ICD Conference - Vienna

Overcoming Borders - Getting along with Diversity

Friday, 30 January 2009

The first model ICD-Conference (Conference on Intercultural Dialogue) in the course of the project weReurope - European Lifelong Learning by Intercultural Dialogue took place in the most fitting ambiente of Vienna´s Österreichisches Museum für Volkskunde (The Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art, founded in 1895 and housed since 1917 in the Schönborn Garden Palace in the Josefstadt district).

The overarching theme was "(Past and Present) Border Conflicts and Intercultural Competence" focusing on geographical as well as on social borders, different educational and cultural backgrounds and on European answers laid down in the Lisbon Treaty. According to the philosophy of participation, all participants had an active role to play to make the conference a success.
As a first of a series of five intercultural dialogue conferences (ICD), the Vienna conference combined relevant content with the presentation and application of innovative (inter)active methods for:

Content and Methodology- Those who are there, are important!

The conference was opened by Ms Mag. Patrizia Jankovic (Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture) and Ms Ursula Großruck (Head of Dept. National LLP agency).

More than 60 participants and core partners shared innovative methods of getting to know each other by the(non-cognitive) metaphorical collection of a "Carpet of Symbols and Memories":
They had been asked to bring along as their "entrance-ticket" one personal item, which had to originate from either/or Austria (AT), Germany (DE), Slovakia (SK), Czech Republic (CZ), Slovenia (SI), Italy (IT), Poland (PL), Hungary (HU). The object had to be linked to a personal memory or experience and should symbolise participants´ relationships to one of the above neighbour countries. These personal stories were told during the introduction and thus not only brought to life personal memories but easily created new relationships.

In the following panel discussion on "Lifelong Learning in Europe", participants and partners together explored backgrounds from neighbouring countries (SK/CZ/SI/PL) on the "state of the art" of adult and lifelong learning and the opportunities of Intercultural Dialogue as part of Lifelong Learning.

At noon, together with vivid informal encounters at the buffet, the "Carpet of Symbols and Memories" was launched successfully - in reality!

Can there be anything like European Identity?

In the afternoon, the group of participants, who meanwhile had teamed up, embarked together on the adventures of "community based conflict solving", which gave everyone a hands on experience on how involuntary migration feels - lead by the communication expert from Canada/Poland Dr. Hania M. Fedorowicz, M.A.
During this workshop the Talking stone proved a unfamiliar but powerful instrument. The experience of using a "talking object" was a very strong experience for most of the participants: a stone was put in the middle of he table and anybody who wished to speak could only do as long as she/he took the stone. Some people felt blocked, others, who usually are not the first to speak felt confirmation when holding the stone and talking. The stone represented an agreement that was taken very seriously.

The final input focussed on The Lisbon Treaty and possible answers on "good governance"- questions raised throughout the day (by Ms Mag. Julita Carmen Ratzenberger, Representative of the EC in Vienna).

The first ICD-Conference was concluded by participants feedback and a résumé by the conference-observers - Elisabeth Penzias, a Viennese journalist, and Finbar Lillis, UK-expert and partner - who had been interviewing and collecting participants´ views on possible learning outcomes of one single day, and views on the highlights and weak-points of the conference setting.
(These findings will consequently feed into the "ICD-script", which develops as work in progress, throughout the 5 ICD conferences).

The day was rounded up with a "dinner-amical" in one of Vienna´s most intercultural neighbourhoods, in the district of Ottakring, spiced with short deliberations of MR Norbert Riedl (as a representative of the funding body, Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture) and MS Ula Schneider, artist and project manager of "SOHO" in Ottakring.

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

Copyright - weReurope 2009