The SWAG team in Rotterdam
The SWAG team in Rotterdam

SWAG: Rotterdam Meeting 17-20 January 2018

Schools could really use some SWAG!
Share ideas. Work together. Act now. Get involved.

2nd meeting | Rotterdam 17-20 January 2018
By Angeliki Tseliou, Kalliga Square Initiative, “kids4thecity” educational programme

Wednesday January 17th

I landed into Amsterdam Schiphol with a delay, due to strong wind and realised that the next day will be even more windy! However I was happy to be back in a country I had first visited so many years ago. I took a train to Rotterdam and then a tram to meet Ed, happy to look out from the tram’s window, the city looks really amazing! I met with Ed at our floating (!) hotel. We had a glass of Dutch beer and some catch up at the unique Markthal, still waiting for Lilian and David to arrive in the evening, and Ildiko and Pavlina were expected on Thursday. We prepared for the next day’s important meeting with the NL National Agency for Erasmus+.

Thursday January 18th

Together with Lilian and David, we left Rotterdam in the morning to meet with the Agency in The Hague, listening to the radio updates about cancelled or delayed plane and bus schedules due to the wind storm. We arrived to the Hague and the Agency representative was really welcoming – although she seemed extremely busy. We tried to present our project in as few words as possible, and we got some useful feedback from her on how we could enrich our proposal in order to get more chances for approval.

On our way back to Rotterdam, we managed to fetch Ildi at Schiphol. She had just arrived and was exhausted, the delay was totally nerve-racking. Pavlina was still missing, she had to change buses more than once, and will arrive later this evening. We went back to the hotel to exchange on the meeting with the Agency, and our internal SWAG meeting started!

Over the following 48 hours we dealt with our main challenge, the leading partner for our Erasmus+ application, since Ed had already informed us that his organisation might not be able to lead the project after all, due to Erasmus+ technical issues. We designated the programme’s specific activities at local and transnational level and drew their Gantt chart. We also discussed the next steps to take, and their appropriate timeline. Following David’s suggestion, Lilian and I submitted a first draft of SWAG’s updated description to be presented as the programme’s “ID” whenever needed – mainly to the potential leading partners.

Swag is a collective educational program based upon the concept of commoning, aiming at:
• Connecting schools to their communities
• Introducing alternative learning methods
• Developing collective ownership of the city by exploring the public space, the natural and the cultural heritage.

From SWAG's description, January 2018
Friday January 19th

The next morning, Friday 19th, at the welcoming spaces of De Nieuwe Kans, this draft was further elaborated by Ed, David and Pavlina and its
final version looks like this.

At the same time, another group consisting of Lilian, Ildiko, Ankie (Ed’s working partner, whose experience and contribution proved to be more than valuable) and myself worked intensively on the specific activities to be included to our proposal. Three groups of activities were identified: training, mobilities and materials’ production.

According to the conclusions of our brainstorming session, training should focus on cultural heritage, public space, participatory processes, commons and commoning, and urban environment. Each partner will provide training for teachers on one of the above topics. Teachers will then become the multipliers in their schools and their local context.

Mobilities will mainly consist of exchange among peers (teachers, students etc.) and participatory actions, like, for instance, the “Agora project” that will combine an open pop-up venue created by David’s team and local schools with an open dialog session among teen students, inspired by the one that is initiated by our Athenian “kids4thecity” programme (to take place in Athens in April 2018).

The materials to be produced will be the intellectual outputs of the programme: a roadmap to the project in many languages, an interactive database on best practices, a documentary film on project subtitled in many languages (10-15 mins), distance learning methods, training materials and so on.

All the above activities were described by duration and time of implementation on the proposal’s draft Gantt chart.

Saturday January 20th

The leading partner issue was further discussed over our last working session on Saturday at the beautiful Stichting Kunstzinnige Vorming Rotterdam (aka SKVR). A couple of organisations in the Netherlands, another organisation and the municipality of Barcelona appeared as quite appealing options. However we all agreed that, MitOst being our mentor by definition, we should definitely approach the organisation’s representatives and explain our request about MitOst leading the project.

Next steps and communications were also discussed on that last working session and shared via email with all participants right after the meeting.

It was then time to say goodbye. Our highly stimulating and productive meeting ended the way it had began – with a quick lunch in the extraordinary setup of the imposing Markthal.

Recommended Reading:
“My private Rotterdam” (from Lilian Jüchtern’s travel journal)

“Architecture in Rotterdam is absolutely amazing – the Dutch had the imagination and the visionary mind needed to reinvent the city which had been completely bombed in World War II. There is definitely no better place in Europe to rethink education.”

“To reach Fenix Food Factory we took a water taxi – it is quite impressive to see the lighted buildings at night (but there is no way to capture this using a mobile phone camera).”

“Breakfast at the hotel was not included so I went out searching for coffee in the morning – wrong place, wrong time. Walking carefully on the icy surfaces at the harbour, I found the part of the city which was so lively the previous night totally deserted. No coffee for me …”

The team working away!
The team working away!

“And yes – we did actually work as well. The first evening after everybody had arrived was a bit slow and I was getting a bit desperate… No need to worry, though. We made good progress in our first meeting session. Ed has invited some people he is working with and we learned about the difference between a project and a program.”

“After the MitOst Festival and CitizensLab network meeting in Frankfurt (Oder)/ Slubice in Rotterdam for the second time a storm was part of our meeting. Train services in the Netherlands and Germany were interrupted (I was lucky to have arrived the previous day). With a bit of „magical thinking“ it seems possible that the universe is gathering its forces to fight the changes CitizensLab members are attempting to achieve… Ok, maybe a bit too magical ;-D”

“We watch the video about the agora project David had just finished and brought with him. We agree that it shows what young people can achieve if they are involved in participatory processes. The agora as a pop-up meeting space is an amazing project which illustrates some of the principles of our program for education – schools need to go out into the communities, engage in participatory processes and create spaces which allow people to meet, to connect and to share ideas.”

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