One weekend, several thousand visitors, and Europe at the centre of everything - these are the cornerstones of the EuropaCamps organised by the Zeit Foundation, for which we have had the exciting task of enhancing the programme with interactive workshops for several years now. At the EuropaCamp, people from the most diverse backgrounds and age groups come together - ranging from retired ambassadors to experts on EU policy to sixteen-year-olds who want to learn more about the EU. The mix is colourful, just like our society. This is precisely the challenge: how do you get such a range of people to discuss issues together on an equal footing? And how do you make sure that everyone is having fun, and no-one is overwhelmed or underchallenged?
We seem to be managing quite well - at least the workshops are popular and the discussions very lively. A key aspect here is our favourite exercise, the political simulation game. Using precise role-playing materials, we take all participants to the level of knowledge they need for the simulation game and then let them make decisions themselves. This is not only fun, but also gives our participants the chance to represent very different interests and to dive deeper into the political discourse. After all, when else do you ever have the opportunity to argue about the details of a common European asylum system or the role of human rights in EU free trade agreements - from the perspective of Hungary, Sweden or another European country?
The second part of our concept is citizen participation. Everyone has an opinion, even if it still needs to be discovered, learned about, or nurtured. The best way to do this is to take a few playfully imparted titbits of knowledge as a basis and then engage in conversation with other people about what should change. This explains the basic formula behind our Citizens' Think Tanks, in which a wide variety of people work together to develop demands, ideas and controversial propositions on a predefined topic. Whether it's about Europe's role in the world or about climate policy - everyone can make a valuable contribution to the discussion.
Of course, times have also left their mark on our EuropaCamp format - there have always been tweaks here and there, but 2021 was a turning point. We transferred all concepts to the online world and adapted them for use with the target group. The concept has benefited in the process. While in the past our participants were mainly from northern Germany, now people from all over the world could participate and get involved. And while we are certainly looking forward to travelling to Hamburg and the river Elbe again for workshops, some of us and the rest of the world will perhaps also be digitally involved in the future.