Text by Irene Dominioni
On October 26-29th, somewhere in Nantes, a very important event took place. Dozens of young people from around the EU, aged between 18 and 30, brought to the French town their youth projects, dealing with local communities in a wide range of fields, to share them, get to know each other, and start new collaborations.
The Nantes Creative Generations Forum, promoted by the city of Nantes and Nantes Métropole, was launched for the first time eight years ago, aiming to “encourage innovative citizen initiatives, openness to Europe, meetings and networking between young people from Nantes and Europe”, as it is stated on the website.
Since then, it has involved 400 participants from 36 nationalities and it awarded 12 projects in the “Cooperation Award” dedicated to new projects born from the collaboration between young people from Nantes and other Europeans. Also, it went 56 times on Youth to NCG Tour, an initiative that helps youth from Nantes meet former Forum participants to develop projects and get active on a European level.
The meaning of the event
The European Union promotes and provides funding to a number of events and initiatives dedicated to youth in various countries, but the Nantes Creative Generations Forum is something that deserves special attention.
Why? Because it goes beyond the general involvement of young people in international meetings and discussions, something that is certainly valuable per se and a principle that brings together most of these kinds of initiatives around the continent. Not only it stimulates active participation and sharing of experiences to learn from each other, it provides an opportunity to implement change, both in the lives of these young people and in the society. It provides hope that things can be better for them, and it does so by giving a chance to make them better themselves. This sounds like a rather idyllic statement, but it is, in fact, a reality.
The projects that the participants of the Forum presented this year, and others before them, are part of something that is essentially correlated to what we can call the European society. They act on a local level, but their meaning and capacity is international. And those people are, not only during the days of the Forum, but in their daily lives and routines, the European society that we wish for.
United, borderless, hard-working, and positive. This is something that needs to be fostered, because this youth represents the Europe that we will live in tomorrow. And, in times of growing anti-Europeanism, inequalities between member countries as well as for youth, migrating paths crossing and general disenchantment towards the future, the initiative and participation of youth is something that the EU desperately needs.
Some of the projects presented at the Forum are already well-established, while others are still under way. They deal with art, sustainability, music, health, interculturalism, activism, fighting against hate speech, education and many other topics. Most of them have issues with funding and how to maintain them alive and grow in the long period, and the Forum served at this scope too, not only to showcase their creativity but to receive feedback from each other and discuss about seeking for finances and fostering creativity.
Presenting their project “Inspire your teacher”, Cristina and Catarina, from Portugal, aim to emphasize the value of education and the fundamental role that teachers play in society, by involving young high school students to appreciate their teachers and stimulate them to do their job even better.
Teodor, from Bratislava, Slovakia, introduced his “DIY Skateparks” project, that would keep children away from the dangers of the streets by involving them in the construction of skateparks to play at.
Orsolya, from Hungary, presented a project called “Cargonomia“, where local organic food farmers in Budapest use bike-delivery service to sell their products.
Although there are many more that would be worthy of appreciation, these are only some of the projects that were presented. What is most important to note is that, for most of them, these projects are not the primary occupation for the people involved. They develop these projects during their free time, as volunteers. They do so because they believe in what they do, because they have faith that it is something that can improve society. And belief, a very underrated principle these days, is an essential element for change.
This is why the European Union needs to support young people’s initiatives and continue to foster events like the Nantes Creative Generations Forum, not only to make young people aware that they can do something for their society, but to give them a space to do it and to convince them that they have a responsibility to change what does not work, because their future, and the future of the EU, lies in their own hands. And we want them to be hands that act wisely, work hard, and build a better Europe.