What knowledge and skills should a leader of social change have? How can we effectively mobilize others to action? What is the value of collaboration between people from different disciplines, sectors and regions of the world? Since 2006, together with an international group of young activists, we have been setting off on an intellectual and practical journey, during which we try to answer these intriguing questions.
By linking historical education with human rights education , the long-term goal of the Academy is to support young leaders from Poland and other foreign countries in their social activism and to collaboratively create a supportive environment in the form of a global network of activists (known as the Senior Fellows Network, abbr. SFN).
The Academy: how it works
The Academy is an intense month-long program, which takes place mainly in Warsaw. Within the framework of this program, Poland is a case study through which the past is regarded as the origin of certain social phenomena, while the future challenges young people to counteract human rights violations. Fellows (participants of the Academy) deepen their knowledge of the challenges that the Polish state and society face in regards to human rights, systemic change, building civil society and strengthening democracy. Young people in the Academy learn by action, and as a result develop a number of skills that can help them in their future careers and social activism. Fellows work in international teams with the support of specialists and experts from a variety offields on real-world examples of social issues, and look for creative ways to counteract human rights violations. Their actions are targeted mainly at young people and they choose topics that are important to this age group. As a result of previous Academies, a range of tailor-made products were created: educational games, workshop scripts and social campaigns.
At the end of the Academy, participants have the opportunity to participate in the annual international Humanity in Action conferences. So far, over 1,000 participants dealing with human rights and civil society attended these events. The conferences are an opportunity to discuss current issues in the field of human rights and international politics. During the conferences in Amsterdam, Berlin, Sarajevo, Sønderborg, The Hague and Warsaw, we shared the best activist practices from Poland, conducted creative workshops and presented perspectives from Poland in discussions focusing onthe impact of World War II and the Holocaust on the situation of minorities in contemporary Europe.
Every year, in the two-stage recruitment process, HIA Poland along with Senior Fellows (Academy graduates) who volunteer their time select new fellows: people who have a passion for human rights, have interesting ideas for projects in their local communities and additionally want to encourage others to enact positive change.
Experience shows that everyone can be an activist regardless of their profession, while interdisciplinary cooperation between people from different sectors is a catalyst for innovation.
Therefore, participants of the Academy and members of the SFN are a very diverse group of people. Members of the program are most often future anthropologists, doctors, engineers, filmmakers, political scientists, politicians, psychologists, sociologists, linguists, lawyers, special educators, musicians, journalists, economists, historians or people still looking for their career path.
Fellows’ Action Projects
Within a year after the Academy, participants implement their action projects inspired by participation in the program and in the conference. It is an important experience for most of the fellows that will influence their future life choices regarding their studies or career.
So far, more than 200 activists from around the world have graduated from the Academy in Poland. Most graduates belong to the active SFN alumni network in Poland and in other countries where Humanity in Action operates. Furthermore, they have an opportunity to participate in many of the activities organized byour organization, including internship programs for graduates of our education programs which capitalize on the international network of HIA, such as our internships in the European Parliament and the US Congress, which offer a unique opportunity to gain practical experience and increased knowledge.
The Academy of Human Rights and Civic Activity, “Incubator of Ideas,” in 2014 was implemented within the Program Citizens for Democracy, funded by EEA Fund and supported by the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (EVZ) and the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
All the other editions of the Academy in the years 2006-2015 were implemented with the support of the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (EVZ).