See the interview on YouTube (in Russian)

INTERRA has been working for more than 10 years so far. If I am not mistaken, it was established in 2004. But now your main activities are probably connected with urban space. How did you decide to start with topic?
I wouldn’t say that we mainly focus on urbanism. We still perceive ourselves as an organization, which is involved in non-formal education and international exchange projects. It is a different matter that this is often not too clear to people. But when we start communicating to our counterparts on another level by saying that ‘we are here for our city’ or that ‘we just want to make it better’, the positive effect and the positive impact evolve and people show their willingness to collaborate. They get interested in the topic. Generally speaking, all the topics that we were dealing with before could have incorporated in the urban space, because this subject is really broad – ranging from the space as such to decision-making procedures, cooperation of different people and different minorities. It is really a huge field of work. Everything that is de facto covered by the civic non-formal education is just simply included in urbanism, in the topic about the city. This subject is quite clear to people and this is a trendy topic in Siberia nowadays.
We have to explain what we are doing, ie in which field we provide international exchanges or programmes for young people. Afterwards, we spread this information. Talking about the city is largely talking about the urban space. It is important for us that people would inclusively work at the topic. There are a lot of local and regional programmes, which support youth initiatives, but they mostly are organised in the form of idea competitions, ie they are not educational programmes. And so, we receive complaints that applications are not of such a good quality, they are not interesting, or they copy each other. The organisers don’t get good or cool ideas, which would have a positive effect. That’s why we noticed how education was important in that case. When talking about urbanism, education is quite important for understanding various things.
Can you, please, clarify, from which moment the urban aspect has become a part of your activities? Indeed, you have been working not only in Krasnoyarsk but in the entire Siberian region. What are the most successful and interesting projects having implemented by you in recent years?
We mostly work in Krasnoyarsk. When we don’t work in the city, we usually do in the Krasnoyarsk Region, as long as we are a regional organisation. But we also work with participants within a Siberia-wide programme, as long as INTERRA is one of the organisers of that. When we arrange international trips, we also work with the whole region. In this case, a topic may be both urban space or youth work, or any other topic. I would say that the most interesting things that make an impression are not just meetings or seminars. It is about such projects, when people can create something, for instance, in the urban space.
One of our latest examples is the Russian-German Project “Summerhouse”. On the one hand, it was connected with the urban space and creation of a certain public space for the dialogue in the course of cultural events. On the other hand, this collaborative activity contributes much to learning activities. In my opinion, such projects, when the participants do something together, are the most successful ones. Basically, we have the projects within the field of adventure learning, when people can feel the group affiliation. There are a lot of non-formal education elements there, though it is called “adventure learning”.
As regards our projects, we may be proud of an urban forum for young professionals, which was held last year, – “Open School of Urban Change”. This year, another project will be carried out – “Territory of Changes. IDEAstvui”, at which we will also discuss the city. Both projects deal with adventure learning that turn out to be the most bright ones and change them. Besides, I can mention the “Velosophy” Project, which was implemented in cooperation with our partner from Hamburg last year. Young people rid bicycles, covered 500 km and simultaneously had educational meetings and discussions. They talked about the Fall of the Berlin Wall and its consequences and made comparisons to the developments of Russia in those times. For the majority of the participants, it was a chance to think of these topics, that they have probably never thought of before – due to the lack of opportunities to do that.
Completely unexpectedly to us, we have demand for projects, which are related to participation of young professionals or just professionals in exchange programmes. It seems to us that future belongs to this kind of things. Lately, we have started the application procedure for the participation in the project for youth work professionals. As of today, we have more applications from people than we can approve. There will be a competition now – and this is in those times, when people don’t necessarily want to take part in international projects. Nevertheless, we see that people are interested.
This year you were a Coordinator of the workshop on urban space at the Forum for Young Professionals “Europe Lab”. What did you get from that project? And what was your impression from communication to young people from Russia, the EU, Eastern Partnership countries, and other states?
For me, it was a very productive workshop, as long as a new network of contacts evolved, which I didn’t have before. So, now we work with a partner in Novokuznetsk at implementation of the “Social Lab” Project. I also completed a 1-day internship in Lviv at the Yaryna Melnyk’s organisation, who make absolutely amazing things on revitalisation of an old city district. As far as I understand, a lot of such connections among participants emerged there. It was the main task for me, when we were organising this workshop. This was hard to create something explosive and pervasive in the course of just three days, when people didn’t know each other before. But when they arrived, we asked them why they had decided to come and many answered that they were willing to share best practices and make new contacts. We lack such things on the level of young professionals. This start at “Europe Lab” aimed at creating such networks is a very good thing. I am still in contact with some of the participants and have a feedback from them that they also communicate with each other. I believe that we should think more of conceptual things next year, because we wanted to fix too many things in just 3 days this year. Yet, it was good for a pilot project.
Why is it important to INTERRA to be a part of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum?
INTERRA joined the Forum, because we had noticed that the network of active Russian organisations had been about to be founded there. To tell the truth, the Russian network was more interesting to me at that time than an international one, because we had had international partners already. We understood that our organisation didn’t have unlimited resources – either financial or human ones – to implement a lot of projects. But we needed a Russian network. I can’t say that the situation is much more better nowadays than it used to be before. But it definitely improved thanks to our membership in the Forum. On the other hand, we need more people from EU organisations to be a part of our group on citizenship education now. This is a matter of our work, we need our colleagues from the European Union to be in the Forum. It seems to me that it should be implemented on the level of mutual actions in solving practical problems and not on the political one, where there is no chance to have an impact on the dialogue between the EU and Russia now. We should start stable relations among professionals and provide share of our experiences, to have cooperation projects, and to involve more people in our activities.
And my last question: What would you like to wish to Forum’s members?
I wish them not to lose their motivation, do something now and be confident that we still possess opportunities for improving the situation and changing it for the best, also concerning the EU-Russia dialogue. We shouldn’t take the side of those, who say that nothing is possible and call on to stop. Even if the dialogue is not so active, even if the interaction is not so strong, it is much better to go on than to do nothing.
Thank you for this interview.

The interview was shot on 24 September 2015 by the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.