Youth Leadership Academy video – March 2017 in Macedonia

Dear PTPI Membership:
From: Angel Dimitrievski, Skopje Macedonia, Youth Coordinator Europe

Let me tell you some beautiful news that you will want to hear. As many of you probably saw on social media, last week (March 7 – 12) we organised the PTPI Europe Youth Leadership Academy, in Skopje Macedonia. This was for sure one of the best projects I have implemented since I started serving as Youth Coordinator for the European Region.

This Academy equipped 17 high school and university students about how to become future community leaders, and how to spread the mission of PTPI. And this energy is something that must be felt, and spread across countries and nations. The Academy brought Emil from Plovdiv to be homestayed at Georgino’s home in Skopje. They became brothers in five days. And at the bus station getting ready to head home Emil told me, that he is so connected to this family that he did not want to leave Macedonia.

There was a girl from Varna called Illyana that could not find the words to explain this experience. She wrote me a letter the evening before departure and handed to me at the bus station. There is a boy called Vlad from Romania who enjoyed a combination of Macedonian traditional kafana and good rock music. 

These amazing students attended the program that we had carefully prepared in the previous three months. The students were working on improving their team competences and shaping the ideal community leader. They participated in panel discussions about leadership topics, attended workshops on intercultural communication with Toni from Bulgaria, and project management with Emi from Plovdiv. And, most importantly they promised to deliver five wonderful projects, back in their home countries, making use of the skills they learned from the Academy. For me, this was confirmation that the event must run annually. It engages our youth in spreading the PTPI mission and confirms our commitment to the development of future leaders.

I want to send a big thank you to my Skopje team who supported me in implementing this idea. To Chalks, and PTPI Europe that supported us financially and with without whom this Academy, would not have happened and all. Also, the amazing students that participated, their adult support leaders and our workshop leaders.

Please take three minutes to watch this video. You can experience all that we covered in Skopje. (The video is only available to view on a computer).

Please always believe in the energy of our PTPI Youth membership, it is truly Magical.
Yours in Peace
Angel Dimitrievski

President, PTPI Skopje-Macedonia
Youth Coordinator, Europe region 

Note from Chalks: It has always been clear to me that we have a duty to deliver experiences, that will enrich the lives of our future leaders. Our youth make a commitment to PTPI, rather than spend their time on other stuff that young people often prefer to do! This whole event involved 22 people and cost less than 2000 euro – meals, travel, accommodation, materials, faculty: not a bad effort for a group of passionate and dedicated volunteers. I urge us all to do more, contribute more and believe in great outcomes for our collective future.

what does the European chair do these days?

The voluntary role of the PTPI European regional chair, looks quite different these days.  Now that there is no longer an operational office in Berlin, Germany, the European executive committee (EEC) team, take their guidance from the regional chair. This individual is also known as the president of the EEC.  To a certain extent there is no immediate pressure to deliver very much. The annual European conference is probably the biggest mandatory activity requiring attention.  Much of the effort for this event does fall to the hosting chapter. But there is still much to do centrally.  Developing webpages with all the necessary content, agreeing the agenda for the conference, confirming process for registration and money transfers, together with the event communications requires central leadership.

What I have noticed is that without a social entrepreneur driving things, it is all too easy for any region to aspire to achieving the bear minimum. The EEC must ensure that our accounts are in order, minutes from our meetings are circulated, our youth program is supported and that our communication channels show a sign-of-life.  To this end it is difficult to do the minimum because the chapters are in constant need of information. There is also some effort required in meeting World headquarters reporting needs.

It is down to us in the EEC to ensure that the European website is accurate and complete. The chapters require us to publish their news, both on our website and social media. Our weekly European newsletter must provide our chapters with a summary of what is taking place within the region. The newsletter is also the way in which we share information with our chapter presidents, and our nonmembers that may not know much about our projects and activities. We provide a process of continuous improvement, so that we are always learning. Feedback about our communications has been positive for the past three years.

Fund development is another aspect of our responsibility within the EEC.  This is a complex area because no one wants to give money away.  And yet everyone is happy to help in the delivery of great projects, that improve quality-of-life for as many people as possible. At People to People International we have always believed in replacing cultural barriers with cultural understanding.  We have also always been active in many communities through our humanitarian outreach.  We do need to improve transparency in everything that we do, so that potential donors will be more comfortable in supporting our projects.

The regional chair is instrumental in keeping the region on track.  That individual is also responsible for our legal representation in Belgium. There is never a dull moment in any day of the life of the regional chair.  Each day brings with it new challenges, new joys and an opportunity to add value to our people operations at PTPI Europe.

The road ahead requires a lot of collaboration, dialogue and negotiation.  The world is changing faster than any of us could ever have imagined. The issues posed by the migration of people no matter the reason, the constant speed at which technology is moving, and the demands placed on us via our 24-hour society will certainly keep us on our toes. Staying relevant to as many people as possible during these turbulent times, is by far the main thing that I must deal with as regional chair. Unless we remain relevant where ever we operate people will feel no need to pay for membership.  As chapters and members form the backbone of our organisation, it is important to ensure that we focus on what is important to them.

As a voluntary position the role of regional chair is quite challenging.  You can easily fill your whole week with projects and activities that would benefit many communities. So, you find you must balance the time that you have, with the other activities that occupy your life, such as family and probably work. Being a self-starter and entrepreneur, provides me with the understanding of the energy and motivation needed to be successful as an NGO. I’m looking forward to providing the opportunity for the younger PTPI members to take the leadership role.  It is important that we allow all kinds of minds, a wide range of skills and age groups to contribute to our NGO.

Chalks Corriette, PTPI Europe – EMIT sprl

Chalks –  is a social entrepreneur, European president of PTPI Europe and the managing director of EMIT (extraordinary moments in time).  His time is spent assisting businesses and communities to find common ground to work together. His collaborative and creative skills have proven an asset in making things happen. Chalks is particularly strong in marketing and communications, people operational matters and logistics.

where has all the funding gone?

Anyone involved in a local club, charity or trying to bring together friends to run the 20K, for a worthy cause, no doubt has come up against the fact that there really is not much money around these days. This may or may not be true – it is in fact quite difficult to tell. Many institutions claim that they have an abundance of funding that remains in their accounts. The issue here of course is the bureaucracy of forms and processes that one must navigate, to obtain the smallest amount of funding. These processes also tend to be lengthy, only for you to find out just before your project goes live, that you are without funding.

In the past few weeks I have attended a number of receptions, aimed at people working with Youth. We, the other participants and invited guests are advised about the many opportunities, and types of projects that are eagerly waiting to be supported financially. When I have spoken up to say that there is no shortage of knowledge and expertise, at a local level to work on the issues of youth, it is clear that our hosts are really only interested in the projects they want to offer, even if the local youth do not need, or want these projects. Institutional funding is truly becoming more difficult to get your hands on. They require a very narrow definition of a particular subject, and the post project reporting needs are often also steep. Therefore, the small high impact very local Youth projects stand little chance of benefiting.

This is probably why many small initiatives do what they can to raise money within their community. One big challenge here is that many of these community pools are just too small. Numerous events that I attend, and many of the calls for assistance that I receive, tend to involve the same group of enthusiastic wonderful people. These wonderful people only have pockets that are so deep. At some point they will run out of enthusiasm and potentially money, then what? It is extremely important that we as a modern society, think about how local grassroots activities can be better supported by the whole community.

If a company operates a CSR (corporate social responsibility) policy, this tends to focus on issues that are linked to core products and services. Unless a company’s CSR policy, has a strong local community element ensuring that they engage actively with the local community, sadly local projects received no support. Many CSR policies are geared towards offering the company’s core competence as a service to the community. The challenge here is that if you have no need for an engineer, printer cartridges or free transport for example, there is little you can gain from a company’s core competence.

What local grassroots initiatives need is hard cash. These days finding volunteers and offers of goods, is a little easier. However, it is important to be aware that there are somethings that no local initiative can do without. The costs of running a central administration system, insurance coverage and specific items that projects often need, that you just cannot get donated must be paid for. Equally for big projects skilled project managers are essential. Whilst many project managers will donate some of their time, there also comes a point when people must pay their living costs.
There are a few companies out there prepared to help. For example, the employees of Toyota Motor Europe, run several internal activities that generate cash directly from the employees. Employee lead yoga sessions, bake sales, family portrait photography opportunities, games, parties and tombola’s; have generated close
to €30,000 cash in just one year. To be clear this cash does not come from the company. This community engagement program, is complimentary to the companies CSR policy and activities.

So please spare a moment for those of us that operate, support, encourage and cheerlead for local grassroots Youth projects. Do consider our demands for cash donations as genuine and humble requests to support young people in need. Many of us have been in the game for a long time, and we are aware of the number of requests for your money. Small amounts donated regularly are a very good way to help us be sustainable. There is nothing worse than working with a local orphanage and finding that you cannot complete a project, because promised funding did not arrive or we were unable to connect to people with deeper pockets!

We the NGO leaders do understand that there is a role for us to play as well. The issues of transparency and understanding how money is used, will probably forever be front of mind for many people. I would never want to shy away from the fact that there has been some misuse of money, by a few organizations. And yet, by far the biggest majority of projects led by a committed group of young people, are successful and deliver amazing results.

So, the next time you see a “call to action” for a local charity and great course, spare a thought for the effort that these committed people put in week after week. Chasing after ever dwindling sources of funding is a thankless task. One day we may discover the rock under which all the funding is hidden. And that day cannot come soon enough.

Chalks Corriette, PTPI Europe – EMIT sprl

Chalks – is a social entrepreneur, European president of PTPI and the managing director of EMIT. His time is spent helping businesses and communities to find common ground to work together. His collaborative and creative skills have proven an asset in making things happen.

Globalization has left people behind. This is what we should do about it

Written by – Diane Coyle
Professor of Economics, University of Manchester

t’s recently become fashionable to worry that the fabric of democracy is being undermined as people feel left behind by globalization and automation. I think these fears are to some extent well founded. But this isn’t a new problem: it goes back at least as far as the 1980s. Our failure to recognize it then, and act on it since, is why it has now reached crisis proportions.

Are there lessons we could learn from those decades-long failures of policy? Yes. Will we learn them? Perhaps not, although there are a few promising signs.

The most fundamental lesson is that to address a problem, you first need to notice it. One of the striking features of the Brexit vote, and the response in some other places to various manifestations of rising populism, has been the surprise of many voters in wealthy, cosmopolitan cities at discovering how differently some of their fellow citizens are thinking.

These tend to be people living in towns and smaller cities where traditional jobs began to disappear a generation ago and have never been adequately replaced. Whole communities have experienced their real incomes stagnating or falling since well before the financial crisis.

A decade ago, Benjamin Friedman made the case in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth that democracy requires a growing economy to lubricate the necessary give and take. When people see their own lives improving, they tend to be sanguine about others’ lives improving more quickly. However, when their own living standards have declined, and they expect their children’s to be even worse, resentment against others who are doing better is inevitable.

For at least three decades, since automation and globalization started radically changing industry, whole swathes of geography have been struggling even as economies have grown overall. For the most part, this has barely registered on policy-makers’ radars.

Statistics existed that could have alerted us to the brewing crisis – but nobody was looking. It took Thomas Piketty, in his 2014 work Capital, to put in the huge amount of effort necessary to make the data clearly tell the story of how many workers were being left behind.

But all Piketty has done is start the conversation: we still need to develop a serious policy response. It’s not too late to start doing what we should have been doing since the 1980s – essentially, taking regional policy much more seriously. I see three main elements to this:

Infrastructure

Large cities will always be the best incubators of economic growth, because the more people you have in one place, the easier it is for their knowledge to spread to each other. But we can narrow the natural disadvantage of smaller cities and towns by improving the infrastructure that connects them to each other.

This recommendation implies making fast broadband universal, but it also points to the need for better transport, like high-speed rail, because virtual and physical communication are complements, not substitutes.

Education

I claim no expertise in how we should be educating our children for the technological state of the world they will face when they graduate, but I am fairly certain we’re currently getting it wrong. Most schools still resemble factories for turning children into expensive and not very good computers.

One obvious and much discussed improvement would be teaching more coding – something we struggle with, partly because we don’t have enough teachers with the necessary skills. Another improvement would be to help children develop the human skills that machines seem furthest away from mastering, such as creativity in problem solving.

Devolved power

Every region is different in terms of what jobs it could create, and the kind of education it needs, which brings me to the final priority: giving local levels of government more power. If education policy is being set by a bureaucrat in a distant city, it can’t reasonably be expected to equip students with the appropriate skills for the local economy.

The same is true of other policy areas. One clear lesson of last year’s electoral shocks is how many people felt a lack of agency. They see decisions that shape their lives being taken by people who aren’t like them, in places that feel far away, whether in central banks, multinational boardrooms or booming capital cities, and seem disconnected from their hinterlands. During the UK referendum campaign the slogan that resonated most was the promise to “take back control”.

If part of what’s undermining democracy is people feeling disconnected from power, part of the answer must be looking for ways to return power closer to people.

Public sector investment and political will

All of this is easier said than done. It would require a very serious redirection of resources to create opportunities in the regions or towns that have been left behind – high quality education and infrastructure do not come cheap. In addition, the initiative needs to come from the public sector, because public capital is the only kind of capital people in left-behind regions can access.

Some may see this as unrealistic given current fiscal challenges, but the problem is less about resources than political will. Get serious about ending tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals and the money for investment could be found.

Technological change also presents opportunities to ameliorate the societal disruptions it is creating. The Fourth Industrial Revolution can improve everyone’s lives, if we govern it wisely.

There are some, tentative signs – in the UK, at least – that politicians may be starting to understand. It is encouraging to hear the phrase “industrial policy” being mentioned again. A new acronym is gaining currency, the “JAMs”, describing people who are “just about managing”. It may sound inelegant, but at least it helps to name the problem.

History shows that when a significant proportion of people feel pessimistic about the future, crises that might otherwise be manageable can quickly spiral out of control. We can’t afford to take several more decades to get policy right.

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Five leadership priorities for 2017

Written by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

As the past year has demonstrated, leaders must be responsive to the demands of the people who have entrusted them to lead, while also providing a vision and a way forward, so that people can imagine a better future.

True leadership in a complex, uncertain, and anxious world requires leaders to navigate with both a radar system and a compass. They must be receptive to signals that are constantly arriving from an ever-changing landscape, and they should be willing to make necessary adjustments; but they must never deviate from their true north, which is to say, a strong vision based on authentic values.

That is why the World Economic Forum has made Responsive and Responsible Leadership the theme for our annual January meeting in Davos. As leaders in government, business, and civil society chart a course for the next year, five key challenges will warrant their attention.

Firstly, they will have to come to grips with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is redefining entire industries, and creating new ones from scratch, owing to groundbreaking advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, self-driving vehicles, 3D-printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and quantum computing.

These technologies have only begun to show their full potential; in 2017, we will increasingly see what used to be science fiction become reality. But, while the Fourth Industrial Revolution could help us solve some of our most pressing problems, it is also dividing societies into those who embrace change and those who do not. And that threatens our wellbeing in ways that will have to be identified and addressed.

Secondly, leaders will have to build a dynamic, inclusive multi-stakeholder global-governance system. Todays’s economic, technological, environmental, and social challenges can be addressed only through global public-private collaboration; but our current framework for international cooperation was designed for the post-war era, when nation-states were the key actors.

At the same time, geopolitical shifts have made today’s world truly multipolar. As new global players bring new ideas about how to shape national systems and the international order, the existing order is becoming more fragile. So long as countries interact on the basis of shared interests, rather than shared values, the extent to which they will be able to cooperate will be limited. Moreover, non-state actors are now capable of disrupting national and global systems, not least through cyber attacks. To withstand this threat, countries cannot simply close themselves off. The only way forward is to make sure that globalization is benefiting everyone.

A third challenge for leaders will be to restore global economic growth. Permanently diminished growth translates into permanently lower living standards: with 5% annual growth, it takes just 14 years to double a country’s GDP; with 3% growth, it takes 24 years. If our current stagnation persists, our children and grandchildren might be worse off than their predecessors.

Even without today’s technologically driven structural unemployment, the global economy would have to create billions of jobs to accommodate a growing population, which is forecast to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, from 7.4 billion today. Thus, 2017 will be a year in which social inclusion and youth unemployment become critical global and national issues.

A fourth challenge will be to reform market capitalism, and to restore the compact between business and society. Free markets and globalization have improved living standards and lifted people out of poverty for decades. But their structural flaws – myopic short-termism, increasing wealth inequality, and cronyism – have fueled the political backlash of recent years, in turn highlighting the need to create permanent structures for balancing economic incentives with social wellbeing.

Finally, leaders will need to address the pervasive crisis in identity formation that has resulted from the erosion of traditional norms over the past two decades. Globalization has made the world smaller but more complex, and many people have lost confidence in institutions. Many people now fear for their future, and they are searching for shared but distinct beliefs that can furnish a sense of purpose and continuity.

Identity formation is not a rational process; it is deeply emotional and often characterized by high levels of anxiety, dissatisfaction, and anger. Politics is also driven by emotion: leaders attract votes not by addressing needs or presenting long-term visions, but rather by offering a sense of belonging, nostalgia for simpler times, or a return to national roots. We witnessed this in 2016, as populists made gains by fostering reactionary and extreme beliefs. Responsible leaders, for their part, must recognize people’s fears and anger as legitimate, while providing inspiration and constructive plans for building a better future.

But how? The world today seems to be engulfed in a sea of pessimism, negativity, and cynicism. And yet, we have an opportunity to lift millions more people out of poverty, so that they can lead healthier and more meaningful lives. And we have a duty to work together toward a greener, more inclusive, and peaceful world. Whether we succeed will not depend on some external event, but rather on the choices our leaders make.

The coming year will be a critical test for all stakeholders in global society. More than ever, we will need responsive and responsible leadership to address our collective challenges, and to restore people’s trust in institutions and in one another. We do not lack the means to make the world a better place. But to do so, we must look past our own narrow interests and attend to the interests of our global society.

That duty begins with our leaders, who must begin to engage in open dialogue and a common search for solutions to the five major challenges on the horizon. If they acknowledge that ours is a global community with a shared destiny, they will have made a first – albeit modest – step in the right direction.

Being a member of Pravets, Bulgaria Student Chapter

Being a member of PTPI is a great honour for me. I was president of Pravets, Bulgaria Student Chapter for 2 years and this school year I’ve been elected as an Honourable President in charge of a think-tank group for youths’ initiatives.

My memories go back to 2011 when after achieving B2 level in English fluency our teacher encouraged us to further develop our knowledge about other cultures and traditions and take part in non-formal training for young leaders. Then she introduced us the mission and the opportunities offered to people from all over the world by the international organization People to People International with headquarters in Kansas City.

And then, there was a whole chain of challenges that have to be overcome:
* Workshops on interactive communication and the setting up of a youth club
* Election of officers
* Fund-raising campaigns
* Presenting our planned activities to town councilors
* Applying for the International camp in Berlin “Interacting diversity”
* Sleeping in one room with foreign students and falling in love with them all to such an extent that I forgot my mobile while saying goodbye
*Participating in the international conference in Varna, Bulgaria

I cherish the memories that bring back old friends and unforgettable moments:
* Introducing Bulgarian dances and songs and learning and appreciating other people’s cultural acquisitions
* Initiating Youth in Action projects and taking part in exchanges in Czech Republic and Ireland. We were involved in workshops for retelling our stories about youths’ activities in our communities and shared our experiences with students from UK, Romania, Malta, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, and Ireland.
* Regular visits to the houses for disabled children and the shelter for children deprived of parental care. We planted trees with them, bought musical instruments, take part in their rehearsals for a concert and invited them to the specially equipped classroom for our meetings.
* Christmas and Halloween bake sales and St.Valetines postcards sale.
* Hosting a delegation from PTPI’s Roman, Romania Chapter.
* Implementating the project “Generations’ meeting via ICT” that started at the Global Youth Service Day 2012. We provided laptops for the Day centre of Adult people and taught our grandparents to work with computers.
* I also take pride in organizing a delegation of 35 people from our community to participate in a town twinning projects in Slovak Republic. During the preparation stage we formed a folk dancing group and took part in an International performance in Nitra.

And last but not least in importance, my membership with a PTPI Chapter marked the choice of my future profession. I am a second year student at Sofia University – Specialty – non-formal education. For me, the path to successful careers starts from PTPI. Understanding and valuing others makes for our personal self-consciousness and happiness.

Anita | Bulgaria

Growing together – delivery of what we said is important to our chapters

Over the past five years, the European members have captured projects, actions and support systems they would like to see implemented to help this region grow faster.

The most recent workshops this past September in Romania, once again highlighted the same themes that are crucial to us. By far the biggest opportunity ahead, is not in understanding what needs to be done, but in securing the manpower to make delivery possible.

Link for Romania

The EEC are a small team and Andrei and his wife are soon to be busy when the baby arrives! We need to reach out to you, our community, to seek out volunteers able to provide some much needed effort. Without this effort, very few of our dreams will come to life – this is important.

There are some elements of the chapter feedback that will need some very creative thinking to find solutions. Such as: youth development, inclusion and lower participation costs, are complex to actually make happen. PTPI is not a foundation with a pot of money to support all manner of activities. The usual suspects that have provided funding in the past, such as the Council of Europe, have cut back on budgets and made selection criteria more complex. Business partners are also managing shrinking budgets and being more selective in the type of social engagement they support.

All of this points to PTPI having to be more clear about funding opportunities, and the reasons why people would be motivated to support us and not another charity or NGO. What is true, is that we have a mission that matters. Peace through Understanding, given the current state of the world, is very relevant. We must however, demonstrate how we make this mission relevant globally, regionally and locally. It is not what we say that makes a difference, but what we actually do.

Going forward in Q1, 2017:
• Much of the feedback is about improving channels of communication. People of course generally feel that communication must improve, without actually being specific about what is a problem, and what is a lack of looking at our web portal. Every effort will be made to close as many of your communication gaps as possible. Yet, please do make a personal effort to use the communications tools already available to you.
• Funding for youth will not get any easier in the coming 12 to 18 months. It would be appreciated if the chapters could fund develop locally, and make donations to the EEC central account. When there is funding, we do of course support activities, such as the Youth Leadership Academy.
• Youth should take advantage of other channels open to them as individuals. The Erasmus+ has opportunities for people of all ages, helping them develop and share knowledge and experience at institutions and organisations in different countries. European volunteering overseas portal also provides funding for youth to get engaged in community projects.
• It is clear that we need to make more visible our chapter network, with links to their active online pages, our trustees and your stories.
• We are excited to be moving forward with a tool to better manage the whole HomeStay process. This item has been on our members list of important advances for some time. The tool will look similar to those being used for booking.com and Air BnB. Thus, the whole process from seeing availability, making a reservation and paying the required fee, shall be automated.
• It has been noted in the past, that our members would like to volunteer their skills or periods of time.

In order for us to move any projects forward and stand a chance of making things happen, we do need your support. If you can volunteer to manage a work package, please do contact the EEC. Are you good at: collating data, designing flyers, PowerPoint, writing stories, editing content, researching key subjects, cultural analysis, fund development, event management, travel and hospitality management, data capture and analysis?

There is so much to be done in the months and years ahead, to prove that we belong to something good.

There are few words that can express the appreciation we have for your continued support.
Let us start with Thank you!

Yours in peace
The EEC

EU Conference in Roman – September, 2016

As Mary and I settle in on the plane from JFK we can’t wait to meet up with our PTPI friends and make new ones. We are headed to our sixth European Conference, this one in Roman, Romania, a major highlight of the year. With the help of Verena from the Berlin office, and Andrei, the mentor of the Roman Student Chapter and organizer of the post-conference trip, we have made all the arrangements, including a 2-day pre-conference visit to Bucharest. Gina, who lives in Bucharest, was also helpful in our deciding what we would see and where to eat while there.

We enjoyed these two days in the Capital city checking out museums, city highlights, the ‘old city’, and savoring the local cuisine. As we were in an outdoor museum searching for a place to quench our thirst we heard our names being called. Amazingly, our dear friend Janusz from Poland was enjoying lunch with four students from the Katowice Student Chapter. We joined them and the PTPI bonding was underway. Even before the conference began we had caught up with an old friend and made four new ones.

We made our way the following day back to the airport to catch the bus to Roman. Although the bus ride was about five hours we shared the ride with PTPI members from Switzerland, Germany, Bulgaria, Sweden, Togo, and the USA – a typical PTPI international group.

Upon arrival in Roman we were welcomed by many students, with Daria and Malina tying woven ribbons with the Romanian flag colors on our wrists, and Ana Maria, Miruna and Andrei checking us in. Being quite hungry we then went to an informal dinner with good PTPI friends we have made over the years, like Ernst, Rolf, Hans-Dieter, Hannelore, Anita, Karin, Ilona, Janusz, Angel, Chalks, and Erin.

The conference itself was wonderful, as we have come to expect. It began with an Intercultural experience of Romanian art traditions and dance at Miclauseni Garden. This is the first time that all the conference attendees got together and there was a lot of mingling, greeting, and meeting PTPI members. It could be seen from this first event that there was a very good mix of students and adults, which Mary and I really enjoy, because you can get different perspectives on many topics and cultures both international and generational. We learned how to paint eggs, create objects out of red and white threads, and try some traditional Romanian dance. We also decorated shopping bags to hold gifts that were given to children in an afternoon event.

At each conference there is a humanitarian activity planned. In Roman this involved a visit to the “Love and Hope” Day Care Centre for disadvantaged children. We played with the children in the park – games, balloons, dancing, face painting, and handing out gift bags. Katerina, one of the students from the Provadia Student Chapter, even performed some incredible acrobatics. The Roman Chapter students do a wonderful job helping out with the children several times a week.

The first day ended with a nice dinner at a local restaurant, Casa Veche, where you could sneak out between courses and ease into the dancing that would occur on upcoming evenings.

We woke up the next day to begin our Roman City Treasure Hunt. We were divided into teams and each team was assigned a couple of students to assist and document the results of the hunt. It was a fun event as each team looked for things or acted out a list of items for bonus points – like finding angels on the ceiling of the Library, posing like the picture on the cover of Abbey Road, proposing marriage to a local resident, reciting a poem in the park, and making people you don’t know laugh. Points were given to each team based on their hunting and acting skills. We then met at the Roman Voda National College to tally scores for prizes for the top 3 groups.

The afternoon was taken up with the World Café.́ This was orchestrated by Verena, with volunteers assigned to each table, and attendees at each table discussing an issue or opportunity relevant to PTPI. Attendees rotated through several tables during the allotted time providing their ideas on each topic while enjoying coffee, snacks, and making new friends. The volunteers documented results from their tables, and then Verena consolidated them into a Conference summary.

The day wrapped up with a tasty buffet dinner and dancing to the sounds provided by the DJ. Dancing is always a part of these conferences, and what better way to celebrate with friends both old and new than on the dance floor. Of course students from the Roman Chapter and the visiting Student Chapters have the energy to keep up with the music, but many of the adults try valiantly to keep up with them. Ralitsa even taught us how to swing our hair to the beat of the music (at least Mary has enough hair to swing). It was also great fun to teach Billy from the People’s Republic of China some dance moves. No trouble sleeping that night!

Day three was the day that business was discussed. The European Council Meeting was held in the morning, led by Chalks and the European Board of Directors. Angel spoke about his activities for PTPI and the youth chapters. All the good work being done by the chapters in the past year were discussed, with in-person presentations by the Provadia, Varna, Katowice, and Skopje Chapters. (We witnessed some of the good work being done by the Roman Chapter on the first day.) Toni also presented the humanitarian work she has been doing in Nepal.

Two workshops, one on youth engagement and the other on member engagement, took up most of the afternoon. These workshops expanded on ideas and options from the prior day with a search for solutions.

Following the business of the day, all were invited to go to the park to follow pre-defined scripts on their cell phones. It was a lot of fun, as this large group of PTPI people were doing some crazy and funny things in a synchronized fashion. Imagine what the local Romans were thinking of this activity as they were trying to enjoy a fine afternoon in the park.

The final event of the conference was the Gala Dinner at Hanu Ancutei, a traditional inn outside Roman. What a wonderful evening that was. We had a superb Romanian dinner at our table with a great friend Christiane from Hamburg, met Daniela and Liliana from the Vaslui Chapter, and many others. While dining, all tables were serenaded by local musicians to add to the festivities. Of course there was dancing, both contemporary and traditional enjoyed by all. One of the evening’s highlights was a ‘picture stage’ where groups of PTPI’ers posed with various props. We took home more than a dozen pictures of old and new friends from the conference. And finally there was the singing of favorite songs and national anthems from such a diverse set of people. (Mike felt sorry for Laura and her ears having to sit next to him while singing on the bus back from the gala.)

On Sunday, as some packed up to return home, there was an optional excursion to Neamt County to visit the Agapia Monastery, Neamt Fortress, and the city of Piatra Neamt. We chose not to take this trip since we were leaving the next day on the post-conference trip through Romania with about 15 others that was led by Andrei, Daria, and Teodor – another terrific trip that we’ll write-up another time.

Since we remained in Roman on Sunday we met up with two students, Maria and Vladimir, and spent the afternoon snacking, and talking about life in Romania and the USA. This part of our PTPI travels is the most rewarding when we get to talk individually with PTPI members like Maria and Vlad; or we have a discussion with some Polish and Romanian students (Julia, Gosia, Agnieszka, Ania, Madalina and Teodor) and Ernst from Switzerland about their aspirations and world views; or we have members from the Host Chapter proudly show us their city (or country) and its traditions; or we do treasure hunts with Mariya and Angel; or we form an impromptu Blue Man Crew like at the gala (with Kennedy and Stefan ); or we “dance off both our shoes” with people from all over the world. We have met hundreds of people at these conferences, made many friends, and have maintained a connection via email, or social media, or at home stays, or at follow-on conferences, with many of them and cherish these relationships.

We have learned over these years that people are people regardless of their home countries, backgrounds, dress, traditions, languages, and age and truly want to live in peace with dignity and love!

Mulţumesc – Roman Student Chapter, for showing us this true spirit!

Mary and Mike Hermida
Greater Trenton, New Jersey PTPI Chapter

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Amsterdam has developed a free Airbnb for city-owned offices!

Amsterdam has developed an Airbnb for city-owned offices, so residents can use them for free, and may do the same with municipal cars and tools.

The project is due to be launched by the city government with access to some 15 underused meeting rooms around the turn of the year, and will be extended to more rooms along with vehicles and tools if it is a success.

‘You walk through these buildings and all these meeting rooms are empty,’ Nanette Schippers, an official in the city’s Chief Technology Office and one of the creators of the project, told Apolitical. ‘It’s just a waste, especially when you know people need those spaces. We spoke to our Facilities people and they were really enthusiastic and eager to help, so we thought: let’s just start.’

“We ask: how will it contribute to the city?”

To avoid damaging the market for companies that provide office space, the project is available only to organisations that are working for a social purpose. Said Schippers, ‘We ask them things like: is your group giving any kind of social impact? What’s the meeting for? What’s your organisation doing? How will it contribute to the city of Amsterdam?’

The creators think it is realistic to eventually run the scheme with around 100 meeting rooms, but as one of the founders, Urban Innovation Officer Femke Haccou, told Apolitical, ‘We hardly know ourselves how much space we have. This could be a great moment to get an insight into that as well. We have so many buildings and so many spaces, so you can maybe understand that not every building is in a database yet.’

The rationale for access being free is that the city would be paying the associated costs – security, utilities, wear and tear – anyway. It may start to charge a minimal fee if it makes the spaces available outside office hours.

Some of the groundwork for sharing the city’s car fleet has also already been done. So that people don’t need to pick up keys and vehicles from some particular garage, the city has converted its cars so they can be opened with a smartphone. The technology came from a local start-up called We Go, which also means the cars are tracked and can be parked anywhere. The scheme has been running for a year for municipal employees.

The city government has been greatly aided in exploring the sharing economy by its close ties to local companies working in that sector. For example, it took advice on how to set up and run the project from Peerby, an app that lets neighbours request or offer things to borrow, such as hammers, tents, badminton rackets or indeed anything. It has also learned from Kirklees, a town in England, which has set up a platform on which the community can share sports equipment, allotments for growing vegetables and municipal vans, if it’s for social good.

The sharing economy, also known as the peer economy or collaborative consumption, is popular in Amsterdam, with numerous local businesses springing up and some 84% of residents open to using them. The basic principle, the best known exponents of which are Airbnb and Uber, is that people are not using the things they own, such as houses or cars, all the time; while there are other people who would like to use those things but don’t want the expense and hassle of buying one for themselves.

It’s part of a wider shift from selling goods to selling services. For example, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport no longer buys light fittings; it pays Philips Lighting to provide light over a specified number of years. That shifts the responsibility for maintenance to the manufacturers and incentivises them to build lights that last longer instead of designing in obsolescence.

The sharing economy has created controversy around the world: Uber is presently appearing before the European Court of Justice, which is examining whether it is really merely a connection service between car owners and riders, or in fact a transport company that has to pay employee benefits. At the same time, companies like Airbnb are under increasing pressure over their tax affairs.

Countries and cities are split on how to regulate this new type of business, and the city of Amsterdam is one that has decided to embrace it. The city believes that it could promote more sustainable use of goods, reducing car ownership, improving air quality and reducing the number of new things bought overall.

The municipality has created several other pilot projects to examine how the sharing economy can be directed towards social good, either making them itself or simply bringing together the organisations it’s familiar with. These include connecting an expat organisation to Peerby, so that new arrivals in the city can put up shelves and do home furnishing without having to buy tools they only need once. Another connects sharing platforms to low-income and elderly people via the Stadspas, which gives entry to concerts and exhibitions. A third aims to promote car-sharing by offering free underground parking spaces for those who are doing so.

“The ultimate goal is far wider”

‘The potential of the collaborative economy is in every aspect of our lives really,’ said Haccou. ‘We need to be open to it and reinvent our role as a city government, because there are a lot of commercial parties that can contribute to the city in a better way than we can. It’s an exciting time. We can formulate a really smart project on this but the ultimate goal is far wider, not so tangible, a bold idea that we have to be better for our residents.’

Added Schippers, ‘I hope that our meeting room program works both ways, so that we can open up colleagues’ minds and say: there’s a lot going on out there that the city can use and benefit from. And at the same time I hope citizens will see that we are really working on the sharing economy ourselves, and will experience that we are a transparent, open government. If we want to stimulate the collaborative economy, we have to practice what we preach.’

Source article>

Technology is making us feel more alone. Is a return to volunteerism the answer?

Today, on International Volunteer Day, we face a paradox. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has made us more connected and globalized than ever before, yet it is also shaping an age of civic disengagement.

In his bestseller Bowling Alone, political scientist Robert Putnam identified a sharp rise in Americans’ civic disengagement over the last generation, with empty town hall meetings reflecting “a giant swing toward the individualist pole in our culture, society, and politics.” Although it is twenty years old, it is still starkly relevant today: a new study by two psychologists in a Public Library of Science journal has proposed that “the more someone uses a smartphone for information, the less likely they are to trust neighbours, strangers, and people from other religions or nationalities.”

Our use of technology is just one factor driving changes in the world of work, but this correlation is bad news for advanced democracies, because strong civic life is a good predictor of the quality of, and trust in, public institutions. Against increasing solitude and disengagement from public life, what are some antidotes to this modern malaise?

One possible cure is a return to the original social networks supplanted by smartphones – volunteer organizations. These can help members stay ahead of the developments that are already happening with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as the trends explained in this year’s World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report. The report asked the Chief Human Resources Officers of today’s largest employers to identify the core drivers of change in their industries up to 2020.

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Travels with PTPI Denmark to New Zealand 2015

January 24, 2015 I (Rolf Dahlberg) was glad to join a group from People to People International (PTPI) in Denmark and travel with their team to New Zealand. We travelled also between Christchurch on the South Island to Whangarei on the North Island during our twenty-four day trip…..

Our first stop was in Bangkok before heading onto Christchurch. Our Bangkok stopover provided a welcome break, before completing the final stretch of our journey to New Zealand. In Bangkok we were guided around the city and enjoyed the magical aromas, colours and sounds that paint Bangkok’s streets.

Once in New Zealand there were a host of families whom we had the pleasure of meeting, and staying with for several days. We travelled across the South Island by mini-bus for five days, followed by a few days in hotels on the North Island. We bid our hotels farewell and welcomed another visit with a new and wonderful host family while we continued our travels around Whangarei.

The views through the Southern Alps took my breath away. We visited the famous Fox Glacier and experienced how the weather can change from rain to sun to snow and then back to sun – all in one day – typical of New Zealand! It was incredible to enjoy the New Zealand summer time considering they had just finished celebrating Christmas!

We started as a group of globally minded travellers ready to share an adventure together. As the days rolled by we were no longer a group but a circle of friends. We were truly amazed by the beauty of the country that inspired our kindred spirits.

Gibb Lee of PTPI Christchurch and his amazing wife Val were our wonderful guides and leaders throughout our stay in New Zealand. They took care of all of our transportation, accommodation and supplied us with amazing food and drink. Other local friends included Jim Palmer and Raewyn Jecentho, who helped by driving and sharing stories along the way.

Both of my host families were proud to share the cultural traditions and splendour of their native country. By the final day I was watching the Cricket World Cup, eager to try and learn the rules!

The whole trip was well organized and a great deal of fun. We saw waterfalls – a member of the group even bungee jumped off the Kawarau Bridge! We spotted Kiwis and Kia’s (local birds), saw how sheep are sheared, visited an old mining town, observed a fish farm and climbed up to the observatory on Mount John where it was only 3°C (37°F)! We learned about local trees and plants and some of us even took a dip in the Pacific Ocean. We learned about the history of the native Mauris, viewed the pancake-rocks at Punakaiki, and rode in a steam engine built in 1912 in Queenstown.

It has been an amazing trip that blew me away on so many levels. The nature, people and sights touched me and will always remain with me. It will take days to go through the 1400+ pictures I took. One thing is certain – I will be back again soon! New Zealand now has a piece of my heart.

I would like to express my thanks to our tour guide: Anna-Marie Bohsen for an incredible job. The chapter organises a lot of trips around the world, to places like Mongolia, Japan, New Zealand, Albania and Bulgaria. See what they are planning next on their website http://www.peopletopeople.dk

Short facts on New Zealand: Capital: Wellington with 325.000 inhabitants; the largest city is Auckland with 1,200,000 inhabitants; highest mountain is Mount Cook at 3724 meters; total population: 4,400,000. New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy. 1 New Zealand dollar = 0,66 EUR

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5 Minutes with Angel Dimitrievski – Macedonia

Angel Dimitrievski is 22 years-old and is the current President of the PTPI Skopje-Macedonia Community Chapter and Youth Coordinator in the European Region. First becoming a member five years ago, his topics of interest in activism include youth activism, gender, disability, education, and media.

Tell us how you became involved with PTPI?

My first encounter with PTPI was during my high school days at the age of 17. At the time I was studying medicine, and my observations for the youth activism in my country differed very much from how I think now. I signed up for my membership in the Skopje- Student Chapter in September 2011. The activities in the chapter helped me grow, develop a critical attitude towards certain societal concerns and, most importantly, it showed me the importance of the individual and the change that can make in the community. In 2013, I’ve made one very big step with opening a PTPI Community Chapter in my hometown. This is the most enthusiastic group of people I have met in my life. I often say that PTPI Skopje is not an office, a building, a place or even one person. It is a state of mind and way of living. I am extremely thankful for the wonderful moments this chapter brought in my life and in the life of many people who benefited from our work.

What inspired you to take such a leadership in your Chapter AND the European Region?

PTPI is an organisation that empowers leadership to their whole membership, even if they don’t have a specific role in their chapter or Region. I was lucky enough to have a 1 year-term as president in the Student Chapter and a 3 year-term as president in the Community Chapter. I accepted these roles with great responsibility, and I was aware of what I was stepping into. There is an enormous challenge of how to keep a group of 70 volunteers motivated to work on spreading Peace through Understanding. The inspiration to accept these leadership positions was my desire to interact with the most ambitious and talented youth minds in Skopje and help our community with joined strengths. Regarding my role in PTPI’s European Executive Committee as Youth Coordinator, I can say that it is a fulfilling one with dynamic and very inspirational moments. My motivation to join this body was primarily because of my opinion that the youth in PTPI are not present enough in the decision-making structures in the organisation. I will always try to be the voice of the young people in Europe and address their needs. Working together with Chalks, Andrei and Charlotte is one great journey, and we are a wonderful team.

How would you like to make a positive change in the world through People to People?

PTPI for me has always been a reaction to what makes you feel worried in your community. Everyone is doing the best they can, given the local context they work in, whether it is an intervention for helping the children from the local hospital, providing clean water, environmental actions, ending gender based violence or volunteering in animal shelters. It all makes the change we want to see in the world. Besides these actions we implement in our communities, my personal aim in PTPI was to work on the importance of spreading the culture of helping on an individual level between our membership. If we have proactive, more compassionate citizens with solidarity, we can achieve even more.

With the team in Macedonia
With the team in Macedonia

A USA to European connection fostered by PTPI

Mary and Mike Hermida
Greater Trenton, New Jersey PTPI Chapter

For the last six years, Mary and I have attended and thoroughly enjoyed all of the European conferences. We have met and partied with well over a hundred warm, intelligent and lively Europeans during these conferences and have stayed in touch with many of them through personal visits, email, and subsequent conferences.

We have enjoyed the beauty of their countries; learned to appreciate their culture through tours of their cities and historical venues, experiencing their dancing, singing, and music; and gained great insight into their individual perspectives and chapter challenges through discussions and work sessions at the World Cafes, council meetings, and group dinners.

Without a doubt, we have broadened our minds by sharing experiences and working to advance the PTPI mission of Peace through Understanding. We have also enjoyed interacting with students from many countries, impressed by their insights, energy, and friendliness. The dedication of PTPI students in countries like Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, and Macedonia to their humanitarian efforts, despite the many challenges they face doing things that we as Americans take for granted, is inspirational. We are proud to support these efforts and to help facilitate student attendance and interaction at these PTPI conferences.

Young, gifted and held back

The millennial generation

The world’s young are an oppressed minority. Unleash them
The Economist>

IN THE world of “The Hunger Games” youngsters are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of their white-haired rulers. Today’s teen fiction is relentlessly dystopian, but the gap between fantasy and reality is often narrower than you might think. The older generation may not resort to outright murder but, as our special report this week on millennials describes (see article), in important ways they hold their juniors down.

Roughly a quarter of the world’s people—some 1.8 billion—have turned 15 but not yet reached 30. In many ways, they are the luckiest group of young adults ever to have existed. They are richer than any previous generation, and live in a world without smallpox or Mao Zedong. They are the best-educated generation ever—Haitians today spend longer in school than Italians did in 1960. Thanks to all that extra learning and to better nutrition, they are also more intelligent than their elders. If they are female or gay, they enjoy greater freedom in more countries than their predecessors would have thought possible. And they can look forward to improvements in technology that will, say, enable many of them to live well past 100. So what, exactly, are they complaining about?

These children that you spit on

Plenty. Just as, for the first time in history, the world’s youngsters form a common culture, so they also share the same youthful grievances. Around the world, young people gripe that it is too hard to find a job and a place to live, and that the path to adulthood has grown longer and more complicated.

Many of their woes can be blamed on policies favouring the old over the young. Consider employment. In many countries, labour laws require firms to offer copious benefits and make it hard to lay workers off. That suits those with jobs, who tend to be older, but it makes firms reluctant to hire new staff. The losers are the young. In most regions they are at least twice as likely as their elders to be unemployed. The early years of any career are the worst time to be idle, because these are when the work habits of a lifetime become ingrained. Those unemployed in their 20s typically still feel the “scarring” effects of lower income, as well as unhappiness, in their 50s.

Housing, too, is often rigged against the young. Homeowners dominate the bodies that decide whether new houses may be built. They often say no, so as not to spoil the view and reduce the value of their own property. Over-regulation has doubled the cost of a typical home in Britain. Its effects are even worse in many of the big cities around the world where young people most want to live. Rents and home prices in such places have far outpaced incomes. The youngsters of Kuala Lumpur are known as the “homeless generation”. Young American women are more likely to live with their parents or other relatives than at any time since the second world war.

Young people are often footloose. With the whole world to explore and nothing to tie them down, they move around more often than their elders. This makes them more productive, especially if they migrate from a poor country to a rich one. By one estimate, global GDP would double if people could move about freely. That is politically impossible—indeed, the mood in rich countries is turning against immigration. But it is striking that so many governments discourage not only cross-border migration but also the domestic sort. China’s hukou system treats rural folk who move to cities as second-class citizens. India makes it hard for those who move from one state to another to obtain public services. A UN study found that 80% of countries had policies to reduce rural-urban migration, although much of human progress has come from people putting down their hoes and finding better jobs in the big smoke. All these barriers to free movement especially harm the young, because they most want to move.
The old have always subsidised their juniors. Within families, they still do. But many governments favour the old: an ever greater share of public spending goes on pensions and health care for them. This is partly the natural result of societies ageing, but it is also because the elderly ensure that policies work in their favour. By one calculation, the net flow of resources (public plus private) is now from young to old in at least five countries, including Germany and Hungary. This is unprecedented and unjust—the old are much richer.

The young could do more to stand up for themselves. In America just over a fifth of 18- to 34-year-olds turned out to vote in the latest general election; three-fifths of over 65s did. It is the same in Indonesia and only slightly better in Japan. It is not enough for the young to sign online petitions. If they want governments to listen, they should vote.

However, the old have a part to play, too. The young are an oppressed minority—albeit an unusual one—in the straightforward sense that governments are systematically preventing them from reaching their potential.

That is a cruel waste of talent. Today’s under-30s will one day dominate the labour force. If their skills are not developed, they will be less productive than they could be. Countries such as India that are counting on a demographic dividend from their large populations of young adults will find that it fails to materialise. Rich, ageing societies will find that, unless the youth of today can get a foot on the career ladder, tomorrow’s pensioners will struggle. What is more, oppressing youngsters is dangerous. Countries with lots of jobless, disaffected young men tend to be more violent and unstable, as millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa can attest.

They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

The remedy is easy to prescribe—and hard to enact. Governments should unleash the young by cutting the red tape that keeps them out of jobs, and curbing the power of property-owners to stop homes from being built. They should scrap restrictions on domestic migration and allow more cross-border movement. They should make education a priority.

It is a lot to expect from political leaders who often seem unequal to the task of even modest reform. But every parent and grandparent has a stake in this, too. If they put their shoulders to the wheel, who knows what they might accomplish.