An online survey carried out among IDEA CA’s alumni has shown that the organization is popular among young people. The respondents reported that the workshops and other events organized by IDEA CA taught them important soft skills such as critical thinking and argumentation and increased their overall civic awareness. Some respondents even linked their career success with IDEA CA’s projects; 41.7% of respondents reported that their career choices have been influenced by their participation in IDEA CA’s events.
43 out of 50 respondents said that attending events organized by IDEA CA was extremely useful for them, while the other seven respondents said that IDEA CA had been useful in their career and life to some extent.
The survey also revealed the extent of IDEA CA’s reach, with only 24 of participants being Kyrgyzstani citizens. The rest of the participants came from Tajikistan (10), Kazakhstan (9), Ukraine (3), Russia (3) and even Estonia (1).
The survey was carried out in February 2018 and focused on gathering participants’ feedback on nine projects organized by IDEA CA between 2011 and 2017. Some of the respondents had attended several IDEA CA events.
According to the results, the International Aitmatov Debate Academy (IADA) was the most popular IDEA CA event, with 39 of respondents attending it. IADA is a seven-day academy that includes sessions on debate and a debate tournament held at the end of the academy. The debate academy was launched in 2012 and has been held since on a regular basis, attracting youth from across Central Asia and other former Soviet countries. The aim of the academy is to teach critical thinking and argumentation skills among youth and to help them become active members of their communities.
Considering IADA’s popularity, it is no coincidence that critical thinking tops the list of skills that respondents reported to have acquired thanks to IDEA CA’s events. The overwhelming majority of respondents (44) evaluated the teaching of critical thinking as excellent. They also noted that they acquired analytical and evaluation skills. 39 respondents reported that they acquired an excellent level of argumentation skills, including the ability to convey their thoughts in a constructive manner and to listen to various points of views. 33 respondents reported that they improved their cooperation skills, learning how to find common ground with different people and how to carry out negotiations, resolve conflicts, and work in the team. Public speaking, civic awareness, media skills and research skills were also included on the list of skills that IDEA CA’s alumni acquired by attending IDEA CA’s various events.
The chart shows the number of skills that were evaluated as excellent by survey participants.
IDEA CA’s media camps are its second most popular event according to the survey, with 25 respondents reporting that they had attended such camps. A media camp is a two-week training program that teaches skills in the field of civic journalism (writing texts, video and photo reporting, ethics of journalism). Four of the respondents reported that they found jobs in media and journalism after attending a media camp and one the participants said that he had improved his online journalism skills following a camp.
Training of trainers (ToT) programs for debate ranked third for its popularity, with six respondents stating that they had attended such programs. ToT is a three-day training program that prepares debaters to become trainers. It is particularly useful for trainers from countries where debate culture is not yet well established.
Four participants had attended workshops on debate and forum-theater, making it the fourth most popular type of event.
Respondents also attended the Open Society Debates (televised debates – 3 participants), debate workshops and tournaments in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2014 (2 participants), Youth in Action (2 participants), and the Generation Democracy debates (debates between political party youth wings – 1 participant).
IDEA CA does not only teach its alumni soft skill; many respondents stressed that IDEA CA events helped them become more self-confident and improve their ability to communicate with people from various backgrounds. For some of them, IDEA CA’s events were their first exposure to an international environment. IDEA CA also increased their civil awareness.
In answer to the question ‘how has participating in IDEA CA’s projects changed your life?’, one respondent said, “[Having attended IDEA CA’s projects], I started viewing my country and my community in a different way. I no longer think that everything around me is bad. I just realized that there are many things around me that I must change.”
“I understood the importance of participating in the life of my own town – even if I do not do much to help,” said another respondent.
Yet another participant wrote, “I have decided to start my own projects and to travel across Central Asia. Participating in the projects removed the veil from my eyes and now the problems of the neighboring countries no longer seem distant to me.”
One of the respondents stressed the importance of the advocacy skills taught by IDEA CA, saying that she is currently advocating for the rights of the LGBT community in Bishkek as part of her job at a local organization.
The survey also showed that youth from both rural and urban areas are involved in IDEA CA’s projects. For example, 12 participants from Kyrgyzstan came from rural locations, while the other 12 participants were from Bishkek.
It should be noted that the age of respondents ranged from 16 (1 person) to 32 (1 person). 52% (26) of respondents were female while 48% (24) were male.
Author: Aisha Jabbarova, intern at IDEA CA