Challenges of Increasing Refugee Crisis Awareness in Online Social Networks among Young People : Case of Albania

2017-05-18 (1)

Figures of refugee crisis have set off an alarm of humanitarian crisis. Albania is a country in the crossroad between Middle East and Western Europe. Refugee crisis is reality that it is not so distant from Albania. Young people lack of civic engagement initiative especially in social media platforms. They are digital born and open to learn.

This paper explores the importance of refugee crisis awareness from young people more precisely students in social media platforms and how online civic engagement can be increased. The study is based on students’ focus groups in Business Ethics classes at the University “Aleksadër Moisiu” Durrës, Albania.

The importance of youth civic engagement in the Albanian context

Youth civic engagement is influenced by different factors such as the antecedents of youth civic engagement such as family, educational system, peers, media and religion (Schulz et al., 2009) and the precedents which include civic learning and engagement competencies which are more related to education policies.

Youth Refugee Forum - MladiinfoYoung people in Albania are part of this millenials digital born generation who was born after the fall of communism and they grew up in period of economic and social transition which was reflected as well in the transformation of generational values. During the communism Eastern Bloc followed similar ideological and social values which was reflected on political and socioeconomic development. Civic participation features were the same in the Eastern Bloc(Howard, 2002) the regime imposed to the citizens to participate in civic activities which were organised by the state and which were state-controlled. There was an attempt to converge all political and social conviction of the citizens. Strong norms of civic participation were also promoted by media and young people were imposed to participate in youth organisations which promoted of form civic engagement which was imposed by the ideology (Coffe ́ and van der Lippe ,2009).

After the fall of communism, there are differences of youth civic engagement in Eastern European countries and Western European countries.The levels of engagement have always been higher in Western European countries. The routines of institutionalization were always higher in Western Europe, there is a culture of youth civic engagement. The trends are changing because youth civic engagement is increasing in Eastern European countries and it is declining in Western Europe, although there is still a lack of youth civic engagement culture especially South East European countries (Listhaug and Grønflaten ,2007). There is lack of trust in governmental mechanisms and governmental institutions in Eastern Europe and there is a low civic participation in South Eastern Europe. This affects youth civic participation.

Albanian is particular, young people do not only lack of a culture of civic engagement but they lack of awareness of civic engagement. After the fall of communism which is in a fact a form of manifestation of youth civic engagement in Albania because the merit was also of the students mass protests, there have not been memorable forms of youth civic engagement and youth civic participation. There were some movements such as Mjaft which were very popular at the beginning of 2000, or some memorable manifestation against the import of chemical arms in 2014. But it is impressive that there is not a massive youth civic engagement concerning issues that are directly related to youth such as for example the reform of higher education, violence, youth marginalization in youth policies etc.  There is not only a lack of youth civic engagement culture, there is as well lack of youth engagement awareness which is the most important determinant of the lack of youth engagement culture.

Online social media as a tool of youth civic engagement in Albania

2017-05-18Xenos et al(2014) conclude that there is a relationship between civic engagement and cultural and socioeconomic background of young people. Compared to other Eastern European countries there is a lack online civic engagement culture. Social media platforms are perceived as tools of sharing information and knowledge about sensitive topics but yet there is not active civic engagement in online social networks. There are youth movements which are active online but there is not a wave of voluntary civic engagement in social media platforms.

The need of refugee crisis awareness for young people in Albania

There have several projects at the European level from different European countries in order to rise crisis awareness and to implement concrete help to refugees. Initiatives involve different stakeholders such international organization, civil society, academia, government agencies and local communities. Some of these initiatives are Refugees for Refugees and Science  for Refugees. There are several initiatives that include youth but one interesting initiative can be youth for young refugees. Social media platform can be an effective way for rising awareness amongst young people and creating such initiatives as young people are active and sensitive users those platforms.

This paper explores how can students be mentored and e-mentored effectively in order to use social media platforms and especially online social networks in order to rise refugee crisis awareness amongst students in Albania.

Research Methodology

The idea of this paper came out while students of the third in Business Administration at the “University Aleksandër Moisiu” Durrës were have mini-debate about discrimination during the course of Business Ethics during fall semester 2015. A student stated that she does not discriminate anyone but she is scared of the flood of migrants and refugees that come to Albania because reality according to her was not like shown in the picture in social media. My idea was then to organize some focus groups where students could discuss what it is actually shown to them  about refugee crisis in online social media.

This study is a qualitative study it based in analyzing focus groups from Business Administration student discussion during the course of Business Ethics  at the University “Aleksandër Moisiu” Durrës ,Albania.

Results and discussion

uchi-za-veb-sodrzhini-i-patuvaj-so-mladiinfoLack of culture of awareness in using  social media platforms for civic engagement  students understood what it is civic engagement and civic participation but for them the only way to be good citizen is to respect not engage because they fear that their actions will not have an impact. Social media platforms were more perceived as entertaining tools.

Confusion around refugee crisis awareness students were confused around the refugee crisis, they consider themselves as open and hospitable but they feel that there is a lack of information around refugee crisis in general in Albania. Students were open to engage in online initiatives such as young people in Albania for young refugees. Many of them would even volunteer in refugee camps.

Need for e-mentoring and guidance students feel that they need developing online competencies through academic e-mentoring for a better engagement in online youth civic engagement.

Conclusion

This paper explores the need of  youth online civic engagement for refugee crisis awareness amongst young people in Albania. Results from focus group sessions suggest that young people are aware about refugee crisis but somehow they are confused especially while using social media for awareness. Academic e-mentoring for developing online civic engagement for refugee crisis is suggests. The main limit of the study is its generalization, Further research and policy recommendation path is the development of online competencies for civic engagement.

Written by: Oliana Sula Lecturer and Researcher at the Departement of Management, Faculty of Business at the University “Aleksandër Moisiu” in Durrës, Albania

Edited by: Ema Jakimovska

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