“Independent thinking for better…”

Международен Младежки Обмен
Independent thinking for better understanding



The Youth Exchange  was attended by 35 young people from 7 countries (5 persons from each of the country: Poland, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania) and 7 youth leaders (one from each participating country). The project  allowed participants to develop their criticaland independent thinking regarding challenges of modern world such as responsible consumption, climate changes, refugees and multicultural societies – in the context of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Mutual learning and working in international groups  also helped to build among young people attitudes of tolerance, regardless of country of origin or religion.

Main aims of the youth exchange were as following:
– to gain knowledge and deeper understanding about issues relating to responsible consumption, climate change, refugees and multi-cultural societies;
– to gain understanding of connections and linkages between the above. issues, so that young people will perceive problems and global challenges in a holistic way;
– to develop the skills of critical and independent thinking among young people;
– to make them aware of their own influence on the world (both globally and locally);
– to promote  tolerance and respect for human rights, regardless of country of origin or religion.

Furthermore, this project  contributed to improve English skills. It was also  an opportunity for young people to exchange experiences and knowledge about how they can influence both their local environment, and the world.



The  project was held in Wisła, Poland. Wisła is a beautiful town in southern Poland, close to the border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Attractively situated at the source of the Wisla River, and surrounded by beautiful forests on nearby mountain slopes, Wisla is popular tourist destination. Known as the Pearl of the Beskid Mountains, it has breathtaking views and landmarks.

Participants  were accommodated in double, triple and four-person rooms with private bathroom, grouped by gender.

Working methods:

All the training  was done through the methods of non-formal education. The activities  were for example brain storming’s, plenary discussions, simulations, role plays, team building, energizers, ice breakers and many others.

Financial support:

Project was supported by “Erasmus+” program. Accommodation, meals, program and travel cost (based on distance) are covered from grant. There was NO participation fee. However, 15 BGN  were deductuted from the travel costs or paid to the sending organisation from each participant, in order to be covered the different taxes, related to the participation of each representative from Bulgaria (bank transfer fees, post expenses, difference in the exchange rates, etc.).


The travel insurance was not mandatory but it was highly reccommended. It costed 1 BGN/day and covered all the common injuries during projects up to 5000 Euro.


Every participant was individually entitled to receive a Youthpass Certificate, which confirms participation and
validates the non-formal learning (NFL) experience of Training course project. Validating the learning experiences of participants is important in itself and the document can be of benefit in terms of the educational or employment future of the participant. Through Youthpass the European Commission ensures the Training course activity is recognized as a non-formal learning experience.
(*For more information on Youthpass you may click on this page to check it online)

The personal impression of Liliana Sofkova:
“The agenda of the youth exchange is what I found the most interesting. As opposed to the most of the youth exchanges, in this one the general topic was so wide that we had to occupy our minds with a different subtopic each day. In this way the activities and the discussions don’t bore us because the information is not repeated continuously in a different form or using a different variety of words. Instead, we discuss completely different issues that still have a link between each other. The topics we elaborated on included the inequalities in the world, the consumer choice, the climate change, refugees and migrants, intercultural stories.

I strongly believe that the aim of the project was reached because the representatives of the Bulgarian team continuously discussed what we learned during the day even after the end of the daily activates. After we came home we shared (in a group chat) useful movies that had to do with some of the already discussed issued in Wisla (like „The dark side of chocolate“). This wouldn’t have happened if the project hadn’t aroused our interest & curiosity which became the reason to make an independent research. That’s because no matter how good the youth exchange’s organization is, it’s simply not possible to cover all the aspects of a certain subtopic in only one day.

Anna and Eva had an incredibly optimistic, warm and heartwarming attitude not only towards the topics we discussed but also towards us, the participants. So far I hadn’t taken part in a project in which the facilitators were that inspirational and passionately into the issue and, in the same time, open to all kinds of questions and discussion of different points of view. Both of them had very clear attitude towards the issues; they had structured plan about how to present them in front of us in the most objective way possible, giving us unarguable data; they had patience when answering our questions.

The agenda was planned in details and I can say that its intensity was even higher than some of the Erasmus+ training courses. The facilitators were very punctual and the Bulgarian team didn’t have problems with the timing.

I particularly liked the organization of the Open space activity, as well as the enthusiasm that all of us showed when discussing unconventional ideas that came up in result of the information we got in the previous days.

I would also emphasize on how the activity that had to do with the „Inequalities in the world“ subtopic was conducted. We had to step into the shoes of trades from all over the world who had not power over the mother nature.

When it comes to the migrants & refugees subtopic that we dedicated our 6th day on – I can say that most of us kept thinking about it while being emotionally engaged even after the end of the day and the end of the project. As opposed to the common presentation of the topic using the discussion method and sharing what happens in each country, the organizers did their best to make us experience what the refugees face day after day.

I also enjoyed the time in which we were using our creativity while working in groups. An example of that are the scenes/ lyrics/ video material that was created on the basis of the already learnt in Wisla.

What I would better/suggest for future projects:

  • each team to lead its cultural night in a different day. There’s simply not enough time to fit into the little time we have in order to present our birthplace well enough if there are only 2 nights during the whole duration of the project in which all of the teams are supposed to present their country (in our case, 3 of the team presented their counties in one night and 4 of them presented their countries during another night).
  • More time to be dedicated on the activities thanks to which we get to know each other/ remember out names/ the teambuilding in the first two days.
  • To be taken into consideration that the participants who have disabilities should not feel left behind but integrated instead.”


A dissemination event was conducted after the arrival of the participants. Here is an overview of it:

“The Bulgarian team discussed extensively the most effective way of disseminating the knowledge acquired over the youth exchange. We reached a consensus that an informal, seminar-like setting would suit our purpose best. To conduct our event in the most effective, far-reaching, and comprehensive way possible, we looked at campaigning that occurred at the grass roots. Our rationale was as follows: in a country where ideas, such as fair trade, responsible consumerism, or veganism, are accepted and lauded by a (growing) minority and regarded with parochial disdain by a majority, the process of presenting the ideas had to be straightforward and personalized. Our presentation was intellectually flexible, interactive and tailored to the mindsets of those in front of us. We spoke as much as we listened. We addressed the concerns of our listeners, debated their counterarguments, and tried to meet
them halfway. We were wary of formally organizing and advertising an event on the aforementioned topics, which would have appealed to people who already shared our beliefs or to those who had enough of an open-mind to challenge their own belief system. Rather, we personally reached out to people in public, urban spaces, hoping to come upon individuals who had minimal exposure to said ideas and/or were less receptive and willing to change their beliefs and values to begin with.

In the beginning, we started by amassing a small group of, mostly young, people by directly approaching them and proposing to introduce them to our topics and share our views. We did not want groups larger than a dozen per discussion round, so as to create the personalized and informal setting towards which we were striving. People were generally intrigued and willing to talk, even without much knowledge of what they were getting into. As we convened
to discuss, we were pleasantly surprised to see people join what seemed to them a spontaneous public seminar. Even though that disrupted our target size, the positive contributions of people who joined without being asked were noticeably superior to some of those who we had invited.

The only resources we used were our voices and two handbooks on facilitating discussion, prepared by a cluster of European NGOs, including the Ideas Factory, MitOst, Skoro, Sudwind, and Working between Cultures, and published under a creative commons license with the cosponsorship of the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership Collaboration. We reviewed some core topics from those handbooks to educate ourselves on the basics of facilitating discussions and spreading ideas and values. Despite limited resources and time, we felt like we benefited from these reference materials and were able to utilize them to our advantage Ultimately, our spontaneous public seminars were a success. Three rounds of discussionoccurred in Sofia, Bulgaria and one in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. We believe that the format we chose for our event was very suited for our target audience – people skeptical of the beliefs we were propagating – and was successful in challenging and altering the mindset of several participants. An informal seminar like ours strayed away from approaches that could be perceived as dogmatic, radical, or intimidating to those without much exposure to the respective ideas. Those who shared our beliefs were an effective ally during discussions, picking up on threads of discussion and offering their distinct points of view to complement what was presented by us. Our event was modest in size – we held discussions with around 20 people in Sofia, Bulgaria and 20 in Carlisle, Pa. In spite of, or thanks to, this, we were able to focus on those people, personalize their experience, and work with the ideas we were sharing in a thorough, challenging, and multifaceted manner. In turn, we believe we equipped some of those people with the means to pick up the baton and continue the spread of our ideas. 

Overview of Events:
September 2, 2017 – Sofia, Bulgaria, 2 discussion rounds, around 20 people (youth, strangers)

September 3, 2017 – Sofia, Bulgaria, 1 discussion round, around 12 people (youth, strangers)
September 3, 2017 – Carlisle, PA (Dickinson College), 1 discussion round + awareness poster, around 6 people (friends and acquaintances from organization for international students)

Brief Topical Summary:
– Fair Trade: the importance of raising and maintaining awareness; the inevitability of trade-offs between economic efficiency and equity; practical, individual steps towards rectifying a global problem
– Responsible Consumerism: the ethics of responsible consumption; the multifaceted nature of the issue; lifestyle changes; responsible consumerism initiatives that can be taken upon by anybody
– Veganism: environmental and animal rights concerns of meat and dairy consumption; motivation for changing our diets; tools for raising awareness on the issue and reconfiguring misperceptions; countering myths”

A video created by the participants of the project:


And some pictures: