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Children as societal actors for a sustainable future

GHENT – The participation of children in societal development and their contribution to a sustainable future was the overarching theme of a conference held in Ghent, Belgium, from 2 to 5 March as part of the SiS Catalyst project.

Representatives of the European Students’ Union (ESU) took an active part in this conference. ESU has been involved in this project as a partner organisation. As a partner, ESU has disseminated the internship programme of the project. Several students have been offered internships at various institutions in Europe and around the world that are contributing to the aim of the project.

SiS Catalyst: Children as Change Agents for Science and Society is one of the first Mobilisation and Mutual Learning action plans and is funded by the European Commission to look at how scientific communities engage with children. This project revolves around the idea of children being the future of societies, supporting the concept that they must be included as societal actors in the decisions that are made today.

The first part of the conference aimed at discussing the policy implications of involving young people in decisions that will ultimately affect them. Those involved in SiS Catalyst believe that children’s voices should be systematically included in their current reality as well as planning for the future. The ethics of genuinely listening to children requires empowering their autonomy in order that they can make the most informed choices about their present and their future.

A more practical approach was taken during the second day of the conference, exporing the concept of inclusive excellence through case studies and interactive workshops. Following the theme of making science education more inclusive, the institutionalisation of SiS Catalyst activities was examined as well as how the concept could be used to raise greater awareness and social inclusion.

The partners discussed the status of the SiS Catalyst project that is aimed to finish later this year. ESU has been happy to contribute to the aim of the project through its support to the internship programme.

We have seen many interesting initiatives taken at institutions in Europe and elsewhere that allow students to gain valuable experience and to contribute to the aim of engaging children in activities and societal development. We will soon collect feedback from participants in the internship programme that will be used to evaluate the success of the initiatives that will be delivered in a report,” says Elisabeth Gehrke, Vice-Chairperson of ESU.

Another conference will be held from 9 to 10 September 2014 as part of the SiS Catalyst project in Vienna, Austria. For more information about the project, please visit its website

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For more information, please contact:

Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU Vice-chairperson: +32/479.591.499 // or Robert Hlynur Baldursson, ESU Communications Manager: +32/473.669.894 //

The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.


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