Why is MYCOOM an important project? What are its objectives?

The project will contribute to European Youth Together as it will ultimately expand and strengthen an EU network for migrant and refugee youth advocacy, linking and building upon existing networks and developing the human resources capacity in communications, social media and audio-visual techniques. The methodology is predicated on youth organisation practice exchange, networking and capacity building. It directly contributes to the EU Strategy on Youth (and the attention it gives to instilling European values in migrants and refugees), the “Action Plan on the Integration of third-country Nationals” and the “Communication on the protection of children in migration. It matches the EU Youth Goals 3 and 4: ‘Inclusive Societies’, ‘Information and Constructive Dialogue’.

The needs analysis was conducted via extensive consultation of partner organisations: This included reviewing the previous projects in which CARDET, GIE, The Rural HUB, OBREAL and JEF have been involved related to youth and migrants/refugees and identifying good practices to be built upon as well as gaps. It also entailed online meetings with partners in the project, identifying capacities and strengths, whether it be in advocacy and outreach, communications, audio-visual or youth migration issues.

Based upon this assessment, it is expected that the project will strengthen organisational capacity and networking of youth organisations in Europe at various levels: At the local organisational level (75 youth organisations will be targeted by training activities for audio-visual, social media and advocacy) and at the EU level (European youth organisations – notably JEF and VYRE – will be strengthened and their networks both expanded and articulated, allowing for a more coherent policy voice, underpinned by enhanced audio-visual and social media strategies). While organisational capacity enhancement will be one key output, there will be other tangible products: collectively produced videos with a coherent narrative on the challenges and successful stories of migrant youth in Europe, as well as policy papers and new advocacy campaigns launched collectively by youth organisations that participate. 

The approach is one of practice sharing and exchange amongst youth organisations across Europe, which have different capacities and missions yet share a commitment to enhancing their voices in matters related to social-economic and cultural challenges facing young migrants and refugees. It incorporates virtual and physical training events, youth organisation staff exchange and collaborative project work to produce the audio-visual products of the project. MYCOMM favours creativity and innovation, demonstrated be such actions as a Makeathon and an emphasis on artistic expression in the realm of advocacy.

MYComm fits clearly into the strategy of each partner: CARDET is a leading research centre with extensive expertise in youth empowerment, social inclusion and migrant integration. It has a history of collaboration with OBREAL Global – which has led education and audiovisual projects with partners around the globe – and has designed innovative curricula and Online Learning Environments.

According to CARDET’s experience in the youth sector, youth organisations mainly ask for recognition of their work in addition to more systemic human resourcing. A considerable proportion of youth organisations are run by volunteers or by or part-time staff, which who are overcharged with various topics. Even though many of these organisations have a clear vision and mission on what they would like to do and reach, they find it challenging to get to the final step and expertise in their area. The needs of the organisations are good strategy planning, in their workload, promotion in advertising, expertise in advocating for their vision and mission and further technical capacity. These needs have been largely validated by the other youth organisations in the partnership. GIE’s development strategy, for example, aims to train migrants and refugees in specific skills necessary for networking, advocacy and effective inclusion.

Social inclusion is also the mission of APEDV, which assists parents, children, migrants and the disabled in finding a home, school. It promotes collective artistic projects, which is an asset to MYComm. According to APEDV and numerous sectoral studies, the most important need and challenge (specifically in France) is that of inclusion of migrants and refugees. A new regulation imposes the inclusion of all youths, including refugees, migrants or the disabled and other ostracized groups, in a “normal” study stream as opposed to in separate, specialised institutions. In practice, this is happening slowly, but obstacles remain. Beyond organizational and financial barriers, psychological and societal acceptance issues persistent. Communication and advocacy of youth organisations in this field is hence critical.

JEF, as a political youth umbrella organisation active across Europe, seeks to enhance capacities in its chapters and develop a stronger voice on migration issues. It seems MYCOMM as platform to expand its membership and strengthen its voice in the sector a particularly critical moment for youth migration in Europe. Relatedly, VYRE’s advocacy role for migrant and refugee social justice in Europe is a central to MYComm. Much of VYRE’s work is focused in two key areas:

  1. Capacity building, including study sessions, training and seminars for refugees and migrants, ethnic minorities and youth organisations.
  2. Advocacy, in which members facilitate the participation of young refugees and refugee-serving youth organisations in forums and spaces with governments, European and international institutions.

They have identified the following needs:

  • strategically involving the supporters and allies (European NGOs) in its projects and in the work/field of refugees’ political participation and civic engagement
  • embedding this cause in the wider youth field and the migration field where it naturally should be and not create a silo
  • create ownership in the migrant-led youth organisations, and better develop their capacities and competencies
  • Combat predominant narratives: Migration is a process in which choices are made for migrants, and European societies
  • Rebranding the public discourse: There is an overall lack of engagement with migrant advocates from the media and other actors and, where engagement does take place, it often limits the type of information and/or range of topics that migrants can address. Perpetually describing refugees using labels such ‘poor’ and ‘helpless’ affects refugees themselves, by creating a sense of internalized helplessness and promoting a reliance dependent on host societies and/or NGOs.

KOKEN, coordinating 100 Youth Clubs in Cyprus, works on rural outreach, human rights and inclusion. TRH specialises in social digital media production, offering local youth and migrant communities capacity in media to generate intercultural communication. According to both, there is the need to reconnect with volunteers and enhance participation in the organized activities and actions. Fear and uncertainty associated with COVID-19, has averted many young people from participating in activities and has disrupted many events from taking place. There is also a recognized need to develop new mediums through which we can motivate and encourage the organisation of participatory activities. Youth workers and other key staff need to upgrade their digital skills as this will help them in reaching out to young individuals with limited opportunities (e.g. geographical location, financial and other obstacles).

MYComm represents a new opportunity for partners to engage youth organisations not only in digital media production, but also in discussing the media narrative around migrants and influencing policy and perception. MYComm will produce tangible and intangible results which will ultimately meet the goal of developing capacity of youth organisations to more effectively and collectively address migrant and refugee integration issues, and speak with a stronger, more representative voice. As an output, staff from 75 youth organisations across the EU will be trained in social media strategies, audio-visual skills and creative production techniques and advocacy. 20 youth leaders will also complete a one-week traineeship at a partner organisation. Training will be cross-cultural and used to generate several products: 3 short videos produced by 3 international youth production teams addressing youth migration/refugee challenges, revised social media strategies of the participating organisations and new advocacy campaigns. Additional creative communications products will be developed in a makeathon. These outcomes will be linked to the consolidation of a network of youth organisations committed migrant/refugee integration issues, which will produce collective policy statements. As an in tangible impact, organisational capacity of the partner organisations and the beneficiary organisations will be generated, given that the activities will imply staff development. Particular capacity will be built in audio-visual techniques, which many organisations lack.

These results address the needs of existing youth organisations and of migrants/refugee youth in general: Greater articulation of existing actors, enhanced policy dialogue, co-creation of youth involved in advocacy, and special attention to tackling the diverse needs of migrant youth in their social integration journeys in different EU contexts, by employing creative expression.