Marek Kakaščík

In the third instalment of the Innovation Special, we look at two innovative projects from Latvia and Cyprus, and their adaptation to changing circumstances of the pandemic.

Through the looking glass

In October 2019, Kurzeme NGO center organized and facilitated 9 discussions about building a cohesive society. People were asked about social cohesion, trust, national identity, culture, etc. One thing that stood out in the discussions, was that for the locals it is hard to accept newcomers, foreigners who have planned to stay in Latvia for a longer time than just a couple of months. And as the main reason for this, was mentioned that they don’t know them and their culture. After the discussions, we also had a chance to talk with some foreigners living in Latvia (they are here as volunteers - some are going home after the program, but some are planning to stay ). We asked them about their challenges while living here – people’s attitudes towards them and others, everyday challenges. A lot of answers were negative -they said that often people don’t answer them, are evasive, don’t know how to communicate with them, etc.

The problem of how to make financial concepts such as sovereign debt and tax accessible and engaging to people is at the core of our work. We need people to understand how these processes work, how they are connected to justice and equality, and to feel motivated to take action.

With our Bridge 47 project, we are trialling a new and innovative approach: creating a short online game, the Tax Detective, that helps people understand tax dodging. We are experienced in delivering interactive and critical education in formal and informal spaces, but developing an online game from scratch was a departure from our previous work. We specifically targeted members of trade unions in our design and consulted with a number of people involved in the education and justice work of Irish trade unions to understand how to make the game usable in their educational work, and engaging for trade union members.

Through the looking glass

The goal of this project is to change the attitude towards newcomers and migration itself. Nowadays, when a lot of people are going abroad for job opportunities, they often form relationships and build families there. Then there comes a moment when they decide to visit their family here, or they decide to move back home with their family. Also, volunteer and student exchange programs are becoming more and more popular, So it is inevitable that there will be even more people of other nationalities living here among us, therefore it is important to eliminate negativity toward these processes, to reduce inequality among us.

Our experience has shown that the most effective way how people learn is by doing and in order to change their minds about some processes the best way is by taking part in those processes. It is also important to develop a culture of conversation necessary for democratic processes. Taking this into consideration it was planned that the project activities would be based on the eye to eye meetings and conversations in small groups.

When the pandemic started, we had to make a lot of changes to our project. Since all the activities were based on the eye to eye meetings, we had to adapt. We changed from the eye to eye meetings to filming the persons and their stories, we had planned to invite as host speakers. In Latvia, the emergency situation was until June 9th, but still, there are some restrictions that we still need to follow. And since a week ago, the number of cases increased rapidly, every day we are following news updates so we don’t break any rules. Since now bigger gatherings are allowed we will be holding meetings and the participants will be working with the filmed material. For now, we are filming foreigners who are living in Latvia (some living here for a long time and building their life here, some are here for a while). They are telling their stories about their challenges here, about communication with people around them, about how they feel here in general. These videos will be posted on our Facebook page and organization website so that the local residents can also get to know them better.

Through the looking glass

Meeting participants will be working with these videos to get to know the challenges they are facing and also looking for a solution to those challenges.

One of the meetings will include discussion where participants will look at themselves from 3 different aspects – past, present, and future.

Discussion “My roots” – each member tries to look into his family tree, in his past. Tries to remember as much as he can about he’s/her family. The present, “My beliefs now”, is a mutual discussion of their beliefs and attitudes about what is happening around us. How do I treat the arrivals and the differences around us? Do I try to find a solution for communication when there is a language barrier? Am I trying to help? What do I think of living in a foreigner here in Latvia? Would I be able to accept someone else in my work/school environment? The future “What if …?” “Participant discussion “What if…?”, in which each participant imagines himself in a relationship with a representative of another nationality, or such a representative enters your family!” “You moved abroad?” What kind of attitude would you like from people around you? What are your challenges? Would you be prepared to move to somewhere else for the sake of your other side? Would it be better for the other party to move to live here? Don't you be intimidated by the attitudes and condemnation of those around you?

As a final event, we had planned a big ending event, which was supposed to be planned by the meeting participants. In this event, they were supposed to introduce local society with the work that all of us had done and with the results. And the event was supposed to be in any form that they want. But since the restrictions are still our everyday life and we don’t know what the future holds, we changed the ending event to an exhibition, for which we will have a local opening event, and after that, it will be available for everyone who wants.

Some of our work you can watch here:

We're hoping for the best and wishing everyone good health.

Kurzeme NGO Center

Kurzeme NGO Center is a non-profit organization that mostly works in territory that covers 1/4 of Latvia, called Kurzeme. We are the only organization in Kurzeme, which implements civic society activation and supports activities in all of the Kurzeme region, and has a wider knowledge of active NGOs in Kurzeme and their work, including youth organizations.

Local to Global

“It is our duty to help young people in informing them and enabling them to become the change they want to see in this world”

According to statistics concerning the fulfilment of the 17 SDG’s Cyprus has an overall performance of 70 %, (2019 Global Index) while at a local level, Nicosia scored 53.7 % (SDG Index for EU cities). Internationally, no country is on track to fulfil all of its targets by the 2030 deadline. Moreover, the Spillover Index revealed that Cyprus has the 6th worse performance. Moreover, due to our previous work at a local level, we have learned that emphasis needs to be placed upon increasing awareness and knowledge regarding the SGD’s and their long-term societal benefits, especially, since according to the 2019 Global Index, Cyprus has scored an overall performance of 70% regarding the implementation of SGD’s. On top of that, the younger generations have either not been properly engaged or informed which in turn led to a collective lack of interest.

Taking into account the above, the project Local to Global came to address these issues by touching upon several Sustainable Development Goals (G4, G8, G10, G11, G17) through a series of workshops to inform young people and enable them to be the change they want to see in this world. The innovative part of our project was the structure of the type of a workshop which would be easily adaptable and implemented through an island-wide network.

YEU Cyprus in collaboration with five different NGO’s implemented seven online workshops about what Global Citizenship Education is and the SDG’s based on non-formal education. In order to ensure a long-term impact of the project, at the end of the workshops, a questionnaire was shared amongst the participants. In this way, participants had the chance to reflect upon their learning, how and if their general global outlook has changed, and through which means we can ensure the perpetuity of learning. Through the evaluation of the results of the survey, and based on those results and the needs of young people we will be able to bridge the gap of a needs-based and youth-targeted approach in initiatives related to SDG’s, through a follow-up project.

Last but not least, a manual was created which entailed the methodology and structure of the workshops to promote the implementation also in other countries. This means that other NGO’s in Cyprus or globally could draw from our experience in order to promote change and awareness, and in return enable the continuity of the learning agenda. The manual was also translated in Greek, for greater dissemination and use on a national level.


“Local to Global” aimed at enhancing collective knowledge regarding SDG’s, their importance, and long-term implementation of actions by current and future generations in Cyprus. The objectives of the project were: to create networks and coalitions among youth organizations and young people, for further synergies to take place; To foster and develop the sense of initiative for young people, by supporting them in creating grassroots initiatives and youth-led projects; To empower marginalized youth and underrepresented youth and improve their capacities to become informed decision-makers and change-makers in their communities; To provide young people with the knowledge and information to understand the challenges of reaching a sustainable Cyprus and Europe; To increase better understanding of topics on societal issues through NFE methods and techniques; To increase the digital competences of our participants by incorporating a variety of digital tools through the online workshop; To increase the capacities of local and European organizations through the creation of the manual.

Since our project was directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic we had to adapt some parts of our project. Initially, we intended to implement seven workshops, three of them in Nicosia, due to the high concentration of young groups and for us to include a workshop including Turkish Cypriots, and the rest as following: one in Larnaca, one in Limassol, one in Paphos, and one in the Famagusta districts. Due to the lock-down which was issued because of COVID-19, the implementation of the workshops changed.

An online version was created and organizations throughout Cyprus were approached for us to implement the series of workshops in collaboration with them. Hence, in the manual where the methodology and structure of the workshops are explained, we have added the unforeseen result of the online versions of the workshops adding upon the initially expected outcome. The organizations which we resulted in collaborating with for the online series of workshops were: the Youth Council of Odou (a rural village in the Larnaca district), Famagusta Avenue Garage organization (bi-communal organization in the Famagusta District), Cyprus Scouts (mainly Nicosia, but had participants from across the island), Soma Akriton (active across the island), GIGEM (Kyrenia district, but had participants from across the North of Cyprus) and two workshops one in English and one in Greek open to the public.

Stay tuned for 2021 when we will hopefully be implementing the follow-up project to Local to Global.

YEU Cyprus

YEU Cyprus stands for Youth for Exchange and Understanding Cyprus and it is a non-political, non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Cyprus. It was established in 1995 with the aim to foster closer co-operation and better understanding among the young people of the world through the exchange of information, experiences and ideas.

About the Author

Marek Kakaščík

Position: Innovation and Communications Trainee
Marek assists Bridge 47 with the national work in Slovakia and with communications of our sub-granting mechanism.