First GLEN Annual Event
First GLEN Annual Event – Are we making a difference?
3-6 November 2011, Werftpfuhl, Germany
The first GLEN Annual Event gathered around 70 former and current GLEN participants as well as representatives from various fields connected to Global Education on the German, EU and global level. Representatives from the German ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, representatives of the DARE Forum and two Southern partners of GLEN from India and Benin were among them.
The main question to be scrutinized during the Annual Event was ‘Are we making a difference?’, thus looking at the impact that Global Education and GLEN as an actor of it has on European level and beyond. The two aspects of this most lively discussed were the question for Southern participants in GLEN, coming out of a critical assessment about GLEN’s impact in the South, and the impact and involvement of GLEN on European policy level. Both resulted in the foundation of working groups dealing with further recommendations and proposals in these fields.
Apart from the input level, participants had the chance to meet and re-meet former GLEN colleagues, become informed about what’s new in GLEN and had the chance to Connect & Act during a one day long Open Space session. Out of this, several ideas for new GLEN initiatives have formed and we are curious to see and hear from these soon!
All in all, the first GLEN Annual Event has been a great success and an enjoyable and productive way for gathering the GLEN network together. We are looking forward to next year’s edition!
So logically, the first conversations start with memories: where did you go to for your internship? The obligatory GLEN-ice-breaker. The answers tell stories from all over the world: learning about sustainable agriculture in Benin, researching about Eco- Tourism in Georgia, organizing extracurricular activities in a pre-school in Mongolia. But as diverse as the stories are, they share one understanding: The internship was only a starting point. An experience that opened the door for new questions, perspectives and challenges. So the conversations as well as the workshops at the GLEN annual event quickly move from past to present. Where are we now and what will happen next? Why are we doing what we are doing and is it making any sense?
The first full day of the seminar was dedicated to these questions. In a panel discussion the impacts of GLEN were explored. With Anne-Marie Euzen as a former participant, tutor and lead-facilitator, Joseph Chackochan as a Southern partner from an NGO in India, Dorothea Groth as representative of the German ministry of development cooperation (one of the main sponsors of GLEN), and with the Global Education expert Harm-Jan Fricke, four very different perspectives were represented in the discussion. While Dorothea Groth praised the European dimension of GLEN she also reminded the audience that Global Education needs to be promoted more, to convince tax-payers to support it. Harm-Jan Fricke remarks went in a similar direction when he underlined that Global Education is not only about intercultural exchange and personal development, but also about agenda setting in Brussels, Berlin and other centers of political power. Joseph Chackochan described his two years of experience with receiving GLEN interns in his NGO. „We are very grateful for the exchange of ideas with the European students“ he said, „but the fact that the interns only speak English isolates them from the local community.“ This introduced a spark of skepticism into the discussion that was shared by Anne-Marie Euzen: „I have learned a lot through GLEN, but I am still looking for a way of development cooperation that operates really on a basis of mutual respect.“ Sometimes, she said, she was still afraid that Global Education could be misused as yet another way of prolonging European domination in the global South.
When the panel opened into a plenary discussion it became very visible that the question of the personal, social and political impact of Global Education was a burning issue for all seminar participants. While most seemed to agree that Global Education is a tool for personal development, this doesn’t satisfy the idealism of the majority. „I don’t just want to change my own perspective, I also want to set an example for others, showing them what a more sustainable lifestyle can look like in practice“, said the former GLEN European coordinator Kasia Szeniawska. And her„successor“ in the job, Anne Schollmeyer, added: „By now we have all understood that „helping the poor“ is oftentimes misused as a tool of keeping the global South dependent on the rich countries in the global North. But the question of how to eradicate poverty isn’t solved by us saying we focus only on intercultural exchange and personal development.“ Former GLEN participant Felix May then picked up Harm-Jan Fricke’s ideas and claimed: „If we really want to change our social and economical realities we need to change politics. Campaigning can be fun“ he added and invited the other seminar members to join him in the formation of a working group.
The ground was laid for a very active second day. While the first half of the seminar was about input, the second half was all about getting active. Following the motto „Connect and Act“, the participants were given the opportunity to form their own working groups and discussion circles. The topics ranged from how to become an entrepreneur, over how to fight structural racism to how to better include participants’ feedback in the GLEN cycle. The two most active workshops that lasted all day turned out to be „Sailing for Sustainability“ and „North-South relations within GLEN“. The workshop on „North-South relations“ was offered by Judith Blume and Magdalena Mazurek together with Emmanuel Zannou. Judith and Magdalena had just come back from their internship in Benin, where they had conducted a survey on how the GLEN partners in Benin perceive the program and the interns. The discussion that ensued indicated a strong agreement that the inclusion of the Southern partners remains one of the network’s main weaknesses. The fact that Emmanuel Zannou was invited to attend the GLEN annual event constituted one of the first steps to change this imbalance. His NGO in Benin (“Progrès et Solidarité”) has been a partner of GLEN for seven years now and he was invited to Europe and to the first GLEN annual event to share his experiences and to see how the preparation of the interns works in practice. „I am starting to understand that this concept of Global Education that you keep discussing here is actually something I do in practice everyday“ he said. „When I plant a tree together with my interns and when I teach them what it needs to grow. For me that is global education in practice. It’s only the things that you can really touch and feel that will change you. Words won’t stay in your head for long.“ He agreed with Magdalena’s and Judith’s observation that an inclusion of local interns in the program would be beneficial for all. „It’s problematic that in GLEN the concept of global education is always only discussed in a European context“ Judith noted. The wish for a North-South-program within GLEN, where interns are not only sent from Europe but also received in Europe seems to be getting stronger, even if that may mean that less Europeans can go on internships abroad.
While Judith, Magdalena and Emmanuel focused on improving the GLEN cycle, Caspar Klein sees GLEN as a starting point for a European campaign: „Sailing for Sustainability“. A group of about 15 Glennies used the GLEN annual event for planning a series of seminars on a sailing boat with which they will travel across the Baltic Sea. „We will use the fact that we are actually depending on the sea while we are sailing to address issues of sustainability related to oceans“ Caspar explained. The seminars on the ship will be held by former Glennies – using the strength of the network when it comes to motivated tutors. „Sailing along the shores of the Baltic Sea is also a great way of creating even stronger connections between the GLEN communities in Germany, Poland and the Baltic countries,“ Caspar added.
After a long day of discussions at the GLEN annual event, Saturday ended with a cherished / beloved tradition: the GLEN party. The fact that this year’s party was officially announced as a „social event“ didn’t stop the dancing… When gathering the participants for a last round of evaluation on Sunday morning, the co-organizer of the seminar, Jirka Panek, made one last announcement: „This is not only the first GLEN annual event. This is also a birthday party. Happy first anniversary GLEN FORUM.“ Exactly one year ago the FORUM of GE Multipliers, the association representing the former GLEN participants all over Europe, was formed to further facilitate engagement and active involvement within the network.
The FORUM as well as this weekend prove the same thing: GLEN remains a participant-based network. With room for disagreement, new visions and real involvement.
By Nadia Pantel