How to set up a youth network?

Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Ukraine – youth leaders from Order of Malta Relief Organisations gathered from six countries on the first weekend of March in Romania. During the workshop they closed the international project going on for more than two years, and at the same time they started to build the foundations of a long term cooperation.

Evaluation and construction – these keywords could summarize the topic of the international meeting held at Vlaha village, close to Cluj Napoca. The creation of the currently developing network started in 2013 by the initiative of the Order of Malta Central and Eastern Europe Steering Committee, who developed an international project in order to revitalize and improve the quality of existing youth work operations.

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Photo: Eitvydas Bin

More than two years ago a preparatory meeting took place in Lithuania, then the planning went on in the Czech Republic. The next event in Rome, last March was focused on the Erasmus+ opportunities and other international projects. In the autumn, during the workshop held at Budapest the main goal was to give an insight to volunteer management through discussions and diverse tasks (you can read more about the event in this article). The closing event between 5th and 8th March in Romania had the basic aim to evaluate the strategic objective of the long term project and to set the foundations of the way of working in a network further on.

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Photo: Eitvydas Bin

What does that mean in practice? During the first part of the meeting the participant countries presented and discussed the initial and the final stage achieved with the support and help of the project. While working and solving problems in everyday life we often do not see the big process going on. For this reason it was useful to step back a bit at the sessions of the workshop to see the big picture. Evaluating and analyzing the program is necessary in order to find the mistakes, realise the outcome, and get motivation for the following work.

How to go further? Youth leaders from all the participating countries agreed that the program cannot stop with being satisfied with all the results achieved. They decided to continue and develop the work they have started, among different circumstances as before. They symbolically signed the network paper, which meant they would all like to contribute in creating the foundations of the cooperation.

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Signing the network (Photo: Csaba Babus)

Two days of hard (sometimes relaxing) work, well-structured (sometimes falling apart) planning, intensive and creative (sometimes tiring and getting stucked) moments followed, while working relationships (sometimes friendships) were strengthened. After all, the team formed into a network, and they were able to come up with short and long term plans regarding their following work. As the last challenge, they created the drafts of the official statement of the network and a presentation introducing the aims and ideas they would like to work on.

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Presentation of the network (Photo: Eitvydas Bin)

As a result of the workshop, the Malteser Youth Network in Central and Eastern Europe was created. The mission of the network is developing the Malteser youth work and volunteering through international partnerships. The vision is to get recognition on youth work and volunteering as an important and vital part of the society and the Order of Malta Relief Organizations.

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In order to reach this, they set the directions of the activities within the official statement. The goals are to:

  • Transfer of know-how and share experiences and best practices between members;
  • Improve the youth & volunteering work on national levels
  • Develop common projects, activities & programs
  • Provide advices, consultations and other needed support to the network members
  • Strengthen PR &FR on national and international level by promoting a common identity
  • Empower young people by encouraging their personal & professional development
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Photo: Eitvydas Bin

After setting the foundation and some of the basic rules, all participants were about to go back to their own countries, and they could enter the period of the construction of the international network. Until the beginning of the summer they set plans, deadlines, basic roles of members. In the beginning, the cooperation will start with using digital technology, helping to cope with the distance, and at the same time hoping to have a another chance to meet and work again personally.

At the last evening, one of the facilitators of the project closed the program and started the long term cooperation with the following words: “There is an African saying: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I hope you have found good company for being on the road.”