What does really mean, in practical terms, being the European Youth Capital?
«Being the European Youth Capital means being given a chance to manifest the youth potential in your city and country, and not only taking chances but creating them for new avenues of youth engagement and empowerment».
What is the first thought you had when you knew that your city was selected?
«We were positively surprised and felt an immense reward on the announcement that Tirana was awarded the title.
I still remember that day, back in 2019, in Amiens, France when Tirana was awarded the title, and the whole team that had been working on the application was very enthusiastic and looking forward to bringing the title home and to starting the preparations and work for 2022».
Why do you think you have been selected? Can you tell us more how the process works?
«We focused on the priority areas and programs of work that were identified from youth organizations and those working with youth. Our application and program goals matched the requirements and needs of youth in our country. From the project application phase and further on, we diversified our scope of work into eight programs which were consulted with youth and civil society organizations and stakeholders on the field: youth participation, capacity, innovation and entrepreneurship, eco-health, youth spaces, culture, European identity and values, and diversity. These eight programs enabled us to tackle and address the most pressing priorities and needs of youth of Albania, and as a reward we saw youth taking the lead, and transforming these programs into concrete outputs and activities. With the support of the European Youth Forum, which awards the title, and with partners coming from governmental organizations, civil society, business community, as well as the international community, we started a journey where concrete change is brought only by joining forces and letting youth take the lead as change-makers. The process and the journey have been very competitive but the will and determination to keep up with the challenges and opportunities has been the motivating wand for us».
Which is the most important activity you have organised?
«There are over 1000 activities we supported and implemented within the 8 pillars of our programmatic work and it is hard to distinguish one of them as the most important. They were all unique, inclusive and diverse in their own way. They boosted youth participation as well as intergenerational dialogue and networking. What I would highlight as the most important outcome reached, was the investment in human capital. That is the main outcome out of a one-year-long dedicated work to reach out to all youth in society».
How were young people really involved?
«Young people were involved from the conceptualization of the project ideas to the ideation and implementation phases of the projects. They were the key actors that made possible the successful implementation of our grant-scheme, and throughout the journey we valued them not only as beneficiaries of our program but as key partners of ours.
Furthermore, we also had a team of over 200 young activists and volunteers that were part of our core team of National Youth Congress. They were the driving force and the holding glue of our team, enabling us to fully carry out and implement all local activities on the ground».
Considering the staff behind and the activities to be done, how is the ‘personnel’ organised? Which is the ‘typical day?
«During the implementation of Tirana EYC 2022 program, there is no typical day for the team of the National Youth Congress. Every day is diverse, unique and brings new opportunities and moments to cherish. Depending on the calendar and events, we are always on the ground with our partners and youth on a daily basis».
Is there a strategy behind? (From a communication, social and political point of view)
«To implement a macro-program with over a thousand activities and hundreds of stakeholders involved, a good strategy lays the basis for efficient outcomes to flourish. We built our strategy oriented towards the principle of social transformation and human capital investment. The goal was to ensure that the impact generated by the program turned into concrete investment towards youth and those working with youth in Albania».
Which were/are the main institutions you have to include in your programming activity?
«We got together with people, institutions, media, organizations, businesses and diplomats, to find a common ground which is pro-active, looks towards the future, and uses the lenses of youth to perceive the reality we can shape together.
Our journey would not have been possible without joining hands with a diverse array of stakeholders which believed in our mission. From governmental institutions, to ciliv society organizations, universities, media and youth we saw a great trust placed upon us, creating new avenues and possibilities for further cooperation».
Did you encounter challenges?
«Skepticism turned into disbelief is one of the challenges you may encounter when the ambitions are high and the road towards them bumpy. But Tirana EYC 2022 at the end, proved to be a rewarding journey where some of the challenges were addressed and transformed into opportunities. Bringing all voices and opinions at the table is not always easy, but we worked to create spaces and avenues of engagement where all perspectives, voices, and opinions are heard, represented and included. Finally, managing a granting scheme of 360 projects where youth organizations, non-formal groups, and individuals are granted projects covering our eight programmatic areas of work, was another challenge faced. At the same time, we were implementing around 90 flagship projects. 450 projects in a year, resulting with over a 1000 events and activities in eight different fields of work, have led to some intensive commitments and dedication from all the team involved, as well as from partners and friends who trusted this journey, to conclude and maximize the objectives we set at the beginning of the year».
Does being the European Youth Capital have to do only with the specific city or does it include the entire country?
«Tirana EYC 2022 was the first program under the ‘’European Youth Capital’’ title which extended to the entire Albanian territory. From the very beginning of our application phase, we aimed and encouraged various projects and activities throughout the entire country to leave no one behind and to ensure that this amazing opportunity would benefit all youth».
Being the European Youth Capital during the European Year of Youth: a challenge or a lucky opportunity?
«Definitely an amazing opportunity that enables change and transformation».
Which is the wish for the city this year?
«Keep investing and creating new spaces of engagement and empowerment for youth – because they are the catalysts of positive transformation for a well-educated, sustainable and democratic society».