The Youthpass – A (Self-) Evaluation tool of Erasmus+

Erasmus+ Youth offers the Youthpass as a tool for self-accessment, reflection and recognition of learning results.

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Interim project Solar eV – Open summer courses for refugees & migrants: “Social Movements & Migration”

The Concept

In August we (the Berlin educational collective of KuBiZ) organized a series of 6 summer courses in which we wanted to create a space for a mutual exchange on social movements in different countries. The courses were addressed to refugees, migrants and other interested people.

Given the fact that social movements and civil society actors play an important role in fostering social change, we wanted to provide basic information on these actors, their objectives and on the various facets of sub- and counterculture movements in Germany and abroad.

To us it was important that these courses did not to follow the concept of “integration (classes)”, that are basically designed as one-way street with participants being just learners who should adapt to the new social context of their ‘hosting’ country. Instead of this and recurring on a tradition of an education ‘from below’, we wanted to create an open, inclusive and participatory framework for the courses.
Our aim was an exchange of experiences on an equal footing. This also meant for us to include refugees and migrants as facilitators, lecturers and experts – a potential that’s often not been used or that’s often even not recognized by society. By doing this and by making stories from the global south more visible, we also wanted to question and broaden the (very often: eurocentric) view on social movements, migration and social change.

Here’s an overview of our courses:

  • Tue 2.8.2016 | New social movements: Clashes and changes
  • Wed 3.8.2016 | Cultures of Remembrance in comparison
  • Fri 5.8.2016 | Revolutions? The East-German ‘turnaround’ and other experiences
  • Tue 9.8.2016 | German right-wing and xenophobic movements
  • Wed 10.8.2016 | International solidarity: From the 1968s to “Welcome Culture”
  • Thurs 11.8.2016 | International women`s movements

Originally the educational project was designed in a different way. We made an application in last autumn at the state agency for political education of the Berlin-country. The original ideas was to bring an alternative view on politics and German society to the refugees and migrants—communities. It was originally designed in a more one-way teacher-learner environment. First steps to implement this in the migrants-communities and find participants for our seminars (that we originally not organised in the form of a summer-course but spread over several months) failed and we only got less interest. Parallel we tried to critically reflect our approach – that was much coming from the traditional project-design of the typical activities of the state-agency of political education. For this we used as well the outcome of the two transnational course on migration that we organised in November and May. Basically we focused on this topics:

  • Problem 1: There is a problem to reach migrants and refugees because they are much concentrated on their communities, the all-day-live in the shelters and the bureaucratic procedures they go through.
    Conclusion: We should get deeper in the communities and involve people from there.
  • Problem 2: Inclusion should be a process of giving and taking for both sides. Transcultural education means to learn on both sides. From this point of view an educational approach should include migrants-perspectives and involve migrants as much as possible on an equal level.
    Conclusion: We should make use of contacts to people of the migrants communities and make them an offer to develop the program of the courses together and add their knowledge and content to the project.
  • Problem 3: During the normal week migrants have appointments – often spontaneous – at state agencies, language courses etc. It’s hard for them to plan in advance.
    Conclusion: We should select timeframes for our offers that are better fitting, like holiday times. We should concentrate the program to make it more attractive and visible.
  • Problem 4: Political education – as we know it – is something very unknown in many home-countries of refugees and migrants. This makes advertisement and attracting curiosity  more difficult.
    Conclusion: It’s important to involve migrants directly using personal relations/contacts, organisations and networks they are part of. So we tried to involve refugee-self-organising projects, networks and associations/clubs more. As well by offering them the possibility to take part as speakers and/or experts.

The courses in detail

We had some limitation to design the content of the courses because we had to follow the general content-line of the application that we made at the state agency. To get the possibility to involve the migrants’ perspectives stronger we asked them to approve some changes in the concept that they finally agreed on.

Due to our own time-limitations with other projects we came to the conclusion that the school-holiday time should be a good time for our project, because there will be less bureaucratic activities and less language courses running.

  • Tue 2.8.2016 | New social movements: Clashes and changes

We found Samee an political activist, with whom we worked already together during the Seminar in May. He comes from Pakistan and was very interested to collaborate in this project. He informed a friend, an Pakistani journalist working and living in Berlin to join in as well.

They both contributed with a lecture about the newer history of social movements in Pakistan starting from the independency. After the input on new social movements and social change in Germany they focused a lot on showing us the differences between the German and Pakistani society. The army always played an important role in social struggles in Pakistan, mostly on the side of western interests and often influences by cold-war politics (e.g. Afghanistan…) and the conflicts between India and Pakistan (Cashmere).

But there were as well interesting parallels, e.g. in the 1968s with the international students movement influencing Pakistan as well.

It was a pity that the course found only less attraction outside of the organizers circles.

  • Wed 3.8.2016 | Cultures of Remembrance in comparison

The second day of the course found more attention.  In this course we wanted to throw some spotlights on cultures of remembrance in different countries, asking: What is remembered? How is it remembered – and by whom? Whose stories are told, whose remain invisible?

Looking a bit run down and weathered, with a lot of paintings and posters on its walls, Haus Schwarzenberg rather resembles a squat than a memorial site and really stands out from the surrounding houses in Berlin’s hip and gentrified district ‘Mitte’. Apart from artist galleries and workshops, a cinema and a bar, two museums are located here: the Anne Frank Museum and an exhibition commemorating Otto Weidt, a small manufacturer, who employed deaf and blind Jews during the Nazi regime and was able to hide and thus rescue some of them.

We decided to start our course here – and not at a more prominent place like the Holocaust memorial – because we think it reflects both typical and rather untypical aspects of culture of remembrance in Germany, in which the Holocaust still plays a central role: First of all it shows that remembrance is often closely connected to a place – a museum, a memorial or even (as in the case of Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind) an authentic place. What’s also quite typical is that in this place different layers of history, different stories are overlapping: as the stories of Anne Frank, of Otto Weidt … and the stories inspired by yet another historical incident that‘s cited in the legendary name of the ‚free republic of Schwarzenberg‘. The project of “Haus Schwarzenberg” and the Otto Weidt museum were initiated ‘bottom up’ by artists and students. Thus, these projects rather stand in a civil society tradition of telling (counterhegemonic) history from below („Geschichtswerkstätten“ etc.). Although this grassroot history experienced a kind of revival in the aftermath of the 1968‘s students movement, it’s not very widespread in Germany compared to more dominant forms of institutionalized or top-down initiated projects of remembrance. With it‘s multiuse concept Haus Schwarzenberg denies a simple orientation towards l‘art pour l‘art or commercial purposes, but instead (re)connects past and present with a vision of the future and a political message by recurring on examples of active and critical citizenship and resistance.

Afterwards we visited the exhibition „Anne Frank – here and now“, since her story is one of the most widespread testimonies of these times and it is still affecting especially young people. From a didactic perspective it was interesting to see how the exhibition connects the history of both individuals and society and how it builds a bridge between past, present and future by interviewing teenagers on personal and political questions that also Anne Frank raised in her diaries. We got a guided tour through the exhibition – regarding especially our Non-European participants. Some participants were quiet impressed from the exhibition.

After the visit we went together to our seminar-space in Weißensee. The second part of our course was facilitated by Mouhamed, an activist from „Lampedusa in Berlin“ (Guided tour at Oranienplatz). He gave us an intense insight into cultures of remembrance in Niger. By this he also pointed at an aspect that‘s not (very) present in the collective memory in Germany and – compared to the remembrance of the Holocaust – nearly invisible: colonialism and it‘s persistent legacy.

In Niger, colonialism is ever-present until today due to a strong oral tradition. For Mouhamed it was his grandfather who witnessed colonial rule and now passes the memory on to the next generations. While the state seems to have only little interest in supporting a vivid culture of remembrance, it‘s mainly this oral tradition of Niger‘s civil society that‘s keeping the memory alive through storytelling, songs, literature and philosophy – and that‘s refusing to see colonialism as a closed chapter in the history books. „For my grandfather nothing has changed,“ Mouhamed insisted regarding contemporary Niger and the (neo)colonial dependencies between the global south and global north today. These hierarchies might not always be visible for us, since they form the basis of concepts we grew up with and take for granted. Thus, the input also shifted the focus from resistance and civil disobedience we emphasized in the morning session to questions of complicity and the following discussions quickly turned into a critical whiteness lesson, questioning white privilege structures in our everyday lives and thinking.

All in all the course showed that for an emancipatory pedagogy of dealing with the past it’s essential to avoid problematic ways of remembrance (empty rituals, historisation in an „over and done with“-attitude). Instead history constantly reminds us of unresolved problems and questions for our present and future.

  • Fri 5.8.2016 | Revolutions? The East-German ‘turnaround’ and other experiences

Originally we wanted to focus a lot on the East-German history of Stasi and the turnaround and include a grassroot perspective on the movement that managed to abolish the GDR-system.

The former Stasi (State security / Secret Service) of the GDR located in Berlin Lichtenberg is a good starting point for this topic. Because it was a hot-spot for the turnaround, when citizens started to enter the building and took it over from the authorities during the rebellion. Initiatives tried to save the collected data of the security service as historical documents and protected the site against plundering and demolition, when the state-organs failed to protect it. Finally an oppositional group succeeded to build up a museum at the central building, the department of the Minister Erich Mielke. So our idea was to start from this place with a typical guided tour through the Museum and later on going to the invisible perspectives of the turnaround-rebellion. We invited the Taiwanese political Artist Nai Wen Chang to give us an input on her research and work on the migrants community in the GDR and their perspective on 1989/1990s events. She showed some interviews that she made with migrants eye-witnesses, that lead us to an interesting discussion about visible and invisible perspectives and as well the question of revolution itself. This seminar was more visited from east- and southeast mostly European immigrants, that were interested on the German perspective on the Fall of the wall, while refugees were not so interested.

  • Tue 9.8.2016 | German right-wing and xenophobic movements

The aim of this course was to inform and discuss about the German right extremist and right-wing-populist movement. Migrants and especially refugees are up on their agenda, creating fear and uneasiness in the migrants communities. In this situation it is very important from our point of view to inform about the movements and groups, their interests and aims.

We invited an expert to present us the background-informations about the right-scene in Germany, its history and actual situation. Especially we wanted to focus on the new evolutions like Pegida and AFD.

For foreigners (and even a lot of locals) it’s in the beginning very hard, to recognize the right-wing extremists. But at the same time it’s important, especially when we look on the dangerous violence that they address to them. Regarding that we as well discussed how to recognize members of these groups.

In the second part we were widened the view to the current situation in Europe and asked the question how to deal with the rising of right-wing movements in Europe. The seminar found lots of attention especially amongst the inner European-migrants. The attention was much lower than expected and we have been just a small group of eight people joining the seminar. We were wondering about that, because our expectation was, that there would be a big interest for more information about these groups, their background and aims especially from the target groups of their hate-politics. But it was not on that day.

In talks about that there is as well a significant gap between the personal feeling of safety from the refugees and our assumption of danger for them.

  • Wed 10.8.2016 | International solidarity: From the 1968s to “Welcome Culture”

First, an input on the trigger and objectives of the German ‘ 68 Students movement was given. Afterwards biographical examples of resistance were introduced, based on Rudi Dutschke, Ulrike Meinhof and Claudia Roth.

Then animated conversations came about, inter alia, on the causes of the emergence of the RAF and the manner in which the successes of the 68 he student movement still have an impact on the present.

We then made a call Round, in which all participants reported on social movements and charismatic revolutionaries from their countries of origin (and beyond). Interesting examples from Spain, Pakistan, Ghana and France were told. In addition, there was an exchange on philosophers and authors who inspired us politically.

After lunch we went over to the topic “Welcome cultures in Germany”.

Using the method “Meinungsbarometer” (in which all individuals should position themselves at specific issues), there were initial discussions on the review of Welcome cultures in Germany. It was discussed whether the assistance of the state and civil society are sufficient or how these are even paternalistic to the needs of refugees.

Then a person from Pakistan held an input about his personal experience as a refugee with welcome culture structures in Germany. He spoke of his ambivalent feelings, to have received on the one hand a lot of support from the civil society and the feeling on the other hand, to be left alone of institutions and policies. Especially when involving in politics he realized how difficult it is to adapt to the German historical environment and existing power-relations. Refugees and migrants at that point quick get kicked out of their activism, when their behaviour seems to touch sensitive point of German history and politics. He realized, that in that point there is much more overlapping with his Pakistan-experiences that he though before.

At the end of the workshop, a person from Ethiopia introduced the project “the garden  nursery” (as an example of welcoming culture infrastructure), in which, inter alia, refugees can try the organic cultivation of plants and foods, and learn besides this also a lot (for example, the German language).

The  workshop had a very open minded and interested atmosphere of exchange and learning. The group was medium sized with 10 guests from several different origins.

  • Thursday 11.8.2016 | International women`s movements

After the round of introductions initially 2 speakers kept inputs on the history of women’s movements in Germany. Starting with the “proletarian” and “bourgeois“ women’s protests in the 19th century, followed by the 2nd women’s movement in the context of ’68, through to today’s queer feminist currents.

After these presentations we had a conversation / discussion, how the deconstruction of gender (or the softening of the categories “man” and “woman”) possibly could blur the currently still existing patriarchal relations. We agreed in the end, that it still requires FLT shelters.

Then we made with all participants a conversation-round, in which every woman reported on their knowledge of the situation of women * (and women’s movements) in their own countries (and beyond). There were (among others) interesting reports from Switzerland, Spain, Cameroon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Since the quality of the oppression of women in the various countries is very different, we discovered that we are not on the same basis feminist active.

An example: A participant gave in her home country Iraq literacy courses for women, because many families forbid their daughters to go to school or study.  Whereas a participant from Germany discussed in her political group only about the deconstruction of the  categories “man “and” woman“. This appears as a “luxury problem”, compared to the situation of women in other countries.

After lunch we continued with an input especially on the situation of women in Pakistan and Iraq.

Afterwards, a woman told us about feminist self-organization of refugee women in Berlin. She also talked about her book project in which interviews with refugee women were made. She had several copies of this book, which could be bought by the participants.

After this input we had an interesting conversation about racism, privileges and paternalistic, charitable structures by whites against refugees.

In the final round, all participants expressed very positive about the workshop day. Especially the friendly and respectful atmosphere was pointed out. It was perceived as positive that the workshop was only open for women*. Also the reports from the various countries were evaluated as very exciting and the reports of “Woman fights” as inspirational. All participants expressed the desire to stay in contact in the future.

Evaluation of whole project

Looking on the results of this project we had a divided resume. All in all we had a good week with very interesting seminars. We reached all together around 50 migrants and some non-migrants. Some of the courses have been more, some less frequented.

Our concept to put the courses together in two weeks as a kind of academy did not work out so well. Most of the participants appeared only one or two times.

It came out, that it is very important to involve migrants perspectives and speakers from the beginning. Beside the substantially gain we as well could reach more migrants and attract them to participate.

The inclusive setting brought a very comfortable and friendly course-atmosphere. Starting from these point further cooperation should be possible and encouraging.

We learned that it’s important to involve migrants already from the beginning – that means from the application-phase – of an educational project. It is very hard and time intensive to change the setting later, as we did.

Time is still a point of discussion – on the one side “being on time” and as well offering the course at the “right time”. Here is still discussion needed for further projects.

In our follow-up project we made already two changes: First we will involve refugees already in our daily preparation work with the possibility two make an internship in our organisation. This will start in November and will provide more migrants the option to “give and take” with the help of our project. The second is that we will include the cooperation of and with migrants/refugees in the future conceptual in our working-procedures. Not only with the internships but as well on a regular basis when the people have the skills to do so.

World Café method

“The “World Café” is a structured conversational process intended to facilitate open and intimate discussion, and link ideas within a larger group to access the “collective intelligence” or collective wisdom in the room. […] the focus is on exploring and innovating on themes rather than on problem-solving.The format is principally designed as a forum for creative or open thinking and is not suited to scenarios where there is a predetermined answer or solution.” (Wikipedia)

More detailed information about the facilitation method and its principles, see here.

Critical Whiteness

Here is some video material Lawrence gave us as an addition to the critical whiteness workshop.

  • Jane Elliott on the Oprah Winfrey Show (1992) about the „Blue Eyed Brown Eyes Exercise“, colorblindness and critical whiteness
    Part 1, 09:00 min. | Part 2, 8:40 min.
  • Tim Wise on White Privilege/White Club (09:30 min.) >>> on youtube
  • BBC Documentary on Namibian Genocide (1h) >>> on vimeo
  • Molefi Kete Asante: „Decolonising Universities“ >>> on youtube
  • Dr. Frances Cress Welsing: “Survining Racism in the 21th Century”
    Part 1, 15:00 min. | Part 2, 15:00 min.