How DEEEP is your love? When development education called for a global citizens movement

Global citizens can change the world, claimed the DEEEP4 project back in 2013, and started a firework of over 100 single activities, including global conferences, academic research, participatory sub-granting, an explorers’ journey for systemic change and much more, pushing the boundaries of what the European Commission used to refer to as DEAR (Development Education and Awareness Raising).

Teksti: Tobias Troll

In 2003, the Development Education Forum started the DEEEP project as a support mechanism for development educators in Europe. Finnish NGOs were already part of the NGO consortium running the European Commission funded project, even before CONCORD was born. After three successful DEEEP projects, the DARE Forum, as CONCORD’s working group on development education and awareness raising was called then, scaled up ambitions, and Kehys was the lead in a new, larger project consortium: DEEEP4 aimed “to provide leadership in the EU on citizens’ empowerment for social change as part of a global movement towards a more just and sustainable world.”

Instead of a place for exchange and peer support for development educators at the margins of the so-called aid industry, DEEEP4 wanted to put global citizenship at the very centre of the global justice movement: “We have to move from development and aid to justice and solidarity, and from education as instruction to emancipation (the appropriation of rights and equality) in order to bring about systemic change. We need emancipated, global citizens to create a just and sustainable world.”

This was the ambitious core message of DEEEP4, and as Project Manager I had the challenge, and pleasure, to at least try making this a reality. Together with a wonderful team, the political support of the DARE Forum, a broad range of partners (CONCORD, CIVICUS and a new bridge to academia, EADI, the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes), and Kehys of course at the centre as the project lead organisation, we pushed bouderies not only of DEAR, but also of conceptions and the theories of change in the ’development’ sector in general. DEEEP and the DARE Forum certainly played a key role in including global citizenship as one of four key work areas in the current CONCORD strategy.

Facing an ever more tangible global systemic crisis, where inequalities, erosion of human rights and democracy, and exploitation of people and planet are symptoms of the same systemic disfunctionalities, global citizenship had to move to the centre of any serious attempt to bring about global justice. And this systemic challenge had to touch not only on emancipating citizens to become part of a global citizens movement, but also questioned our own theories of change and organisational politics. How can the premises of development move from the logic of a ’powerful donor’ and ’grateful receiver’ to de-colonising our mindsets and power-relations? How can we experiment with opening to alternative worldviews and narratives, in the spirit of the World Social Forum rallying slogan: “Another world is possible”?

DEEEP experimented with such diverse approaches as a global conference series Towards a World Citizens Movement, taking development educators out of their ’Northern” (and ’development’) comfort zone to discuss in Johannesburg and Tunis with social movement partners from around the world, to co-organise what we called a European Citizens Summit in a tent in front of the European Parliament, to build a global advocacy alliance to (successfully) push for the inclusion of global citizenship education in the SDGs, or to let applicants in a sub-granting scheme discuss between peers who should get the money. Some of the learning and new connections created in DEEEP4 are reflected in the academic text book Education, Learning and the Transformation of Development, published as part of the project by Routledge in 2016.

Internally, we tried to ’walk the talk’ and tried out new approaches to learning, procurement, hierarchies and organisational functioning. One of these inventions was to have a critical friend (Johannes Krause) to accompany the project over the three years, rather than having only the required final project evaluation. He wrote in his final report:

“DEEEP4 was a very idealistic and pure project in its ambition to promote – and to live – transformative system change. At the same time, the project itself was (in its set up and identity, through its context, by its functioning) part of the very system it was criticising and challenging. This was the key contradiction built into DEEEP4. This paradox – and the dedication of the key people shaping the project – characterised DEEEP4, gave it its magic and created the wealth of experiences and results, successes and failures, moments of enthusiasm and of confusion which made DEEEP4 a unique adventure.”

With the Kehys led Bridge 47 -project this adventure continues and will help to strengthen global citizenship education, included under article 4.7. in the SDGs. Good luck Kehys with this new challenge!