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Solving the challenges about self-esteem, mental health and balance in the local community

Reševanje izzivov samopodobe, mentalnega zdravja in ravnovesja v lokalni skupnosti (Solving the challenges about self-esteem, mental health and, balance in the local community)

10th January 2024, Koper (Slovenia)

Youth Community Leaders: Ana Markežič, Taja Kavčič

Scenario description

In today’s fast-moving world made of a flood of social networks, fake news and created standards, more and more young people are faced with a broken self-image, which in turn affects poorer mental health and broken balance. It is necessary to address these challenges and listen to young people so that they can share their experiences and suggestions. Many young people are not aware of how they can participate and be more active in their local community, at the same time they do not know who to address questions to and where to start. Sometimes they need a little encouragement and direction on who to turn to and begin to realize the impact they have. We tried to show them and link them with institutions that are opening new possibilities.

Community description

The workshop was attended by students aged 20 to 22. They came from the Faculty of Education at the University of Primorska. As they are training to become future pedagogues, it is important to address the challenges that young people face (in this case, the focus was on self-esteem, mental health, and balance).


A total of 30 participants attended the event.

Stakeholders included:

  • Matej Vukovič: Professor and Head of the Pedagogical Cathedra at the University of Primorska
  • Boštjan Lužnik: Psychotherapist
  • Valentina Novak: Former Head of the Student Organization in Koper
  • Jasna Ratoša: Head of the Coastal–Karst Region NGO Hub


12:00 – 13:00

Welcome and Greetings (5 min)

Icebreaker/ Energizer (10 min)

Ask participants to form a circle.

Ask everyone to tell their name, special talent, and what they are good at (for example: “Hello. I am Taja and my special talent is creative writing.”

Introduction of the initiative (as part of CHLaYdosope, a project to develop skills related to the community leader profile) (20 min)

Introducing the Youth Leaders Academy and experience in Portugal (10 min)

Introduction of the methodology Problem/Solution tree (10 min)

Division into Groups of 5 people (5min)

13:05 – 13:55

Problem tree

Working groups (45 min)

14.00 – 14.30

Solution tree

Working groups (30 min)

14:35 – 15:00

Groups presented their problem and solution tree (5 min each) and Evaluation

Tools and/or Methodologies used

Before the Local Lab

– We met with the participants of Youth Leaders Academy to define a clear purpose for our Local Lab and together we identified the topics/challenges that we want to address

– We gave a title to the workshop to make the topic and the focus clear and appealing

– We identified the stakeholders to invite (coach, therapist and representative of the student organization)

– We identified the date and the place to have the Local Lab

– We drafted the agenda and identified the methodology to be used in line with the workshop purpose.

During the Local lab

At the beginning of the workshop we first introduced the project, the Competency Profile of Youth Community Leader workbook and How to Become a Youth Community Leader training package that they can use and linked the Competency profile of a Youth Leader with the methodology we will use.

After that our participant in the Youth Leaders Academy shared her experience from Portugal, and talked about the reasons why she joined the project, what she gained from it and what were her next steps after the academy.

Then we introduced the methodology that we will use in the workshop.

The Problem/Solution Tree: A useful tool that helps to understand complex challenges, and to find appropriate solutions by mapping out the cause and effect of the challenges we were referring to: How youth perceive their problems, self-reflection, what solutions they suggest, and how to empower them.


We introduced the selected topics (Self-esteem, mental health, and balance) to which they will be defining specific challenges connected to the local environment (if they feel supported or not) and finding solutions to them.


Once the participants were sat down by their groups they started working on their challenge, first searching for the causes and outcomes it brings. After that, they rewrote their challenge more positively and again searched for positive causes and outcomes.

After the Local lab:

Questionnaire, as an online tool, to collect feedback on the workshop held and the participants’ future goals and dreams.

In the end everyone sat down in the circle and on the count of three everyone showed one mimic that reflected their feelings.


The workshop identified college students (ages 20 – 22). The aim was to get a youth’s point of view and perspective on the identified challenges (how they perceive themselves, mental health, and balance between their social, personal and school/work life) and to empower them to be aware of their potential, raise their voice and participate in their local communities.

Participants delved into the given topics (each two groups were given the same topic) and first did the problem tree on the topic and after also the solution tree.

At the end, each group presented the results and ideas that they came up with. Most of them pointed out that there is a problem in the school system and high restrictions at the faculties, which results in a smaller number of qualified personnel for therapists and psychologists. This is connected to services that are more difficult to access, private therapists, which also cost more and are difficult to access for students. They also suggested that the professors at the faculties could coordinate better between themselves and that they would not all give them tasks at the same time, this would result in a better balance between free time and other obligations among students. At the same time, they would be less stressed and have more time for leisure activities.  This would also be a possibility for improved mental health and success in school.

They suggested more open communication both among themselves and with important decision-makers (e.g. professors), the inclusion of their program and content proposals for workshops in already established platforms for young people, proposals for the creation of support study groups and quality workshops for young people, as well as a group of female participants came up with the idea for the magazine “I’m okay, you’re okay”, which would break the myths and expectations created by society.

Tips from Ana Markežič, Taja Kavčič

As a first step, it is a good idea to identify what challenges your local community faces. The next step is to see if anything is already being done to solve the challenge. Then you need to see whether there is anyone in your local community (municipality, University, local businessman, or other specific stakeholders that they identify with the recognized challenge), who would be interested in organizing the workshop and offering support (financially, space, accessories, useful contacts, and connections, etc.). When you educate yourself on the challenge it will be easier to identify the potential stakeholders who will give the workshop even more content and relevant solutions to the challenge.

You need to approach the whole process of organizing a local lab step by step. It can also be useful to read the manual Learn How to Become a Youth Community Leader where you can research which methodology would be best for solving the challenge you recognized. After choosing the methodology, you can decide on the right place and time for the workshop start promoting the Local Lab and communicate it with the target groups you recognize that can identify with the challenge.

During the workshop, create a safe space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, opinions, and experiences.

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