The aim of the Youth Meetings Programme (YMP), launched in 2015, is to encourage communication, understanding, and personal development among 11- to 19-year-old young people with different native tongues living in Estonia. YMP supports around 50 small projects with budgets between €2,000-6,000 that bring together 1,700 young people each year.
Each project is a cooperation among youth groups in Estonia with different cultural backgrounds. The project is developed and implemented by young people themselves, and mainly consists of a meeting of young people (3-6 days) following a thematic programme, such as architecture, choosing a profession, sports, volunteering, etc.
The YMP is led by the Foundation Archimedes Youth Agency, which supports the creation and development of collaboration projects through information, counselling and training, distribution of project grants, and monitoring and analysis of project execution.
Issue/challenge and goal/assumption
In Estonia, the segregation of the Estonian-speaking and Russian-speaking communities has increased since the state regained its independence in 1991, and social connections between the communities are still inadequate. The two communities are separated geographically and also in the education system, labour market, and consumption of media. Nearly all children and young people go to public kindergartens and schools that teach either Estonian or Russian (but not both). This means that contact between the two communities is limited, yet opportunities for contact are a major prerequisite for ensuring that relationships in society remain tolerant and friendly.
The aim of the YMP is to encourage communication, understanding, and personal development among 11- to 19-year-olds with different native languages living in Estonia. The broader objective of the programme is to increase cultural awareness, openness, and tolerance among participants and in society.
Integration policies and research have shown that in order to participate in social life in Estonia, Russian-speaking young people need to practice speaking Estonian. However, opportunities for practicing vary greatly depending on the region and are especially limited in north-eastern Estonia.
How does it work
Individual projects can last between 3 to 6 months, including preparation, project execution, and follow-up activities. Each project includes:
- A preparatory meeting (2 days)
- The main activity (a youth meeting), which lasts between 3-6 days (plus travel days)
Every youth meeting follows a theme, such as sports, volunteering, etc. Each meeting brings together 2-3 partners with around 20-30 young people between the ages of 11 and 19. Projects are funded twice a year (in spring and autumn), and registered organisations, unofficial youth groups, local authorities, and other legal entities can apply for funding.
The Foundation Archimedes Youth Agency provides feedback to projects submitted before the preliminary deadline to improve the quality of the project, enlists applications for finding partners on their website, and organises trainings and events for finding partners.
Between 2015 and the first half of 2018, a total of 163 projects were funded and carried out.
In the second funding round of 2018 (total €84,985), 19 more projects carrying out an additional 34 youth meetings were funded. 700 young people can participate in these projects.
A 2017 evaluation analysed the impact of projects carried out in the first year of the YMP. The evaluation found that the programme had the greatest impact in the following areas:
- Formation of contacts between young people of two communities
- Cooperation and courage in communicating with young people from other nationalities
- Increased openness and tolerance
Participation in the programme had an impact on courage to communicate among both groups. Russian-speaking young people gained more courage to use the Estonian language, while Estonian-speaking young people improved general openness and communication skills.
After participation in the programme, the strength of multicultural attitudes of Estonian young people increased strongly under the Estonian Open Identity Scale (EOI). There was an increase in acceptance of people of different origins as residents of Estonia, provided they follow local laws. In the context of integration in Estonia, this is an important result, as the debate on integration has emphasised that integration should be a two-way process and requires a certain degree of openness and responsiveness from the majority group.
On the other hand, the programme did not achieve the desired impact on civic competence of young participants in the first year. Young people participated in project meetings as active participants and contributors rather than as initiators and leaders. This led the programme to place greater emphasis on civic competence and youth leadership in the projects funded and carried out over the following years.
Who will benefit?
Direct beneficiaries of the programme are the young people who participate in and organise the youth meetings—around 1,700 young people and 50 youth leaders every year.
Indirectly, Estonian society as a whole benefits from the programme through better integration of the Russian-speaking community and an increase in multicultural attitudes, openness, and acceptance in the Estonian-speaking majority population.
Source of funding and Resources used
The total budget for 2018 was €205,000. Programme staff consisted of 1 coordinator, 8 counsellors, and 3 evaluators. Funding for the programme came from the Estonian Gambling Tax Council.
- Foundation Archimedes Youth Agency
- Anni Tetsmann
- YMP coordinator