Group Work with Young People [Gesprächsgruppen mit Jugendlichen]
Group work with young people from diverse backgrounds – a resource for resilient communities
A basic element of a living, integrative democracy is conversation - in dialog in pairs or in a group. Communal togetherness is built on personal exchange and getting to know each other (and oneself). And it is only in interpersonal dialogue that the social trust between fellow citizens is formed, which endures and grows even in times of conflict - and thus promotes social cohesion. Therefore, the ability to talk, in different situations and groups, across social and cultural boundaries, is a basic prerequisite of democracy, which must be created even before any controversy, debate or political discussion. For only if there is the skill - and also the living need - to talk to one another can social debate and decision-making succeed at all - and will not lapse into zealous adversarialism and suspicion.
This is all the more true the more diverse and dynamic a community is. In an increasingly heterogeneous population, diverse cultural backgrounds, social milieus, family biographies, personalities and life plans come together. They can communicate with each other, complement and enrich each other - and support social cohesion in the long term. Therefore, in addition to the basic procedure of Narrative Group Work® in schools, in this "Group Work with young People" the mix of different social contexts and cultural backgrounds is made as diverse as possible, so that in it the different community populations are represented.
Encouraging openness to dialogue
However, the ability to talk - especially about individual experiences in one's own life world - is not a matter of course. Talking to one another, especially when it transcends barriers of cultural, social, generational or personal difference, is challenging. Linguistic, but also psychological and emotional obstacles often stand in the way. The increasing social polarization into different "camps" and between supporters of different "perceived truths" does the rest.
Having a conversation - exchanging ideas in a group - is something that must first be learned and then constantly practiced. Adolescents and young people show great willingness and open learning ability for this, which we often overlook. This openness to conversation must therefore be proactively embraced, enabled and further encouraged. The better young people can then build transgenerational bridges to adults and elders of the community's various social groups and language communities.
Political participation and debate culture in a democratic society
The aim of the discussion groups with young people is thus to promote communicative skills for interpersonal contact and conversation among people with different social, cultural and family biographical backgrounds. In doing so, the discussion groups also prepare for a self-confident and responsible participation and debate culture in a diverse democratic society. In the course of this, those competencies are always strengthened that make it possible to overcome resentment, anti-democratic attitudes, misanthropy and conspiracy narratives. For this purpose, the discussion groups use methods of narrative conversation, social trust and relationship building in the group, as well as conflict and process accompaniment.
As a result, the project produces an exemplary concept and method formulation and creates further education materials as well as process descriptions. These can provide the foundation for further transfer, testing and consolidation of the discussion groups with young people in other municipalities in (eastern) Germany.
The necessary local networking structure includes not only schools, associations and youth work, but also colleges of social work and the state authorities for schools, youth and social affairs.
Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge