9 things we've learned so far
We first began initiating discussions and seeking out dialogues with people across Europe in July 2017. Instead of visiting big cities like Paris, Barcelona and Prague, we travelled to towns like Magdeburg, Gelsenkirchen and Leeuwarden, which lie outside the usual major urban areas. We spoke to the people there about Europe, we listened to what they said, and we suggested opportunities for them to get actively involved themselves. The following points are intended to provide an overview of what we’ve learned so far on our journey through Europe as well as the things we can pass on to others who want to show their commitment to Europe – anywhere on the continent.
We take stock
1. Listen up!
We, the citizens, are the foundation of Europe. We enjoy freedoms that are self-evident to us. And yet, each and every one of us must also take responsibility for upholding these freedoms. It is important to us to let as many people speak as possible – and also to listen carefully.
2. Cooperation between citizens and the political realm
Europe, that’s us – the residents of cities and villages. This is why it is so important to us that we visit the people in precisely these cities and villages and foster dialogue with politicians and decision makers there. At first glance, Brussels and the EU often appear to be far away, which means that it is initially a big step for some of us to actually occupy ourselves with the subject.
3. Create synergies
Our project is only as good as the support and cooperation it receives on site. In order to achieve the most long-lasting impact possible in each city and to connect individual multipliers as optimally as possible, we carry out prior research into civil society associations, initiatives and organisations that are already working to promote Europe in the area and that might have an interest in entering into a conversation with political representatives and citizens.
4. Enter people’s natural habitats!
It is often the case that people who take part in Europe-related events are individuals who are already interested in the subject. But how can we reach those people who don’t think about Europe on a daily basis? One of the principles behind our work is to meet up with people in their everyday environments – and then adjust our event formats to fit those “natural habitats”.
5. Foster a culture of debate
In every functioning democracy, different opinions and experiences are bound to connect and conflict with one another. In both cases, it is important to foster a culture of debate in which people are invited to express their opinions and get a sense that they are being heard. As already mentioned, our goal is to reach different people in their everyday environments by means of contact to different organisations and facilities. Our ultimate goal is to be able to cover the largest breadth of opinions and backgrounds as possible.
6. Pay close attention to regional and historical factors
The story of European history is usually told in the framework of existing nation states. The fact that history knows no such borders, however, can be seen in the example of local factors and conditions. For this very reason, it is essential that we foster regional cultures of remembrance: this supposedly conservative perspective – one that does not focus on the “big picture” but instead on the local factors – is often the approach that enables us to make nation-state borders less rigid, above all those borders in people’s minds.
7. Europe’s contribution to art and culture
Cities are shaped and formed by the people who live in them. Artists have a special place and role to play in this realm. And yet, the identity of a city is shaped not only by art in urban spaces. In fact, many artists have made it their mission to work on behalf of social and political issues, thus making cities a little bit more liveable and fair for all. .
8. Make the most of European city networks
We want to work over the long term with the cities involved in the project, especially with regard to their European orientation, while also fostering their integration into European networks.
9. Disseminate ideas and methods even further
The Wir Sind Europa (We are Europe) team has been on the road in different cities since July 2017. At our “Open Space Europe” events, we’ve seen a number of exciting debates take place on the future of Europe. These encounters create new connections and spheres of action for all participants. We are always happy to pass on any knowledge and experience we gain, thus helping to make sure that Europe receives new strength from below.