Organise! Youth workers developing participatory alternatives

The international youth event, “Organise! Youth workers developing participatory alternatives,” took place in Milano, Italy between the 5th and 11th of October 2018 and brought together 31 participants from 11 different European countries. The participants represented a wide variety of youth workers cooperatives from all over Europe, such as olive oil production, distribution and shops, restaurants, sewing or printing. For one week we created a space together to exchange experiences and gain skills around the topics of mutual-aid spaces and cooperatives.

What happened?
On the first day, the programme carved out space for the participants to share their experiences within their cooperatives and to learn about each others political, social, and field-specific realities. Many participants particularly enjoyed the presentation of our Italian hosts, their cooperatives and the mutual aid space’s impressive infrastrucutre in which our event was hosted.
Throughout the week, a set of workshops and discussions took place, on topics such as: group dynamics and conflict, legal framework and business plans, collaborative group work and sustainability. The trainers applied a diversity of tools, e.g. small group discussions, world café, human library or collaborative work.

Additionally, we visited several mutual-aid spaces in and around Milano and got to know those local realities a bit better.
The evenings were self-organized and filled with activities such as watching movies on the topic, having discussion rounds on specific topics or using the self-organised gym of the mutual aid space together.

The main aim was to encourage/support the creation of alternative, self-organized work structures like cooperatives and mutual-aid spaces.

a) Provide participants with competencies to access alternative and sustainable self-organized labour.
b) Support youth already involved in cooperatives in different European countries to identify common challenges and to exploit potential alliances and synergies.
c) Produce a resource pack for wider dissemination.

During this week of exchange the participants gained knowledge on many different facets of cooperative organizing: from consensus-based decision making and group dynamics to more specific skills such as setting up a business plan for their cooperative. For numerous participants the most fruitful aspect was the exchange on the different contexts in which they are working and exploring the differences and commonalities throughout discussions and workshops.

Together, facilitators and participants developed self-organized, non-hierarchical and non-discriminatory, inclusive working models which are a useful alternative to the mainstream neoliberal working sphere. These models, as well as the workshop modules that helped develop them and other useful information, is being compiled into a resource pack for wider distribution among grassroots initiatives looking to form workers cooperatives or develop mutual spaces. This resource pack will be available for wider distribution, multi-lingual, early next year. Different coalitions and networks evolved out of this meeting, e.g. a network of printing and publishing collectives who will collaborate on bigger projects and organize a field-specific networking event next year.

This project was made possible with the financial support of the European Youth Foundation – Council of Europe.

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