Cohesion Policy is the net that holds EU regions together. As pan-European communication campaign, YOUTHopia’s aim has been highlighting the threads that create this net. Managed by the AER and ereb.eu (former Cafebabel) as media partner, YOUTHopia brought to light Cohesion Policy-funded opportunities which enable regions to work for a greener, more inclusive and cohesive EU.
For one year, five regions across Europe worked together to bring YOUTHopia to life. Donegal County, Eastern and Western Slovenia, Košice Self-Governing region and Union of Cyprus Municipalities collaborated to create a community-based communication campaign spreading awareness about the benefits of Cohesion Policy.
3..2…1..: Action! AER shoots #HotlineCohesion
Throughout one year, YOUTHopia generated communications about the benefits of Cohesion Policy in different formats. First released in February 2023, #HotlineCohesion was the first multimedia highlight of YOUTHopia. Equipped with camera and spontaneous acting, the AER Secretariat shot six videos about different opportunities funded by Cohesion Policy, ranging from the YOUTH4Regions Media programme to the several youth schemes which allow young people to support the most vulnerable across Europe, such as the Interreg Volunteer Youth, and receive training and vocational support, like in the case of the ALMA initiative.
From Brussels to Europe, from Europe to Brussels
YOUTHopia moved across Europe, travelling in each of the five flagship regions through the organisation of the YOUTHopia Local Future Fairs. Taking place with the slogan ‘Cohesion becoming a reality for the next generation’, these fairs served as a meeting and networking opportunity for citizens and stakeholders interested in Cohesion Policy funded opportunities.
The Future Fairs, the flagship events of the YOUTHopia campaign, gathered young individuals from each of the five regional partners.
These fairs served as a forum for Cohesion Policy beneficiaries in the region to share their success stories, inspire young talents, and build personal and professional networks.
Flying on the words of Solutions Journalism
The pan-European ambition of YOUTHopia could be satisfied only with a comprehensive approach to communication. This is why the AER teamed up with ereb.eu, formerly Cafe Babel, to make sure that that the power of journalism gave wings to Cohesion Policy success stories.
CaféBabel, now known as Ereb, is a multilingual cross-border online magazine that collaborates with professional journalists across Europe. Ereb served as the multimedia partner that published all the YOUTHopia news in the five different member regions. They uncovered untold stories and focused their work on the citizens who have benefited from Cohesion Policy projects.
Ereb also cooperated with young people from the regions to organise a series of in-person workshops on ‘Solutions Journalism’, which culminated in the compilation of a Solutions Journalism Guide. These workshops aimed to equip young people with the skills to analyse and report on EU projects and initiatives. This initiative empowered young people to make a positive impact by shedding light on the incredible work being done within their communities and motivated them to improve their communication skills (See Social Media Gallery).
YOUTHopia at the European Week of Regions and Cities
As the largest event dedicated to Cohesion Policy and regions in Brussels, the EU Regions Week offered the perfect space to showcase YOUTHopia and its achievements through two events on 9 October and 12 October.
YOUTHopia Evening Debate and Photojournalism Exhibition on 9 October (check the pictures here)
Opened by the remarks of Elio Di Rupo, Minister President of Wallonia, the YOUTHopia Evening Debate and Photojournalism Exhibition was an opportunity to reflect on importance of finding innovative strategies to communicate on Cohesion Policy. With the EU getting ready for the collective exercise of democracy of the EU elections in June 2024, the commitment and work of YOUTHopia regions set an important precedent about the role of regional authorities and communities in spreading awareness of the benefits of Cohesion Policy. Viktória Ječová spoke on behalf of the Košice Self-Governing Region, Chara Georgiadou for the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh for Donegal, Brina Lazar for Eastern Slovenia and Nataša Rojšek for Western Slovenia.
The perspective from the regions was complemented by the contribution of Gianluca Comuniello, DG REGIO, who highlighted how Cohesion Policy plays a structural role in building the EU of today and tomorrow as it bridges regions with different levels of development.
The youth perspective of Norbert Nagy, Vice President of the Youth Regional Network, complemented the regional and institutional take on Cohesion Policy. Nagy highlighted how trust and responsibility in young people’s interest in learning contributed to the success of YOUTHopia, shifting the communication approach from a frontal one to an engaged one. Nagy seized the opportunity to present the Youth Regional Network’s Youth Manifesto, a collective effort produced by the AER’s cross-border youth network outlining the recommendations and priorities of young people for the future of Cohesion Policy. Read the Youth Manifesto here.
His words echoed the ones of Nina Wagner, journalist of the Youth4Regions Media Programme by DG REGIO, who opened the floor for a sparkling Q&A session.
The launch of the AER Task Force on Cohesion Policy marked the end of the final event, showing that, while YOUTHopia may be nearing the end, the AER work on Cohesion Policy will continue and actually it will be increasing ahead of the EU Elections in 2024. The Task Force will reflect on how to maximise the effectiveness of Cohesion policy with a view to tackling the multiple challenges identified in the 8th Cohesion Report published by the European Commission, from the innovation divide to the demographic change. It will also reflect on how the policy will support a fair digital and green transition and regional recovery and growth. Overall, it will aim to:
- to maximise the impact of cohesion policy in terms of reducing economic, social and territorial disparities for our members;
- to contribute to the future orientations of the cohesion policy post 2027;
- to create a community of practice, peer learning and good practice in the field of cohesion policy implementation.
Did you enjoy the final YOUTHopia event? Let us know and let’s keep in touch!
Workshop ‘How to Build Trust among (Young) Citizens to Support Urban Change’ with Tilburg Municipality on 12 October 2023
‘Trust me, I am a local authority’. The instinct to laugh triggered by this sentence is telling of the fact that there is a trust issue at regional and local levels, and it is particularly problematic when this concerns young citizens. The joint workshop with Tilburg Municipality brought together the perspectives of young people who achieved a space of social engagement and made it thrive.
As communication campaign, YOUTHopia had the merit of bringing in focus the relationship between young people and Cohesion Policy. As Norbert Nagy mentioned during the workshop, YOUTHopia re-centered communication priorities around the key concerns and aspirations of the youth, shaping Cohesion Policy as a matter of key interest for young citizens. In this manner, YOUTHopia advocated for a different type of leadership, where young people have ownership of the policy priorities impacting them directly. Since its early inception YOUTHopia was built on the priorities and needs of young people, and highlighted the need of leaders able to trust and empower young people in accessing the right information about the role of Cohesion Policy.
On Tilburg’s side, Safaa Bouzambou and Abdellah Aknin shared the transformative impact of the project Forwart on the neighbourhood of North Tilburg, where young people have perceived narrow opportunities and there is a decreasing space for service providers to step in. The trust from people in a position of responsibility allowed Safaa Bouzambou, Abdellah Aknin and their colleagues to establish a cultural ecosystem in the neighbourhood, enabling its residents to elaborate together on the meaning and value of art. Youth and art were also at the center of the contribution of Michal Hladký, who is in the lead of empowering young people with art from Košice.