Our project addressed the problem of ignoring and disregarding young people’s voice in the Polish public debate on such socially essential topics as the climate, mental health, minority rights. It also tackled the problem of social polarisation among youths and between adolescents and adults. Our experience shows that many young people feel they are not understood by adults, are patronised and controlled by them. On the other hand, the EUkids Online (2018) study shows that young activists often fall victim to hate speech from peers representing different outlooks.
Within the project, we created the pilot School of Communication and Participation for which we recruited young people who already had some experience with social activity. We organised meetings devoted to such topics as diagnosing and defining youth’s needs, communication according to Non-Violent Communication (NVC), storytelling, public speaking, writing skills and press release generation. Young participants of these meetings identified topics they found relevant and organised debates on them. Adolescents were broken down into groups and carried out several campaigns and initiatives – on support in mental health crisis, on the need for sex education, on voluntary work (we also prepared a map or local engagement opportunities in Bielsk-Biała), on respect for minority rights, on probiotics or sustainable habits. Together with TOTU FILM, we produced 13 short spots on these initiatives. Some of them featured participants answering questions concerning the project. One film was a personal summary of the year by one of the project participants. It was noticed by Mateusz Pacewicz, known, among others, for such films as ‘The Hater’ and ‘Corpus Christi’, who contacted the author through us and declared the desire to commence artistic cooperation.
During the project evaluation, its participants claimed that it had positive impact on the development of their skills – it changed their style of working and collaboration with others, it also boosted their self-esteem, and readiness to speak in public. Furthermore, 4 out of 6 youth teams continue their activities even though the project has been finished. To see the project outcomes, visit www.mlodzi2021.szkolazklasa.org.pl.