Youth activist Urška Česnik takes us on the successful journey of the Ljubljana City of Learning
Urška Česnik, a youth worker, who currently co-manages the Ljubljana City of Learning platform and activities, sat with Youth Time Magazine to highlight how this platform empowers youth and amplifies their voices.
What Is Ljubljana City of Learning
Ljubljana City of Learning is a city-based web platform that maps different learning opportunities in the city and uses digital learning badges as a tool of recognition for the youth’s non-formal learning. Young people participate in it in various ways – from competence building, volunteering, to job training, etc. At Ljubljana City of Learning, they believe that every young person deserves the opportunity to develop competencies of the 21st Century. And this does not remain simply a belief. As you will see by the end of this piece, they work every day to help youth, to explore themselves, their interests, passions, and how to use them to actively contribute to their local community and to the world.
Česnik also shares an uplifting message for all the young people out there by sharing a few tips on how they can be their own influencers.
An Extraordinary Initiative
Ljubljana City of Learning is part of a wider global movement – the family of ‘Cities and regions of learning’. However, she highlights, the platform itself is only a tool they use.
“Ljubljana City of Learning is a community of young people that care, are proactive, and advocate for their needs and ideas and those of other young people. The group of young ambassadors of the platform grows with every activity we/they organize and expand to other cities and regions of Slovenia and other spheres outside of the youth sector and youth organizations.”
She believes their youth ambassador Sergej said it best after one of the events when he described the Ljubljana City of Learning initiative in the following words: “Professionalism, empathy, kindness, uniqueness, and creativity. Just a few adjectives I would use to describe the people I have met. While open communication, group work, and digital competencies are just a few new skills I have got since being a part of your programs. The initiative itself, I cannot describe with words – it is an extraordinary and indescribable opportunity.”
Paving the Path Towards Being the First Country of Learning
With a good starting point, she goes on; they have built in the first two years our mission for the future is to expand the Ljubljana city of learning family. They want young people and others to realize that learning really is a fun and life-long process that happens in every step.
“Learning happens behind every corner and with every task you tackle.” “We wish to bring the initiative to the other cities and regions of Slovenia and possibly become the first ‘Country of learning’. We will continue with our calling to make learning inclusive, open, innovative, and diverse.”
Being Brave, Creative, and Entrepreneurial in Six Workshops
School for Life – Brave. Creative. Entrepreneurial is on the oldest program of TiPovej! Institute. “It started as a summer program and has developed over the years into an annual program for schools and youth centers of Ljubljana with a mission to bridge the divide between formal and non-formal learning. In its essence, it is a program for fostering creative thinking and entrepreneurship while providing encouragement for setting ambitious goals,” she explains.
The young people join them on a course of six workshops total:
- Inspiration. A story by someone who made their dreams come true.
- My dreams. We encourage the young to think about their dreams and ambitions.
- I have an idea. Teaching creative thinking, looking for and selecting ideas.
- My idea is my opportunity. Knowledge to develop individual ideas.
- There is more than one way to do it. Possibilities to realize ideas.
- Presentation of an idea. Presentation of ideas and forming a plan of action.
Green Ljubljana – City Incubator
The City Incubator is another significant project, that is similar to the School for Life project – just much bigger. “It is a program that offers to young people of the city workshops, mentoring, and financial support for selected projects. It is a project we collaborate on with the Ljubljana’s public institution Young Dragons.”
Below, she also shares her own journey on this program. Her story with City Incubator started six years ago when she was one of the participants of the very first season. “I took part in a course, performed three interviews with influential individuals I chose, and then submitted my idea for a project. I also got to present it in a public event to a whole group of fellow participants and important city stakeholders. Now, my idea did not ‘win’ but the experience itself was wonderful!”
Four Simple but Life-Changing Tips
When asked to share an inspirational message for all the young people out there struggling to achieve their dreams, Česnik chooses an anecdote.
Her first experience with the youth sector and non-formal learning programs happened when she was 17 years old, while she was attending her first Training of Social Skills, led by Youth Aid Center.
“It was five days of interesting exercises and lots of reflections. Filled with a bunch of open people that were not afraid to be completely themselves and who challenged us to do the same. To be weird, to dare, to make the crazy call and go for it while always, always evaluating your actions, behaviors, actions, goals, and thoughts,“ she recalls.
After this, she knew she needed to be a part of that community and she became a volunteer.
“13 years later and I am still going. And I try to offer the same support and opportunities to young people I work with now.”
All this while remembering the very same findings she learned, when she was in their shoes, and those are:
- LOOK UP: Even if it doesn’t feel like it, there are interesting opportunities all around you. But you must look for them and be proactive. Do not be afraid to ask, call, text, go, visit, create, jump, dare.
- MY TRIBE: Everybody needs their tribe. It is very good you are independent and self-sufficient. But many times it is helpful to have different people around to co-create, reflect, challenge you, and to celebrate your successes.
- CHANGE IS GOOD: Many everyday decisions you make are not final. You are not a tree, you can move. So if you do not like where you are, change. Change your school, your career path, your address, your relationships, or yourself. Change can be good if you use it to grow and motivate yourself.
- BE YOU: Do not try to replicate the model of a successful person, but become your own influencer. It is all right to borrow good examples from your role models.
Read another story about City of Learning here:
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