- Between the 6th and 10th of September, Iași County (Romania) hosted two large-scale events dedicated to young people and youth workers from rural areas.
- The European Rural Youth Summit (ERYS), organized this year for the first time, aimed to strategically develop the rural youth ecosystem in Europe.
- The Rural Youth Summit was held in parallel, a strategic national event focused on developing training and networking opportunities for young people from rural Romania.
- Both events brought together over 200 young people, youth workers and relevant decision makers from 18 countries.
The Governance of the European Youth Village program (Active Development Association and the Go Free – the Association for the Support of Civil Society) together with the National Agency for Community Programs in the Field of Education and Vocational Training (ANPCDEFP), which implements in Romania the European programs Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps, organized between the 6th and the 9th of September 2023 the first edition of the European Rural Youth Summit (ERYS). In parallel, the Rural Youth Summit (between the 7th and the 10th of September 2023), a national event, also took place, already reaching its fourth edition.
Under the slogan „From RURAL to PLURAL”, the European event dedicated to young people and youth workers from rural areas – ERYS – took place in Dorobanț village, in Aroneanu commune, Iași county, and represented the scaling up of the three previous national editions. The Aron Vodă School in Aroneanu hosted over 200 young people and youth workers from 18 countries, as well as local, national and European decision-makers.
Organized under the umbrella of the European Youth Village Program, ERYS aimed at the strategic development of the rural youth ecosystem in Europe, as well as the creation of spaces, contexts and platforms through which young people could make their voices heard and could share experiences and perspectives on youth work in rural areas in several European countries.
In the medium and long term, ERYS aims to develop youth ecosystems in as many countries as possible that are part of the European Youth Village program, and to put young people in the very center of these ecosystems.
Moreover, the event aimed to develop a set of public policy recommendations to improve the situation of young people in rural Europe. This set of recommendations is based on and reflects the needs collected from young people, for young people and for their benefit, with the aim of sharing them with the decision-makers and the relevant stakeholders from the European Parliament, as well as those among national authorities. The public policy proposal was discussed with representatives at European level in a dedicated panel. The final version will also be publicly available soon.
In parallel with the European event, the fourth edition of the Rural Youth Summit took place, a strategic event organized with the aim of developing training and networking opportunities for young people from rural areas in Romania and to facilitate dialogue between them and representatives of public authorities and other relevant actors at national and European level. Three editions of the Summit have already been organized in previous years: in Bacău (2019), in Aroneanu commune in Iași county (2021) and in Slimnic commune in Sibiu county (2022).
The two Summits had a strong learning component. ERYS participants were able to choose from 15 workshops, while a further 18 were available for participants at the national component. The topics addressed were diverse, from community organization, values in youth work and volunteering, methods of intervention in the community, inclusive spaces, communication and social media, environmental education and more. One of the joint sessions, where the participants of the two events came together, was the Rural Youth Talks session, where young people from rural Spain, Norway and Romania shared their personal stories, their challenges and examples of good practices from their communities.
The two Summits were financed with the support of the European Union, through the Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps educational programs, and of the local partners – the Town Hall and Local Council of Aroneanu, Iași county.
European Youth Village is a strategic community development and community organizing program, which aims to create autonomous youth communities in rural areas and strengthen the public policy framework at national and European level, providing a space for the exchange of best practices in the field of youth. One of the activities organized within EYV is the organization of the „European Youth Village” competition, a title offered to villages or communes that want a change in the community. The EYV program started in 2018 and is coordinated nationally by the Association for Active Development and the Go Free – The Association for the Support of Civil Society. More information about the European Youth Village program is available here.
The ERYS Event was amazing! I spent unforgettable moments surrounded by young people passionate about the countryside and sustainability. I met people from different countries, sharing experiences and learning new perspectives. We participate in inspiring workshops, discuss innovative solutions and create lasting bonds. We enjoyed delicious traditional meals and explored the natural beauty of the place. We dance, laugh and celebrate cultural diversity. It was an enriching meeting that motivated me to continue working for rural development and to keep the connection between generations alive. It was a wonderful experience that I will always remember with a smile. (Pablo, Spain)
This Summit has truly opened my eyes to the challenges faced by rural communities and the importance of involving public resources in addressing these issues. I’ve met so many wonderful people from across Europe and even the USA. It’s incredible how close we’ve become in such a short time. To cut a long story short, love you all, and see you soon! (Tanja, Germany)
As a young person who comes from and grew up in the countryside, I am very happy that there finally is such a context as the Rural Youth Summit that brings together young people from the villages and communes of Romania – and this year also from Europe, through the European Rural Youth Summit – because in this way we can create an active community of young people from rural areas and non-formal opportunities for learning and involvement in the villages of Romania. As a participant in the Summit, I can say that from here the desire of the young people to get involved, to contribute to achieving the change they want, to be heard and to contribute to the development of a common vision for the sector of rural youth can be seen very clearly. (Ana, Romania)
It was really exciting to see the acceptance email and the excitement lived with me after the email till the end of the ERY summit. Meeting new people is always exciting and new people always provide food for thought. But sometimes food can be too much and be wasted, however, the European Rural Youth Summit provided everything to keep all these ideas, thoughts and feelings to not be wasted. Overall, the experience is super unique compared to many other projects and summits that I have been in. People are here for a reason and they all are excited to share what they have done before and what they want to do, trying to find people to collaborate and make bigger changes. Organizational part is done with care and from thoughtful people. Every need or request is being taken care of to the level of giving the most in the situation. (Van, Armenia)
I think the problems are similar throughout Europe. Young people do not want to stay in the villages because they think that in order to survive in the village they have to become farmers, and that this would be the only option in the countryside. But I think the world is changing and young people need to have access to the whole infrastructure, similarly to those from the urban areas”. (Monika, Slovakia)
I haven’t seen so much energy and determination in the same place for a long time. It was discussed about the limited opportunities of young people from rural areas, the lack of infrastructure, the accessibility of school transport, the need for youth centers and encouraging young people to participate in the life of their community. I saw high school or university students who understand better than some local politicians the way local administration works, young people who went to local council meetings in their village, opening a dialogue with the authorities about the needs and challenges they face.
There were four days of training, workshops and exchanges of best practices. I was happy to share at one of the workshops during the Summit about the experience of working with small communities, civic tools, and community organizing practices. We talked about the Constitution, rights, fundamental freedoms, the law of access to information of public interest and the potential of small communities. They gave me hope and confidence. Our democracy needs active citizens and a strong civil society, from villages to big cities. (Luca, Romania)
This year’s national Rural Youth Summit was organized in parallel with the first edition of the European Rural Youth Summit and took place in Aroneanu commune, Iaşi county. It was for me an experience full of energy, knowledge and socialization, an exchange of best practices.
I am satisfied with the way this program has grown and extremely grateful that I can be part of the young people who set the pace and rhythm in rural areas! Despite the fact that this event has grown in scale and can represent a challenge for the organizers, it has opened new doors for opportunities, towards the development of local communities with support at the national and European level, towards the conclusion of new collaborations and potential exchanges of experiences for us, the young people from rural areas.
On a personal level, I managed to get out of my comfort zone and I was captivated by the discussions held during the workshops: we identified the challenges and opportunities in organizing activities and events by accessing funding sources (for example, applying for funding opportunities through the European Solidarity Corps). I was also immersed in the workshops focused on the complexity of the environment and the vision related to it in rural areas, on the identification of personal values and those that facilitate the whole process in working with young people, and I managed to mobilize myself in a thinking exercise of a pilot campaign on the topic: free of charge and efficient transport for students from rural areas and for young people with few opportunities. I am confident that everything we put together after the workshops will reach and attract the attention of decision makers to act towards the needs of rural youth. For the local community I would like the opportunity to create a participatory budgeting project aimed at young people in the rural sector.” (Maria, Romania)