Learning Democracy DemoLab in Hungary
The project offers a unique opportunity for experiential learning for young people of all walks of life. It enables them to acquire basic personal, social and citizenship skills and experience a democratic and safe environment in which they are encouraged to take initiatives of their own. This will happen through regularly organized Demo Lab sessions in high schools, boot camps in the summer and assemblies at the beginning of the school year, to empower young Hungarians to take active part in shaping their communities and society, and to inspire others to follow suit.
Lessons from Project
Experimentation is an important element of innovative projects that necessarily brings risks. Both the project promoters (grantees) and the donor organisations should take these
into account. It is crucial to allow sufficient time for the preparation of certain experimental education activities, especially as capacity-building is often needed also for the ‘facilitators’ (e.g. teachers, artists), i.e. ‘train-the-trainers’ activities should be considered.
Projects often trigger soft outcomes (e.g. openness, more respect towards other, team work, etc.) – or the impacts are only visible in the longer run – and therefore are hard to measure.
However, it is important to think about meaningful and appropriate indicators and ways to measure them that can be realistically followed up later.
Creating networks and achieving ‘network effects’ takes a lot of time that is often difficult to realize within the short period of time of a project. Therefore, projects need to build on
existing networks; or follow-up activities (with a focus on strengthening networks) could be considered. Similarly, peer-to-peer dissemination (e.g. school-to-school; teacher-to-teacher) is
challenging especially beyond presenting outcomes at events. Related activities need timely planning and targeting.
Bringing together stakeholders in ‘unexpected combinations’, creating the opportunity for joint working and ‘co-creation’ can have a high added value. For instance, bringing artists
into the traditional high school education and making teachers working directly with artists; and both working as equal partners with students can be seen as one of the most valuable
added values of the DemoLab project.
Secondary schools, teachers and students in Eastern European countries are often in a disadvantaged position, especially due to the unfavorable economic situation and very low
salaries; often hampered by a political climate that does not favor creative and democratic learning methodologies. Therefore, projects that try to break out from these constraining conditions and environment in secondary school education are much needed and should be highly supported.
The Hungarian and other Eastern European public education systems have been facing a series of challenges (many of which are also shared by their Western European counterparts),
such as the lack of experience-based experimental education practices. Projects that open new perspectives for young people – to obtain new inspiration, ideas and skills that help
them to adapt to the real trends and challenges of the 21st century – are much in need everywhere in Europe.