In November 2016, 8 young people were chosen to represent Leeds at a training course in Lille, France, titled ‘Lead the Future with Social and Solidarity Economy’. We were lucky enough to be part of the people selected to attend the 9 day course and although it was a busy week, we were able to learn so much from both the training and each another.
5 partner cities of Lille were represented on the course: Erfurt (Germany), Turin (Italy), Wroclaw (Poland), Lille (France) and Leeds (UK). The training was organised by a team from Histoire de Savoirs, a French non-government organisation working in the field of non-formal education and was funded by the European Commission’s ERASMUS+ programme. The aim of the training was to learn and reflect on Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), to encourage active youth participation in local community and wider society, and to encourage networks across Europe. This was to be achieved through designing of SSE projects and sharing ideas.
Our first day mostly included travel, and after a few hours of settling in we met with the team from Histoire de Savoirs to collect our welcome packs for the duration of the course. We met other participants and were able to join in the monthly language event taking place at the hostel. For the duration of the course we shared rooms with participants from the other cities, so we could really socialise, network and even try to learn some new languages at all available opportunities! The entire course was delivered in English, so we were incredibly lucky to be surrounded by participants who spoke English as their 2nd language extremely well.
We spent the next day getting to know one another, finding out more about the course and a cultural visit to Lille. From then on we were able to get stuck into work on our projects! This included presentations on SSE and sharing our own thoughts on this based on the cities we were representing and the overall situation in our own countries. This provoked some interesting discussions in the room, as we began to see that we all had different interpretations and understandings of SSE, with different rules and regulations depending on the country we were from. We used these discussions to share some examples of SSE (or how we understood SSE) projects from our own countries and local cities. Despite our differing definitions, we came to realise that there were some key themes in the group’s understanding of SSE. These included but were not limited to non-hierarchical structures, democratic decision making processes, ideas that are good for people and for the planet, ethical purchasing and supporting local businesses. Then, we all received a very warm welcome from Marie-Pierre Bresson, the Deputy Mayor for International Relations, in Lille City Hall and gained further understanding of SSE in Lille.
We used a ‘dragon dreaming’ methodology to develop our projects, working in mixed groups with people who shared similar ‘dreams’. This was a new way of learning for all of us, and it was great so see our dreams start to turn into realistic objectives. Some dreams were certainly more abstract than others to begin with! We worked together throughout the week to create project ideas that we presented at a public event towards the end of the week. The event included an introduction from Christiane Bouchart, the Lille City Councillor on SSE, along with other key representatives in SSE from across the city. We were able to practice our presentation skills and gather feedback about our ideas; there were some great projects that could definitely have the potential to develop across Europe one day.
Whilst in Lille, we each had the opportunity to meet with or visit 2 of 5 SSE projects. There was a range of different projects; ‘ENERCOOP’ working with green electricity, ‘La Passarelle’ a social economy grocery shop, ‘GECO’ converting cooking oil into biofuel, ‘NASDAQ’ local culture and arts events including a summer festival and ‘Les Blongions’ protecting natural sites and providing volunteering opportunities. Between the 8 representatives from Leeds we were able to cover all 5 of the projects. It was important to see different types of SSE projects in action.
Not only did we gain a lot of knowledge surrounding SSE from the training and visits, we also developed our understanding and awareness of other cultures. At the ‘Intercultural Evening’, representatives from each city brought along some examples of local delicacies and traditional food from their countries. Our food that we took along included Yorkshire mixture, marmite, scones and pease pudding, which made for some interesting combinations (we even witnessed someone try marmite on a cherry scone!).
We spent the last day with an introduction to Erasmus and the ‘YouthPass’, being able to document our learning and match this to specific competences. We each gained valuable learning from the training that we will be able to apply to our own personal development, whilst strengthening relationships between ourselves and partner cities. Now, we are in the process of feeding back on what we learnt to our various networks, whilst staying in touch with participants from each of the cities. We have all been sharing a variety of interesting articles, videos and examples of SSE projects through our Facebook group and through emails.
We look forward to hearing about the next event, maybe something will be hosted in Leeds?
Rosie Brookes and Grace Lawrenson
You can find out more about Histoire de Savoirs and read their blog on our training here: http://histoiredesavoirs.com/wordpress/en/lead-the-future-european-training/