IHEYO’s Annual Event 2008: “The Future of Youth Humanism”

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 29 June 2008

Introduction to IHEYO

Imagine you get an invitation from an international network organisation which will hold its next Congress in the Netherlands and would like to see young representatives from all over the world. That was the rebirth of IHEYO in 2002 during the IHEU World Congress. It was the first opportunity between humanist youngsters around the world to meet up face to face, to share their ideas, their working structures, their common goals and visions. IHEU had organised congresses for the past three years and consequently all present youth decided on a more vibrant and energetic way of the young movement. IHEYO was born with new motivation and strength. The second Youth Conference took place in Germany, followed by events in Uganda, France, India, Belgium and US. Why that way? Over the years, it became clear to us that personal contacts are much more important in an international network than any contacts over email and other technical possibilities. People collaborated in an enthusiastic way with IHEYO or members of our network, actively participated in actions and furthermore they felt much more connected with the people out there. After IHEYO’s foundation, its independence and registration in Belgium, the working structures started to become much more clearer inside IHEYO. Administration always takes a lot of time, but a working structure and the great power of young people made it possible for IHEYO to reach out to many more humanist organisations. IHEYO was able to establish new working groups, separated through the continents, in addition to international events over the last years. Like all other NGO, IHEYO depends on funds that make it possible to realize project ideas and connections between youngsters around the world.

With funds from IHS, EYF, IHEU-HIVOS and HEF it was possible for IHEYO to

  • open a communication office 
  • realize a Tolerance Campaign in 7 European countries in 2007
  • organize an annual international event with possibilities of financial support to developing countries
  • meet up within the IHEYO board.

The main focus has been to create new projects through workshops, field visits organized by our member organisations and a vibrant platform for personal connections between two or more organisations for exchange programmes, activities or individual friendships. IHEYO is always open for individuals and for Humanist organisations related to our network goals and ideas of a peaceful life together. 

 Outcomes from the Washington conference   Participating in a Humanist World Congress is not only important for young people. As we have seen, the older generations have noticed our events and activities with more or less good attention. We were recognized in lots of speeches and presentations in front of the whole congress. Not only the possibility of being present but also the opportunity for meeting new people from America and other countries make such events much more interesting as it brings new energy into an already existing movement.   

The platform of the Washington Congress made it possible to take part in lots of workshops presented by AHA and IHEU, but also from SSA and IHEYO. As young people went to IHEU sessions, we enjoyed the contact with older members and the stories of their current working fields and life perspectives. Next to the registration and information desk that were possible to reach all day, people from different organisations and humanist backgrounds offered information on their table about their working fields, new publications of books, booklets or other medias.        

The Future of Youth Humanism

IHEYO used the connection with the World Congress to plan common sessions with SSA students. Planned activities like the station work day from IHEYO which was related to practical and energetic ways of exchange to “The Future of Youth Humanism” headline-related issues. Participants from SSA, IHEYO and the Congress took part in that, for one round or the whole day. The outcome was satisfying and we had great results after discussing, creating, laughing, summarizing over the whole day of the session.  

Station work

MethodCirculation/ rotation on stations: five stations with five participants in each group, after finishing the station, one person stays there while four new members will arrive – the remaining person can introduce the theme and can give input of what happened in the previous round. After the next round, this person will leave to next station and will give the space to another one – each person will stay twice at one single station, so there will be always a reshuffling of the groups, which leads to a different combination of group members for each station. Six rounds are required, to make sure everyone can take part in every station. The person who is to stay is appointed even before the game at the station starts. This method is good for group dynamics, not only in each small group, but also for the later outcome of the whole group. Furthermore, it gives a special learning task to the staying person as it will be asked for a good introduction by the other participants and also to summarize already existing knowledge and discussion material.  

Stations: active citizenship – critical thinking – humanist education – volunteer work – north/south-partner cooperation Methods:

(1) Mind map: group collects all words taken down in the morning (20 to 30, ideally). Through discussion, their number is reduced to five; these five most important words are put in a logical, eventually hierarchical order. The next group proceeds in the same way, but has to include the words picked by previous groups. This should amount to a big mind-map of some twenty to thirty words.Already prepared points on a sheet of paper from the morning session will be used for finding a hierarchy of the most important five words belonging to the station theme, then the next group has to involve these words in a possibly new hierarchy order while adding five words – ongoing process which leads to 20 to 30 words after 6 rounds

(2) Scrabble: brainstorming words which belong to the station theme, fill them into prepared paper pieces for playing scrabble. The task is to find matching letters, but moreover, connections between two words and explain your decision to other group members. The group leaves the words at the station, but connections between the found words are not maintained – for equal opportunities. Pictures are taken of every combination.

(3) Free-writing: every group member has 5 minutes to write down anything that comes into their mind without any break or interruption while writing. After writing, they will read out their results to the others (at the station) and discuss their ideas about that theme. The staying person will have to summarize the facts while the next group members have their writing time, so the results of every group that participated previously will be included

(4) Collage/puzzle: big wall paper divided into five jigsaw puzzle pieces. Picture material, photos etc. will be provided for preparing a collage concentrating on the station theme. Each group has to fill in one of these five pieces, which will become later on one puzzle – the staying person can explain ways of thinking to find connections between the puzzle pieces

(5) Rotation story telling: An even numbers of participants is needed. Story telling in a circle or square: person A tells person B a story related to the theme, then B to A, meanwhile C to D and vice versa, second round: person A turns to D and tells the story heard from person B as his/her own story to D, then D tells A the C-story as his/her own version. All stories rotate until the original story comes back to the person who was telling it first. There is discussion afterwards about changes inside the stories and ways of knowledge/ education. One single story is distilled out of the several ones, the person staying will relate this story in the next group. In the final groups, people who find themselves together in the sixth round prepare the final presentation of results to the whole group. For the presentation of the results, the participants again used different methods to surprise the audience and also to give lots of innovative input to all of them.

The following methods were used for presentations:

–          a plain old (power point) presentation/mind map

–          role play/ ping pong: try to find a theatrical way of presenting your conclusion in a simple way to the whole group/ free writing

–          painting/ drawing: use a big wall paper and pens for giving an painted image of your ideas – this uses the collage./ puzzle, collage

–          images of symbols: try to use objects from the room to explain with their shape, form, topography the theme and your results to the group/ story telling

–          conducting: have a small discussion of which points you want to present and try to make a small red line, then decide one conductor in your group who will lead the session, stand in a row and while getting the conducting sign of talking, just one person explains until the conductor turns to the next person (not in order of the row)/ scrabble          

Results of IHEYO’s station work   The outcome of the session was successful. People worked independently, fast and easy-going in the small groups. From the outside, it gave a feeling of enjoyment and quick understanding. Discussions and conversation started automatically around the tables. Their engagement in the station was visible, active and aware of the fixed timeline. People took part into serious discussions about their theme, trained their own skills while explaining the matter further, got an overview to actions around the world through their exchange possibilities, handled different opinions without greater obstacles. Some participants left after some rotations or just joined in, which made sometimes a non-balance inside a group, but that was no reason for a constant work on each station. English was almost no problem as the working language of all sessions due to the mass of native speakers, which made the working process very dynamic.   

Within the evaluation round, participants could express their impressions, shared their thoughts about the station work and if this session changed something in their thinking relating to the theme “The Future of Youth Humanism”. Sceptical attitudes could be changed into enjoying happy faces, open minds and a decrease of stereotypes. Expectations have been crossed, participants expressed that they learned lots of news things about working methods, other nations, youthful dynamic movement, an easy going process of being connected, creativity inside humanist fields and that they have seen the stations as a wonderful meeting and exchange point for themselves. The day brought lots of hope back to IHEYO as the inside structure of the network has been seen as stepping backwards in 2008 due to lots of challenges and lacks of funds and volunteers. It seems Washington gave lots of new impetus for a new future. Onwards!      

Besides IHEYO sessions   Besides IHEYO’s introduction round and our GA session on Thursday, the participants had the chance to be involved in all SSA sessions, mostly on Saturday. Presentations were made about the “Out Campaign” of the Richard Dawkins Foundation (www.RichardDawkins.net ), together with SSA students on-campus in the US, saying that the “A-word” is okay to change the image that there is no difference to others than just not believing in any God.           

One of the most interesting joint sessions was the SSA final session on Sunday, where four young leaders out of the American movement discussed questions from the audience to challenges in their working fields, to positions in the ongoing movement and how to deal with all kind of problems. Making a positive movement and a non-fighting position against religion or religious belief was very impressive. Their focus went further to change dogmas of the church, to the goal of making people reconsider their beliefs like we should do with our point of view. The humanist movement should not start a new battle against believers but against inhuman behaviour. To open up understanding to humanist work, the focus of our working fields should be wider than ever before. The church takes care while giving people hope, welfare and morality in times of serious challenges, desperation and emergencies. A turn to church mostly happens during big life crises cause insecurity and things that challenge the person to his boundaries. The church offers a helping hand and support in that difficult time. This is fine as long as nobody abuses this support, this search for help in a desperate situation. But the humanist movement can offer the same services. It is possible and in practice that we are being active through initiatives in the social fields, being present for people in social breakdowns. So what can we cover from our perspective? The same matters, but also freedom from sins, standing up for our own identity, a tremendous purpose for the time we have on this earth. It should be our aim to give people the tools for enjoying their life, to feel confident with themselves, provide the best education to children and youngsters but leaving it to them which decision they make and not being an adult with the right answer.    

Each individual is searching for a community. Maybe inside a sports club, a music school, a ballet class – people search for people with similar interests, with same ideas, visions and aims. The church is part of that since centuries as one community. People in the humanist field can also strengthen their community through better networking between all local and national groups and further on the international level. Media creates a platform of community through advertisement and through manipulation of special needs. Everything is promoted to youngsters, why not humanist thoughts? That is the best age, the best possible time to look behind the curtain. Youngsters are starting being critical and sceptical against everything, everybody and mostly against themselves. Making humanism lively and visible, it will be much easier to be transparent and open for all questions and all criticism. We can accept that people have different opinions as we accept each other like we are. So it should be our goal to reach the same for everybody out there. It is not the point of making people secular, it is the point of making people humanists! Life is hard for all of us, so let us take care of each other.     

Changes in the American context – one example

Great changes could be visible in the last decades inside America. The best example is the public behaviour and people’s opinion toward homosexuality. Young people do not have any problem with that, elders still have but will not point that out. Grandparents will. So the generation change shows exactly what can happen over the years, how attitudes can change, how people can become much more tolerant, much more open to each kind of personality, to each kind of difference. What a great start for a global world, although we are maybe still witnessing its beginning. 

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