Stories from 'Where is Europe' at the 'Europe We Want' Campaign Lab
Last February, before the European Parliament elections, I joined the 'Europe We Want' campaign Lab in Brussels. The Lab was set up to synergize the different campaigns and initiatives from the civil society organisations in Europe. By working together we can make our voices stronger and make sure to be heard not only by European habitants but also by EU and national politicians. In order to synergize there was a need for a common narrative, a common idea or a common slogan. During the Lab
we did not only exchange our ideas for actions and demonstrations, we also shared ideas on narratives and online campaigns. I shared my stories from my project 'Where Is Europe' and how these stories can be framed and used to create solidarity and empathy among European societies.
The story of Mervi is one of the first stories that I have heard and written down during my project. The story of Mervi, you can read the story in the slides, shows on the one hand the failure of political solidarity from the rest of Europe towards the Finnish border. But on the other hand it shows solidarity from individuals who empathize with their position and Mervi's point of view. From this emphatic point or point of understanding, it is possible to move the conversation to a higher level. How can there be an intervention to give space for this empathy and what would be the role of the EU in this?
One of the main questions asked during the Campaign lab was 'How to talk with people about Europe'. To answer this question I presented four steps that can be used to talk with people about 'Europe'. While collecting my stories I never approached someone with the question 'How do you feel about Europe'? Or, 'What do you think of the EU?'. Because these questions are way to broad and general. People who are not daily involved in European politics can't be expected to answer this. So when talking to people, I started with a small question that they could answer easily like, what they are doing for a living, what are their struggles or what are their dreams. In this way people started talking about something close to them and guided me to the topic that they felt safe with and wanted to talk about. I let them talk till I found a topic where I can identify with, that I understand and could empathize. From that point, I would try to find a generalization and a point where Europe comes in or international collaboration could be the solution to the problem.
These four points can also be used when writing or telling a story, in order for the public to empathize with the story. For this I used the example of the demonstration in Romania. I compared the picture and framing of the news media with the pictures and framing from myself. The way certain personal stories, news or societies are framed, determines the point of perspectives of the receiver of the story. That means that for a storyteller, a campaigner or a journalist it is crucial to be aware of the point of perspective that will be highlighted in the story and the effect it has on our public space. The story of the demonstrations in Romania can be told from two perspectives. The one of hope for change, fight from the people to make the government account for its actions, the story of Romanians who are engaged and working on development. Or the one of the news, telling the story of the failed state and aggression used against it's citizens, the story of Romanians who are backwards and aren't able to have a civilized society.
With my presentation I wanted to inspire the campaigners of the big civil society organisations with different ways of engaging with European topics. I shared the stories to show that the point of perspective is crucial for building a European public space that is constructed from empathy and solidarity on transnational level. The Campaign Lab was effective in synergizing the different planned actions before the elections. Luckily we are also working on synergizing our campaign narratives and show together a message that symbolizes hope, positivism but mostly a message to which Europeans can empathize.
You can see the whole powerpoint presentation online.