The Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s third annual “Academy of Activism” was held in Durres in September to promote and build a culture of youth activism and engage youth with causes that influence their lives.
From September 10 to 15, eighteen young men and women aged from 19 to 30 participated in training sessions, discussions, and working groups. Topics covered in this year’s Academy include human rights, education, transparency and accountability, the media, the environment, young people as change agents, as well as consumer issues. Coping with the effects that have been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and how this has brought challenges to the lives of young people was also discussed.
The first day of the Academy focused on engaging young people with activism, exploring how youth can become agents for change in society. Marinel Miti, a leadership skills expert, guided participants through games and offered advice and examples of how to move beyond our comfort zones to become activists.
The second day began with a panel discussion with three previous participants of the Academy, Anisa Isufi, Aurel Plaku, and Xhesian Balili. They shared their experiences of becoming activists and how they utilised the skills learned in the Academy to become involved in causes that they believe in. They offered inspiration and advice to this year’s attendees on how to engage in activism and have their voices heard in media and public spaces. Next, researcher Edlira Gjoni led a discussion on how governance works in Albania. She shared information on the types of power, the issues with the civic response, stakeholders, and how citizens can influence public policy. During this session, the young participants were invited to share their own experiences in engaging in activist causes and the issues they encountered.
This day ended with two lectures by Professor Roland Lami. The first explored the crisis of local democracy as a crisis of civic reaction and the second examined the role played by citizens in decisions made by international and local actors.
The third day started early with the community affairs activist Valdon Bytyci. He shared the experience of activists in Kosovo, highlighting involvement in local government through community volunteerism. Next, the topic turned to social networks and how they can by tools to serve youth activism. Erjona Rusi, a journalist at Top Channel, shared tips on how to make activism attractive to traditional media. Through several personal examples in her daily work as a journalist, the young participants learned how certain causes managed to attract the attention of the media.
The day ended with a panel of journalists and executives of non-traditional media, such as Lorin Kadiu from Citizens Channel Media Centre, Alice Taylor, a journalist at Exit.al and also the creator and manager of the online space "Balkanista", and Roden Hoxha from the Centre Albanian for Quality Journalism. The three guests presented examples of alternative media, outside of the traditional framework. How does engaged journalism work and where does activism in such media begin and end? The young participants were introduced to new channels where they could share their activities for causes in the future.
The customer was the focus of discussions on the fourth morning of the Academy. Ersida Teliti, head of the Albanian Consumer Center spoke of the necessity to talk about consumer rights and how youth activists can play a role in their protection. Discussion on young people and their vulnerability as consumers continued with Granit Sokolaj, head of the Alert Center, who spoke about food safety and how food safety-related issues can be promoted through activism.
The rest of the day was dedicated to one of the most pressing issues of our time, the environment. Journalist Artan Rama shared his experience and the challenges of environmental reporting in Albania. He urged young people to become involved in environmental activism as there is an immediate need, given the situation we, as a society, are in. The training ended with stories of environmental activism shared by Olsi Nika, head of Eco Albania. The Vjosa River and the internationalization of this issue was one of the main topics he covered. He also provided concrete steps that young people can take to influence the policies the effect the environment.
On the fifth day, how to launch a communication campaign for activist activities was the keynote of the lecture given by the communication expert and editor-in-chief of Exit.al Neritan Sejamini. Through concrete practices, young people learned how to bring their causes to the attention of the public and policymakers. Next, lecturer and economist Pano Soko explained and illustrated through practical exercises the concept of the subsistence level as survival and the importance of attaining a reasonable standard of living.
The sixth day reflected on all the information and inspiration gained during the Academy as the participants presented proposals for causes that were important to them. Four groups were established focusing on topics such as youth apathy, mental health, the student card, and local government. Using the knowledge learned in the Academy and provided with the guidance and tools to become advocates for change, the young participants were inspired to become activists for different causes in society.
The Academy of Activism III was held in Durrës from September 10 to 15 2021, respecting measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.