Young Europeans — Forging A New Tomorrow
Berlin — a city known for its complex history, vibrant cultural landscape and free-spirited nature welcomed the Narrative Change Academy participants for the first workshop in May and it was the beginning of something special…
When thinking about narratives that shape our lives, we often refer to external narratives; narratives that have been imposed upon us by society, politics, culture or media. The latter has a particularly strong influence over how the world perceives us and therefore how the world treats us.
Growing up as a Black Muslim woman in the UK hasn’t been the easiest ride, but disclosing my personal trauma isn’t necessary to illustrate that point. A simple Google search of British tabloid and newspaper headlines concerning people from my community can paint a pretty clear picture. Or you can listen to the discriminatory and offensive language spoken by Members of Parliament which has been repeated on streets and in neighbourhoods across the country.
Unfortunately, for many people from marginalized backgrounds, there comes a point when you are almost used to the noise, it becomes a sort of background music that follows you wherever you are; at school, at work, even on holiday. Nobody should have to justify their right to a peaceful existence. Therefore, as Islamophobic and racist discourse in media and politics across Europe continues to grow, we, as a collective community and as global citizens, must take action to counteract harmful and false narratives that cause division, hate and abuse.
When I heard about the Narrative Change Academy (NCA), I was immediately drawn to the prospect of working with young people from Germany, France and the UK to address these issues through creating a digital campaign. It sounded like an incredibly exciting opportunity and the first in person workshop exceeded all expectations.
Meeting the Junge Islam Konferenz team, the Fellows and the other participants for the first time was a powerful moment. People with completely different backgrounds and experiences came together with the same sense of purpose, passion and commitment. On Day 1, Jasemin Seven and Kübra Sariyar introduced us all to the Junge Islam Konferenz vision and we established our “Rules of Cooperation” which immediately created a safe and comfortable foundation to get to know each other more and then begin our work.
We then focused on Narrative Theory, using a hope based approach to counteract dangerous narratives about Muslims in Europe. This was so helpful in identifying what specific shifts we wanted to make and entry points to do this. I had not heard about the “hope based approach” before the NCA so it was fascinating to learn more about it and the huge impact that positive representation and messaging can have.
Day 1 also saw the participants unleash their inner models with a photoshoot and filming social media content thanks to Schore Mehrdju and Caroline Haufe! Everyone was so engaged and by the end of the day it was hard to believe that we had only just met for the first time after a couple of Zoom sessions! We finished the day with a beautiful dinner (thanks JIK!).
On the second workshop day we were kindly joined by the brilliant Marlene Gärtner from Understanding Europe Network and Jérémie Gagné from More In Common. Marlene gave us a more in depth look at Narrative Theory and how it translates to the real world and Jérémie introduced us to our target audience group. Learning more about the target group helped us to identify ways to approach our campaign. Whilst we hope our campaign can impact people across society, this particular hard to reach group had quite specific values, wants and needs and so understanding how to establish an approach that won’t ostracise them is key to launching a successful campaign.
The final workshop day was all about storytelling, as individuals and as a collective. We had a presentation by David Bakum which touched on the male vs female gaze. I was really appreciative of how David used film references to illustrate how narratives are created and framed. We also learned about personal storytelling and how to draw in your target audience through personal anecdotes and shared connections. “The Courage to Change”, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign video was a strong example to get us thinking. We practiced telling our own personal stories and shared our hopes for a better future. This was probably the most emotional part of the three days. Personal stories of hardship, resilience, pain and longing were shared. Tears were shed and there were many hugs. But there was also light and laughter, relatability and eye-rolls at all too common awkward experiences. By now we’d created a unique bond and a friendship through empathy and understanding.
Aside from the workshops, it was great to get a glimpse of Berlin as a first time visitor, and I was massively surprised at how hot and sunny it was! I’ll take the beautiful weather during our first workshop as a good omen for the rest of this journey.
I want to thank Jasemin Seven, Thomas Coombes, Gesine Schmidt-Schmiedbauer and Phillip Doyle for facilitating the Narrative Change Academy. I am incredibly grateful to have been connected with young people from across Europe who are committed to creating real, lasting change and forging a new tomorrow. This is just the beginning!
- by Yasmin Ali
- on 20. June 2023