‘The passing of the baton’ – Interview with Lublin, 2023 European Youth Capital

What does really mean, in practical terms, being the European Youth Capital?

«Being the European Youth Capital means an opportunity to make a “youth change”, understood as creating new programs and projects dedicated to young people, in order to engage them and strengthening their position in the city. We have two rules: nothing about youth without youth and if not now, then when! We want to be a friendly and open city for everyone».

What is the first thought you had when you knew that your city was selected?

«We made it! We were very surprised to hear about the city of Lublin being awarded the title, we really didn’t know what the result would be, because Baia Mare was super prepared. Due to the pandemic, we did not have a title ceremony – only on Saturday, at noon on February 27, 2021, we learned from a post on EYF fb. But we did an online meeting of all the people involved and we experienced this moment together, there was great joy and tears of emotion that we won!».

Why do you think you have been selected? Can you tell us more how the process works?

«The desire to build a friendly city was the most important, openness to change and young people, it is not without significance that the initiator of the efforts for the title was the Sempre a Frente Foundation, the largest youth organization in the region, and the fact that we are an academic city (9 universities) with great potential. If I were to sum up the 2 years of our preparations in one sentence, it would be building relationships with young people. During the application and preparations for the European Youth Capital, we experienced two difficult experiences. First, the pandemic. In a hurry, we learned how to organize public consultations on-line, how to prepare presentations in compliance with sanitary rules. I would like to emphasize the benefits of the possibility of young people’s participation in consultations – both in person and through modern information technologies. Hence the plethora of projects offering psychological support. The second experience came with refugees from Ukraine. Over a million refugees passed through Lublin in the first two months of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Nearly 70,000 new residents have settled in our city. In the overwhelming majority of children, adolescents and women. Thanks to the huge involvement of non-governmental organizations, volunteers – mainly young people and the city authorities, over 97% of refugees live in private homes today. Refugees are covered by social assistance, children attend schools. Many parents go to work. They have a new home – Lublin. That is why projects involving foreign youth are very important to us».

Which is the most important activity you think you will have to organise?

«In 2022, the Child Advocacy Centre in Lublin was launched, which provides comprehensive, interdisciplinary assistance and support for young people up to 18 years of age. Free assistance, provided by the Semper a Frente Foundation in cooperation with the Empowering Children Foundation, is offered in Polish and Ukrainian. Integration projects that we think about in the long term, involving Ukrainian youth in the life of the city, are important to us. We also have to develop and implement the assumptions of youth pro-life. This process is to reflect the change in thinking about the role and place of youth in the city. This is a long-term task and the most important from our perspective».

How do you think you will involve young people?

«Young people are involved from the conceptualization of project ideas to the project implementation phases. We always represent young people (e.g. the Youth City Council, the Student Council of Lublin) in the committees that allocate city money for activities, they have an equal influence on the selection of projects, and at the same time they learn about the mechanisms functioning in the city. Let’s work together to create friendly youth spaces. In order to meet the expectations of the young inhabitants of Lublin, it had to be created together with them. The city invited people to participate in the working group for youth spaces. She is working on the appearance, program and principles of functioning of the place for meetings and activities for young people. The aim of the City is to create spaces that will meet the needs of young people in Lublin. People who make up the working group take part in meetings and workshops with experts dealing with space design, here our partner is IKEA. We have a group of students who create and coordinate the communication team and cover the events of the European Youth Capital. In 2022, we conducted a pilot of youth development scholarships, also for talented youth from Ukraine, and grants for youth activities to complement the city’s offer addressed to them. The largest festivals are open to the initiatives of young people, this year they will fill them with content and, as always, co-create on a voluntary basis (about 100 volunteers work at one large festival)».

In terms of staff and activities to be performed, how is “staff” organized?

«The City of Lublin cooperates with the initiator, the Semper a Frente Foundation, and other Partners in order to implement the application. The office is made up of people delegated to tasks, several coordinators from the Lublin Commune and the social EMN Program Council and the EMN Advisory Council are appointed. Created by youth and youth organizations. What is a “typical day”? The project is so interdisciplinary that there is no “typical day”. It is intense, dynamic, but there is also a lot of positive energy from people. People are the most important in this project. Each day is diverse, unique and brings new opportunities. Depending on the calendar and events, we are with our partners or young people on a daily basis».

Is there any strategy behind it? (From a communication, social and political point of view)

«In order to implement the program, achieve the intended goals we have set, and be an effective motivator of change, a strategy is needed. In order to coordinate hundreds of committed stakeholders, a good strategy is the basis for effective results. We have built our strategy focused on “youth change”, the principle of social transformation and investment in human capital. The aim is to ensure that the impact generated by the program is transformed into concrete investments targeted at young people and youth workers in the long term».

Which were/are the main institutions you have to include in your programming activity?

«The most important from our point of view is youth, cooperation with youth non-governmental organizations, supporting adults working with youth, as well as the Youth City Council and the Student Council of Lublin. We are also supported by cultural institutions and sports organizations that carry out activities. We have school initiatives and projects done together with universities. We will meet with people, institutions, media, organizations, business and diplomats to find common ground for cooperation. We are open to new initiatives and good practices».

Which challenges do you think you will have to face?

«A big challenge will certainly be the long-term action we mentioned, i.e. the implementation of the policy. This entails the need for a permanent change in thinking about the role of young people in public life, which should take place on many levels and be consolidated».

Does being the European Youth Capital have to do only with the specific city or does it include the entire country?

«In our opinion, it also affects the local level and creates opportunities to expand cooperation also at the level of the entire country and Europe. We are the first city in Poland to win the title! It’s a national success. We have fruitful cooperation at the level of the Union of Polish Metropolises (cooperation of the 10 largest cities in Poland) and cooperation with the Polish Council of Youth Organizations PROM, we have the support and involvement of our partner cities from all over Europe (joint projects). We also have a dedicated project of the European Space Agency for the European Youth Capital. So we believe that we can infect everyone with the idea of ESM!».

Being the European Youth Capital during the European Year of Skills and Competences: a challenge or an opportunity?

«Great Opportunity! But also a challenge to really give young people these empowering and stimulating skills to be active citizens. And create a youth-friendly city».

Which is the desire you have for this 2023?

«Safety, peace and development opportunities for everyone!

Tworzenie nowych przestrzeni zaangażowania i wzmocnienia pozycji młodzieży – ponieważ to oni decydują o przyszłości».


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