Lublin has become the European Youth Capital (EYC) 2023! Everyone involved in youth policy should already know about it, but it is worth bringing the subject closer to everyone. This is a great honor for Lublin because it was appreciated for its current and planned activities to support young people. In this article we would like to describe the competition and, above all, to tell you about Lublin and its activities. How did the process of awarding the title look like, and what does it actually mean for young people in Lublin? These and other questions were answered by two Aleksandras. The first one is Aleksandra Kulik, the President of the Sempre a Frente Foundation, who came up with the initiative to apply for the title of European Youth Capital. The organization coordinated and provided substantive support to the entire process. The second Ola is Aleksandra Borzęcka, a youth activist from Lublin, Councilor of Youth Council of Lublin, and participant in many initiatives. She was also involved in the competition for the title and answered my questions from a more youthful perspective. In that article, we will talk about the details of the application, the stages of the competition for the title, and the importance of the initiative.
The European Youth Capital initiative in numbers, facts, and prestige
We need to start with a few facts. The title is awarded by the European Youth Forum, which represents over 100 youth organizations in Europe. It is worth mentioning that for the first time, it was awarded in 2009 to Rotterdam. Since that year, many European cities have won the competition, including Thessaloniki and Varna. The initiative was created primarily to support the youth in the activities they already participate in and develop new perspectives for young people. The main idea is also to connect young people from different cities in Europe. What is important is that it concerns many areas, not only education and participation with the youth but also infrastructure or creating a friendly environment for young people in the city. The awarded title also connects the young from different cities in Europe, is a platform for exchanging ideas and inspiration, gaining new experiences, and learning about friendly solutions for young people in European cities.
The celebration of the Lublin's victory in a EYC selection. Invest in Lublin
Why is the fact that Lublin became the Youth Capital 2023 such a great honor? First of all, it is the first Polish city with such a title. Poznań, Katowice, and Gdynia (other cities in Poland) also aspired to it. Unfortunately, their attempts led to no success. Thus let us hope that Lublin has become a forerunner so that in the future, other Polish cities will occupy places on the podium or even reach for victory. The funds that the city and the youth themselves receive for activities supporting young people are also important. Lublin will allocate as much as 27 mln złotys to implement its plan, which you will read in more detail later in this article. In 2023, the most significant number of cultural and educational events for young people will also occur. The title is also prestigious and a good promotion for the city, thanks to which indeed many people (regardless of age!) will get to know about the existence of such a city as Lublin in the east of Poland. Our foreign friends have surely heard about Warsaw or Cracow, and now they will also hear about Lublin.
Lublin as the best possible point on the map for the EYC
European Youth Capital is a double distinction for Lublin because it was also appreciated for the activities that are already in progress or have already happened, which in itself is a great honor. Aleksandra Kulik said that on the one hand, it shows that young people in this city are active and involved, and on the other, it encourages them to do even more. I think both of these two perspectives are very important for young people. The very fact that they felt appreciated and, above all, noticed, not only by the jury but also by adults, is an appreciation of the enormity of the work they do for their city. It is worth mentioning that there are many youth initiatives in Poland, i.e., youth city and commune councils, provincial youth councils as well as national bodies, and other forms of young people's associations. This shows that they want to act, and they do it. The young know the best what they need, what they lack in their city, and what educational activities should be undertaken to reach their peers. That's why, when taking initiatives for the youth, it's worth asking them what they think about it. Lublin shows that this is happening in their city. Aleksandra Borzęcka said that the title of European Youth Capital was vital for young people because it was edifying for them and showed that their actions pay off, those young people were successful, and the experience had gained during the steps counted for the future. Ola Kulik also mentioned that the title of European Youth Capital gave new tools for young people to get involved, get active, act and co-determine so that the city can develop and the city's offer is broader and more attractive for young people. That would also allow the city to promote itself and encourage young people from outside Lublin to visit this beautiful place and stay there for longer.
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The title of European Youth Capital is not only prestige in itself. The most important are all the actions that will be taken. Anyway, what is essential, is that to win the competition, you had to present an outline of the plan for young people in the city. Aleksandra Kulik said that already now everything is gaining its momentum. The actions are planned for the whole three years and will culminate in 2023. Aleksandra Borzęcka, on the other hand, said that a significant advantage is the funds for the activities, which the young want to carry out, and the support from other activists. The whole process of building a better Lublin for the youth started at the beginning of the competition because already then, the ideas of what can be done for the child were created, and they were involved in it.
The breakdown of the EYC application and selection process
So what did the competition look like? Obvious as it may seem, first, the idea itself appeared. As I mentioned before, it was born in Sempre a Frente, and Mateusz Małyska and Aleksandra Kulik coordinated the process. The foundation works not only locally but also on the international and European level, so the members decided to use their experience and reach out for help. Looking also at the Lithuanian Klaipeda, their neighbors, who also applied for this title, they decided to try to win it for Lublin. The city authorities enthusiastically agreed to the Foundation's idea. Ola Borzęcka mentioned that the city authorities had always been open to young people, but cooperation had grown even stronger thanks to this contest. Sempre a Frente activists knew they had a chance in this competition. Ola said We've been working with children and adolescents in Lublin for 11 years. We have seen the potential and the fact that there is still a lot to do. On the one hand, they have something to boast about, and on the other, they know what areas to improve and what more can be done for young people in Lublin. I think that these two perspectives allowed me to write a solid application.
The EYC selection process in a scheme. European Youth Forum
The competition application is a series of meetings and consultations with young people and NGOs, in which a lot of people participated. Ola Kulik said that there had been many high school students, students, and volunteers, as well as NGO representatives. Of course – the most critical role was played by the young. At this stage, the most vital discussions were: what young people expect and what can be done to make Lublin a youth-friendly city. The contest had several stages. Starting with an initial application and ending with a final advertising spot. Many young people took part in the recordings, for whom it was a manifesto to make Lublin a city with a rich offer for young people. Ola Kulik praised the young people and stressed that winning the competition was their great success. The application was full of energy and involvement of young people who showed their strength and initiative. Ola said that the youth had wanted it to be theirs, and it indeed had been because of the power of the youth. In her opinion, it was because of this enthusiasm that they could win the title, which the other Ola also agrees with. Aleksandra Borzęcka stated that As the Youth Council, we did everything that we do daily. That is, they organized events, supported consultations, and of course, ran social media. Ola Borzęcka also appreciated the role of older activists, who helped them, shared their experiences, and motivated them to act and fulfill their duties.
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However, one of the most essential things for Ola was the struggle not to take on too much, which, as I can also see from my observations, young people actually tend to do. The young also organized various events. At the first one, they answered questions posed by the contest committee, while the second one summarizes the activities that had already happened. In the competition application, there were many ideas and solutions for the problems of young people in Lublin. Thanks to such broad cooperation, the whole application really reflects what is of the most significant importance for the youth there.
Plans for the further implementation
Many areas are crucial for young people in Lublin, but we were able to pick out a few of the most important ones. Ola Kulik said that predominantly they wanted Lublin to be an innovative city, full of opportunities for development, both educational and entertainment. It is also essential for Lublin to be a green city, full of natural space and tolerant, free from discrimination. A very significant issue for young people is to involve them in decision-making processes in the city. These postulates have been transformed into an application that identifies three critical areas:
within which as many as 80 actions have been identified. The first area concerns what the city can do for young people, how it can enrich the offer for them, and how it can support them, e.g., in the area of mental health or sports. Youth for the city are all activities that have a grassroots initiative of the young, and above all, educational and cultural events. Ola Kulik said in 2023. All these activities will have a youth component. Youth and the City is an area where these two groups will work together to achieve their goals. An essential element of the project is the opening of the Children's Aid Centre in Lublin, an institution where children and young people can find support and participate in development groups. Ola Kulik emphasized that thanks to the title of European Youth Capital, cultural and entertainment events would take place, but the offer that supports the quality of psychological life of young people would be developed. Each of the themes will be covered in all of the aforementioned areas. Without a doubt, there will also be some projects developing the activity and involvement of young people in society, including a youth civic budget designed for the implementation of activities set by them. Of course, there are many plans, and Ola Borzęcka revealed that now everything is starting, and they will already be planning specific initiatives.
The title of the European Youth Capital 2023 shows how much young people can achieve. The most important thing was not winning the competition itself but the whole process, which began long before the application. Thanks to the fact that young people and NGOs in Lublin are involved in different activities every day, they cooperate and create new initiatives to show how much they have already achieved. They also had experience, which they were able to use. It's worth noticing that they don't run out of ideas and energy to act. They still want to work for the youth. Ola Kulik said that Lublin should meet all the needs and desires of young people. That is why they are working to make it even better. But they also appreciate their city, its attractive infrastructure, interculturalism, and the atmosphere that already exists in Lublin. It is hard for me to imagine a better place to live for a young person than Lublin in 2023, concluded Ola Kulik.
Written by Julia Dziuba, a ‘Młodzi o polityce’ (Youth About Politics) project, University of Warsaw, Poland