weReurope

ICD Conference - Sofia

Intercultural Dialog and Lifelong Learning in South East Europe - Research meets Practice

Thursday 11th - Friday 12th March 2010

The 4th model ICD-conference (Conference on Intercultural Dialogue) in the course of the project weReurope - European Lifelong Learning by Intercultural Dialogue took place in Sofia at the National Palace of Culture (Cinema Lumière) and was organised by Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI), Austrian Science and Research Liaison Office (ASO) Sofia, Bulgaria.

South Eastern Europe is one of the most remarkable world regions for complexity and broad cultural diversity. The recent historical developments have changed the ways and quality of respectful exchange substantially. Several pilot activities in SEE have shown the value of intercultural competences for the SEE societies and practical activities have helped to gain experiences. The organisers of the Sofia conference invited professionals:

to bring them closer together and to inspire further cooperation.

Again, as in all previous ICD-Conferences, there was a focus on interactive tools, interweaving contents and methods. Invited Experts from the region gave inputs and facilitated workshops and plenary debates.

54 persons from 12 EU and 6 non-EU member countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey) were actually participating at one and a half days event, coming from Universities or other research and education institutions.

On Thursday, 10th March afternoon the Conference started with a warm welcome by the hosts, Felix Gajdusek, Zlatka Pandeva and Maria Schwarz-Wölzl (ZSI/ASO), followed by the representative from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, Irina Ivantcheva, who gave an introduction on Intercultural Dialogue in Bulgaria. The keynote speech was jointly delivered by Savvas Katsikides, University of Cyprus, Department of Social and Political Sciences (Cyprus) and Marios Efthymiopoulos, Strategy International (Greece) to open up the debate on interculturality and in particular its implementation in South Eastern Europe.

According to the slogan "talking to each other instead of about each other" all participants were invited to involve actively and to contribute to the "Carpet of Symbols and Memories". Objects from Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Turkey were presented and stories of personal memories and experiences exchanged around tables of 7-8 participants. Again, as in previous conferences, people got to know each other via the object and the story and thanks to this icebreaker, people communicated in new constellations during the coffee break.

The "Living Intercultural Library", introduced by Felix Gajdusek was probably an unfamiliar method to many of the participants. A "Living Book" is a person that has chosen to be a public representative of a certain group, with the aim to overcome prejudices and stereotypes. For "readers" this is an opportunity to "borrow" another person and ask her/him what they want to know.
The "Book titles", participants had submitted beforehand were displayed on green T-shirts for the audience to be chosen. One "book" could be read by 2 "readers" at the same time. Readers had 35 minutes for each book and after that changed for a second round with new books.
Concluding the first conference day, Emilia Ilieva asked "Readers" and "Books" to rate their satisfaction with the exercise and to answer whether and on which occasions they would use this method. Satisfaction was rather high both on books' and readers' sides.

In the evening partners, experts and participants were invited for a Reception in a typical restaurant, where there was not only traditional Bulgarian food served - Bulgarian musicians and their rousing music made them even dance.

Friday 11th March started with another intercultural wake up-exercise: Participants were invited to look around for somebody close who has another mother language. The 2 partners then simply had to count 1 - 2 - 3, but alternatively in their own languages, like edno - zwei - tri - eins - dve - drei, and so on. Sounds simple but was efficient to really wake up ...

The ICD-Conference continued with the "Intercultural Market Place" in 2 rounds. Experts presented their workshop topics on different aspects of Lifelong learning in Research and Practice. Participants could choose 2 out of 6. Each workshop had a reporter to support the discussion and to keep record for the next group to continue:

After the coffee break, participants changed the table and continued the discussion where the other group had stopped (45 min.). Finally the whole discussion was summed up for the presentation in the plenary by experts with the help of reporters' notes on flip charts.

Intercultural Perspectives
In order to address and discuss common and different perspectives, needs and questions of researchers and practitioners in the field, a fish bowl discussion was prepared, moderated by Emilia Ilieva and Felix Gajdusek in 2 groups. The plenary split up in "researchers" and "practitioners" (according to self assessment). Each group had to deal with the question, what researcher and practitioners need from each other. Participants identified their needs and put questions to the opposite party. Back in the plenary the fish bowl discussion, moderated by Emilia Ilieva, started with a question to 3 researchers "Should we learn or learn to unlearn?" They could be replaced by somebody from the plenary, who wanted to enter the discussion. This happened several times, then it was the practitioners' turn to continue the discussion ("How much theory do you need in your every day work?" e.g.)

Wrapping up: Future perspectives of ICD in SEE
The concluding plenary of the 4th ICD Conference was moderated by Felix Gajdusek. Participants formed one big circle and gave their critical comment in a "flashlight": Was the title "Intercultural Dialogue and Lifelong Learning in South East Europe. Research meets Practice" met by the event?
Participants on the one hand stated that they appreciate the opportunity for shared experiences, for exchange and networking and enjoyed the meeting thanks to the good organisation. Others regretted that the discussion was too general and did not go deep enough to address the real problems of the outside world. Many felt inspired, took along new tools and intended to transfer them into their work. The atmosphere was constructive and people could easily participate. The ICD Conference was considered an improvement for interculturality and a starting point to intensify the dialogue.

At the end Felix Gajdusek thanked all participants for this unique experience, especially as it would not be possible to bring all participants here again for a 2nd time. He invited all partners of weReurope, researchers and experts to join the Farewell dinner at "Manastirska magernica". The majority followed the invitation and discussions continued over the excellent meal.
Special thanks to Zlatka Pandeva for her engagement and perfect organisation of the event!

All ICD-Conference material can be downloaded here: [Format: pdf]

Copyright - weReurope 2009