NECSE (Northern European Cooperation of Sex Education projects) is a 4 day event that is generally regarded as having achieved legendary status amongst previous attendees. Its success lies in two main features; professionally, its core raison d’etre is to provide an accessible forum in which student-led RSE (relationships and sex education) projects can exchange teaching methods and collaborate to the consequent benefit of everyone’s projects, and socially quite simply put – it’s awesome! The bare bones of the matter are 67 delegates, 11 countries, 1 hosting nation and 4 days of sleep deprivation.
The premise is simple, we all have similar(ish) projects and we all come from culturally similar countries (Northern Europe – I’m not so sure about this particular premise but we’ll let it slide for now!) so instead of us repeating each other’s mistakes and reinventing the wheel we joined forces to strengthen our armoury of teaching methods. To this end, each of the eleven countries in attendance have a 90 minute slot to present one of their home-grown teaching methods to the rest of the delegates. This can range from icebreakers to basic anatomy, new approaches or completely new topics, this exercise is not only beneficial for the delegates but for the presenting country too as we all give feedback on the quality of the method content and the facilitation skills of the volunteers. For me this is the most exciting and certainly the greatest strength of NECSE; mutual learning is basically what we do, after all we do claim to be peer-educators.
In addition to the method exchanges each NECSE has an educational theme, and this year we’re examining sexual morality. We talk to young people every day about relationships and sex, most of what we discuss is not black or white, in pretty much every session I facilitate I find myself in grey zones and that’s because culturally we have so many ‘norms’. Whilst attempting to navigate through these grey zones with a group of young people it becomes nigh on impossible to remain non-judgemental and completely impartial unless you have 1) A firm grasp of both sides of the issue and 2) A thorough knowledge of your personal sexual morality. So for me this theme is brilliant, it’s set to challenge our viewpoints, force us to examine our own feelings and past experiences, and all with the aim of making us better peer-educators.
We’re taught in medical school to reflect on everything we do and the possible reasoning why, it’s intended (at least at the beginning our of medical education) to force us to wheedle out any underlying prejudices we might have, with the knowledge that everyone has prejudices we just need to identify them in order to prevent ourselves from acting on them. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do at NECSE this year, Dave our Educational Coordinator extraordinaire has gone straight for the jugular and is tackling our preconceived ideas about sex work, teen pregnancy and HIV transmission. He’s doing this with the help of some truly thought-provoking speakers and evening debates between delegates. I cannot wait to see where these discussions take us; this is where I think the phrase ‘culturally similar countries’ will prove a little off the mark!
So there’s the logistics of the monster that is the NECSE conference, and we’re the lucky guys who get to host our European friends in the stunning Peak District. Because of the rather hectic nature of the Sexpression:UK National Coordinator job I’ve only taken on a minor role in the NECSE Organising Committee, but I’ve watched as these guys have worked incredibly hard to bring our guests a NECSE to rival all NECSEs and the pressure has been huge. BUT (and I’m sure I’m completely biased) I have a feeling it’s going to be up there with the best.
If you want to see the methods we pick up from NECSE, there’ll be a new folder in box.com so you can share in the exchange. This will be available after the conference has ended. If you’re interested in attending NECSE next year in Denmark – eeek! Then contact me firstname.lastname@example.org