Our Area Manager (North West and North Wales) Leigh attended a conference in Prague entitled ‘New Horizons: International Learning Opportunity for Young People’ this month. The conference provided a forum for organisations working with young people to network with one another and to share best practice on how best to develop international opportunities for young people. Leigh jotted down her thoughts and learning from the international event: read on if you want to hear her experience.

When I got the call asking me to attend the Erasmus+ conference I was understandably enthusiastic, firstly to learn and experience alongside international colleagues and secondly to visit Prague! A swift rearrange of a few things and I was soon on my way to the Czech Republic.

The conference focused on sharing knowledge around young people and how the representatives of the 4 EU countries in attendance (England, Austria, France, Czech Republic) could work in partnership to develop international opportunities. Split over three days I wasn’t sure what to expect at first but figured I’d make the most of the opportunity and ensure I walked away with a wealth of information. 

Monday

After an interesting journey to the hotel on Sunday evening and a rough night’s sleep I wasn’t quite ready for the energetic 9am introductory session that was planned, but nevertheless I pushed through and participated. The first day centred on lots of introductions to one another, but also to the Erasmus+ programme. Through partnerships, and supported by Ecorys- our National Agency they aim to support young people to find their own path, to realise their potential, broaden their horizons, improve employability and to provide more chances and to see and find better opportunities. All of the Erasmus+ programmes include two or more countries and are based on non-formal education programmes in the form of a Youth Exchange for a group or long term volunteering placement for individuals.

After a long day of exercises, PowerPoints and discussions it was time for dinner and a game of bowling that had been arranged for us… to top it all off, the French delegates brought local wines and savouries!

Tuesday

Another early start and I was feeling enthusiastic to hear more from other attendees in relation to their work, having numerous ideas in my head for potential programmes. We started by planning our introductory presentations: having 5 minutes to tell a European partner, whose first language is not English, everything we do at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust is easier said than done! After some thought  I designed a poster and incorporated our key messages, attitudes and STEVE outcomes. It soon became apparent that there was just one other organisation who had similar ideas around Leadership and developing opportunities similar to our method. Other ideas based off an explanation of our On Track to Achieve model were circulating also.

We rounded up Tuesday by venturing into Prague in the evening, staying about 20 minutes out of the centre it was just short taxi ride, and gave us out-of-towners the perfect opportunity to see the sights! 

Wednesday

This was our last full day and I was eager to come away with some concrete ideas around potential projects we could utilise at the Trust, and next steps on moving forward with this. Fortunately we were given some time in the morning to plan projects in more detail with those partners we were interested in working with. With the whole group working in pairs, myself and Abu, a French delegate working with NEET young people explored ideas around a Youth Exchange with 6-10 of our Community Champions. Firstly we took the route of a group of French young people would visit the UK and work with our group around what Leadership is, highlighting some key aspects of the Community Champions programme. Then the UK group would then visit France at a later date to gain knowledge of how they develop Leadership skills through non-formal education.

Wednesday afternoon into early evening involved an overview of the application process and the next steps in terms of support from our dedicated Ecorys mentor. Here we were given the opportunity to ask any questions and get clarity on a few things…naturally there were lots of questions!

It was Wednesday evening when everything was pieced together for me: I understood the aims and objectives of the Erasmus+ programme and how we, as an organisation could work to that model. Looking at a national offer I came away appreciating the key aspects of the programme and how I could feed these back to colleagues. We all exchanged contact details and informally chatted, in more detail about our roles within the organisations we work for.

Attending the New Horizons conference was a real experience for me, not only did I learn more about international opportunities for young people, and how to develop accordingly but I also learnt to appreciate how different countries and cultures work with young people and how we can utilise European models in the work that we do at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.