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Youth congress in Kolkata
FUTURE (T)HERE: A Future For And By The Youth

Youth Congress in Kolkata
Youth Congress in Kolkata | © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata

What does sustainability mean? Should it be considered from a global perspective, integrated into our community systems and inculcated in our personal lives? How does one find the balance between a debate for the environment and one for social equality as well our personal happiness? More importantly, how does one go beyond a theoretical study and implement change in personal lives?
Following the inception of the first FUTURE (T) HERE international youth conference on the environment and sustainability in Mumbai in 2016, the second conference was held at the new premises of the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata on Park Street between 19th and 21st January, 2018. 

Anita Mitra, Education Cooperation Officer at Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata and workshop conductor at the first youth conference in Mumbai, mentioned, “It is a very important topic of discussion for India, and the format is also one that not only brings together students, but also fosters connections between schools and cooperation partners.”
An estimated 100 students from around 20 government and private schools in East and Northeast India were invited to take part in the three daylong conference which held nine simultaneous workshops where students exchanged ideas for a better future and had the opportunity to better understand several aspects of sustainability. 
“It is wonderful to see how such a huge movement emerged from a very small idea”, says Beata Weber, Head of the Language Department at Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai and the force behind FUTURE (T) HERE. 

Visualising, Listening, Feeling, Smelling, Tasting 

Twelve experts from India and Germany came together to conceptualise workshops that were based not just on a global and intercultural perspective but also on several formats such as dance and performances, video making, cooking and market visits and cultural and sustainable tours around the city. These workshops allowed participants to gain experience which would help them not only to be more aware but also inspire others. On the final day, each of the nine workshops prepared presentations that were showcased to guests and parents during the Open House.

  • FUTURE (T)HERE: Youth Congress © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: Youth Congress
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: Creative © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: Creative
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: Panel discussion © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: Panel discussion
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: On stage © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: On stage
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: In Action © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: In Action
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: At the desk © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: At the desk
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: Hands on © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: Hands on
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: Talks © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: Talks
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: Creativ, different style © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: Creativ, different style
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: Tauschbörse © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: Tauschbörse
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: Hands on, 2 © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: Hands on, 2
  • FUTURE (T)HERE: On stage, 2 © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata
    FUTURE (T)HERE: On stage, 2

Success Stories

Three of the nine workshops focused on where our clothes, our food and other materials of daily use originate from, and in what working conditions they are produced and what the entire process is from production to consumption. This also allowed participants to become aware about the entire process, and that it is often difficult to define the processes and the chain of production. The message of the performance, video—art and experimental cooking workshops  focused on how important awareness and information is, so that a change can be effected and every consumer and citizen may be allowed the chance of a better future. 
Three other workshops addressed art, culture and personal identities. Why does one hardly see butterflies in the city? What are the stories that buildings can recount to us, and how can we conserve and preserve these stories for future generations? And how is personal happiness linked to the aspect of sustainable living. The participants answered these questions based on experiences that the participants gathered during excursions through creative formats such as wall presentations, films, animation or performances. 

Our carbon footprint

No less surprised were the participants of the workshop that dealt with the carbon footprint, and what kind of an effect one has on the planet. Plastic bags or bags made of cloth? Fast food or local food? A starting point in terms of judicious usage of resources was quite simply, a kitchen garden. Not only skepticism but also assurance was portrayed in the “Dance of Hope „performed by those who worked on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations,
Inspired by the “Success Stories” of the cooperation partner for the first youth conference in Mumbai -, FUTURE (T) HERE also became a success story in itself-demonstrated by the many request of the young conference participants to expand the concept of sustainability as well as the support of local partners and international organisations such as UNESCO and UNICEF in India. Further such conferences have also been planned, as have been conceptualisations and implementations of several school projects. 
Such conferences are also a wonderful opportunity for participants to improve their knowledge of both the German language as well as the culture in Germany. In this regard, ten participants from Mumbai and Kolkata will also have the opportunity to travel to Düsseldorf, where the next youth conference will take place in June, 2018. This conference will be an international one, and participants will have the opportunity to gain an in-depth knowledge on this topic as well as exchange ideas with their german counterparts on building a sustainable society. This youth conference will be organized by the initiation partner Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus These conference will hence, also be an opportunity for all to work together; since the future of the planet depends on all of us.
„The main difference that I have found between school and the workshops here is that in school we study but here we learn. Here we learned my things that I haven’t learned in school. Here everyone has encouraged us to find out more about to help the environment and how we can take small steps to make things better.”
“The kids here are 14 or 15 years old and if they continue with what they have learned in the workshops - recycle, reuse, rethink and upcycle - they will lead a responsible urban life. This will have a great impact on our environment in the long run.”
“The workshop content is extremely new for us. We have never explored the streets and spoken to the street vendors about food and where they get it from. But the most important thing is that we are connecting these everyday activities to sustainability. We have never thought about this topic in this way"
„I wanted my daughter to attend this youth conference because I strongly believe that the youth and the children should be involved in saving our planet. I believe they are the ones that do it.”

“I myself learnt a great deal from the different workshops. The blending of the scientific information into an artistic manner is what impressed me the most. As a teacher I got a lot of different input for future school projects and the contact to different German as well as local organisations that deal with this topic.”