Think outside the box – think sustainable

Europe was characterised by strong and creative tension between the global and the local. Whereas it has been functioning as a single free-trade market, its structure consists of national countries, regions and places, distinguishing themselves in history, culture, language and natural sources. In addition to that, the European reality is composed of multiplicity of local approaches of economic management, initiatives and small enterprises. We believe the future – deeply referring to young people – lies in strengthening the local, especially in terms of sustainable development, furthermore innovation, adjustment and fruitful collaboration. We held 11-days multilateral youth exchange in Kostanjevica na Krki (Slovenia) from 15th to 26th of September, which was set up as a platform, combining different voices from the field of sustainable development and youth work in modern Europe. The youth exchange 'Think Outside the Box - Think Sustainable' joined agents of local communities, who have achieved tangible and long-term results with working together and joint actions. Whether it related to the area of ethical/social entrepreneurship, cultural heritage, re-cycle or local food self-sufficiency, were precisely these initiatives, implemented through a ‘bottom-up’ approach, which represented the potential for creation of broader environmental and social benefits. During the exchange, 40 young people from Portugal, Italy, Hungary, Romaine, Ukraine, Turkey, Great Britain and Slovenia compared models and methods of non-governmental organisations acting for the benefits of sustainable development. We shared examples of good practices, expanded gained knowledge and built up methodological tools that contributed to sustainable transformations in local environments, encouraged entrepreneurship among youth, raised direct democracy and influenced decision makers. Youth exchange focused on following issues: the education of conscious consumers (how to create a community, which supports short food chain and healthy lifestyle); Guerilla marketing (we developed communication skills and self-creativity and learned how to multiply the impact of work in NGOs with the assistance of guerrilla marketing); local food self-supply (we developed successful sustainable system of quality and ethical food production in a way that included young people and activated their entrepreneurship potential. At the same time it encouraged young growers and contributed to community development in rural areas); Active citizenship (we reflected the EU policies in the field of sustainable development and local self-sufficiency, challenges of Lisbon treaty and strategies of Europe 2010, discussed the issue of impact level); Sustainable economies (we studied efforts of ‘good’ economies for collaboration, strengthening and option of alternative currencies – exchange of goods and favours, sharing goods, local currencies ...). To attract attention of local community, media, growers and tenders, decision makers at the administrative level and development stakeholders, we organised open workshops, where ‘theory met practice’ and we were all given the opportunity for collaboration and inclusion. We learnt how to prepare meals from quality basic raw ingredients – local products – that were cheap or even for free to get, if we followed seasons and its abundances. We got familiar with ‘superfood’ – herbs – that grew in our meadows, forests and backyards and we learnt how to gain from it as much as possible. We made jam out of excess fruit and baked bread. We organised Vegexchange (swap of vegetable). Local sommelier took us on a journey where we learnt how to appreciate viticulture. We organised morning yoga by the river, spontaneous musical performances on the street and art-theatrical street sessions. Youth exchange promoted several competences and encouraged us to overcome poverty with inventiveness, creativity and strengthening of entrepreneurship potentials, sense for collaboration and inclusion into local community. Our aim was to reinforce the participating organisations with initiatives, which contributed to social changes and general well-being. Youth exchange gave us chance to inspire individuals, organisations and communities for sovereign acting towards sustainable future.