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The Policy Lab “Students’ participation a path towards inclusive and democratic society” was held on 28th and 29th March 2022 in Zagreb, Croatia, which was organized as the second policy event within the Start the Change project, the project focused on the creating a generation of change makers through intercultural education and volunteering with the aim of preventing and combating radicalization and extremism among young people.

The Policy Lab in Zagreb followed up on the knowledge acquired and experiences shared in the first policy event, Policy lab 1: “Policy and practice to Start the Change” that was held in May 2021, as an online event via ZOOM platform. This was finally opportunity for teachers from 15 schools from Croatia, North Macedonia and Portugal and the policy decision makers from the educational field to meet in-person and exchange their experiences in this project and discuss further recommendations for strengthening the student voice and participation in their schools and educational systems.

The Zagreb two-day event started off with the keynote lecture: “The right to participate: how to achieve meaningful participation of children” by Ivana Borić, Ph. D., University of Zagreb, Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences. This was followed by the lecture “Vulnerability and radicalization” by Clara Pretus Gomez, Ph. D., Autonomous University of Barcelona, Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine. Both lectured served as inspiration for discussions among participants within the solution generating sessions that focused on identifying the policy goals that would support the overcoming the insufficient participation of the students in the decision-making process in the school life and governance at all levels with special focus on the potential for the student participation to improve inclusion and combat negative effects of student disengagement.

The information gathered will serve for the preparation of the National Policy Road Maps that will outline the country specific policy issues at school, local and national levels as well as offer step by step recommendation for policy improvements. They will also be foundation for creating the Synthesis Policy Brief that will be produced in the last year of the project and will serve as a guide for all EU countries on possible ways for implementation of similar interventions.

In the evaluations, the participants expressed their satisfaction with the event and with opportunity to meet in-person and work together on this important topic. These are just some of the learning points that they were taking with themselves after the event: “Valorisation of students opinions and insights”, “The importance of the transversal dialogue between different structures and countries”, “How thorough we must be to promote the participation of students”, “With live discussions we see how hard it is to be participative”, “Learning new points of view, exchanging ideas and experience”, “Exchange of experiences, learnings about other cultures and other education systems”.

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