On July 26-28, 2021, the first Transnational Project Meeting on youth policies in Europe took place in Starachowice. The event was held as part of the “Cities for YOUth” project implemented under the Erasmus+ Program.

After over a year of online meetings, we finally started the project in the form of face-to-face meetings. In Starachowice, we hosted 16 representatives of local governments from Klaipeda (Lithuania) and Santarem (Portugal) as well as non-governmental organizations: ACD LaHoya (Spain) and the Institute of Research & Training on European (Greece).

Day #1 – Starachowice

The beginning of the first day was devoted to discussing the activities for youth that are implemented by the partners. Starachowice could boast of implementing international projects under the Erasmus+ Program or the Europe for Citizens Program, under which, as the only local government in Poland, we organized a youth exchange to North Macedonia. Additionally, the youth created the first municipal Youth Strategy in the voivodship and the Map of Youth Activities. Among other things, thanks to the involvement of young people, the Creativity Center will be established in the historic building of the Palace, which will be financed by Norwegian funds. The city of Klaipeda also has extensive experience – in 2021 the city is the Youth Capital of Europe, which hosts festivals, workshops, consultations, and concerts for young people. The city of Santarem is currently developing its Youth Strategy and there is a special in the local government dealing with youth issues. Each city – Starachowice, Klaipeda, Santarem – has Youth City Councils, and the meeting in Poland was an excellent opportunity to exchange experiences and compare how these advisory bodies function in each country.

The perspective of our non-governmental partners, who presented their activities and experiences, was also interesting – the Spaniards, for example, focus on sport and culture and run their youth center, and for Greeks, the main platform for action is civic activity and promotion of European values. ACD La Hoya and IRTEA also have very good relations with local governments in their respective cities. The Greeks carry out their activities both in Athens and in smaller cities such as Salamina, and the Spaniards in the small town of La Hoya. The main problem of these smaller cities is the outflow of young people and the great challenges are to stop this trend and create conditions encouraging the return of young people, e.g. after studies. The key here is people and their ideas that drive activities for young people. Therefore, this meeting was valuable to us, because we got to know the solutions used in other countries and President Marek Materek has already declared that he will try to implement several ideas.

On the first day, the project coordinators met to discuss project management and financial matters – we agreed on a new schedule of activities – we have similar meetings in Greece and Portugal and trainings for young people in Spain and Lithuania ahead of us.

At that time, young people participated in a workshop on generating ideas for joint projects. The meeting was chaired by a youth expert – Kama Kępczyńska-Kaleta, and the youth from Starachowice were represented by: Igor Kaczorowski – Chairman of the Ministry of Regional Development and Dominika Chmielewska, Ola Niewczas, Julia Wysocka and Zuzanna Krzemińska.

Day # 2 – Kielce

The second day was a meeting in Kielce, which began with a discussion of the project management about the promotion, monitoring, and dissemination of the results. Two of them will be built as part of the project publications – about youth policy and non-formal education in the mixed mobility formula (online and offline meetings).

Then, all participants met in the Regional House of Culture with, among others: the Marshal of the Świętokrzyskie Province, Andrzej Bętkowski, the chairman of the Sejmik Andrzej Prus, the director of the Chancellery of the Sejmik Marta Solińska-Pela, the director of House of Culture in Kielce Jacek Sabat, and councilors of the Youth Council of the Świętokrzyskie Province. The event was an opportunity to discuss youth policy and promote social activity and non-formal education among young people, gain new experiences, exchange views and make interesting contacts. Foreign guests found out, inter alia, what the youth policy looks like in Poland, about important changes in the act on commune self-government, poviat self-government, and voivodeship self-government, introducing legal support for the existence of youth councils of communes, poviats, and youth assemblies of voivodships.

An additional attraction for the participants of the meeting was the opportunity to get to know the greatest attractions of the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship during a virtual trip in the 5D Capsule.

The meeting was led by youth councilors from the Sejmik – Zofia Mogielska and Katarzyna Makowska

Day # 3 – Starachowice

The main topic of our last meeting in Poland was to summarize the activities so far and to plan, together with young people, the training that will take place in Spain in October. The overriding goal of our project is primarily the exchange of good practices with our partners. We also focus on the development of young people and their soft skills. Therefore, as part of the “Cities for YOUth” project, five participants of the Polish edition of the project will travel to Spain for international training in order to develop their teamwork skills and learn how to better manage it. This learning will later bear fruit – young participants, together with their peers from partner countries, will create a joint five-day event in Klaipeda as part of the European Capital of Youth celebrations.