The 28th Annual Volonteurope Conference mixed political debate with networking and workshops focussing on the promotion of European values and participation through volunteering.
He said: “Like Edinburgh’s Fringe festival which has become the dominant and influential voice of the arts world, I believe we, as a united sector, should occupy the fringe of EU politics ahead of the Future of Europe Conference.
“We have a unique opportunity as civil society to understand and crowd-source ideas about what needs to be done within Europe.
“We work on the frontline and see all the issues facing society, so we should play a major role in helping shape the future direction of Europe to make sure it’s a Europe of Citizens where all voices are heard and everyone can play their part.”
His comments were then picked up by other leading European organisations during a political debate discussing how to make Europe work for everyone.
Moderated by Volonteurope’s Vice President, David Lopez, the debate involved discussions with Birkena Xhomaqi, Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform, Gabriella Civico, Director of CEV European Volunteer Centre, Julia Aramendi, Project Director of Voluntariado y Estrategia, Kélig Puyet, Director of Social Platform and Pavel Trantina, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee.
The afternoon saw members split into four workshops to find out more about European projects involving member organisations;
- EU Aid Volunteers Technical Assistance: +CARE Project: Silvia de Benito from Alianza por las Solidaridad, Spain and Costin Dedu from Imago Mundi Association, Romania, led discussions around the deployment of volunteers, the working arrangements with partner organisations and funding challenges.
- European Solidarity Corps: Volunteering Partnerships: Brooke Allan, Clara Gray and Kasia Czarnecka from Project Scotland, UK and Cara Battrick from Volunteering Matters, UK presented an interactive workshop led by young volunteers. The barriers to young people volunteering and how to overcome them was amongst the topics discussed (with ping pong balls symbolising the solutions and the wall of cups the barriers in the video below.)
- Erasmus + Strategic Partnerships: Wake Up! Young Europeans becoming change makers for a better Europe: This session was led by Perdita Wingerter, Lena Kollmuß and Daniela Polzer from GLL, Germany and Volonteurope President Oonagh Aitken. Through interactive activities members questioned their use of language to empower young people and thought about how young volunteers can become change-makers for a better Europe.
- Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund: EU VOICE Project: This session led by Zsofia Jobbagy, and Benedette Manoelli from Co&So, Italy, Sara Caravelas from Volunteering Matters, UK and Luiza Tsikala from United Societies of the Balkans, Greece saw the use of a Mentimeter tool used to record experiences on the project in a cultural volunteering area. The digital innovation collected workshop participants’ responses online which were then collated and presented in real-time.
To close the day Oonagh thanked everyone for their attendance and noted the key issues and themes from the day including moving away from labelling people, such as refugees, when ‘newcomers’ can be used instead.