The 2023 European Summer School

© Stefanie Loos

The annual European Summer School took place in Berlin-Wannsee from August 24th to August 27th with 23 participants and 3 fellows in attendance. Out of the 23 participants, 17 are new in the role as a Peer Educator and were trained in their new role within the programme.

Diversity oriented approach

During the programme, participants got to know the Understanding Europe team and each other through teambuilding exercises. Participants could reflect their own social positioning and their experiences of privilege, racism and other forms of discrimination in a workshop. The workshop also served as a preparation for the upcoming keynote and the Photovoice workshop the next day.

The keynote with speaker Sinthujan Varatharajah dealt with the colonial heritage and continuities in contemporary Europe in photography. Initiated through reflections of the invention and use of the camera, participants were able to reflect on the different aspects of the camera as a tool of colonial rule, but also as empowerment. The Keynote introduced diverse and critical perspectives on the daily use of the camera in our contemporary societies and set the basis for the Photovoice Workshop with the facilitator and photographer Mariochukwu Washington-Ihieme.

Photovoice is a participatory method that gathers participant-taken photographs and narratives to translate experience into actionable knowledge. With Mario’s guidance, participants took photos that they associated with a given topic and wrote a short text about it.

The Peer Educators received training in the newly developed workshops on Europe, Social Justice, Climate Justice and Participation by the fellows and discussed training methods and their pedagogical experiences in Buddy groups. With the Buddy groups accompanying the Peer Educators in their new role, Peer Education stays at the centre of all the activities of the Understanding Europe Network.

New course topics & Toolbox structure

This year each of the four Fellows have worked on one of the following course topics: Europe, Participation, Social Justice and Climate Justice. Based on a needs analysis conducted within the network, they have updated the courses (on the basis of our toolbox structure) with new perspectives, examples, methods and inclusive approaches. Their work has consisted on gathering and working with existing materials developed in previous years by the Understanding Europe Network.

During the Summer School, existing and new Peer Educators had the opportunity to attend modules on each of the different courses. These courses are framed and structured on the basis of the toolbox structure consisting of 5 phases:

  • Phase 1: Welcome & getting to know each other
  • Phase 2: Who is in? Introduction to the topic
  • Phase 3: Deep dive and group presentations
  • Phase 4: Debriefing
  • Phase 5: Wrap up and feedback

Moreover, the concept of the Toolbox was presented to the Peer Educators once again, with all the new changes having been implemented. The Peers were able to explore around, ask questions and get familiar with this new tool that will allow them to prepare the upcoming Crash Courses more easily.

Planning a Training for Trainers (T4T)

In autumn and winter, most Training for Trainers (T4Ts) take place in the project countries. The peer educators are responsible for the programme at these two to three-day seminars. They used the last day of the Summer School to gain confidence for this task and to benefit from the individual experiences of other group members. In a trusting atmosphere, different training scenarios were played out and role assignments discussed.

The Buddy System has also been implemented. This way, the Peer Educators will have the opportunity to help each other and have someone to ask questions and even collaborate in some way. During the Summer School the Peers were paired up and had time to have the opportunity to have the initial introduction to each other. The foundations have been laid to continue collaborating in the coming months and to evaluate the results of this buddy system.

After four intensive days, many participants found it difficult to say goodbye to the group and the special Understanding Europe vibes.