By Max Menkenhagen and Thomas Gits
As with every international IYNF event, the first step in this years’ Planning Weekend was to reach the venue: the Naturefriends house in Feldberg, located on the biggest mountain in the Black Forest. With a cozy meeting room, wonderful wooden-furnished rooms (some even with balconies), a breath-taking view and its philosophy of ‘smooth tourism’, meaning that tourism is regulated in an environmentally friendly way and food and drinks are bio and regional, this lovely mountain hut proved to be the ideal venue for this year’s Planning Weekend, held from 21st to 26th of October.
The strike of the German union of train operators and the pilots of Lufthansa made reaching the hut not necessarily easy. Another obstacle was the weather: heavy storms wore down the participants that attempted to reach the venue by bike, so in the end plans had to be changed. Anyways, once all participants reached the top of the mountain – thanks to the devoted shuttle service by Axel, active member of the local Naturefriends who also delighted us with his cooking skills – the planning weekend could unfold into a celebration of creativity and enthusiasm.
Under the motto of ‘Urban Outdoors’, a diversified program ensured that nobody would get bored. The overall topics tackled in the lines of this motto included the adverse socio-economic and ecological effects of urbanization and ways of anticipating and mitigating these. ‘Sustainable Urban Future’ was one of the sessions where we’ve learned that since 2008 more than half of the world population lives in cities and this will keep increasing during the next decades. Therefore we had the chance to create a fictional future city which tackles the challenges of today. Personally I’ve learned that there are many different solutions for the same kind of problems.
Members of IYNF Presidium and the Secretariat, representatives from partner and member organisations, as well as volunteers got to know each other and exchange ideas, brainstorm upcoming projects and developments, discuss their implementation, and enjoy some time in the mountains. In the past many projects have been created by a short (informal) talk with interested people, others started with just one email. Due to the facilitation of our excellent trainers Alena Capova and Friedrich Köckert, there was space and time for some projects to finalize their next steps. Others found possible venues and partners for their activity, while some still needed some time to develop and work on the final goal of their project ideas.
Other sessions included games for getting to know each other, developing projects, workshops on urban resilience and upcycling, networking sessions for connecting and inspiring each other, voluntary work inside and outside to support the venue, and of course time in nature, either alone or in a group.
During this time, we saw every facet of the weather: after a stormy and foggy beginning, the top of the mountain got covered in snow, to the delight of many people. Two days later the sun came out to warm us all up for the final days and you could smell the feeling of summer in the air. It didn’t really matter if you’re a summer or a winter-person, in the end there was something for everyone.
As tradition in IYNF meetings, the Planning Weekend was ended with a charity event. Especially for this occasion, the local Naturefriends group (Naturfreunde Baden) came up on ‘our’ mountain to provide us delicious cocktails. Equipped like this we turned the mountain hut into a proper dancehall and celebrated our successful gathering with a night full of music and dance, including the friendly staff of the house and some of its other guests. All in all, by having a lot of fun together, we gathered a generous amount of money to be donated to PRO ASYL, a German NGO that gives a voice to refugees’ concerns and works for the protection of their rights.