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Cultures Interactive

“Cultures Interactive e.V. (CI) NGO for Intercultural Education and Violence Prevention” started in 2005 targeting the wide-spread right-wing extremist and Neonazi milieus which sprang up in East-Germany after reunification in the 1990s and later on also included inner-city districts struck by migration-related radical ethnic and religious tensions. CI has since developed and piloted innovative and sustainable approaches (“Federal Model Projects”) to prevent and counter youth extremisms/ fundamentalism, polarisation, and violence and to promote capacity building in view of a resilient civil society. Special emphasis is placed on developing methods for high-risk, difficult to engage populations that cannot be reached with existing  interventions.

CI receives funding from local, federal and European sources: Governmental Ministries and Agencies, EU Social Funds, also DG Research grants, and private sponsoring. Beneficiaries and partners are schools, youth centres (street/ youth work), prisons, public administrations, communities, teachers, police, local press/ media, social hot-spots.

Methodologically, CI has developed an approach of youth-cultural social intervention which combines elements of civic education/ pedagogical anti-bias training, psychologically based open-process group-work, and peer-learning in youth-cultural activities (including Breakdance, Skateboarding, Slam Poetry, Techno-DJ-ing, Digital Music Production, Comic and Graffiti, Visual Design and others) – also discussion groups about the young peoples’ preferred fictional media narratives, as films and songs/lyrics (the “Fair Skills”-project).

While receiving pre-vocational training in order to work as youth-cultural workshop facilitators themselves, the adolescent participants also gain emotional and social intelligence and biographical awareness, and they adopt specific anti-violence and anti-bias methods, enabling them to – informally – promote civil society values and skills. The “Girrrl-Power-Workshop” specifically aims at working with girls and young women and men to support gender related skills of communication, self-expression conflict resolution. Other CI projects develop community-focused initiatives of radicalisation awareness (the “Cultural areas 2010”-project).

The CI approach is novel in the sense that it surpasses the largely cognitive, informational and history-teaching methods of interventions applied by most civic education and social work programs. CI focuses on cultural and emotional intelligence and is thus able to reach out to those adolescents which seem most resistant to any of the traditional pedagogical practices and are at risk of turning away from the school system and from civilized society altogether. Conversely, the CI approach also goes beyond what is generally referred to as Experimental Education or Education Adventure Outdoors in that it includes systematic skill learning, dynamic group-work, and historical education. For example, in socially deprived East and West German communities CI works with adolescents who do not have access to any youth-cultural identification other than being ‘national’, ‘anti-foreigner’, ‘anti-leftist’ etc. or being ‘ethnic’ respectively, then easily turning into organized neo-Nazism or fundamentalism. Delivering first-hand experience and training in urban youth-cultural practices establishes the working relationship on the basis of which questions of personal mind-set and civil society may effectively be brought up.

CI works in different settings: It offers one or two day workshops in schools and youth centres of disadvantaged rural, small town or inner-city areas offering youth-cultural and civic education courses. In the post-event follow-up phase CI consults and supports the community in building up networks between adolescents and community representatives. There CI works with teachers and community professionals as police, public administration, clubs/ associations, the local press/ media, instructing and training them about the – often disregarded and underrated – phenomena of right-wing-extremism, fundamentalism and adolescent violence and how to deal with it. The “Deradicalisation Guidelines” federal model project develops tool kits and principles for social workers in deprived areas who have to deal with young people that are vulnerable to right-wing extremism.

CI also engages in empirical best-practice research funded by the EU evaluating methods of pedagogical intervention, extremism and hate-crime prevention, youth-cultures, and media interaction (see the rubric “Forschung” /”research” and the EU research projects). The scientific and methodological framework of this research consists of qualitative methods of social and media-interaction research, psycho-therapy research and trauma studies, and narratology. The target is to develop criteria and pedagogical tools of social work which work well with risk populations among European adolescents and evaluate methods of intervention.

Key words:

Prevention of adolescent violence, right-wing-extremism, political extremism and religious fundamentalism, Youth-cultural social work, civic education, gender oriented “Girrrl-Power-Workshop”, psychologically based group-dynamic work, peer-learning, informal-learning, Community consulting, vocational training, EU research projects.