Intimacy, Relationships and Interculturality in Youth Work (IRIS) 2018-2021

European youth project: Erasmus + KA205 – Strategic Partnerships for youth; you can read more about this project on the IRIS projectwebsite.

Participating organizations: Elan Interculturel, France / La Xixa, Spain / In Touch, The Netherlands / Kepes, Hungary

Total duration of the project: 29 months.  Start: 30-09-2018   End: 27-02-2021

Target groups: Youth (15 and 29 years), professionals (youth workers, social workers, educators, trainers). Secondary target groups: policy makers



 IRIS has the ambition of addressing social inclusion on five levels:

1) By developing basic skills necessary for intercultural contact and interaction: social, emotional, and intercultural skills that facilitate creating contacts with youngsters of different cultural groups

2) By being able to identify the impact of ‘cultural difference” in the conflicts or tensions, and not blaming other issues on culture. We’ll do this through addressing critical incidents in relationships.

3) By promoting the idea of diversity as a value, that is not only source of challenge but also opportunity and learning. We’ll do this through the organization of heterogeneous workshops where diversity will not be denied nor forced, but acknowledged in a positive way.

4) By promoting the practice of diversity through contributing to the diversification of youngsters’ social network, thereby helping to go beyond homogeneous groups that give the impression of ‘separation’ or ‘communautarism’ whether it is on the side of minority or majority Youth.

5) By addressing problems affecting relationships in intercultural context, including discrimination, segregation, racism, bullying and violence.


IRIS will work towards the development of educators’ key competences by offering methods and tools to work in culturally heterogeneous groups, attending to the relational conflicts and issues of young people partly fueled by different cultural representations and expectations. To ensure that our products go beyond the workshops and project related activities that the partners can organize, our primary aim is to transfer the knowledge and skills necessary to adapt and replicate such workshops the project’s methodological innovations and theoretical findings amongst educators, counselors and other professionals involved with young people. Our materials will be presented in a way that ensures the transfer and replicability of validated theoretical, methodological and practical aspects to foster safe and positive interactions in intercultural youth contexts. Our materials will be presented in a way that ensures the transfer of theoretical, methodological and practical aspects.


Our initiative focuses on the intersection of several contemporary challenges:

 1. Relationships are the most important factor of our happiness and wellbeing (Baumeister) yet the spaces to learn these skills are scarce.

2. Developing successful models of relating to others may be a challenge to all, but particularly to newcomers with different cultural backgrounds.

3. Gender roles and representations of sexuality are what Hofstede called the “taboo dimension” of cultures, so many are the related taboos and prescriptions. Currently these representations and taboos are undergoing deep changes. The recent series of scandals about sexual harassment and the Metoo movement highlight an aspect of this change.

4. In many European cities there is a growing representation of groups of ‘young foreign men’ as synonym of threat, in the worst case becoming targets of negative campaign (Hungary) in the best merely a constant association to a ‘social problem’. “Why don’t they mix?”


In our previous projects and activities with young people we found that issues related to friendship and intimacy are very high on their preoccupations, and that conflicts with peers are experienced as particularly troublesome. The increasing space of social media did not help, in fact according to some it is a reason for the lower relational and emotional skills of the ‘millenials’ (Simon Sinek). If creating and maintaining relations is challenging for youngsters of the majority society, it is particularly so for young people who arrived to their place of residence recently, who are from other regions, countries or continents. The challenge for them is all the more difficult that they are in a greater need of making new relations with youngsters that in many ways are different from them and who may have different social rules and conventions on the establishing of relations. What’s more, they are also expected to create relations with locals as a sign of their integration, if not, they can be quickly accused of ‘separation’ or ‘communautarism’.

NEEDS OF YOUTH WORKERS One of the challenges of youth workers – especially if they are young – consists in finding the right relational balance with their young participants: the connection must be significant to make things happen, but cannot get too deep, too intimate. Yet, youth workers don’t seem to get the appropriate training for finding this good proximity. This is even more stressed with migrant youth who may not be familiar with the genre of non formal pedagogy or youth work as such. A number of critical incidents illustrates the difficulty of youth workers in negotiating the relationship with their peers and youth groups, in particular if gender differences are also involved: young men making advances to female youth workers, not stopping even when they are asked not to, conflict emerging when an educator accuses an animator that she keeps too much familiarity with her participants etc.


Offer resources to young people from different cultural / social backgrounds to:

– Understand cultural aspects affecting the way we create and maintain our relationships, especially friendships and intimate relationships

– Develop relational skills for culturally heterogeneous contexts, creative ways to solve issues, problems relating to relationships

– Develop skills to talk about sexuality and intimate relations in safe ways, being able to set one’s own boundaries and respect those of others.

Offer resources to youth workers to – work on relationship issues with their participants – work on how to establish and maintain a good distance / good proximity with participants, that allows a good working relationships and helps to avoid confusions of roles and surpassing intimacy limits.

Contribute to youth worker’s training through good quality training materials and curricula proposals for developing skills related to relationships and intimacy in an intercultural context.


All European societies are becoming multicultural, and despite great differences in their history of diversity, and their official answer to diversity, they also come to face similar challenges. One of these challenges is consists precisely in the creation of a cohesive society which can embrace members despite or with their specific cultural orientations, religions, social and economic status, or even age, sexual orientation etc. Learning from each other’s’ good solutions as well as misunderstandings/mistakes is a great opportunity. In particular we’ll be interested in exploring the national discourses and practices concerning the ‘integration’ of young people with multiple identities or recent migration history and how they prepare youth workers to be active creative agents in this process.


– The “Book of situations” (IO1) will serve youth workers, youth worker trainers and youth related professionals to be able to identify cultural components in conflicts, misunderstandings related to relationships, friendships, intimate relationships (or harassment)

– “Skills to connect” (IO2) serves youth workers by offering them tools to develop their own relational / emotional skills or those of the youth they work with

– The “Book of good proximity” (IO3) serves youth workers’ needs to negotiate appropriate distance and proximity with their participants to be able to carry out their mission

– “Skills for intimacy” (IO4) offers training tools for youth workers to address issues related to intimacy with diverse groups of youngsters

– “Lessons of intimacy and relationships” (IO5) serves youth workers by helping them integrate the above products into their work practice either by establishing specific trainings or by inserting specific sessions into existing collaboration process.


  1. For the young people of migrant / minority cultural background: – activities based on non-formal education to facilitate the understanding of local/majority cultural patterns concerning relationships and intimacy – tools for developing relational and emotional skills – better capacity to initiate and maintain relationships in culturally appropriate ways hence contributing to a more diverse social network and facilitating the inclusion of members into the intimate circle of friends generated within the host society – contributing to an interculturally mindful approach to gender and sexuality.
  • For young people who are members of the majority society (no minority background) – activities based on non-formal education to facilitate the understanding of cultural diversity concerning relationships and intimacy – tools for developing relational and emotional skills – better capacity to initiate and maintain relationships in culturally appropriate ways hence contributing to a more diverse social network and facilitating the inclusion of members minority cultural backgrounds in their intimate circle of friends.
  • For youth workers and animators: – better emotional and relational skills: further developed skills in recognizing and managing their own emotional reactions and those of their participants – awareness of cultural differences in the establishing and maintenance of interpersonal relations and intimacy – available tools to work on the themes of relationship, friendship and intimacy with young people with migrant / minority cultural background – tools to develop skills to negotiate good proximity with their participants, in particular those of migrant background.
  • For institutions dispensing trainings for youth worker trainers – good quality training materials on issues of relationships, good proximity – proposed curricula to be able to integrate the issues of intimacy, relationships, good proximity in an intercultural perspective into their trainings. e) In addition to the intellectual outputs, multiplier events and training activities we aim at the following results: 1) partnership agreement among the partners, fixing the basis of the collaborative activities 2) budget management tool: excel file allowing to follow the budget of the individual partners 3) skype and presential meetings 4) plan of dissemination : collaborative decision on the steps to take to ensure the project visibility 5) dissemination database: in each country list of organisations which can use the pedagogical kit 6) elaboration of visual elements representing the project: logo, template, presentations 7) tools for process evaluation and monitoring of collaboration process


Elan Interculturel, Paris / – Elan Interculturel is an organisation created by psychologists, researchers, trainers – most of whom were immigrants in Paris – who were interested in exploring and developing new methods to facilitate intercultural communication, collaboration and adaptation. We offer workshops and informal learning opportunities as for individuals living cross-cultural transition or in cultural contact zones (migrants, • We undertake research in intercultural and social psychology aiming at a better understanding of intercultural dynamics (ex: Momap research on the accompaniment of geographic and social mobility).

La Xixa, Barcelona / – La Xixa Teatre Association is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 that aims to research, develop and multiply educational and theatrical tools as a means for social transformation. We believe that education at all ages is the key for social change towards a world with equal opportunities. The scope of our activities are aimed towards the following topics: – School Education, Early School Leaving, Prevention of Risk Behaviour among Youth. – Intercultural Communication, Racism, Xenophobia, Social Inclusion and Integration. – Gender, Equality Policies, and Sexual Diversity. – Peace Culture and Co-existence, Active Citizenship, Civic Engagement, and Local Development. The values of the La Xixa are: – To promote the participation of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. – To promote the values of coexistence in a framework of equality. – To see the cultural diversity present in our society as a source of wealth. – To promote an inclusive society where all forms of human diversity are fully accepted. – To establish dialogue as a source of mutual empowerment and as the key in the search for alternatives to conflict. – To consider Theatre of the Oppressed, Process Oriented Psychology and other forms of grassroots and Participatory Methodologies as means for community empowerment and social experimentation. The mission of La Xixa is to facilitate the creation of spaces for empowerment through Participatory Methodologies, Process Oriented Psychology and Theatre of the Oppressed to generate processes of individual and collective transformation in contexts of social vulnerability.

Kepes, Budapest / –  The mission of Képes Alapítvány is to hep different target groups to develop their social emotional learning (SEL) competencies. We explore, adapt/develop, evaluate and promote SEL programs and initiatives. We find this field important as SEL competencies are shown to increase academic and work achievement and to better adjustment in everyday life. They can also be taught and developed and help disadvantaged people to “beat the odds” – with increased self-efficacy and motivation to learn, with more flexibility, realistic goal setting and good problem-solving skills they can achieve more than their peers from the same disadvantaged background. We set up programs for those who lack these skills the most and who have little chance to have access to such trainings. We also target those professionals who work with these target groups (e.g. social workers, youth workers). We place a big emphasis on sustainability as we find it important that initiatives stay alive after the project period is over. We achieve this goal through various ways, e.g by setting up programs that can be run by volunteers, or by producing freely available guidebooks and materials.

In Touch, Amsterdam / – IN TOUCH is a non-profit organization founded in 2018 with two core members and few volunteers. Our goal is to facilitate the development of shared understandings of different and often antagonistic sexual, ethnic, religious cultures through organizing opportunities, spaces and activities for the members of these cultural groups to engage with each other in intimate, deeply personal, human interactions, where they can discuss, experience, live through and reflect upon their differences through the eyes of each other. We believe, that deeply personal links can lead to more welcoming, tolerant, open and peaceful multi-ethnic, multicultural societies. We can empower ourselves by sharing our personal experiences, by giving access to our inner and shared resources, by getting connected to others inner worlds. Instead of the fragmented, and mediatized ways of modern life we focus on the first-hand human experience: we give birth, grow and learn, love and work, eat and think with the same body and soul. We thus want to develop our projects in the personal domains of life, such as birth, growth, shelter, healing, sexuality (ars erotica), transition, mourning and death. We want to focus on the most fundamental aspects of human existence such as the human body, sexuality, eating, preparing and sharing food, family relations, intimacy, working, building shelter or mourning, stages which we all need to go through, and as such provide the most natural and effective opportunities for strangers to connect.

IN TOUCH formally is a new organization but our members have all the expertise in the relevant areas and also the experience in European projects. Dora Djamila Mester is the founder and director of the Hungary based non-profit organization Ars Erotica Foundation for sexuality education and for the acceptance of sexual cultures. She has been working on the field of sexuality, gender, identity and social encounters. She works with individuals and couples as a private counselor. She works with children and young adults. She taught sexuality educational classes in high schools; for the Roma; as well as for mentally disabled youth. She works as a coach, trainer, facilitator with professionals, teachers and trainers and trains them how to offer compassionate, non-judgmental information on gender and sexuality in a variety of formal and informal setting, and teaches how to explore attitudes, beliefs and values around sexuality in a safe manner. She uses non-formal, interactive teaching methods that integrate the principles and practices of adult education with individual teaching / working styles. She works with social workers, mental health professionals, teachers, educators, non-profit agency service providers, communities and social groups and offers them counseling, services and (professional) supervision. She trains their staff on issues of personal/professional boundaries, sex and gender related information, gain a better understanding of sexuality in their professional life, encourage their self-development and communication skills.