circular estonia

innovation in education and governance

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Mapping initiatives that connect education and the wider society – Part 2

Part 2 of this series is long due, so I will contnue with the humble attempt to map some great initiatives. For a while I have been wanting to write about Tallinna Linnavolikogu Simulatsioon (Tallinn City Council Simulation).

These kinds of projects (often in the format of a conference, a simulation or a symposium) are usually run in collaboration with youth councils and include other youth organisations and stakeholders. This  highlights the importance of a well-functioning youth work sector and involvement of the youth in governance processes. In some ways it is part of the European Union’s effort to create (structured) dialogue with the youth.

I would like to particularly emphasise the work of MTÜ Tegusad Eesti Noored (TEN). Their mission is to organise simulations like this, e.g. The European Parliament Simulation and State Parliament Simulalation in Estonia, and help young people understand and engage in democratic governance processes. They also help the youth with making their project-based ideas happen.

Tallinn City Council Simulation got so much of my attention because a couple of my friends on facebook were involved in organising it and I was very impressed by how much the whole process was owned by the young people/students. They did an amazing social media campaign on facebook, and posted some youtube videos, such as this, to engage participants (or any youth who got their attention) with the topic of ‘governance’.

The reason why this is so significant is because it shows learner autonomy, builds a sense of citizenship or being part of the wider society and community, builds several very important skills, like team-work, and gives students the VERY much needed practical experience / application of theory. They most certainly learned more by doing that than sitting in a civics lesson.

No less imporant were the actual topics discussed as part of the simulation sessions (I will paraphrase but try to keep as close to original wording as possible):

  • EDUCATION – In order to raise the competence of the youth it is important to combine formal and non-formal education. How to apply non-formal learning in support of formal education? (Comment: What a great and RIGHT question to ask! I wonder what the outcomes were…-Maarja)
  • PARTICIPATION – A large number of youth remain passive in civil society and indifferent to their role as ‘citizens’.  How to motivate the youth to participate actively in their community and society at large, as well as involve them in decision-making?
  • SPORT & HEALTH – How to motivate the youth to practice sports instead of self-harming activities (e.g. drinking)? What measures could Tallinn take to popularize healthy past-time activities?
  • TRANSPORT – How to organise the traffic and transportation system in the city in accordance with the real needs of its inhabitants and as a one whole system taking into account different modes of transportation?
  • CULTURE – The compulsory educational programme does not support enough young people’s participation in the cultural and artistic activities. How can culture and arts be made more attractive?
  • URBAN SPACE – The old Tallinn “city hall”  and its surroundings remain empty and derelict. Fresh and innovative ideas are needed to developed the cityscape. How could young people contribute to  finding new purposes for old buildings or forming ideas for a well-functioning urban space? There was a press release about this (Source:

For me the most fascinating part of events like this is that they do exactly what I have been longing to see – combine educational and learning processes directly with governance and societal development. However, the question of how much it is actually a part of an intentional learning or curriculum design remains outstanding. In addition, who are promoting the event? Are teachers involved? What kind of students participate and can we draw any ‘demographic’ conclusions based on that? What opportunities are there for students from suburban areas or smaller cities to participate in events like this? Have these events received any attention in the national educational strategy as a potential “tool”?

They also bear some resemblance with social labs, and in fact could become much more then “talking shops”  or “learning spaces”. The organisers state that the ideas developed during the simulation have a potential to be taken forward and may receive a budget and a supporting team – Where does the budget come from? Who are the supporting team? How many and what kind of ideas were taken forward?  How much are the actual local government representatives or local community involved?

Not surprisingly, I am also drawing some parallels to PeaceJam. I had a chance to briefly introduce it in Tallinn in 2011 on a trip with iCoCo but it has never been organised in Estonia. I wonder what lessons can we draw from the simulation type events with events like PJ and their follow-up methods.

Another great initiative to draw parallals to is the UK’s National Citizen Service (NCS). That initiative is in many ways like a “summer camp”, so more comprehensive and has more varied elements. They engage abour 18 000 15-17 year olds in a year, and have about 2500 staff members. Here is a very good overview:

I am keen to talk to the organisers and find out more!

Update: I have just found out that the simulations have been part of a larger EU funded project Iuventus Revaliensis (for which there is no other information online), supported by Euroopa Noored/ European citizenship education programme, promoting youth exchnages, volunteer programmes and the like, they also facilitate Erasmus+ calls for applications.

Here is a great video of debate from Tallinna Noortevolikogu – youth in conversation with some politicians.


Some great points raised. I am learning a lot.

Part 3 of the series will be coming soon.