in Berlin.
Further information about the YEF19 can be found in our flyer.