1 May, 2024

SCI at the LevelUp Event in Brussels: We care, we vote

Article by Élise BRASSEUR, ESC Volunteer at SCI Slovenia

On April 12 and 13, the LevelUp event was held at the European Parliament in Brussels. Organized in the context of the upcoming European elections from June 6 to 9, the event brought together 1,300 young people from across Europe to meet, exchange ideas, and learn how to strengthen their activism.

The SCI network attended the event with nine representatives. Along with Chloé, Amina, Sallah, Dalia, Leo, Anna, Fionn, and Ruslana, we proudly showcased SCI and its values throughout the event.

A group of participants in front of the Parliament's entrance

The program was quite intense. Two days before the event, we had the opportunity to create our own schedule of activities. We chose from three different categories of workshops:

  1. ⭐ My Europe : To address issues that matter to us and learn about the EU’s actions on these topics.
  2. ❤️ My Voice : To develop effective campaigning and advocacy skills.
  3. ✅ My Vote : To participate in workshops on democracy in action.

In total, we could select 5 workshops from a list of 18. On the first day, I attended ‘Your Journey to Becoming Politically Active.’ This workshop surprised me and was definitely one of my favorites, combining new learnings with fun!

A group of young people writing "frog party" on a flipchart

During this workshop, we engaged in a simulation on how to create a political party. This involved brainstorming the issue we wanted to tackle, its policies, our target audience, key messages, activities, and how to present it. Participants were divided into groups named after animals. At the end of the activity, we presented ‘The Frog Party,’ which advocates for frog rights and fights against ‘defrogastation,’ promoting freedom and equality among frogs.

The second workshop I attended was ‘How to Disagree.’ We began with a role-play exercise in pairs. Each pair was given an orange, and both individuals wanted it desperately. The goal was to argue and determine who would get the orange. Some wanted it because they found it aesthetically pleasing, others were hungry, and some wanted to use it for decoration. What I’ll take away from this workshop is to think outside the box.

Alongside these workshops, there were side events organized by various participating organizations, including one by SCI in collaboration with the Alliance network, CCIVS, ICYE Federation, and VIA Netherlands. This event focused on cross-cultural volunteering as a means of youth engagement, with a special emphasis on decolonization. It was facilitated, among others, by Ruslana, Kerry, and Dalia from SCI.

The first day wrapped up with a plenary session held in the hemicycle of the European Parliament. It was quite impressive to be seated where usually only parliamentarians sit. During this session, María Rodríguez Alcázar, the president of the European Youth Forum, addressed the audience, along with Dragoș Pîslaru, a Romanian Member of the European Parliament, and Claudia Plakolm, Secretary of State for Youth Civilian Service in the Federal Chancellery of the Austrian Government.

In particular, they discussed youth voting and the importance of every young person’s voice through voting. They highlighted the possibility of voting from the age of 16 in European elections in countries such as Germany, Belgium, Malta and Austria. They emphasized the idea that if we want to change things, we have the power to do so. They gave the message: ‘Don’t let others choose for you!’ The President of the European Youth Forum closed the session with ‘Speak up and speak your mind’.

The second day seamlessly continued from the first. I participated in two different workshops titled ‘Know Your Rights.’ Through a quiz resembling ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,’ they tested our knowledge of international conventions, human rights, the responsibilities of the conventions, the bill of rights, and more. Additionally, I attended a workshop on AI titled ‘How to Do More with Less,’ where I had the opportunity to have an introduction to AI tools and learned that one could customize their AI, such as chatbots.

In addition to these workshops, I also attended an explanatory session on the backstage areas of the European Parliament, in particular the hemicycle. I had the opportunity to learn more about the process of translating parliamentary speeches. It’s fascinating to see how proud parliamentarians are of their national language, and often prefer to express themselves in it.

That’s why above the hemicycle, there are booths provided for translators of the various languages of the Member States. In total, three translators for each language take turns during 45-minute sessions, as this task is extremely demanding. It’s not uncommon to see parliamentarians laughing slightly out of sync with some jokes from their colleagues.

The closing ceremony of the LevelUP event took place in the hemicycle of the European Parliament. We had the opportunity to simulate a parliamentary vote by answering various questions. One of my favorites remains this one: ‘Do you think Belgium has the best chocolate in the world?’

Furthermore, some participants had the opportunity to share their ideas and ongoing projects. We particularly heard from the developer of the Palumba application, whose catchphrase was ‘If this cute pigeon can’t help you vote in June, nothing will.’ With his team, they have developed an application aimed at assisting young people in their voting choices for the European elections, using a sweeping system similar to Tinder’s.

To wrap up the event in a more relaxed manner, the European Youth Forum invited us to the iconic Brussels club C12, where we spent a laid-back evening with Mab’ish, Mr. Belt and Wezol, and Benjamin the Room. María Rodríguez Alcázar, president of the European Youth Forum, said a few words to conclude the evening and officially close the event.

After these two days at the Parliament, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have participated in LevelUp with SCI. I realize that I’m already deeply involved in Europe with my current ESC (European Solidarity Corps) volunteer project in Slovenia. However, I’m aware that this project will come to an end and I’d like to continue being active in other similar projects on a local level. But before that, the next step will be to vote in the upcoming European elections!

I’ll wrap up this article by letting you delve into the perspectives of the other SCI members who attended this event alongside me.

 

Leo, volunteer at International Secretariat of SCI:

‘Globally, I enjoyed the event. Most of all, the workshops were quite diverse with some very skillful facilitators. One of them, called “How to disagree” really picked my interest: focused on conflict management, I remember it in a simple but practical sentence “The conflict resolution is to establish asap a situation in which both sides benefit”. By seeing the insides of the European Parliament and learning how it can influence the society’s evolution, I would also add that, now more than ever, I want to vote!’

Chloe, volunteer at SCI Belgium:

 ‘I had a great time at the Levelup 2024. It was an interesting experience! I anticipated that the SCI group would have the chance to meet each other at the event since we only knew each other from the video conference. So, I asked SCI Belgium for some t-shirts to help us recognize each other, and at the same time, we looked stylish for the event! Everyone was amazing. I was very glad to meet the group.

I also prepared myself to concentrate for two days before each workshop: ‘Enlarging Europe,’ ‘Understanding Hate Speech,’ ‘Volunteer NGO Game,’ ‘Exploring Our Rights,’ ‘Defending Our Rights,’ ‘Thinking Outside of the Box,’ and ‘Plenary.’ It was a great exercise to use the microphone, speak in front of the group during the workshops, collaborate, and adapt quickly to each workshop’s dynamic.

I enjoyed the artworks inside of the building and the historical pictures of famous parliament members. The building is huge, and I sometimes got lost. The layout may not have been explained very well. It could be better with a small map rather than relying solely on the phone. Additionally, I was disappointed by the price of lunch, especially when I was really hungry after being so focused!

I enjoyed every workshop, but I found the one about ‘Exploring Our Rights’ particularly interesting. I plan to use and share the knowledge gained because even though we know our rights, knowing when to apply them is crucial in our lives.

My favorite activity was building with Lego at the ‘Defending Our Rights’ workshop, learning how to negotiate and build together with very different mindsets, while keeping democracy on the front line. The speeches and plenary in the hemicycle had such good vibes there!

I also had a great time on the dance floor!

Having been active abroad for a long time, I’m now continuing with strikes, volunteering, conversations, and readings. I’m focusing on activities related to climate, women’s rights, ethical support, environmental issues, and cultural citizen projects.’

Sallah, volunteer at VIA Netherlands:

‘How I felt about the Level Up was absolutely amazing. It was so nice to see how different people across Europe gathered together in the European Parliament and discussed the issues that really concern them ahead of the EU elections.

The experience gained will be used in my organization and local advocacy space to create more awareness about the need for young people to vote in the upcoming European Union election, as the role of young people in these elections is key and paramount.

What surprised me the most during the event was the level of commitment and energy displayed by both the organizers and the participants; it was incredible.

My favorite activity was the side event on “Get to Know Your Decision Makers.” It was incredible because it gave me the opportunity to directly interact with Members of Parliament and hear from them about how the Parliament operates, the different settings and components within the Parliament, and how negotiations are carried out.

The topic I will delve deeper into is the dialogue on climate action. As a climate change activist, this topic is very special to me, and it is crucial for the message to be put across so that the upcoming MPs prioritize climate-related discussions in the Parliament.

My next plan is to get more involved and learn about the EU actions and the Green Deal. I am very interested in how young people can be meaningfully considered by the next EU representatives. I aim to advocate more for a climate-friendly Europe with more ambitious climate goals and targets for all EU member countries to cut down their emissions as outlined by the Paris Agreement.’

Ruslana, volunteer at ICYE:

‘I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop on the topic Breaking Borders: Empowering Youth through Decolonised Mobility. The aim of the workshop was to present the Decolonise IVS! project, our work and values, and to empower young people to speak out. […] Seeing how during an only 1-hour workshop people got so engaged, made me feel empowered and motivated to continue working on the project, as I believe it has a true impact. I left the event with a positive feeling that change is possible when we work together, have a dialogue and bring different voices into the discussion.’

 

Article by Élise BRASSEUR, ESC Volunteer at SCI Slovenia

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