Empowering Young People

Empowering Young People – Connecting Europe

Re-Shaping Life In Our Region

The project invited secondary schools of the Danube Region to a creative joint venture of thinking and acting together. By involving external partners, our aim was to support schools in the design and implementation of innovative regional projects which empower students to take an active role in the shaping of life in their region by promoting dialogue between cultures, active citizenship and commitment to sustainable development. Empowering Young People – Connecting Europe was a pilot project within Priority Area 9 “To Invest in People and Skills” of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR). The project was implemented by KulturKontakt Austria and financed by the European Union and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and Women's Affairs.

Motto:  Re-Shaping Life in our Region

This project supported innovative school-based projects that help young people 

  • in understanding and accepting other cultures through cross-cultural interaction in the Danube Region.
  • in promoting active citizenship through intercultural awareness.
  • in supporting participation in civil society in their home countries, in the Danube region and in Europe.
  • in committing themselves to sustainable development.

Project Duration: 2012 – Mid 2014


The project prefers methods that are based on discovery, because life is an experiment. Learning happens through personal interest and personal experiences, out of inquisitiveness. Our philosophy is to support innovative projects that are founded in trust and mistakes are considered a source of learning.

We believe that the individual projects and partnerships started in the course of this project will live on after the project has ended.


Envisaged outcomes by the end of 2013 are:

  • Four regional school clusters have been established.
  • 32 teachers have gained experience in regional project development.
  • 80 teachers have gained experience in regional project implementation.
  • 400 students have actively participated in four projects in fields relevant for the Danube Region.  
  •  Project results were presented to 1.600 stakeholders in ten countries.
  • The “Danube Region Project Portfolio” – an innovative teachers guide is available to teachers/schools in the Danube Region.



May – October 2012: Participants identified four thematic areas for co-operation. In each of the thematic fields four schools form a “cluster” working on one joint project. In four cluster events the joint project ideas were developed. 

Cluster A - Active Citizenship

“Supporting Vulnerable Groups in Society – Promoting Voluntarism among Students”:

Developing knowledge, skills and attitudes of students to participate as volunteers in their local communities and raising their awareness for the situation of vulnerable groups. 

Participating Schools:
High School Liceul Teoretic "Mihail Sadoveanu" Călărași, Moldova

Mixed vocational school "17th september" Zabljak, Montenegro
“George Cǎlinescu“ High School Constanţa, Romania
High School Centre Pale, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 Cluster B - Cultural Dialogue

“Stories of Everyday Life of Students in Four Countries – an Intercultural Comparison”: Erasing frontiers by knowing our similarities and differences. 

Participating Schools:
Economy and Trade School Bor, Serbia

„Ferdinand-von-Steinbeis“ School Tuttlingen, Germany
Schools of BFI Vienna, Austria
Secondary school #8 of I-III grades Odessa, Ukraine

 Cluster C - Sustainable Development

“Kids Recycle - Awareness Raising Campaigns in Kindergartens for Recycling”: Students raise awareness of children for sustainable development.

Participating Schools:
Biotechnical School Centre Naklo, Slovenia

“Georgi Rakovski” High School of Commerce Varna, Bulgaria
High School of Commerce Geislingen, Germany
Secondary School of Economics Čačak, Serbia

 Cluster D - Social Responsibility and Entrepreneurship

“Together for a Job - Youth Campaign against Youth Unemployment in the Danube Region”: A project to change the mind-sets of young people and to raise public awareness for youth unemployment.

Participating Schools:
Financial – Banking College Chisinau, Moldova

Secondary School of Economics Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Secondary Mixed School "Beco Basic" Plav, Montenegro
Superior School of Commerce "N. Kretzulescu" Bucuresti, Romania


2013 June:                                          
Get together: Presentation of project results

2013 September – December:                
Development of a “Danube Region Project Portfolio” - an innovative teacher’s guide

Mid 2014:
Dissemination of ProjectResults:
Dissemination conference in BiH, presentation of project results to interested stakeholders.

Background / Danube Strategy

Covering a fifth of the EU (100 million inhabitants), the Danube Region is a key to the well-being of the EU as a whole. Many of the region’s challenges know no borders: flooding, transport and energy links, environmental protection and security, education policy and labour market issues all require a united approach.

The EU Strategy for the Danube Region concerns mainly 14 countries, eight of which are Member States (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania) and six of which are non-EU countries (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova). Organisations representing civil society as well as private companies are also involved in the implementation of initiatives and projects and the achievement of precise targets.

In line with the strategic framework ET 2020 and the Strategy EU 2020, education and training are among the cornerstones of the Danube Region Strategy. Priority Area 9 “To Invest in People and Skills” i.a. explores how to improve the quality of education and to foster skills and competences through better lifelong learning opportunities at every level of education and training. Improving the attractiveness and relevance of vocational educational training, increasing the participation in adult learning and providing innovative training opportunities for disadvantaged groups are particular importance in this regard. At the same time, there is a need to enhance creativity and entrepreneurship and to foster empowerment, intercultural dialogue and active citizenship. 


KulturKontakt Austria


KulturKontakt Austria (KKA) is a European competence and resource centre for the core areas of education, culture and the arts, focusing geographically on Austria and Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

The non-profit organisation develops and implements its programmes on behalf of and supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education and Women's Affairs and the Austrian Federal Chancellery. Through its expertise and its projects, KKA is an important player at both national and European level.

KKA is committed to the fundamental principles of educational and cultural policy formulated at European level, namely dealing inclusively with diversity and difference, and lifelong learning. Based on these principles, KKA devises its activities and programmes with the objective of facilitating equal access to education, culture and the arts.



The Danube Portfolio - Franz Frech

What is a portfolio?

“Put simply, a portfolio is a physical or virtual showcase of work.” (Taylor 2010, p. 9)

A portfolio is an organised or structured collection of work. It contains materials that demonstrate the expansion of knowledge and skills over the time of the project work. It displays tangible evidence of the growth and development during the ongoing work. It gives insights into both the process and the products.

Portfolios are personalised documentations of one’s learning journey during the project work. They contain organised documentary materials that demonstrate specific knowledge, skills and accomplishments achieved over time. They are a medium for reflection and are intended to make the learning process transparent and learning visible, crystallise insights and anticipate future direction.

The materials in this Danube Portfolio were selected autonomously by the portfolio coordinators of the four clusters and are presented in digital format. In our case they are stored on a Web server. This form allows easy access and ensures practical usage. This Danube Portfolio can be used to build a community of learners. Its knowledge could also be used in new ways. It fosters reflection, which is the defining characteristic of portfolios. “None is complete without it.” (Jones &Shelton, 2011)

Challenges associated with portfolios

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring [Catherine of Sienna] holds true with regard to…portfolios.” (Kilbane 2005, p. 8)

The creation of a digital portfolio requires some professional support (e.g. with respect to hardware and software use, integration of multimedia materials, good graphic design). The creation of such a portfolio is time consuming and requires a lot of energy on the part of its builders.

The portfolio development

In December 2012, two teachers from each participating school were given a short introduction into the portfolio process in Odessa, Ukraine by the author (1 ppt). For each cluster, one portfolio coordinator was selected.

The first stage was planning the portfolio. We had to identify the purpose and the intended audience. In our case, the main purpose of the portfolio was dissemination. The results and experiences of this project were meaningful only if they were implemented in practice and led to functional changes. The main audiences of the portfolio will be teachers in the Danube region who would like to learn from the experiences of the participants during our project work. The results of the projects should not only have a local impact; they should also be disseminated nationally and internationally.

In the second stage we considered the contents of the portfolio. Each cluster had to start collecting evidence. The portfolio builders made lists of possible artefacts and documents that would be included. The emphasis at the beginning was on quantity (e.g. agendas from meetings, photos, project descriptions, feedback, notes, short reflective statements, flyers, videos, tubes and so on). We started with the writing of reflective statements. Thereby we considered the significance of the materials and furthermore tried to encourage others to better understand why these materials were included.

In the third stage we designed the portfolio. Two portfolio builders from each cluster met in November 2013 in Ljubljana. (2 ppx) They organised the selected materials and assembled them into digital pieces. In addition, a table of contents was created and the different parts were linked together logically. Each cluster received feedback from the participants (i.e. formative evaluation) and from KulturKontakt Austria in Vienna.

The selection of the software tools for the navigation scheme, visual design and font format for the portfolio was the next step. This challenging work continued until the end of April 2014.

The last step will be the presentation of the created digital portfolios in an online format that allows easy access for the target audience and interested public.


Taylor, F. (2010). How to create a portfolio & get hired. A guide for graphic designers and Illustrators. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Kilbane, C.R.; Milman, N.B. (2005). The digital teaching portfolio workbook. Understanding the digital teaching portfolio process. Boston: Allyn Bacon.

Kilbane, C.R.; Milman, N.B. (2003). The digital teaching portfolio handbook. A how-to guide to teachers. Boston: Pearson.

Jones, M. and Shelton, M. (2011). Developing your portfolio. Enhancing your learning and showing your stuff. New York: Routledge.

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Working on teams on the portfolio

Portfolio work with feedback from critcial friend

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Flash Animation

In this collection you find audio uploads of event recordings, interviews and statements which were created during the events and workshops of the project „EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE“ - This project invites secondary schools of the Danube Region to a creative joint venture of thinking and acting together. By involving external partners, our aim is to implement innovative training courses and international, creative, educational programmes that promote dialogue between cultures, active citizenship and commitment to sustainable development. 

Click HERE to listen with On-Demand Player

You can find Videos from the project HERE.