From Nov 27 to 30, 2019 I (Susan Cullinane) spent 4 days at Alden Biesen, Belgium at an Erasmus+ contact seminar on ‘Active Citizenship in Adult Education’ with 50 other participants from 19 European countries.  Active citizenship is about the development of intercultural skills, participation in democratic life, and social and civic engagement through formal and non-formal learning.  Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme to support education.  

We want to increase the number of Active Citizenship projects in the Community Education programme.  We hoped that participating would give us ideas and develop relationships with like-minded partners for future co-operation.  

The first day involved an early flight to Brussels where I met the other Irish participants, and a train journey to Bilzen.  The seminar was held in Alden Biesen which was a command centre of the Teutonic Order and today is a beautiful heritage site and conference centre.  

First Day  

On the first evening we set up our country display and got to know the other participants.  We also tasted snacks from each other’s countries

There was a warm welcome from the Erasmus event organisers. 

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Second Day 

We had inputs on ‘Making the most of the Seminar’, the Erasmus + programme and EPALE (the electronic platform for adult learning in Europe) and the need for Active Citizenship.  

There are three funding possibilities 

  1. Transnational Contact Seminars – like this one 
  1. KA1 Mobility Projects – where participants go to another country to do job shadowing, teach or attend a course or conference.  
  1. KA2 Partnership Project – where several countries come together to develop a project on sharing good practice or innovation.  
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In the afternoon we started to develop our project ideas and find like-minded partners. 

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Third Day  

We had an input on a project called ‘Pop up Europe: Engaging Citizens for Europe at the local level’.  As it was Friday, Thalia from Estonia and I initiated a climate strike where we went on a walk and discussed the issue of making our projects more environmentally friendly.  

Here are some of the ideas 

We learned how to complete the application forms for project funding  

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Farewell dinner and storytelling session by Sophie Heydel (UK), ‘Dream a little Dream’  

Fourth Day  

So many new ideas, so many new friends.  

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I participated in developing a project called ‘Women’s Perspectives’ (KA2 – exchange of practice).  The focus of the project is on bringing educators together to share methods of working with women, focusing on themes and issues that are of concern. I look forward to seeing how it unfolds and the possibilities it will bring. I highly recommend participating in Erasmus opportunities.  It is fantastic to learn about and share experiences with people in other European countries.  

Project lead 

GermanyWeltgewandt Institute for Intercultural Civic Education – Sophia Bickhardt 

Project partners 

Poland: Stowanyszenie BORIS – Agnieszka Iwaniak 

Poland: SAAL Adult Education Center – Barbara Lewandowska  

Ireland: KWETB Community Education – Susan Cullinane 

Estonia: Innowise – Thalia Eccles