The initiative Gulbenkian 15-25 took place between January 2020 and February 2021 and its goal was to promote dialogue and cooperation between the young so that they could reflect together on the opportunities and challenges their generations must face in the present moment. This initiative led to the creation of two projects that involved the participation of 70 youngsters: the first promoted cooperation in the field of cultural programming – Gulbenkian 15-25 Imagina – and the second focused on the strategical planning behind the Foundation’s work – Gulbenkian 15-25 Participa.
Although independent from each other, the two projects addressed common and transversal themes, both in terms of the approach – looking at the public as a decision maker, rather than as a recipient, programming with others and not only for others – but also in the concerns identified by the youngsters.
The session happened online on the morning of the 24th of March with the attendance of several members of the Board of Trustees of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, including the President of the Foundation, Isabel Mota. Some of the youngsters who took part in the initiative, as well as several partners, were also present.
“Nothing for the young without the young”
The initiative Gulbenkian 15-25 Imagina, part of the European project ADESTE+, co-financed by Creative Europe, resulted in the creation of a space for dialogue and cooperative work between the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and a group of 21 youngsters between the ages of 18 and 25. The product of this experience of cultural programming was a series of online talks under the title “Imagine – thinking about the future today”.
The experiences and teachings that the project brought along were registered and shared with a special emphasis on the recommendations and suggestions made to improve the programme for the young at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. For Andreia Dias, responsible for the programme made for schools and families at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, this was “the opening of a door for communication that will never be closed again”.
The initiative Gulbenkian 15-25 Participa gathered 51 youngsters, ages 14 to 27, who are involved in projects funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, so that they could contribute to the continuous improvement of the strategic planning of the Foundation. With the support of the team from ComParte, a project developed by the Maria Rosa Foundation, a book was produced under the title “Is this for me?”, gathering a collection of experiences and recommendations made by these youngsters during the series of workshops that took place last year.
The reflection of the “Pros” – “a group of young specialists that understands what works best and should be adapted so that it can be used by society according to their experience as users and participants”, as explained in the book – was made by asking and answering questions like “What is it to be young?” or “What are my concerns about the future?” and covered other crucial themes like health, well-being, culture, but also other social concerns.
Maria Ferreira, 18, took part in the opening session and mentioned that the project helped her feeling more motivated to talk with others and also made her want to get involved in other initiatives like this. “My concern is that the young generation stays silent, that we stop having ideas and that we stop wanting to be heard. Sometimes adults don’t know how to get to us, but we need that, we need them to reach out and tell us «I want you to participate»”.
Beatriz Amaral, 27, spoke about “a feeling of empowerment”. “We feel not only that we are being heard, but also that what we are saying will somehow be put into practice, it will be in a cultural program, it will be in the way education is carried out in Portugal”.
The result of these initiatives was very positive, providing the Foundation with valuable input for future reference and reflection and for the strategic planning and decision-making behind its work, thus reinforcing the commitment to include younger generations in this process.
“I have strong hopes that this is not an isolated project because the learning process is ongoing” said the President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Isabel Mota. “We often say that our main mission is to prepare future generations; listening to them is the first step and a very powerful tool”.