«The most important thing for small communities is education, participation and love for the neighbour.»

The final partner’s meeting for the Erasmus+ project INTERFACE was held in Skagafjörður, Iceland on the 19th of June 2019. During the meeting partners overviewed remaining tasks for the project and coordinated for the finalization of the project. Aitoliki presented learnings and experiences from the community workshops, TCC presented feed back from coaches and community stakeholders, CESIE presented the OER and its contents, Bifröst University presented the finalisation of curriculum and training materials as well as the Policy impact assessment report. On the second day of the final partner’s meeting on the 20th of June the team discussed quality assurance and promotion of the project as well as hosting a round table discussion on INTERFACE’s website and platform.

In the afternoon a final conference was held in Ljósheimar, Skagafjörður. The conference started with a light lunch and was then opened by Ásthildur Sturludóttir, an Icelandic politician and mayor of Akureyrarbær. Ásthildur spoke of the importance of education for fragile communities. She explained that she herself was born and raised in a small community and therefore has a personal experience of being in a fragile community in addition to having been mayor of three communities that have been participating in the Fragile communities’ program in Iceland. In her opening speech she specified a few points that she believes are very important.

“Marginal communities everywhere in the world are in defense. They are all fragile communities. Iceland as a whole is also a fragile community. Over the years we have often seen on the news some stories about some havoc in certain communities. I believe all of us have heard about this. The economy is fragile, the community spirit is fragile. Sometimes it only takes one business to go under and the community bleeds, well or just one family moves away and a huge gap is formed. In a small community every single individual matters. You automatically become a full participant when you live in a small community. The community needs to nurture everyone so that it can flourish as a whole. One of the most important issues for strengthening marginalized communities is increasing the knowledge in the society. It is important to increase your knowledge and skills to be fully equipped in dealing with new times: the fourth industrial revolution and all of its challenges.”

Ásthildur also stressed the importance of community thinking for inhabitants of fragile communities and how important it is to participate. Especially where there are few people, then it is even more important that the whole community is unified in making their community alive and colourful. She said that the most important thing for these small communities is that the habitants seek education to make progress in the community possible and that stagnation was the worst thing to happen to a small community. She stressed that there is real danger of educated people moving away from marginalized communities and the danger is that communities will become homogeneous, without women and without educated people, just as the economy is homogeneous. This is a real risk and this trend has started and it could continue very rapidly. In the end of her speech Ásthildur discussed the most important thing of living in a fragile community:

“And last but not least, let’s not forget the love, tolerance and open-mindedness. At the end of the day small communities are good and loving. There could be many opportunities, but one needs to be strong-willed to endure. There is a great deal of controversy, and the hopes and expectations of the modern world are different than before, but the most important thing for small communities is education, participation and love towards our neighbours. “

Next on the agenda for the conference was IRDI’s overview of the whole project, followed by each participating country whom presented the project in their countries: what has been done, challenges and successes. Afterwards CESIE presented the learning platform and two coaches from fragile communities in Iceland told their stories from their own fragile communities. Finally, there was a discussion panel with all speakers from the conference. The discussion panel went very well and the audience brought up many interesting questions that participants took turns in answering. Overall the final conference went very well and the discussions were both interesting and relevant.

During the partners time in Skagafjörður they were introduced to local culture. The group went horseback riding, learned about battles that took place in the region in the year 1238 and went to a virtual reality museum to virtually take part in those battles that they learned about earlier. The group had a nice barbeque dinner together and sang into the long night. It is our belief that spending time together, getting to know each other strengthens and is beneficial for the project and the cooperation. After all, that is what the INTERFACE project is about – sharing and finding common ground in different cultures.