The origins of the Solidarity Action Day …

The concept of a Solidarity Action Day goes back to 1963, when a group of Swedish youngsters launched ‘en dag för Dag’. This ‘day for Dag’ was held in memory if the Swedish Secretary-General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld, who was killed in a plane crash on his way to cease-fire negotiations in Congo. The Solidarity Action Day concept caught on spread quickly across the neighbouring countries: the next year, in 1964, the first edition of Operasjon Dagsverk took place in Norway. Finland followed in 1967. It took a little longer for the Solidarity Action Day to cross the sea, but 1985 saw the creation of Operation Dagsværk in Denmark. In more recent years, these organizations have explored co-operation possibilities, leading to a joint Summer Camp held in Denmark in 2010 and the 2012 event Operasjon Gränsløs.

The Northern connection

After having heard about the Norwegian Action Day, two more organizations were founded: over in Belgium, Zuiddag’s first Action Day took place in 2006, followed by Operation Dayswork Italy in 2007.

The Southern connection

In central Europe, the German organization Schüler Helfen Leben was also spreading the Action Day idea, after launching its own Action Day in 1996. Unija Srednjoškolaca Srbije (UNSS) Serbia held its first Action Day in 2003, while the Italians of Adelante, now part of Progetto Zattera blu, started theirs in 2006.

It could have ended there, but as a Solidarity Action Day is all about young people from different countries co-operating to create a better world and new initiatives seemed to be popping up all over Europe, it wasn’t long before the idea of working together on a European level arose. As good as the idea was, it took a lot of talking, a year hard work and even the possibility of an international romance to turn these vague plans into reality.

… and those of SAME

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The first gathering of this –then still nameless- network took place in Oslo in 2011. From the beginning it was apparent that there were many things that united the 7 organizations present, even though they were all distinctly different. These differences, however, weren’t just to be considered an impediment, as they brought great potential for mutual learning. As everyone got to know each other, both on a personal and on an organizational level, we realized that in order to move forward as a network, we would need to define our common ground. This need lead to the Basic Common Principles. Sadly, the 2011 Summer Camp also confronted us with the attacks on Oslo and Utoya. The loss of young, committed people shocked us deeply. We felt that we should respond to this atrocity by showing the world that the solidarity and co-operation of many is stronger than the hatred of few.

The next year, Summer Camp was held in Berlin, Germany. Now we had defined the common ground of our network, the child needed a name. After a lot of brainstorming, we came up with the name ‘SAME’ as an acronym of ‘Solidarity Action Day Movement in Europe’. 2012 was also the year we started to think big: we developed publicity material like the first info brochure and an image film explaining the basics of SAME. This material has helped us spread the word about SAME, both within the individual organizations and to the outside world. We also realized that we needed a common goal to work towards, so we started elaborating on the Basic Common Principles to create the Quality Guidelines and Quality Questionnaire as tools every organization can use to evaluate themselves.

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It took a year’s hard work for the Quality Guidelines to reach completion. In this year, we learned about the importance of working groups and meetings throughout the year, as well as the intricacies of efficient communication. The next mayor milestone for SAME was the approval of the Quality Guidelines at and after the 2013 Summer Camp in Bassano Del Grappa, Italy. They now serve as a definition of good quality work within a SAME member organization and are a useful too both for member organizations wanting to improve the quality of their Action Day and for new Action Day initiatives. The guidelines offer them a set of concrete goals to work towards when setting up a new Action Day.  We left Bassano with two new working groups: the publicity WG and the strategy WG, whose mission was to develop promo material and to work on a plan for the future respectively.

The next Summer Camp took place in Bokrijk, Belgium. After finding out that Lukas Meyer, one of the founders of SAME had received the Schwarzkopf Foundation ‘Young European of the Year’ award for this work in the SAME network, we couldn’t be more motivated make this edition of Summer Camp a productive one. 2014 saw the first steps towards using our potential as a network (300 000 young people!) for a Common Action. Once again, the working groups showed us the results of their hard work: our logo and slogan were revealed, together with an elaborate proposal for our vision and aims. Now the base of the SAME network is consolidated, we want to reach to support new initiatives, but also go back to basics within the member organizations to see where there is still room for improvement. For this purpose, the Quality & New Initiatives working group was set up.

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2015 turned out to be the year of great breaktroughs for SAME: not only did we receive Erasmus+ funding to build strong foundations for our network by hosting physical working group meetings, we also held our very first General Assembly during the Summer Camp in Oslo as well as an extraordinary General Assembly in Brussels in November. During these General Assemblies, we consolidated ourselves as an official international non-profit association by agreeing on statutes, internal regulations and financial guidelines. Moreover, we established two governing bodies: a Secretariat responsible for the daily management of SAME and a Council which ensures the voice of the member organisations in the decision-making process. In the area of Quality and New Action Day Initiatives, we (1) moved further towards in-depth best practice exchange within SAME by establishing a one year European Voluntary Service between the Belgian and German Solidarity Action Day organisations and (2) worked intensively with two youth organisations in Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro who are planning to organise their first Action Day in 2016. On 20th November 2015, finally, SAME was formally and legally founded as an organization in Brussels.

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