American Councils for International Education, through the FLEX program, organized a workshop for 76 alumni of the program on November 9-12 in Irpin, Ukraine. Alumni from across Central and Eastern Europe from the countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine attended the workshop where they learned approaches to improving their communication and teamwork skills and developed project management and design skills. Now in January, alumni are back in their communities across Europe and have begun organizing 23 joint community projects, thus combining the skills that they learned with their passion for service.
Through group instruction, small group work, discussions, and case studies, alumni learned the A-Zs of project management and design, with sessions led by the training team of Simon Norton, senior director at World Learning, and Charlie White, founder of Move Mountains, together with eight senior FLEX alumni mentors, including alumni from Ukraine, Daria Batalova ’12, Khrystyna Holynska ’02, Bohdana Pereviznyk ’11, and Halyna Shlapai ’10; alumni from Moldova Dragalina Birsan ’11, Lidia Sanduleac ’09, and Nicu Gaibu ’12; and Shalva Tevdoradze ’05 from Georgia. Alumni participants focused on big-picture ideas during the large group instruction and broke the materials down, focusing on regional examples and applications in their small groups, led by the aforementioned senior FLEX alumni. The approach to the materials was a hit among participants, with 95.83% of those surveyed agreeing that “I developed project management skills through FLEX-Ability that will help me in the future.”
Outside of the classroom, alumni were introduced to the host nation, Ukraine, and had many opportunities to learn about the lives and cultures of their fellow alumni living in Central and Eastern Europe! Alumni from each country cohort presented about their countries and shared a “Day in the Life of FLEX Alumni,” highlighting how connected and how similar our lives are. Alumni also led demonstrations of their countries’ traditional dances, sharing with each other their cultural histories. Participants also attended a city tour of Kyiv; throughout the tour, they administered a needs assessment exercise, whereby workshop participants collected information about the Kyiv community’s needs and knowledge about recycling programs in order to share with the Kyiv alumni community.
All participants of this workshop are required to hold a follow-on project in their community to utilize the knowledge and skills that they learned at #EEFAW17. During the final day of the workshop, participants presented on the projects that they developed in their small groups. These projects aimed to meet real needs in FLEX alumni’s home communities and are scalable, with the opportunity to grow! One participant noted, “The FLEX-Ability Workshop provided me with an amazing opportunity to learn collaboration, project-management skills, and to bring change to my community. After completing the workshop, I feel confident in using the skills listed above and I will definitely share them with my peers. I am convinced that young minds will conduct amazing projects. Your contributions will make various communities in seven countries a better place.”
The workshop maintained a strong social media following, with alumni and interested parties from around the globe following the workshop activities. The hashtag #EEFAW17 was used in all social media posts and FLEX alumna Mariam Nozadze ’14 (Tbilisi, Georgia/ Belleville, IL) created three videos highlighting the key training aspects of the workshop and the brilliant energy of the trainers and participants.
The Eastern Europe FLEX Ability Workshop #EEFAW17 was made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through the FLEX grant.