The first day of the youth conference "Power of Youth" was all about one thing: arriving.
60 young people from Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Germany, the Republic of Moldova and Azerbaijan arrived in the Georgian capital Tbilisi to talk about topics such as youth participation and activism, history, environmental protection and much more, and to network over the next few days. After a first meal together and getting to know each other, Maria Wilke, board officer of the EVZ Foundation, and Julia Luther from the Federal Foreign Office welcomed the young people. They emphasized how important their current and future role is and will be in countries shaken by wars and crises and that it is always also about maintaining communication with people who disagree as much as possible.
On the second day, Tbilisi greeted us with thunder, lightning and rain. Fortunately, the sun came out just as we started our day. Following the motto of the youth conference "Power of Youth", we started with a Fishbowl discussion: Hosted by Merle Schmidt from the EVZ Foundation, Julia Luther from the Federal Foreign Office, Maria Wilke from the EVZ Foundation, Nino Mikhanashvili from the Youth Agency Georgia, Leyla Jabbarzade from the youth NGO Common Sense Azerbaijan and Marius Balan as a young expert from the Republic of Moldova gave their definition of "Power of Youth". A lively discussion ensued, in which the other young participants actively contributed with valuable inputs. We were particularly pleased to receive a visit from the German Embassy in Tbilisi.
After the discussion and lunch, we moved on to the workshops and the participants were asked to divide up. Felix Weiß from DRONI offered a workshop on the mechanisms of fake news and disinformation and how to counter them. Prokhar Navitski provided a space to learn more about the challenges and approaches regarding migration and flight while Irakli Khvadagiani from SovLab focused on the post-Soviet states and their challenges regarding history reappraisal and civil society engagement.
In the evening, the participants had the chance to take part in a voluntary evening program organized by our young team of experts consisting of Marius, Melita, Alexander and Anastasiya, where the participants had the chance to get to know the beautiful city of Tbilisi.
Since conference days are best started with movement, there was again a small warm-up exercise on Friday morning. Then the participants got to address the other participants in short and strong statements, providing them with inspiration and means of reflection. A candidate from Ukraine spoke about her hometown and her desire for peace, a candidate from Armenia reflected on the many opportunities open to participants and how to make the best use of them all, as to gain experience and grow from them. A candidate from Georgia shared her lack of understanding about what she sees as the rather politically inactive young people of Georgia and her wish for this to change soon. After some more inspiring speeches, it was time for a short breather and lunch.
The second part of the day consisted of workshops and study visits. Among other things, Maxim Cirlan from Moldova presented the Queer Voices Film Festival, Giorgi Rodionov from Georgia demonstrated in his gallery on the outskirts of Tbilisi how art can be used to shape one's immediate environment for the better, and Ana Trapaidze from the NGO Dighomi Meadows gave a workshop on activism. In a study visit to a suburb of Tbilisi, Medea Pavliashvili showed how she and her colleagues established the idea of crowdfunding in Georgia and how they successfully provided the Martkopi Youth Center with the necessary infrastructure.
In the evening, it was again up to the participants to take the agenda into their own hands: In an open space, they had the chance to present their projects, ideas or simply topics that were important to them. The other participants were free to switch between the different activities taking place at the same time.
On the last day of the "Power of Youth" conference, the participants could choose between city tours on specific topics. Following the motto of the conference, there was a guided tour on how to empower people through marches and protests, but also a tour through the old city and one through Tbilisi's famous backyards. A tour through the neighborhood where the Untitled Gallery by Giorgi Rodionov is located, who gave a workshop the day before on how to bring about change through art, was also on the agenda. Melita, one of the young experts from Georgia, prepared a scavenger hunt through Tbilisi. After the tours, the participants had time to explore Tbilisi, buy souvenirs for friends and family, or just get to know each other.
In the evening, the official closing event took place: The candidates could give feedback on the conference and received their certificates. Special thanks went to Nikoloz Perkin, the on-site contact person and our young team of experts consisting of Nastya, Marius, Melita and Alexander. After the official part and the buffet, there was another surprise. A candidate from Armenia played a DJ-set so that the candidates could celebrate the end of the youth conference.
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