DiEM25 activists gather in Cologne to boost a citizen takeover of the European institutions next May

Our movement is as powerful as the activists that drive it. That is why between February 7 – 10 we brought together 150 of our most passionate activists in Cologne to train them on the skills they will need for the campaign ahead. After the success of the first-ever DiEM25 Academy in Belgrade last September, we decided to repeat the occasion.
In the run-up to the May 2019 European Parliament elections, this year’s Academy focused on promoting our European Spring manifesto and and the way each of us can contribute to this unique endeavour. Campaigning, advocacy, social media: all was covered by experts ranging from the senior advisor of the Bernie Sanders campaign, to European professionals and of course the expertise coming from our own grassroots.
At the same time, we met, chatted and had fun together – proving that politics is not reserved for gray suits and black ties.
Here’s what happened during the three days:
The day started with a slight delay in the coffee production process, but it was soon resolved! Our activists got their DiEM25 bags and coffee take-away cups and the room filled to about 150 people, coming from 21 countries!

Our local volunteer group in Cologne (DSC Cologne) opened the second Academy by welcoming our activists with the personal story of their latest dynamic group processes. They told everyone how Marx and Engels had met in a city close to Cologne (Wuppertal) and that Jan Böhmermann, the TV-show host who engineered the Varoufakis’ ‘middlefinger’ just lives around the corner.
DiEM25 co-founder, Srećko Horvat, reminded us of the urgency of our cause in his welcome address.

At the same time a demonstration organised by school children inspired by Greta Tunberg was taking place in front of the town hall in the city center. Some activists spontaneously decided to support the school children and attended their protest to offer their support.
Among them were Srećko Horvat and Zack Exley, former senior advisor of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

After some discussions with the demonstrators two of them decided to drop by at the Academy for a short time.
Before noon Janina Urban gave a workshop on understanding our Green New Deal for Europe, the manifesto that we’re taking to ballot boxes everywhere in Europe this May. Janina explained how the Green New Deal wants to change the maldistribution of resources, fix the unfavorable institutional set-up of the Euro currency area, and tame finance.
This carried over nicely to the workshop on the European Spring programme, presented by David Adler, DiEM25’s Policy Coordinator, who challenged our activists to break down the programme’s ideas in order to develop specific campaign actions.

In a parallel workshop led by DSC Cologne member Justus Spott, our activists got hands-on advice on how to give refugees legal support, hinting at the European political landscape on attitudes towards migration.
Gianna Merki, DiEM25 Coordinating Collective member, presented the work she has been doing on conflict mediation.

The day ended with a discussion on the Gilets Jaunes. We heard reports from activists living in France who described situations of despair. One activist said that it was important to take these protests very seriously because it shows that politics is still taking place in the streets where DiEM25 should be visible.

Day two began with a workshop led by Zack Exley on the work he did to help organise volunteers during Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. He later talked about his current work with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and described their version of the Green New Deal.

Georg Blokus introduced our activists to community organising, starting with the first pillar: (political) storytelling

Boris Falatar talked about his experiences in Bosnia and highlighted the importance of storytelling in successful political communication.

After lunch, Davide Castro, DiEM25 Social Media Coordinator, gave a seminar on how to make the best use of social media during political campaigning.

This was followed by a workshop on diversity led by Evelyn from DSC Cologne. She spoke about the importance of intersectionality and the need for progressive movements to know its vocabulary.

The evening started with an event hosted by our friends from the School of Political Hope at “Altes Pfandhaus”. It counted with the participation of Rosemary Bechler, Ivana
Nenadovic, Zack Exley and Srećko Horvat and was moderated by Georg Blokus. They spoke about the topics “EU – In or Out”, the “Progressive International” and “Democracy in Europe” and then answered questions from the audience.
The day ended with a party at “Acephale” to celebrate DiEM25’s third birthday!

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