International Youth Exchange
Storytelling for Social Justice, Dialogue and Inclusion
An Erasmus+ exchange project with participants from Bulgaria, Italy, Serbia and Portugal
Storytelling is an important medium through which communities are created. The stories we hear and tell play an important role in the social construction of reality specifically as it pertains to the discourses available in media, literature, and policy making. Popular stories tell a great deal about what a society considers important and meaningful, and thus provide a useful starting point for analyzing how racism, sexism and other forms of oppression operate. Becoming aware of the power of storytelling and the mechanisms through which it gets exploited by dominant and extremist social groups alike is crucial for young people to develop as critical thinkers and increase their power as social actors.
Critical understanding of stories is greatly needed worldwide. In Bulgaria, for instance, storytelling has recently played a crucial role in manipulating the public to reject the ratification of the Istanbul convention. Conservative ideologues have also coined powerful scare stories to slow down the adoption of more comprehensive children’s rights protection by leading parents to believe that their children will be taken away by the authorities and given to LGBT couples in Norway. Clearly stories – whether “real” or “fake” – have an enormous potential to bring or limit change in our communities, and to not so innocently shape our understanding of who we should perceive as heroes and villains.
The youth exchange aims to create a discussion platform for youth to explore storytelling as a tool for social dialogue and transformation. It aims to equip youth with skills, knowledge, and confidence in critical analyses of stories and media, as well as writing and storytelling. To that end, writing and peer review workshops are built into the daily program of the youth exchange.
The main objectives of the youth exchange are:
▼ To develop young people’s skills, knowledge and confidence in writing and storytelling
▼ To increase young people’s capacities for critical thinking and critical analysis of media, as well as hidden
messages and calls to action
▼ To learn about and explore the meanings of social justice, privilege and social stratification
▼ To creatively explore ways to create social dialogue through the medium of writing and storytelling
▼ To examine the role of young people in the building of open and just democratic societies
▼ To inspire and empower young people to act as ambassadors of multicultural understanding
The youth exchange will take advantage of non-formal education methods, including group discussions, interactive exercises and games to better understand theme-related concepts, sharing circles, village exploration, brainstorming, interactive presentations, role plays, dance improvisation, theatre of the oppressed, Spoken Word, a Master Class with a famous Bulgarian writer, international performances, etc. The project will also feature an international evening organized by training participants to share aspects of their cultures with the local community, as well as a final storytelling performance whereby youth will read/perform some of their creations to facilitate reflection and dialogue with the local community where the project will be hosted.
What did the youth exchange participants learn and experience?
The experiential program was organized under 3 themes:
Critical Thinking in a Global Context
▼ critically examining ideas and beliefs related to society and democracy
▼learning about social justice, privilege, and social stratification
▼reflecting on the importance of storytelling as a tool for social dialogue and transformation
▼ exploring the typology of stories offered by Anne Belle in her book “Storytelling for Social Justice: Connecting Narrative and the Arts in Antiracist Teaching”
▼ becoming aware of the importance of considering one’s audience
▼gaining experience with transforming stories to give voice to marginalized people and challenge the status quo
Becoming Effective Storytellers
▼ developing writing skills and skills necessary to provide feedback and peer-review others’ writing
▼learning new strategies and developing new skills in relation to effective storytelling
▼ gaining confidence and knowledge to utilize own writing and storytelling for social change
5 – 14 August 2021,
SolidarityWorks Center for Learning, Sharing, and Cultural Exchange
Digital Storytelling Book
Check out our digital book where you can read selected works created by our participants during the youth exchange. We hope that it will inspire you to reflect on your own stories, and consider how you can use your voice – or your pen! – to be part of the change you want to see in the world.