100 Years Young! AFS Youth Workshop & Symposium

In November 2014, AFS Intercultural Programs will celebrate its 100th anniversary and prepare to ring in the next hundred years of education for peace and intercultural cooperation. We want to ensure that this important event incorporates the direct voice of youth: the generation that will carry AFS into the next century and that must learn to live together in order to resolve our shared challenges in an interdependent world.

The 100 Years Young! AFS Youth Workshop & Symposium, taking place from 5 to 8 November 2014 in Paris, France, will be an important set of events bringing a critical intergenerational element. Between 100 and 150 youth representatives of AFS and other organizations from around the world will come together to discuss and share their perspectives about how to tangibly go about the work of developing global citizens. As the application deadline – 17 August – is fast approaching, we would like to encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible!

As we welcome diverse perspectives at the table, this event is open to all young people ages 30 and under who are interested in Intercultural Learning and Global Citizenship  from different youth organizations. Participating in this event is an opportunity to:

  • take part in a vital conversation of young people from around the world
  • contribute to shaping the future of Global Citizenship Education
  • connect and network with volunteers from other youth/intercultural organizations
  • take part in the 100th anniversary of a leading intercultural education organization

You can sign up for virtual and in-person participation: visit the event website for more details. This event is held under the patronage of UNESCO.

AFSers attend the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication!

From 14 – 25 July, more than 20 AFSers gathered at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) in Portland, Oregon. The AFSers attended workshops on a variety of topics within the realm of International Communication, ranging from Training Design for Intercultural Communication to Storytelling for Intercultural Reflection. AFS attends SIIC each year because of our commitment to learning from lead scholars and practitioners in the field in order to improve our capacity as an intercultural learning organization. Our commitment extends to the whole network, as this is the 4th year that AFS has been able to sponsor staff and volunteers from around the network to attend SIIC.

Attending this year for the first time was Vincenzo Morlini, President of AFS International. Leading by example, Vincenzo demonstrated that intercultural learning never stops no matter what your role or how great your experience. “Even if I am not a newcomer to the subject, the workshop I attended was very inspiring and what I learned will be very useful in future traveling and communications with the network and outside audiences,” stated Morlini. “I also had the opportunity to meet with wonderful AFS staff and volunteers from different countries, to talk and exchange ideas with interesting people outside of AFS.”

Also at SIIC for the first time was AFS International Board of Trustees member from Costa Rica, Guillermo Barquero. “My learning experience at SIIC on Culture, Communication and Team Collaboration was beyond my expectations and it was a great opportunity indeed.”

Apart from the workshops during the day and evening sessions after dinner, other SIIC highlights include two AFS-sponsored karaoke nights, where AFSers took turns quizzing other SIIC attendees on their AFS trivia; an off-campus barbecue; and of course, exploring the city of Portland. Reed College’s campus itself made for a restorative time, with its native plants, wildlife, lake and pedestrian bridges.

We would like to give an extra special thank you to the gracious Janet Bennett, Executive Director and co-founder of the Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI). The ongoing love and support for AFS and her team of ICI staff make the AFS-SIIC scholarship program a successful collaboration every year.

Now back in their respective countries, the AFS-SIIC scholars intend to apply what they have learned to advance key AFS Network Intercultural Learning projects and goals. SIIC 2014 was a success and we look forward to providing the opportunity for more AFSers to attend next year!

The AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program goes to Costa Rica!

From 11-14 July, 14 volunteers and staff members from AFS Costa Rica and 2 volunteers from AFS Paraguay gathered in San José, Costa Rica, for a 4-day AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program National Qualified Training (NQT) Workshop. The Learning Program is an AFS network-wide Intercultural Learning training and assessment program designed to improve the collective intercultural competence of staff and volunteers, and enhance our expertise in developing this in others.

The workshop marks the first of three steps towards becoming a National Qualified Trainer. This means that once certified, the 16 Qualified Trainers will be able to implement the Learning Program locally, according to their country’s national strategic plans.

María Fernanda Batista Lobo, a previous volunteer for AFS Costa Rica and currently the Intercultural Learning Center Educational Coordinator at AFS Costa Rica, participated in the NQT workshop. “I really enjoy deepening and strengthening my knowledge of the Learning Program’s curriculum as well as learning about facilitation techniques and strategies. Also, I thought the level of organization of the facilitators was impressive,” stated María Fernanda.

When asked what surprised her about the workshop, she said, “I felt wonderful throughout the workshops not only because it was the closing of a long preparation cycle but also because I felt I was learning lots of new things that will help me perform my job better. After being part of AFS for so many years it’s easy to feel like there is nothing new or that you’ve seen all the techniques, so I loved that after so many years of belonging to an organization I am still able to be surprised.”

AFS Costa Rica is dedicated to Intercultural Learning. Victoria Soto, an International Qualified Trainer for the Learning Program and long-time volunteer at AFS Costa Rica echoed this sentiment: “I think it’s worth recognizing that this [the NQT certification] is a result of a process of years of our organization insisting on going beyond the “tip of the iceberg,” of not staying on the sidelines of our intercultural encounters but instead strengthening the educational competencies of our staff and volunteers. From the coordination of the Intercultural Learning Center (CAI), AFS Costa Rica views the NQT workshop and certification as a valuable resource towards achieving the educational goals of our strategic plan.

Congratulations to AFS Costa Rica and AFS Paraguay on the hard work towards facilitating Intercultural Learning at the national level and your commitment to doing so within the framework of the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program!

Flexibility in Training Design and Delivery: Summer Academy Experience in Istanbul

The following blog post is contributed by our fellow AFSer, Omer Ongun. Omer went on an exchange to USA in 2003 with AFS and since then has been a volunteer, volunteer trainer and project coordinator in AFS Turkey. After finishing college in business administration, with a great inspiration from AFS, he chose the intercultural learning field and intercultural competence as his area of profession. He is currently a graduate student at Galatasaray University, doing a research in understanding mobility programs as cultural diplomacy tools and developing a better mutual understanding of diverse groups in Turkey through cultural exchanges. Omer is also a folk/contemporary dancer of various cultures in Anatolia. He practices body music and dance too, trying to experience body music in different folk cultures throughout the world.

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For the second year in a row, I was honored to be a trainer at the Summer Academy on Sustainability from an Intercultural Perspective which took place in Istanbul in July 2014. The Academy is organized by four partners from Germany and Turkey, InterCultur (subsidy of AFS Germany) and Karlshochschule International University as well as AFS Turkey and Istanbul Kültür University, in cooperation with Stiftung Mercator, one of Germany’s largest foundations. The Academy focuses on the intercultural perspective of international energy politics, environmental ethics and further ecological issues.

The model brings together lecturers from formal academic world and trainers from non-formal learning environments. The atmosphere itself deserves another long blog post but for now I will concentrate on the training experience I had with my co-trainer Laura Armborst from AFS Germany. As usual, long Skype calls, email exchanges and prep days were behind us on the first day of the Academy. We had designed three-hour sessions for four days to be delivered in one week. Though trainers generally receive the list of participants and further information on the group profile and their knowledge level of the subject beforehand, you never really know until the first day what kind of a group you will be working with.

To avoid concentrating on one learning style only, our design included various methodologies for each day. At the end of the first day, we already knew we needed to make some adjustments to the design for the following days. Our group of 18 university students turned out to be very bodily-kinesthetic learners and we were very aware of their expectations: interactive, physical and visual activities. As soon as “lecturing” or “presenting” methodologies were used, we had the risk of “losing” the group.  It is quite important to increase interactivity and the sharing aspect of non-formal learning to avoid “learner-teacher” distance. It is also highly essential in non-formal learning to give participants a chance to stand up, speak and/or present in order to maximize the learning, increase the participation and ownership of the training. This is how we rearranged or highlighted the design:

  • Each day started with an energizer that would focus on increasing the group feeling and group spirit. The participants loved learning a folk Turkish dance which was actually an energizer after a long morning lecture and before a long training afternoon.
  • On day one, we created all the rules together and called them “norms”. Since all the norms were created and agreed upon collectively, it was much easier to remind participants who would forget them through the week :)
  • There was a board in the workshop room on which participants could write open questions or topics that would arise during the sessions, breaks or evenings. At the end of each day, we looked back at them all together.
  • Each participant felt free to play their music during breaks.
  • We used participants first names to show we really try to address them and that we were interested in getting to know them. In some groups this might be found disrespectful so it is highly important to check during the group norms how comfortable the group would be.
  • For the daily reflections, we tried a variety of tools and means such as balls, postcards, music or movement to increase the creativity and promote other ways of reflection then just speech.
  • Instead of standing up in front of the group, trainers usually preferred sitting with participants in a circle and decreasing the visual image of the “powerful” trainer or educator.
  • We increased active/interactive methodologies. e.g. nonverbal communication elements were supposed to be understood through individual case studies though later we asked participants to work in groups and prepare a sketch for each nonverbal communication dimension and later they reflected this activity with great positive feelings.

After all, it is still a challenge for any trainer to design a training non-formal learning. We can feel satisfied creating the link with the aims, objectives or general concepts but how flexible are we when the group profile seems much more different than what we expected? This seems to be an exciting challenge for innovative trainers.

Global Citizenship Education – Preparing Learners for the Challenges of the 21st Century

“We must foster global citizenship. Education is about more than literacy and numeracy. It is also about citizenry. Education must fully assume its essential role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful and tolerant societies.”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Global Citizenship Education (GCE) demonstrates how education can develop the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes learners need for securing a world which is more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable. UNESCO has recently published a document entitled Global Citizenship Education – Preparing Learners for the Challenges of the 21st Century, which explores conditions for the promotion and implementation of global citizenship education, including universal values, transformative pedagogy and youth-led initiatives.The goal of this publication is to:

  • Improve the understanding of GCE as an educational approach, and its implications for education content, pedagogies and approaches;
  • Identify innovative approaches and good practices in GCE globally; and
  • Share lessons learned and pathways to scaling up GCE.

There are different approaches to global citizenship education, including both formal and informal. In formal settings, GCE can be delivered as an integral part of an existing subject or as an independent subject area, while the application in informal settings includes the use of information and communication technologies and social media, sport competitions and the use of art and music, and youth-led initiatives.

The universal values and skills promoted by GCE directly overlap with what AFS stands for and its Educational Goals: developing certain skills, such as critical thinking, empathy and the ability to shift cultural perspectives, as well as having an understanding of global and local issues and striving for justice.

How can you incorporate the values of global citizenship in your community?

First Thiagi Publication on Interactive Trainings in German

AFS is proud to announce that InterCultur (subsidiary of AFS Germany) is the co-author of the first German publication with Thiagi’s interactive training methods. Thiagi is one of the most innovative game designers whose interactive trainings are performance-based, motivating and effective. He designs leadership, soft-skills, and technical training for corporate clients and conducts training in classroom and online environments.

Thiagi was a speaker at last year’s AFS Academy, an AFSers-only training event in Florence, Italy in November 2013. He has published more than 50 books so far, but to date none of them in German.

For this publication a cooperation which included Thiagi’s Swiss business partner Samuel van den Bergh and the German Metal Worker Union (IGM) (which is a long term partner for InterCultur in intercultural trainings) was formed. InterCultur was presented by Annette Gisevius, Head of Training at InterCultur and Director of Intercultural Learning at AFS Germany.

In a one-year process Thiagi’s exercises were translated and adapted to be used in intercultural and political contexts. InterCultur provided the intercultural content for Thiagi’s frame games and contributed some of its own exercises.

On 28 June, the new book was first presented at a trainers meeting of the IGM where 180 people gathered to attend a workshop run by Thiagi and Samuel van den Bergh.

The book can be ordered at: http://www.wochenschau-verlag.de/interaktive-trainingsmethoden.html.

photo credit: Tiago Phelipe

One Step Forward: China Advanced in Educator Training on Program Development and Intercultural Learning

The following blog post is contributed by our fellow AFSer, Margaret Yang Zhao. Margaret is the ICL Responsible and Volunteer Development Supervisor at AFS China, and a candidate for the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program International Qualified Trainer. She was an exchange student to Japan and holds a Master degree in Intercultural Communication at Communication University of China. She facilitates intercultural trainings for target groups of volunteers of all ages with a focus on cultural awareness, cultural adaptation and cultural values in non-formal education settings. We thank Margaret for her contribution, and hope you enjoy her post!

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The first ever Educator Training Workshop on Program Development and Intercultural Learning took place in Beijing, China from 12 to 15 June 2014. Organized by the Volunteer Committee for Intercultural Education (AFS China), this workshop successfully brought together 17 volunteers from all over China who work as educators at different academic levels.

During the workshop, participants learned about the vision and mission of AFS, got to know the support structure, discussed topics on how to embed intercultural learning into program development and together designed materials/curriculums for future training and marketing.

To make the workshop a new experience for these educators, the prep team put lots of effort into details: (1) A pre-workshop online survey was delivered to collect expectations and demands of participants so that adjustments could be done in time; in addition to that, this also gave us some hints about the state of volunteer (intercultural) training in China. (2) Every participant was asked to bring one or two kinds of local snacks to exchange, which gave them a chance to learn about each other’s regional food culture. (3) Western and Chinese flavors were served on different days to help participants better understand cultural differences between west and east: Pizzas were ordered on the first day and dumplings on the last.

The workshop had four main sessions:

  • Me and AFS
  • Linking intercultural learning with AFS realities
  • New materials for marketing and branding
  • School Relations

These educators shared a common feeling that AFS is more than an exchange organization; it has stepped out firmly in making itself an educational organization that offers intercultural learning opportunities to better connect the world. They had the chance to get acquainted with the AFS Intercultural Link Learning Program, a multi-step training and assessment program designed to further develop intercultural learning facilitation competencies for AFS volunteer and staff worldwide. They also discussed the volunteer development strategy together with staff members of AFS. Given their professional backgrounds, worked very hard on developing training materials and introducing many different approaches that work effectively on strengthening school relations.

We hope that the participants of this training will act as task forces in promoting AFS in non-formal education settings in order to spread the name of it as much as possible.

Advancing Global Citizenship Education

What are the the skills and values necessary for being an effective citizen of the world and how can we measure if worldwide educational systems are helping students develop them? Motivated by the challenges of low learning levels and a global data gap on learning, 30 organizations have joined efforts with the ultimate goal of improving learning experiences for young people around the world. They will tackle these issues through The Learning Metrics Task Force 2.0 convened by UNESCO, the Center for Universal Education (Brookings Institution), and the UN Global Education First Initiative: Youth Advocacy Group. We are proud to announce that Melissa Liles, Chief Education Officer for AFS Intercultural Programs, has been appointed to the Global Citizenship Education stream of this task force and will actively take part in its work.

The Learning Metrics Task Force 1.0 already worked on the issue of how to measure global learning and get data about the quality of education on the international level. Its goal was to advocate that mere access to education is not enough, and that it should be complemented by good quality learning. The recommendations presented in its first report entitled Toward Universal Learning: What Every Child Should Learn provide a framework for what knowledge and competences should be obtained in primary education. Through a consultative process, the first task force decided to select an initial number of global learning indicators and will continue its work through an even more comprehensive group of experts.

The goal of The Learning Metrics Task Force 2.0 is to improve the assessment systems of learning at country level in order to better understand the global learning crisis and to provide for the better use of data obtained. The main issues for the task force working on the global citizenship education stream will be to answer the following questions:

  • Are there a small number of core Global Citizenship Education (GCE) competencies that are relevant in all countries?
  • If so, what are some options for how they can they be measured to improve learning and track progress globally?
  • How do we ensure education systems and programs foster and integrate GCE curricula and instructional practices?

AFS’s involvement in the task force is in line with our mission to provide and support intercultural learning globally. With 100 years of experience in working towards global understanding, AFS continues to facilitate global citizenship education (learn more on our website: centennial.afs.org). The AFS exchange experience – including the many volunteer opportunities afterwards – deepens participants’ insights into and knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of their home and other cultures. This way, they become more aware of global issues and employ culturally sensitive and cooperative approaches to problem solving. As an educational organization dedicated to creating global citizens, AFS plans to collect and provide input from its member organizations from around the world as part of its contributions to the group.

Share, Learn and Collaborate: Seminar on Intercultural and Global Citizenship

The following blog post is contributed by our fellow AFSer, Omer Ongun. Omer went on an exchange to USA in 2003 with AFS and since then has been a volunteer, volunteer trainer and project coordinator in AFS Turkey. After finishing college in business administration, with a great inspiration from AFS, he chose the intercultural learning field and intercultural competence as his area of profession. He is currently a graduate student at Galatasaray University, doing a research in understanding mobility programs as cultural diplomacy tools and developing a better mutual understanding of diverse groups in Turkey through cultural exchanges. Omer is also a folk/contemporary dancer of various cultures in Anatolia. He practices body music and dance too, trying to experience body music in different folk cultures throughout the world.

Seminar on Intercultural and Global Citizenship took place in Hamburg, Germany from 4 to 8 June, 2014. Organized collaboratively by the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL - the umbrella organization for AFS in Europe), CISV International, European Educational Exchanges – Youth for Understanding (EEE-YFU) and the Federation of the Experiment in International Living, this seminar was the first and unique attempt to bring together 60 volunteers, staff, trainers and board members from four different intercultural exchange programs: AFS, YFU, CISV and EXPERIMENT.

Participants got to know each other, learned about the structures in each organization, shared common visions and missions, discussed various topics and designed projects for future collaborations and, of course, had lots of fun all together!

The seminar had four main tracks:

  • Advocacy and Partnership
  • Leadership and Participation
  • Training
  • Educational Resources

In each track, the main goals were to understand how each organization managed those areas and how possible future projects could be designed and implemented. At the end of the seminar, representatives of each track presented their project ideas and received feedback from the rest of the group. A detailed report will be published and delivered soon to all the networks of the organizations.

Seminar participants also decided to start an informal and practical platform to share educational resources, events, announcements and invitations across AFS, CISV, YFU and EXPERIMENT and related interested parties. You can join now here, but please bear in mind the main purpose of the group and the organizations’ missions and rules on social media.

These gatherings and joint seminars are highly valuable due to the potential they bear. Living in a world of growing conflicts, wars and disputes, it is very important for peace and dialogue supporters to come and work together no matter what organization they work or volunteer for. The Seminar on Intercultural and Global Citizenship was significant for AFS as a great step in building solidarity and collaboration among non-profit, intercultural learning focused organizations towards building a more peaceful and fair world for all.

Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication – Coming up soon!

The 2014 Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) is almost here!  From 14 to 25 July, top educators and professionals in the field of intercultural communication will gather in Portland, Oregon, USA, to explore the field and network with others in a stimulating and supportive environment.  Run by longtime AFS supporter Dr. Janet Bennett, this favorite annual event offers multiple workshops and tracks and represents an excellent professional development opportunity for people working in education, training, business, and consulting, in both international and domestic intercultural contexts.

This year, AFS Intercultural Programs is proud to be a part of the lineup offering a new course called What Every Person Should Know about Intercultural Learning at what has been called an “intellectual summer camp for adults.” This workshop allows you to take part in a basic intercultural learning training course to re-familiarize yourself with the essentials. It will also help you learn how to deliver this same training to others, adjusting relevant portions for your own professional settings. There will be a total of 20 AFS-SIIC scholars representing the AFS network at SIIC this year. These scholars are coming from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Germany, Ghana, Malaysia, Turkey and USA and they are committed to integrating their SIIC experiences with further engagement with key AFS network intercultural learning projects.

Past AFS-SIIC scholars speak highly of their time at SIIC and they have this to say:

Fernanda Mayumi Ogasawara from AFS Brazil said, ”The experience of attending the SIIC 2013 was absolutely amazing. Being able not only to do the workshops but also get to know a lot of professionals was a blessing. I am so thankful for the opportunity that AFS has given me. Attending SIIC was a highlight of 2013 for me!

Mariam Fayez from AFS Egypt also echoes these sentiments by saying, ”For me this intensive experience was an eye opener and an energizer, I started to get a better understanding that every issue has many diverse perspectives. This was a signal for me for further quest for knowledge, I went home charged and motivated to learn more, and started engaging in deeper associations in the subject matters.

To register or get more information, visit the SIIC website: http://www.intercultural.org/siic.php.