The International Academy for Diaconia and Social Action (interdiac) is a non-profit educational organisation that provides new opportunities for learning. It is orientated on the needs of actual and potential partners in Central and Eastern Europe. The base for the Academy is in Český Těšín - a border town at the corner of the triangle of 3 countries (Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Poland).

The vision of interdiac is to promote high quality training and to support life-long learning in the wider international context. It also wants to support specific research and development projects that will strengthen diaconia and social action in the region. The vision of learning which informs the work of interdiac starts with the learners’ own motivation and is grounded in diaconal values.

Therefore the interdiac has its focus on training which emphasizes:

  • The safeguarding and promotion of the human dignity of each person and considers the client as a subject (not the object) of social, diaconal or community development work.
  • Skills and strategies to support the participation and empowerment of excluded and marginalised people.
  • The need to influence social change, work for a society in diversity and to fight against social exclusion.

interdiac develops innovative approaches to learning and training. It is open to those who continue to work in their own places whilst studying as well as those who study full time at the interdiac.

interdiac uses local contexts as flexible learning environments. Therefore learning is close to ‘real working life' situations and interdiac will contribute to local and regional development.

In addition, interdiac aims to be a strong international actor in the field of diaconia and social services in the region of Central and Eastern Europe.

Motivation for Establishing interdiac

The founding organisations and the partner organisations identified the specific motivation for initiating learning and training activities in the region of Central and Eastern Europe:

Responding to new or newly recognized issues and rapidly changing phenomena: such as poverty, unemployment, violence in families, street children, child poverty, the aging of the population, migration, refugee movements, and civil conflict need new appropriate solutions. These problems may be addressed by professionals in diaconal and social service centres, local congregations and voluntary workers. However there is a need to develop new tools of analysis to understand the complex nature of social problems and to develop the skills needed for a participatory and empowering approach.

Developing methodological approaches to learning: There is a need to develop novel methodologies suited to the specific realities of different parts of the region and to utilize this know-how and analysis in training programmes. In this the partners of the Academy play a critical role. It is also vital that the training takes place in the context of long term relationships and is not restricted to ‘one-off’ events.

Building international cooperation: In the period up to 1989, (apart from some exceptions) there was no social service provision or diaconal work in the shape that it is known today in the eastern part of Europe. Therefore, international cooperation is considered to be very important. In the past, this focused mainly on cooperation with partner organisations in the western part of Europe. Methodological and financial supports were the key pillars of cooperation. Starting in 2006, after the period of little cooperation among the Central and Eastern European countries, the ‘Vysegrad’ conference of diaconal organisations was formed. It organised events aimed at the sharing of knowledge, experience and examples of good practice. This experience, coupled with the needs analysis survey undertaken by Silesian Diaconia, showed that a mutual long-term approach to learning would be a big benefit for all the partners, because of their similar historical and social background. A big interest in lifelong learning activities and vocational training was evident. The partnership with the first organisations involved in interdiac was developed from previous experience in multilateral or bilateral projects and since then the number of organisations involved has been growing.

interdiac builds up its programmes in partnership with those organisations in the region which support its aims. They form the interdiac Honorary Council that is an important element in the design and delivery of the work of the interdiac. This participatory structure ensures that the interdiac is responsive to the needs of the region.