Nominations are open for the UACES – Thomson Reuters Reporting Europe Prize 2012. There have been some interesting winners in the few years I’ve been going along. It’s very far from a hagiographic prize, as a brief glimpse at some of the former winners will show. I’m very honoured to have been invited to sit on the jury this year, so I won’t be doing any nominating this time. But in a year when we’ve seen European Union issues covered to an unprecedented extent, I’m sure there will be lots for the jury to get their teeth into.
I was quite busy on Friday and didn’t get the chance to blog about the Thursday event we organised with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British Council. 58 (well 57 because 1 went astray) sixth formers came to Lancaster House to take part in a role-playing exercise based on the EU’s decision-making body the Council of Ministers. The schools all played a particular EU Member State, or the Commission or the Secretariat-General of the Council. They were sent briefing papers a few weeks before the event and came to Lancaster House on Thursday ready to debate the issues from the point of view of the country they were assigned. This time, for the first year, we had interpretation as well, giving a real sense of the multilingualism of the real Council. Not only did some of the speakers from the organisers speak in French and German, but quite a few of the students did too: the “French” representative in one of the working groups even taking verisimilitude so far she spoke French every time she took the floor!
There’s a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/EUMockCouncil and some videos on YouTube as well, with students and teachers talking about their experience.
It was a fabulous day. There was an incredible buzz from the beginning, and the students really got into their roles. I was following the working group on the Arab Spring and it got very passionate! There’s lots of talk about young people being disengaged from the Political process, but on the evidence of Thursday, that isn’t the case. Maybe it’s about them feeling involved. Quite apart from what they learn in terms of the EU decision-making process, several of the teachers mentioned how important it was for developing students’ confidence. Maybe none of them are looking for careers in politics or administration, but learning about engaging with people, defending a point of view and talking in front of people are all valuable skills for life.
The European Year of Volunteering tour came to the UK last week, and took up residence in the Coin Street Community Centre. While there I spoke to Stephen Crocker, who ran the Leeds City Council initiative to have a Leeds Year of Volunteering in 2010. He tells me why he thinks more local councils and authorities should do the same in their area, to increase the appreciation of and involvement in volunteering.
Thanks to the tour event I’m now pursuing two very exciting volunteering activities, so thanks EYV!