Here you can find an overview on the 29 work groups we offer to you at ISWI 2015. Every group deals with a certain aspect of ‘responsibility’. You will only be able to participate in one group, so take your time for deciding which you like best (you can state your three top preferences).
- Take Responsibility
- Stay active
- Take pART!
- Set priorities
- Question Activism
Believe in yourself, find groups of similar interest, connect with other people, learn from each other and work in cooperation with others to quickly get things moved forward. Establishing perspectives, building hope and self-confidence, supporting projects and staying committed to resolving issues within the society.
Within the category “Take Responsibility” participants can identify, discuss and work specifically in those areas.
You will work within different fields like motivation of non-related/non-committed persons, finding chances and solving problems which come along with responsibility. Further topics of discussion are overcoming barriers related to say, misunderstanding, communication and starting your own organization/company.
Lots of people constantly face problems related to discrimination and depression. This is affecting individuals, organizations and societies. Protests and demonstrations are some of the means for people to voice against these unhealthy situations. However, threats and repressions can strongly affect opinions and views of the individual. It takes a lot of courage to stand consistently for once own interest and assume responsibility. Hence, responsibility is seen as a burden instead of being an opportunity, because fear could determine once action.
Even though one is willing to take responsibility we still need to question, what a single person can achieve. How can one motivate also other people to act and to be responsible for their interests and ideas? When does it become important to start getting active?
In the group „Encourage People“ you will discuss those and related matters. You will also discuss how one can increase self-confidence and awareness of people in order to assume responsibility.
Chances and problems that come along with “Assumption of Responsibility”
Worldwide lots of people assume responsibility. Many of them become a positive role-model, so it is worth to take a leaf out of their book.
Often it is said, that a high level of responsibility is equated with a high standard of living. In professional live one can assume, that advancement results in more responsibility but also in higher salary. At the same time positions with higher responsibility may cause stress-related diseases like burnout.
Are too high expectations and too many obligations, the origin of stress? Is it possible that responsibility leads to negative consequences? What is the right amount of responsibility for a single one and the society and how much responsibility are you willing to assume? Furthermore, why do some people tend to assume responsibility to a greater extent than others who decline responsibility strongly?
The group „Chances and Problems that come along with “Assumption of Responsibility”” is a platform where you can discuss the ambivalence of responsibility, and accompanying chances and risks.
Founding an organization
Berthold Brecht once said: „If you fight, you may lose. But if you don’t fight, you have already lost.“ This can also be applied on committed people who face their responsibility for themselves and their fellow men.
How can you organise yourself and achieve one‘s goal? Who do you have to contact when you need financial support? Is there a foundation or any other organization which may help out? What kinds of organisations exist? What is the risk of a single member?
You can discuss about existing groups or organizations. Within these discussions there is the option for reports of experiences with organizations, but also seminars or lectures of experts. These ideas can be gathered for having a basic knowledge of founding an organization.
Overcoming barriers of communication
International communication is an important aspect of globalization. The main challenge therein is finding a common platform for communication. Everybody should have access to world affairs. The focus then should be on including all sections of humanity, especially those restricted in their cognition and expression.
However, there are various differences in communication apart from the verbal form. For example, simply nodding your head might communicate different things in different cultures. How can we better grasp these important distinctions in an increasingly globalised world? How can we avoid misunderstanding in verbal and non-verbal communication? How can we establish an intercultural platform for communication?
In the group “Overcoming Barriers of Communication” you might discuss concepts of fair and equal communication.
Furthermore, you could be encouraged to deal with various forms of communication and to develop strategies for understanding and further expanding the concept of inclusion.
The first step to take up a responsibility is to become “Active” followed by “Staying Active”.
In these groups we look into the subject of long-term engagement and possible challenges associated with it. Staying active can become particularly challenging due to the accumulation of different problems for e.g., lack of motivation, financial constraints or shortage of time. While we discuss ways to maintain “Activeness” we also consider the steps involved in getting there as issues that need to be addressed.
To record the results of the meetings there will be a documentation group, so all participants can learn about the other groups’ discussion.
For projects and organizations it is necessary and desirable to care about longevity, communication and continuity. This avoids that mistakes and tasks are repeated by different actors again and again. It is a challenge to motivate people in the long term, so that initiatives could last longer and actually have an impact.
But how can you start projects with positive long term effects? Is it even possible to plan and predict the development and results? And in relation to this: How to construct an appropriate communication system while strong member-turnover exists?
In the group “Continuity” you are going to discuss ways to achieve sustainability and continuity of projects and organizations and to think about which forms of projects and organizations could fit well with these criteria. Further task may be to develop strategies to motivate people and thinking about how to initiate projects with positive long-term effects.
Information – what do we really know?
In the 1980‘s the term “Information Society” was developed. It defines the fast moving character of information supported by the digital-age. The information overload is larger than ever. Our thinking, decisions and emotions are affected. All we know depends on the information we consume day in, day out. An objective reflection of the information is rarely easy. Thereby, the truthfulness of this information needs to be critically questioned always.
But what to do with pre-filtered information? What if an external mediator decides what we get to know? How could the interpretation of information be affected by political influence and journalistic transfer? Could information lose its democratic character when access is restrained?
In the group “Information – what do we really know?” you could argue about controversial issues relating to the role and character of information and develop ideas and methods to classify information correctly.
Barriers in activism
People who wants to change something are often confronted with lots of barriers.
The first step is the individual and conscious decision to act. Nevertheless, there are other reasons holding people back from becoming active for a better world. Often there is a lack of money or time. In some countries it may be the law, the fear of punishment or the absence of background knowledge. Each culture goes along with the virtues and norms that relate to their community. Could this be the reason why many people remain in inaction? Are there barricades that are specific for certain countries? And who has the responsibility to care for an environment where people are becoming active? Is it possible to teach courage or does it arise from the individual nature? How could barricades be avoided?
In this group you should access your personal treasure trove of experience and report about the barricades they have been confronted with. In a discussion group, possible solution statements could be elaborated on.
Virtual Engagement and Organization Platforms
With the internet opportunities for participation and commitment are provided which did not previously exist. Suddenly, people could spend their whole time in front of the computer without real social contacts. On the other hand virtual contacts can accumulate. This way it is easily possible to convince and inspire many people with an idea overnight.
But, what are the borders of the network and virtual engagement, what are the chances and risks? How effective could it be to advertise one‘s own aims in the internet?
How much responsibility does a person bear and could a mouse click be a criterion for social-political commitment in a time petitions can be signed using online point-and-click?
In the group “Virtual Engagement and Organization Platforms” you could discuss about drawbacks and advantages of virtual commitment and develop ideas for fitting platform-concepts.
This group gives a final report to ISWI 2015 in newspaper form. You will be involved in the documentation process using articles, interviews and photos. Furthermore, the group has the option to go on air with club of the student-radio (“hsf”) and to attend the work of the student-television club of Ilmenau (“iSTUFF”).
Art is a way of expressing feelings, desires, demands and ideas. This also applies to the topic of “responsibility” that shall be treated in the ISWI on this year. Under this category, you can enter one of five groups which will converge, in a creative manner, upon the complex issue of „responsibility“. This can be achieved, for example, by theatre or by musical performances or various dances, which encourage the audience to think about responsibility.
„Fine arts“ describe a group of different art forms including sculpture, painting, graphics and architecture. This area has developed strongly through the development of new media. In the age of the 21st century the term „fine arts“ encompasses more and can be in individual cases no longer separated from other types of art. Well known today are body art, pop art and video art.
The question about the responsibility of the producer/manufactures can be asked. Every day we are confronted with „visual arts“, which can also be used for the manipulation of reality by digital processing.
But what is real? What is false? In the group „Fine Arts“ you can discuss artists and their works and devote yourselves to discussion of various forms of art. Artists are also invited to just express themselves just through their art in this group.
For many people music is very important. It is used for orientation, identification and provides assistance to self-discovery. The thematic spectrum ranges from political to critical content.
How large is the influence of music on the audience? Can music take an exemplary function? Are there limits of the artistic liberty if music is used to incite people, for example?
In addition on the discussion of these and further questions you are invited to bring along your instruments and to play together in the context of group work. Some instruments can also be provided by the organizers.
The theatre entertains, criticises, touches and excites members of the audience. As a mirror of the society it is important for the theatre to be experienced. Oppressed artists can use it as a popular form to express their thoughts and feelings in plays. In the theatre group, you can exchange ideas about pieces and authors who inspire you and speak about current topics.
You are invited to bring your ideas to the group work and put them together with young people from all over the world on the stage to examine, for example, social and/or political conflicts through different aspects. Any possible language barriers resulting from multilingualism can be overcome by a specific use of non-verbal means of communication like gestures and facial expression.
Creative writing ranges from short texts through to poems to short stories. It can be about social or political topics or even absurd lines of action. No limits are set on the creativity.
Inside the groups all different forms of expressions of documents shall be analysed and questioned. However, approaches and techniques also shall be taught to overcome a writer‘s block and creative jams. Through writing workshops different methods of creative writing will become familiar to you. In addition a ISWI Poetry-Slam can be organised where you have the chance to read the texts you have constructed in teams with a focus on responsibility.
Whether the fury and passion of a tango, the joy and ecstasy of a Charleston or the harmony and silence of a slow waltz – with the help of dance people can express their emotions. Ballet can even tell whole stories and sometimes dances represent a form of the social protest such as in Capoeira. Using dance can you draw attention to social problems and provide a representation of sustainability?
In this group you can discuss the different forms of dance and expression as well as having a go yourself. You are invited to interpret the motto of the ISWI “dare to care” with a choreography of your own, which can be presented to all participants at the end of the meeting.
A big international flash mob could also be organized. For these the dance and music group can cooperate and develop an artistic concept together based on the idea of responsibility.
Which topics are the most important to you? Where do you want to establish your priorities and take responsibility? Whoever wants to engage him- or herself must set priorities and decide in which field to take responsibility and then concentrate on what actions must be taken.
The category “Set Priorities” will therefore include groups, which on the one hand deal with how to set priorities within a topic, and on the other hand a group which will deal with possible topics which could be prioritised.
Journalism and therefore media serves as the basis for many peoples‘ opinion forming process. The results of journalism can be seen in newspapers and magazines, in radio, television or online. Therefore journalists bear high responsibility. Their work of today is our thoughts of tomorrow. But also recipients are responsible for their way of receiving information and reflecting on it.
However, due to the massive amount of events and incidents in the world, journalists have to decide which information is worth publishing. What kind of sources are reliable? How objective and transparent is news coverage? What is delivered by internet?
In the group “Journalism” you should exchange ideas about credibility, journalistic role models and journalistic methods. You can think about possibilities of exchanging news. Further discussion topics might be development of journalism and its future perspective or an international comparison. You can also discuss if journalism can support or block active engagement.
Aristotle already knew: “All humans naturally aspire towards knowledge.”
Education spawns knowledge. Knowledge does not only consist of classic education in school, but also of answers to questions in daily life, which generations share, or social knowledge as well. Education supports the potential of young people and provides them with perspectives for the future. Unfortunately not every child can access education: Illiteracy is still a problem worldwide.
But what is the right way to impart knowledge and to create an appropriate atmosphere for learning? How can state influence and abuse of education for propaganda effectively be avoided? How do parents and schools influence children? Are alternative models of education able to complement or even to substitute the conventional way of education?
In the group “Education” you might debate various aspects of education. You should get an idea of how different ideas can fulfil the needs of learners.
Policy is an important way to organize societies. Can global problems be solved only on global levels, regardless of the social and political systems of the individual states? How can we ensure that decisions are carefully weighted and made in a socially responsible manner?
Two big challenges in the field of politics are lobbying and corruption. How can we restore the independence of political decisions and enable a broad participation in social-political processes and decisions? This is accompanied by the need to create knowledge and awareness about rights and responsibilities.
In the group „Political responsibility“ you can discuss the extent to which politicians should be held responsible for the consequences of their decisions and their actions in the politics. How should mistakes and crimes of politicians be dealt with? In which cases is it justified as an international community to interfere in local conflicts?
The protection of our environment is a long-term investment in our existence and therefore crucial for coming generations. Climate change is a major problem of our time.
How can we stop the rapid destruction of living environment and minimise the overproduction of waste? What are the benefits of renewable energies? What is the concept of mobility for the future? What can a single person achieve for an environment which is worth living in? Numerous NGOs and independent activists stand up against genetic engineering, nuclear and coal energies and support alternative concepts.
In the group “Environment” you discuss, how much responsibility for the long-term preservation of nature mankind takes on. Which forms of getting active are useful and reasonable. Furthermore, you may develop ideas how protection of environment can be realized within neighbourhoods or for oneself personally. In the end, the group members can plan and realize a local campaign about a self-chosen topic of environmental protection.
Comprehensive patient-centred care is the basis of a human life. However, in some regions people do not have the possibility to access this care. Pharmaceutical companies patent traditional medical plants and their research is often bound to commercial aims. e.g. there is no economical interest in researching medicine that eradicates HIV/AIDS.
What kind of responsibility must be taken by pharmaceutical companies in respect to research for humankind? Can the Catholic Church be held accountable due to their rejection of condoms? Is it task of the state to create a comprehensive health-system? Should every human receive a basic education of health issues in order to learn how one can live responsibly within their environment?
In the group “Health” you analyze firstly which actors are responsible for health and how they interact. You can develop ideas for a good state or interstate health-system. These ideas could consider solutions for guaranteeing a worldwide access to health care.
Easier, faster and more convenient – these are the great prospects of new technologies. But technological progress in addition to a better life and prosperity can also cause misery and disaster e.g. the development of the atomic bomb. But military research can also lead to commonly-used technologies such as the internet.
Knowledge is now available anywhere, any time. On the other hand there are surveillance and automatic procedures nationwide. Flying drones can end peoples‘ lives with the push of a button. Obviously some technologies are in an ethical sense more critical than others. Where is the line to be drawn?
Who will take the responsibility for the consequences of inventions? What are the options for end users to have an impact on new technologies e.g. how can they defend themselves against surveillance or suppression mechanisms? What are upcoming technological trends and how should we prepare for them in this context?
In the group “Technology” you should deal with the issues mentioned and discuss the responsible use of science and technology.
Commitment against discrimination
Racism, homophobia and sexism are deeply rooted within our society. Discrimination can be attributed to institutional, social and structural causes. For example in many parts of the world, there are discriminatory laws against “abnormal” forms of sexuality.
How can we act against this and reinforce civil society? What are the reasons that people are discriminated against because of their disabilities, illnesses, origin, externalities, their religion, their age or other properties? How can we protect these minorities against discrimination? Which actions can promote the coexistence and help for respectful contact with each other? How can activist groups, which promote against discrimination and for equality, really change something? Are there any other forms of discrimination such as speciesism, we should discuss in a modern society?
In the group “Commitment against discrimination” you can discuss about the mechanisms of the different forms of discrimination and elaborate effective solutions. As a second part you can prepare and run an act action of public interest.
Sexual freedom and self-determination
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. […] Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” (Article 1 & 3, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
In seven countries from all over the world, reality looks different. Homosexual acts are punishable by the death penalty. In more than 70 other countries homo- and bisexuals are pursued and can be punished with long-term imprisonments. LGBT-activists (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) take high personal risk during their work.
During group-work it should be discussed, why people are discriminated because of their sexual orientation. What are the reasons for this strong worldwide straight normativism? How can we initiate an objectively and unprejudiced dialogue about love and sexuality, break down prejudices and promote tolerance?
Another point is the reproductive health and the reproductive rights for everybody. How can we protect these rights and how deeply should society intervene into terms of sexuality, family planning and coexistence of people? How can we combat against procedures such as female genital mutilation, forced abortions and forced sterilisation?
In the group “Sexual Freedom and Self-Determination” you will discuss the stated topics and will work creatively to set examples of the promotion of sexual freedom all over the world.
Medical and humanitarian aid
According to numbers from the UNO-Refugee-Aid, 45.2 million people are currently seeking and taking refuge. Most of them are able to escape to their nearest neighbour countries. But these countries are overstrained with the situation and the quickly growing refugee camps are not a long-term solution. Aid agencies are existing but there is often bad news about the poor conditions in these camps.
But why is help organized by NGOs and not from the government or at a confederate level, such as EU, AU or UN? The second question is why known illnesses that are able to be treated are still claiming victims?
As a Member of the group “Medical and Humanitarian Aid” you can discuss possible reasons, and why humanitarian and medical aid is necessary. Your work shall include especially discussion of current conflicts.
Equality and women’s rights
One half of the global population is female. In many parts of the planet girls and woman are discriminated against, sometimes even before their birth. Female foetuses are aborted in some parts of the world. In general, females receive less opportunities in the fields of education and career. According to Amnesty International violence against woman is one of the most common violations of Human rights. Domestic violence, sexual harassment, acid attacks, honour killing and genital mutilation are examples of the types of violence used against woman.
What are the reasons and how can we handle these discriminations? In which way can we inform woman about their rights to encourage them to use their rights in daily life?
You shall discuss the situation of females in their homes. Furthermore, the protection of woman rights and the role and rights of men in society shall be discussed. You are searching for an alternative to today‘s inequality and role systems.
Consumption is the fuel of capitalism. Industries aim to increase the sales of their products to generate profit. So an efficient use of resources is not realized. It is very common to buy a new device instead of repairing the old one. This way, resources are wasted. Furthermore, there is planned obsolescence to be discussed, which means that products are designed to break down after their guarantee expires.
Plastic products give rise to many issues such as the waste of petrol, the pollution of the oceans and nature. Do alternatives to the wasteful attitude of the industrial countries exist? Should we buy more regional and organic products? Is Fair Trade a guarantee for improving the life of the producer. How can transparency and consumer protection be improved?
You have to deal with the lifestyle in the industrial society. What are the reasons for this lifestyle and how does sustainable consumption look like? A repair-class could be one possible target, where you learn from each other.
To take over responsibility is important, but do moral limits exist? Are there some aims that are more important than other? Which devices are best to reach the desired aims? In the topic field “Question Activism“ you shall discuss these questions and analyze engagement critically. What happens if engagement gets out of hand? If people who want to take on responsibility are exploited by the initiative? These are topics which you will deal with in the groups “Question Activism“.
Altruism vs. Egoism
Altruism describes the way of thinking that takes other people into consideration. Egoism, however, is a synonym for self-love. Motivation can come from both areas when we take on responsibility or commit ourselves to a cause. Can people be completely altruistic or egoistical? Is there really an option for a kind of communism that is at first sight a purely altruistic system with each person committing him- or herself equally to the way of life? Contrary to this, we experience an individualisation growing larger in today‘s society based on status symbols and unique features. Are those ideas egoistic? Is it practical to act and think purely egoistical or altruistic? Can we find examples of behaviour in history or notes in the ethic and moral philosophy for the one direction or the other? Do people develop particularly egoistical conceptions of the world in the modern age? Does society promote egoistic ways of thinking or do our values and norms support the readiness for selfless behaviour?
Black & White thinking
All our convictions and acts depend on information. We assess information on the basis of our moral values but morals can only be formed by information. Propaganda and one-sided reporting can influence people greatly in the way they think and act. So it can result in military conflicts or radical and extremist groups. How can stereotypes, dogmas and related activities be identified and questioned? How to talk to people who stick doggedly to one-sided information? Why are there still conflicts escalating? In the group “Black & White thinking” you shall discuss, on which levels people are influenced with transmitted and biased values and information, and how these cause people to turn a blind eye to obvious inhumane acts or even to engage in these acts themselves. An introductory guide may be created that describes the path to performing inhumane acts, and where these ideas come from. The rehabilitation of offenders can also be discussed.
Ethics and morals in the activism
Worldwide, different ethics are defined by philosophy and by religions which sometimes aren‘t compatible with local laws. May the morality rise above the law or the law above the morality? Is there danger of the legitimation of religious or ideological extremism? Should we interpret the ethic on basis of the human rights and put all other approaches above the law? What happens if people act against current systems and legitimise this by morality? How can states justify themselves if people proceed to work against the existing system with differing moral concepts? Where is the limit between freedom of speech, civic duties, activism or even terrorism?
In this group you will discuss these and similar questions and produce ideas and statements of their own. In addition, different cases will be prepared and presented, in which people were criminalised and locked-up for their (human and pacifist) activities. Depending on the results of the discussion, solidarity and support letters can be written and petitions formed. Furthermore the universality of human rights could be discussed or questioned, as well as the ethical reasonableness of certain actions.
Marketing, advertising, public relations
Advertising is omnipresent and there is hardly a possibility to escape. Products are promoted with new strategies and more creative ideas to outdo the enormous competition in attracting consumers. Even organisations that plan projects for their neighbours can‘t withdraw themselves from public relations. If nobody is aware of an event, nobody will come. Where are the differences between event advertising and product advertising? It is not rare, for advertising to get close to the limit of good taste, with the ethically acceptable sometimes breached. But where exactly is the line drawn? Which regulations make sense and which not? How much protection is needed for children and teenagers who are vulnerable to advertising? Do we need product advertising at all or do good products gain acceptance without overzealous promotion? You shall discuss questions like this in the group „ Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations“. The results from this can be brought together in a culture comparative resume.