Workshops at the CATS Conference

Becky Warnock, Projects Manager at PhotoVoice talks about her experiences at a conference this summer.

In July, Tom and I were lucky enough to spend a week in the beautiful Swiss town of Caux, attending the annual CATS conference. CATS stands for Children As Actors for Transforming Society; set up by Child to Child, EuroChild, Universal Education Foundation and Initiatives of Change. The vision of the conference is ‘a world where children, young people and adults are working together in mutual respect towards a more just, inclusive and sustainable society where all can realise their fundamental human rights and potential.’

We were there to run a series of 4 workshops with participants of the conference, working with both children and adults; encouraging an atmosphere of equal dialogue and mutual learning in line with the wider conference aims. In our workshop, entitled ‘Representation to Participation’; we worked with the group to encourage everyone to identify as activists in issues that affect them and other people around them, using photography as their tool for change.

Our group were warm and engaged and all had interesting contributions and opinions to share in the workshop. It was a new experience for PhotoVoice, as in the group we had people from 5 different languages and all different ages. But, they had all fully invested in the ethos of CATS, and were committed to the idea of mutual learning and sharing between both adults and children. Although many were initially apprehensive, they engaged well with photography and produced some great presentations and images. In our final evaluation, 90% of participants felt extremely confident about using photography to help share important messages about issues that affect them; so seemingly the workshops were a great success for them too!

When not in workshops, we got involved in some of the brilliant other activities as part of the wider conference. Highlights included the Human Library, where participants from around the world became ‘living books’ and told listeners stories from their culture or shared an interactive case study of their work. It was a wonderful chance to listen to people from all over the world.

CATS was a great opportunity for PhotoVoice; we met many amazing new people, and it was evident the amount of work that had gone into the experience. The varied background and diversity of the attendees is testament to the wide reach and commitment of the CATS team to its ethos. Our workshop group were brilliant to work with and we enjoyed the experience a lot. It’s always so refreshing to see the world through the eyes of children and hear the voices of young people confidently tell their stories and share their opinions; set all this in a beautiful castle-come-conference centre looking over Lake Geneva and I think you have a great project!