Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The power of intergenerational cooperation

Once the density of awareness reaches a certain point, the environment starts self-reorganizing. This is a natural development that can also be observed in Slovenia. As boring political campaigns compete for obsolete political positions, and ideals, wonderful things are happening on parallel frequencies. Some of them have already been woven into the mosaic of Aktualno 2.0. However, the story here takes us a step further. It announces developmental impulses of a new society, a new approach to social action and expressions of political will. This fresh impulse comes from those generations under 30years of age. Those generations to whom post Second World War crimes and the maximisation of share capital are equally alien. These generations have a better understanding of social entrepreneurship, which prioritises social benefits, without neglecting the creation of an added value that energises and motivates development. These people enter voluntary and charity projects without reservation, while understanding that they need to take care of themselves and their needs by themselves, ie.personal responsibility. It is exactly these sort of individuals that have developed the Simbioz@ (Symbiosis) project. This model has the potential to become a foundation for developing successful intergenerational cooperation and the flow of knowledge and experience. This model has great potential to become an export product of Slovenia. This is the story of Simbioz@ and the people who brought it to life. I hope the vibrations will spread on.

VB: What is Simbioz@?
ZY: Simbioz@, or e-literate Slovenia, is a project on the national scale focused on intergenerational cooperation which was organised by Zavod Ypsilon and which took place between 17 and 21 October. During these five days, young volunteers helped the older generation get familiar with the use of computers and the Internet in free workshops across Slovenia. The key aim of our initiative was to enable older people to have a positive experience with computers, encourage and strengthen their self-confidence and motivate them to further learning using computers and the Internet.

VB: Who are the people who have developed and brought this initiative to life?
ZY: Simbioz@ was developed by a group of young enthusiasts who invested more than 10,000 volunteer hours in the project. Its core comprises 28 committed individuals who were helped by a number of other people in the realisation of the project. The leader of the project, Borut Jeglič, did an exceptional job.
Simbioz@ took place between 17 and 21 October 2011
in 120 municipalities across Slovenia, in more than
240 Simbioz@classrooms where more than 2,400 young
volunteers taught5,700 older people.
VB: What was the reason for the initiative?
ZY: Simbioz@ was developed as an answer to three key problems: Firstly, the low rate of computer literacy of the older generations in Slovenia for Eurostat data shows that in 2010, 56% of people in the 55-74 age group in Slovenia have never used a computer and 67% have never used the Web. The second reason is the fact that we do far too little for intergenerational cooperation and that results in the growing generational gap and losing of mutual contact. The third reason is the spirit of volunteer work, which is gaining in significance and regard, but is still not integrated deeply enough in the lives of individuals, especially of young people. Furthermore, many older people ask themselves what "www" means and Simbioz@ has provided them with an answer and has shown them that we don't want the world and its progress to be discriminatory towards them.

Volunteer Barbara Pihler
Photo: Miha Rekar

VB: How was your project organised?
ZY: The main e-literacy activities took place between 17 and 21 October 2011. Training sessions took place twice a day from Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the morning and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the afternoon. The free workshops took place at facilities equipped with computers and Internet connections across Slovenia. These were mostly public libraries, schools and other public institutions, but some of the facilities were also provided by our partners and donors.
Aleksandra Brank, Maja Burja, Uršula Butkovič, Tina Cavnik, Anja Dolžan, Matevž Gantar, Borut Jeglič, Klavdija Jelen, Tim Kremič, Katarina Mikulič, Špela Mikuš, Tanja Mozetič, Tit Neubauer, Ana Pleško, Katja Pleško, Maša Pirnat, Ana Pisar, Manja Podgornik, Tina Posavec, Urša Svetelj, Matjaž Šircelj, Jana Šušteršič, Jure Tompa, Ivanka Učakar, Tina Vidjen, Ingrid Vidmar, Žiga Vavpotič
VB: Who are the people involved in the project so far?
ZY: The project involved 5,700 older people who joined it as students and 2,400 young volunteers who were willing to dedicate time to teaching them. The project was implemented with the help of many local coordinators. Simbioz@ was also supported by many notable sponsors, ambassadors, supporters and partners of the project.

Team Simbioza
Photo: Matej Kolaković

VB: What did you learn from the project?
ZY: The project certainly showed us that the gratitude of the older generation made all the effort worth while, but we were also enriched by new friendships, enthusiasm due to the newly acquired knowledge and the responses from our young volunteers. We learned patience, good communication, persistence and tenacity while gaining a wonderful new experience. We have confirmed our conviction that voluntary work and effort can bear fruit.

VB: How will Simbioz@ continue its life?
ZY: Simbioz@ will live in the stories it has written; in the improved computer literacy of the older generation which has made a step into the e-world and in the unique symbiotic experience of the people taking part in Simbioz@. Now, we need to analyse and evaluate our initiative and prepare an action plan for the future. The project has apparently become a Slovenian export product for it created interest in the EU, the USA, Arab countries, China, etc.

Project Manager, Borut Jeglič, assist in e-literacy
Photo: Matej Kolaković

I hope the legacy of the project will continue to develop through further social innovation. We certainly need it. To live fully and to connect with the essence of an open and socially-orientated society. I would like to thank Zavod Ypsilon and everyone involved for this insight.


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