The Youth Section at the Goetheanum’s research project that seeks to understand the questions, motivations and values driving today’s youth into a common future.
If the Youth Section at the Goetheanum were a treasure box, its golden prize would certainly be the questions that day after day young people bring with them to our Dornach House, our conferences and our projects. These questions are truly a treasure, for they serve as magic keys that open the doors to inquiry, to knowledge, to understanding one-self, others and the world surrounding us. They set us in motion; they activate our search, leading us to experiences that change our lives and the way we act in the world. This is what we do at the Youth Section: we are explorers of our own enquiries, and in the past year we have been particularly focused with this one: what would the world look like in 2030 if what lives within me becomes a reality, and what will I do to make it happen?
This is the frame question of our first research project, titled Re-Search: The Spiritual Striving of Youth – Defining our Reality. The project was born as an invitation for young people to enter a journey of inquiry about the nature of beingyoung, the quality of the times we live in and the impact that we – the members of the younger generations – have in the shaping of experience. The frame question was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s address to the youth of 1924 when they sought advice in how to consolidate the Youth Movement. He encouraged them to imagine what the world would be like in 1935 if their youthful wishes and aspirations would become reality, in the hope that its answer would give them clarity about how to approach their initiative more concretely.
As a youth-led project, it is young people who are in charge of the entire process of research. Supported by experts in the fields of sociology, Anthroposophy, philosophy and education, we have designed the questions, the methodologies used to obtain data and the way to analyse content. We will also be the authors in collaboration with our mentors of a publication to come out later this year. The study already counts with the testimonies of forty men and women aged 18 – 35, from 23 different nationalities and different socio-economic backgrounds. Their Anthroposophical background also varies, with 45% of our interviewees being new to Anthroposophy (i.e. discovered it in the past 5 years), 28% having grown within an Anthroposophical context (attended Waldorf education, family involved with the Movement) and another 28% not being linked at all to Spiritual Science.
The data has been collected through in-depth interviews lasting up to two hours in length, where participants are invited to take us through their biographical journey. Through open-ended questions, we allow them to spontaneously describe their experience of reality up to the moment that we meet in the interview and then, we further explore those experiences that have made a special impact in them. The study also counts on the data generated through journals created by young participants during a period of five months in which they answered guiding questions established by a professional specialised in artistic-creative methods applied to research. The contents of the journals have been analysed by the research workshop of Alanus University’s Sociology Department, composed of social research students focused on the development and implementation of new research methods.
Those who volunteer to be interviewed for the study are guided by a peer through a process that breaks down our framework question what would the world look like in 2030 if what lives within me becomes a reality, and what will I do to make it happen? As researchers, this allows us to gain a wide scope of context of the individuals talking to us, as we look into the past, the present and the future of a person, from the perspective of his or her inner experience, as well as their vision of outer world events. The purpose is not to answer what future reality will actually be like, something practically impossible given the wonderfully changing and surprising nature of life; but to understand how the young person perceives reality today, how experiences impact them and what are the values and motivations informing the every-day actions that shape the future they want to see for themselves and the world.
In this project, we, young people, become researchers and subjects of observation every time that we encounter each other in a dynamic of interviewer-interviewee that challenges all preconceptions of the scientist-subject relationship. In our experiments, we come together as equals that create something new in each encounter where the objective is not only to find simple answers, but to pour out our experiences to another, to guide each other in exploration through active listening and to unveil our inmost self through the words that we speak to each other.
After the interviews have been completed, our objective is to attentively observe our participants’ stories one by one in depth, in order to understand who is the being behind the words, who is that which experiences reality and how have their values and ideas shaped their vision of the world they find themselves living in. As we encounter their words, we ask ourselves questions such as: what has guided them through life up until now? What has influenced them? What have they internalised as theirs? What questions have arisen in them and what answers have they found? What has the individual created out of their own initiative and what decisions have they made for themselves or in loyalty to others? What do they wish to do and what actions do they undertake to make this a reality? What obstacles arise in their striving? ….
In the next few months, we will be publishing the results of this thrilling journey of encounter between young people. We hope to inspire readers of all generations to look at youth in a new light and to accompany us in the next steps of our re-search, a journey towards re-discovering the questions that will help us build the kind of future we wish for ourselves and the world.