Under the auspices of Wunderbar Together USA 2021, a comprehensive and collaborative initiative funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and implemented by the Goethe-Institut, the American Council on Germany will host the German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum, a virtual exchange designed to engage young civic leaders ages 14 to 21 in Germany and the U.S. in a transatlantic dialogue about issues confronting their local communities.
Through a series of interactive meetings, representatives from local youth councils and youth leadership programs in five pairs of U.S.-German sister cities will discuss issues including climate change and sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the importance of civic engagement and youth participation in their communities.
This exchange – which is a direct result of a series of 2020 Transatlantic Town Halls with mayors as part of the Wunderbar Together initiative – provides an opportunity for the next generation of politically engaged youth to explore critical issues in an international context, to learn from their counterparts abroad, and to shape how they address these issues in the future. The virtual exchanges will take place from August to December 2021.
The sister cities and organizations engaged in the project include:
- Austin-Koblenz – Austin Youth Council and Jugendrat Koblenz
- Buffalo-Dortmund – Open Buffalo Youth Action Project and Jugendring Dortmund
- Charlotte-Krefeld – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council and Jugendbeirat Krefeld
- San Antonio-Darmstadt – San Antonio Youth Commission and Jugendforum Darmstadt
- St. Louis-Stuttgart – Youth Leadership St. Louis and Stuttgarter Jugendhaus
The main elements of the project will include:
- May-July – coordination meetings with the youth organization leaders.
- July-August – one to two meetings with youth selected from each city for the project’s advisory committee to finalize the design and specific content of the Zoom exchanges.
- August-September – individual Zoom Meetings for youth in each of the paired sister cities (for example Austin-Koblenz) so that they can engage with one another, build relationships in advance of the webinars, and determine how to continue dialogue offline in between the webinars.
- October-November – three Zoom Webinars for the youth groups in all the sister cities (youth from all the cities will participate together) that focus on climate change, the need to confront racial inequality, and civic engagement/youth participation. The webinars will include 2-3 German and American speakers and include breakout sessions for greater dialogue.
- November-December – individual Zoom meetings again for youth in each of the paired sister cities to discuss lessons learned, ideas for collaboration, and initial plans on how to continue the virtual exchange after this project ends.
The key objectives of the German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum are:
- to strengthen the relationship and ties between German and American sister cities, specifically by focusing on the next generation of leaders in their communities.
- to engage youth leaders in local communities in an open and transparent manner and to build greater mutual understanding and collaboration with their counterparts in Germany and the United States.
- to provide youth with an opportunity to discuss key issues impacting their communities – climate change and sustainability, racial inequality and diversity, and civic engagement – so that they are understood in a global context and also so that youth can learn and share ideas on how to address them.
- to have youth in these communities identify concrete ways in which they could collaborate with their foreign counterparts.
- to create a foundation on which the youth organizations in the sister cities can build a sustainable, long-term relationship for further exchange and dialogue on these issues (and others) in the future.
An overarching goal of the American Council on Germany is to engage the next generation of transatlantic leaders and build awareness of the value of the German-American relationship. Through this exchange, we aim to fulfill this objective and to help the youth and organizations maintain their relationships in the future so that additional meetings and exchanges can take place.
For further information about the German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum, please contact Rob Fenstermacher at the ACG.