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Interview for the STEP blog - Stefan Rudel (Germany)

Self-employed, member of FÖJ-AKTIV e.V. and YEE

How do you, as an individual, participate in the life of your community?

Before I started to write the answer I was thinking about what my community is – is it my hometown, or is it the community with all other people living in the country in which I'm living? It's hard to find a frame for that answer.

But thinking about the community (or communities) I'm part of in Germany, I get involved in different ways and on different levels.

First I try to make a change in peoples' faces when I have direct contact with service people – for example in stores and shops. I always try to leave a place in a better shape than before – and a place with its shape is depending on the people who are using it and filling it with their presence. That's also in traffic and transportation – when I'm driving a car I try to participate in a calm and peaceful way, and show people that there aren't only rude drivers around. I'm always hoping that this can make a difference, and people change their own behaviours so we will be more friendly and respectful with/to each other.

I'm also volunteering – I was volunteering quite a bit in my local community in my town in two volunteer circles – one was for taking care and spending time with older people who ask for some company and social support, the other one was for supporting and helping refugees who were coming to our town. We had meetings once a month including professional trainings and learning together (by sharing, listening to a trainer, …). Those were organised by a local pastor.

Besides of that I'm volunteering in a small German organisation that is supporting an ecological volunteer service program in Germany. I'm in contact with teens or volunteers in their early 20's and try to show them that they are able to do and change a lot, and that they already have almost everything they need to make the change – I try to give them a direction, but not to tell them what to do. That's how I try to have a small influence in the younger generation (besides of listening to my two brothers and sharing time and fun with them when I'm home).

I'm signing online petitions and also those which I find at local shops (if there are any laying around, for example at the local organic food store).

I'm going to some demonstrations throughout the year, mainly ones for a cleaner/greener agriculture and less Monsanto acting.

And last but not least I sometimes take part in seminars, trainings, debates and discussion circles, not only in my hometown, but also when I'm travelling and meeting friends – listening to other peoples' needs and reflecting if they meet my own needs (and defining what my own needs are by listening to my feelings in such situations). I try to get closer to the local communities (and getting even closer to individuals), reading local newspapers, watching signs/posters for local events, … - I think in the end my little 'me' always wants to get closer to the individuals because it's looking to share its peace, love and support, and also looking for receiving peace, love and support.

Which environmental topic interests you the most and in which way(s) do you take action for it?

Clean – that's what interests me the most. And I guess you can connect that to every topic... cleaner food, cleaner traffic, cleaner water, … I also connect that to “using less” - meaning that using less and having less stuff means a cleaner life and spirit.

I try to have myself as my main action for change – by being myself and an example or role model (not meaning that in an arrogant or ego-focused way).

Talking about a cleaner and less polluted environment I'm trying to consume in a conscious way, reflecting on my consuming, thinking about it before buying bigger stuff, using goods which I already have instead of buying new ones again and again, and buying – if I'm buying new – well-built and quality things instead of cheaper ones. This way I try to lower my personal use of resources. I also generate and make less trash with that way of acting, and I'm saving and keeping things alive that other people didn't want to use anymore – older cars, older clothes, older bread... and “older” only means “not newly new anymore”, it doesn't mean “old” to me, I don't feel like using “old” or “aged” stuff.

As one result, I also feel cleaner myself... having more space left in my spirit and mind for other things and myself.

Are you familiar with the topic of e-participation? For which reason(s) would you see e-participation useful for young people?

Yes, a little bit.

Many young people seem to be focused on digital media and screens – not only, but mainly. I see needs in their behaviours (basic human needs): community, support, getting and being seen, looking for feedback, …

Since many young people are already in front of screens, that's where you can catch them and their interest. You can get them involved.

It's also easier for them since it might be more comfortable, and they can have more time thinking about their words and phrasing (if it's about starting a campaign and sending out calls), they don't have to stand in front of a big crowd (which most young people aren't used to in my experience – and they don't really like to do it, so why pressure them?).

They can connect to other people (who have the same interest) in easier ways, they don't “have to be” brave enough (and stop being so shy) to get into contact with other people (or am I judging or assuming too much here?). Maybe being in front of screens and doing so much online makes many young people becoming so shy and dependent?