Idea Factory Second Conference Discusses Youth Participation

What is preventing youth from participating in society, and how can they change the future? These were the questions that dominated the second student conference held by the Idea Factory – a Birzeit University student initiative – on October 26, 2016.

The conference, “Made in Birzeit - Organic Thoughts,” kicked off with remarks by Vice President for Academic Affairs Henry Giacaman, head of the Idea Factory Initiative Mudar Kassis, and director of Henrich Boll Stiftung in Ramallah, Bettina Marx.

Giacaman said the university is determined to run a wide range of programs and initiatives that help students engage with their community and the international community. Such initiatives encourage and drive student’s critical and independent thinking, and enable them to stay alert and aware of the socioeconomic and political needs of Palestine.

Kassis talked about the interdisciplinary approach adopted by the initiative, which creates a secular space and allows students from different disciplines to discuss controversial issues in open debates, seminars and conferences critically and independently, so they can make a difference in their reality and future.

Marx expressed her enthusiasm at being a part of the Idea Factory. She reaffirmed Henrich Boll’s mission to support initiatives that promote critical and independent thinking that is free of political or religious restrictions. Henrich Boll, according to Marx, seeks strategic partnerships to achieve sustainability, democracy and human rights, self-determination and justice worldwide.

The conference discussed crucial issues related to the Palestinian education system, addressing new modern methods of teaching, and discussing the role of instructors in changing the educational system. Panelists also discussed the definition of “alienation” as it relates to youth’s participation in the political sphere, the absence of a revolutionary discourse, and women’s freedom within the neoliberal era.

The conference reviewed the Palestinian identity and how it is affected by normalization attempts, the role of revolutionary movements in the Arab world and Palestine, and their sovereignty in the presence of the state, class and nationalism. The rights of Palestinians inside Israel and the role of the Palestinian national movement in reinforcing and maintaining the national identity were also discussed.