THE TESTIMONY OF AGNESE, GROUP LEADER OF THE ‘YOU ARE WHAT YOU CONSUME’ PROJECT

Countries participating in the project: Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Ukraine.

Last February, Kora took part in its first youth exchange entirely ONLINE. What started as an experiment turned out to be an engaging and unique space for sharing and interaction among young people.

The purpose of the exchange “You Are What You Consume” was to raise awareness and collect information on a complex topic such as consumerism and its sustainability. We started with the discovery of our environmental footprint, a moment of shocking revelation for all participants, arriving at the creation of a video of good practices to consume less and more critically with the aim of raising awareness and involving people close to us.

But how was it possible to organize a week-long Youth Exchange between 5 European countries during a pandemic? Technology was a very valuable support, but as always the motivation and enthusiasm of the volunteers and organizers was the key pillar.
Gathering participants on social media weeks before the start of the exchange helped create a friendly and collaborative atmosphere. The days were divided in a balanced way: during the mornings there was a plenary meeting on the Zoom platform while the afternoons were dedicated to individual actions. There were interviews with their grandparents/parents about their consumption style in the last century, presentations about the food industry in their country and investigations in their closet discovering the composition of the clothes we wear every day. Finally, all activities were reported in the Facebook group of the exchange, feeding reflections and discussions.

All this was accompanied by the possibility of accessing themed rooms on the Gather Town platform. A real conference room but virtual, where you can not only visit rooms full of interactive content but also to meet the participants through avatars and talk to them via webcam, the site is permanent and accessible by anyone curious to learn more about critical consumption, here the link.

While we were motivated by how much was saved in terms of resources by not flying in from five different countries for an in-person exchange* (as shown by the shocking infographic) nothing can replace live interaction and its emotional reach. However, spaces for cross-cultural exchange were carved out that helped keep the mood of the participants high, including Carnival celebrations and an incredible Talent Show, with poetry readings, magic tricks, unplugged concerts and many other amenities.

Congratulations to all participants for their willingness to get involved, to the organizing associations for their professionalism and work behind the scenes and online, this first experiment in distance learning was a success from which to draw inspiration and lessons for the future.

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