Understanding Europe

We facilitate democratic citizenship education by and for young people

Training for Trainers, Azerbaijan 2019. © Stanie Loos

The transnational Educational Network Understanding Europe empowers young people in Europe by means of democratic citizenship education and seeks to give them a voice. To this end, we promote and advise on educational projects run by young people and committed to civic participation and a democratic, diverse and open-minded Europe.

Our educational formats and methods are based on the Peer Education approach: they are inclusive and dialogical thus supporting the participation of differently socialized target groups. The project creates a protected space for learning and collaboration, offering young people opportunities to explore, get to know themselves and better understand other world views and experiences.

At the center of Understanding Europe are our young Peers, who are aged between 16 and 28. They form the project’s European network and shape it on many levels and in different roles: as Trainers, Peer Educators, Coordinators and Fellows. Together, they implement Understanding Europe and develop it further – for example, in the context of transnational working groups. The Project Team sees itself as a learning partner and advisor in its collaboration with the Peers.

Organigram Understanding Europe. Design: Friederike Schlenz

  • The Trainers conduct workshops in tandem at general and vocational schools and create a space for young people to talk about European politics, the role of the media, democratic participation and their own lives. They see themselves as both moderators and discussion partners at eye level. Our qualification program with annual trainings (Trainings for Trainers) prepares them for their work in the classroom.
  • The Trainings for Trainers are organized and conducted by experienced young Peer Educators. They are responsible for the pedagogical work within the network upon completion of training at our European Summer School, which takes place annually in the Ruhr area. There, they receive training on educational formats and approaches, and methods of inclusive democratic citizenship education, which they then pass on to the Trainers.
  • The Coordinators implement the project on site: They coordinate the work of Trainers, supervise the local teams, act as contact persons for schools and local partners, and are responsible for their respective project budget. They meet at the annual Coordinators’ Meetings where they discuss challenges and opportunities of their work and receive training and advice. Since 2020, the Coordinators also learn about diversity-oriented organizational development in order to make their projects, teams and target groups more inclusive.
  • Our two annual Fellowship-Programs support and fund eight Fellows from Germany and all over Europe. During a six-month period the Fellows are mentored by experts and develop new innovative educational formats on topics related to media, democracy and digitalization. The new workshops are then published and integrated into our Educational Network so that young people throughout Europe can benefit from these new initiatives.

It is through this structure that our Educational Network reaches students in many different European countries and can adapt and localize its course formats. Multipliers in school and out-of-school education are also an important part of the project. They contribute to a process of mutual knowledge transfer as well as the development of educational materials and publications.

Understanding Europe is a project of the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe, funded by Stiftung Mercator. It is currently active in 11 European countries and is being implemented in cooperation with the European Youth Parliament (EYP) and Understanding Europe Germany e. V.. Further information on funding and partners can be found here: