Sopot transnational conference

From 17-20th of May 2007, 24 partners of the network NILE met in Sopot, seaside resort of Gdansk in Poland, to discuss issues around the role and responsibility of media for fostering intercultural dialogue. A good cooperation between the field of adult education and the media being one important focus of one of the 4 working groups of NILE, the opportunity to contribute to a TV discussion to be broadcasted throughout Poland in the framework of the Programme ‘EUROPE IS HERE’ seemed an exciting opportunity and a good practice example as such.

Minorities themselves are quite few in Northern Poland, the main three being Muslim (less than 150) Jewish (less than 150) and Kashubians, an ethnic Polish minority, numbering several thousands in a local population of approximately 40,000 (Sopot) 500,000 (Gdansk). The Kashubians are a true ethnic minority, distinct from the Poles in both language and culture. Originally western Slavs with ethnic links to the Poles, the Kashubians are believed to have settled in the area around 1,500 years ago.

Nevertheless, inspired by NILE, the Polish partner, Association for Civic Media (A4CM), who is involved in the film production business around minority issues, did make it a point to host the NILE meeting in Sopot, exploiting the expertise of the partnership on intercultural issues, with the aim to promote the issue of intercultural learning and dialogue in Poland .

TV-Debate and European Conference
On 4 ‘hot seats’ Beate Schmidt-Behlau, coordinator of NILE, Bashy Quraishy, director of Media Watch, Waldemar Janda from Polish Television and Artur Jablonski from the Pomaranian-Kashubian Union answered questions around: why intercultural dialogue is needed in Europe, how it can be implemented on a practical level in adult education, how the actual situation in Poland is judged to be, and what the specific role of the media should be.

Other partners of NILE for example, Lenford White from NIACE, Claire Frachon from Panos Institute Paris, Milica Pesic from the Media Diversity Institute in the UK and Maria Hirtenlehner and Susanne Gratzl from IZKS in Austria could give many examples of how intercultural dialogue works in practice with different target groups and about the important role that journalists play..
Additionally prominent virtual contributions by Jean-Marie Bellin, TV France, David Lowen, EURONEWS, Anita Bhalla from BBC were project to add food for thought to the debate and members of the Muslim and Jewish community aswell as Prof. Synak and Prof. Stegner from Gdansk University were also involved with contributions. In conclusion the debate actually showed the diversity of actors and stakeholders engaged in the issue of intercultural dialogue in Poland and throughout Europe.
The debate, which took up 5 hours time including a preparation, was followed by a number of presentations from NILE members given to an open audience of adult educators in Sopot Town Hall. This included a presentation by Milica Pesic on the work of the Media Diversity Institute, based in London, a demonstration of a good practice example from ARAD in Romania by Prof. Dr. Dorin Herlo from the University of ARAD and the projection of the film about the TANDEM project in Austria, explained by Maria Hirtenlehner and Susanne Gratzl of IZKS, based in Vienna.
The morning of the second day of the conference allowed for some more interaction with students of journalism and social work in the format of 2 capacity building workshops. Lenford White from NIACE introduced a recently published ‘Curriculum for Diversity’ in community education in the UK and Milica Pesic and Bashy Quraishy led a workshop on how to work as a journalist, giving a lot of practical examples from their experience.

NILE- transnational meeting
The main purpose of the meeting though, was to provide an opportunity for four thematic working groups of the network to feed back on their activities and to coordinate and plan future activities of NILE’s second phase running from 2005 to 2008.
The current focus of NILE is on contributing to knowledge around intercultural learning in mixed ethnic groups, in intercultural learning in institutions, cooperation with the media and how to transfer good practice and share and disseminate it.

Network meetings, as always, illustrate the broad range of perspectives and level of understanding between different countries on the issues of interculturality, migration and cultural diversity. In this regard the meeting itself provided a good opportunity in intercultural learning, showing the efforts, difficulties and frustrations around trying to understand the ‘other’ perspective.

It was clear from the conference and TV debate that European countries are at very different stages of debate on issues of intercultural dialogue, diversity and anti-discrimination. A network, such as NILE, therefore is a great opportunity to learn from each other. For this reason NILE is also looking into the medium of film to find out, whether this allows for an even better transfer than only brochures and presentations do. At this conference NILE presented its first DVD product about the TANDEM project – an intercultural dialogue project for police and migrants in Austria.

Finally it needs to be stressed that an exchange of information and experiences across Europe cannot work without adequate financial support. NILE alone with its fairly scant financial support from the Grundtvig programme could never have implemented the studio debate. This was only possibly through the synergy effort of the Polish partner, who had secured extra money for the production of a series of films for ‘EUROPE IS HERE’. Maybe this is the best example even for the added European value of networking, that the different stakeholders work with a transsectoral vision, making best use of their synergetic capacities.

More information on NILE and intercultural learning: