Youth and History – the Project's History

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The History of the Project
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The first meeting of interested colleagues invited to Bergen November 28th to December 1st 1991, was hosted by {Magne Angvik} and sponsored by The Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities (NAVF) and {Bergen College of Higher Education}. 12 persons from 9 countries were present. The project idea was received with great enthusiasm by all participants, and the initiators were asked to develop the project further, to apply for money and prepare a common questionnaire. To all the involved persons it was very important to secure a sufficient participation from Eastern Europe, and {László Kéri}, {Institute for Political Science of the Hungarian Academy of Science}, Budapest, was asked to take the responsibility for this task.

Since he was managing the project, {Magne Angvik} got the responsibility for conducting the work of developing a common questionnaire for a planned pretest, and {Bodo von Borries} was asked to take care of analyzing the results of this test. Furthermore, the initiators planned to meet again about one year later.

The pretest was arranged in spring 1992 involving the following 9 countries: Norway, Sweden, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Italy, France, Germany and Great Britain. 900 students, most of them attending the 8th class, participated. The preliminary results were presented by{ Bodo von Borrie}s at the second conference of the project at Tisvildeleje near Copenhagen November 26th to 29th 1992, with {Vagn Oluf Nielsen} as host. The conference was sponsored by NAVF. At this meeting 12 persons from 10 countries participated. The results of the pretest were so encouraging that the meeting decided to accomplish a full scale investigation on national samples from some more countries in Europe as soon as possible.

We were aiming at a conference for all persons involved approximately once a year, and the next conference for the involved persons in the project was held at Alcsutdoboz, Hungary October 21st to 24th, 1993.{ László Kéri} was our host, and at the meeting sponsored by The Hungarian National Scientific Research Fund (OTKA) 14 persons from 12 countries took part.

In 1994 our meeting for the persons involved in the project was held at Suitia, Finland, from August 25th to 28th, with {Sirkka Ahonen} as hostess. The meeting was sponsored by {The National Board of Education} in Finland, and attended by 20 participants from 15 countries.

Until 1994 the expansion of the number of participating countries had been moderate. The next year the number exploded, and at the conference in 1995 in Bolzano/Bozen in Italy October 5th to 8th, 34 participants from 23 countries took part. The meeting was sponsored by the{ Körber Foundation}, Germany, and {Franz Lanthaler}, responsible for an investigation among bilingual students in South Tyrol, was our host.

As 1996 was going to be the year for planning the first common publication of the project, we were hoping to be able to arrange two conferences, and we managed to do so. The first one was held at Sde Boker, Israel, May 26th to 29th, partly sponsored by {Ben Gurion University of the Negev}. With {Dan Bar-On} as our host. 30 persons from 22 countries were present.

Our second conference in 1996 took place in Delphi, Greece, October 10th to 13th, partly sponsored by The Greek Ministry of Culture, with {Thalia Dragona}s and {Anna Frangoudaki} as our hostesses. 26 persons from 19 countries participated.

These details on the annual meetings are mentioned above because of the importance of the conferences in our project. Democracy and cooperation are two key words in the organisation of the project. To participate means a lot of extra work and burdens the persons involved with a lot of responsibility. Therefore a body with all the persons involved with open discussions and democratic decisions is very important as a forum where one can influence the work. As the project has developed the participants have been brought into the decision making as much as possible. The meetings have therefore functioned as a „general assembly“ giving the participants „ownership“ to the project and giving the leaders of the group suggestions and recommendations for future work. The questionnaire has e.g. been discussed at many meetings: Everyone had the possibility to propose and formulate questions (some used this possibility to a high extent) and decisions concerning the content of the questionnaire were often taken through majority voting.

There is only a small full-time staff in the project, all at the Analysing Center of the project at the {University of Hamburg}, Germany. The central management of the project is located at {Bergen College of Higher Education}, Bergen, Norway, where cand.polit. Bjørn Tafjord was engaged as assistant for one year in 1994/95.

In each of the participating countries a {National Coordinator} (NC) is responsible for the organising of all the necessary work in that country. The NCs represent a variety of subjects, such as history, education, sociology, psychology, statistics etc., working at universities, colleges of higher education, independent research institutions, polling institutions etc. Together we form a team with a variety of competence and experience, all representing only ourselves and our personal opinions not the government or some ideology or political institution in our country.

It is one of the peculiarities of this research-project and one of its strengths that the community of researchers was (and still is) quite heterogeneous. We all have met in this project on the basis of a common interest coming not only from different nations and cultures, but also with different disciplines and traditions of research, education and teaching. This situation may create difficulties and problems. Our different perspectives constitute differing reasons for our participation in the project: we will see different possibilities in the data, and we will present our findings in different ways. A historian, being familiar to the hermeneutical approach and interpretation, will give another type of description than a social scientist, operating with quantitative methods and being used to interpretation of and argumentation with statistical analyses. This mixture of approaches can therefore easily be seen from this report.

Most of the participating researchers were mainly working on their own or with only a small staff or some students helping them. Because of this situation, we are very much dependent of the work being done at the Analysis Centre, in Hamburg (led by{ Bodo von Borrie}s, management by {Andreas Körber}), where the main part of data processing and of the first and general comparative analyses were carried out. Furthermore, the Norsk Social Science Data Service ({NSD}) provided the National Coordinators with advice and comments regarding the sampling schemes (including the securing of their representativity and compatibility) as well as the data entry module.

Almost all the NCs already have or will surely have colleagues being interested in participating in special analyses of the data.

One of the great advantages of our project-organisation is the lack of bureaucracy. The national coordinators have a personal interest and have invested their own labour force in the project, and are pushing on to obtain results as soon as possible. Therefore our time has been used in a very efficient way: within 5 years after the idea was discussed for the first time, researchers in 26 countries have access to data from all the countries involved and have the possibility to work in a network with colleagues all over Europe on the same data.

But the economy, however, is a very complicating factor when a project is developing in this way. We started the project with four empty hands, and especially the first years our lack of funding limited our work. The participants in the project were invited to take part only if they could pay the costs for the national investigation with their own national money, and this situation has limited the total number of the participating countries, and influenced the time at which many of the countries could enter the project. The costs of the national part of the survey have been covered by national funds, institutions, universities or colleges. The expenses of the central management as well as the central analyses of the data are partly paid for by the host institutions, strongly supported by national and international organisations and funds. Among the sponsors of the central work, the Körber-Foundation in Hamburg has a prominent place.

{Magne Angvik}

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