07 December, 2011

We volunteer, we learn

Sharing inspiration, ideas and resources, exchanging good practices, building on each other's strengths: that's all part of our INVEST project, a Grundtvig Learning Partnership. In the mail today we were happy to receive the link to the visual recording of our recent first meeting in Madrid. Our Spanish partner Cibervoluntarios was the producer of this short video , for a longer video recording of the talk we had with two Spanish cybervolunteers, click here. For dissemination purposes Cibervoluntarios designed this poster and brochure cover: And here's the full brochure text of the INVEST project outlining the aims and activities of this Grundtvig Learning Partnership, financially supported by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme.

05 December, 2011

the beauty of a Grundtvig Learning Partnership

By now, based on my experiences of the last 4 years, I've become a great fan of Grundtvig Learning Partnerships! Having recently returned from the first meeting in a new European project of this type I feel I must share this idea here.
Grundtvig ?? Nicolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783–1872) was a Danish clergyman and writer. He advocated 'life enlightenment', aimed at giving each individual, regardless of age or background, the opportunity to learn throughout life. The objective of learning was twofold: to give personal fulfillment to the individual and to ensure the active participation of all citizens in public life.
As a learning method, Grundtvig advocated the use of dialogue and the spoken word. He further believed that teaching should be based on and related to real-life experiences and not abstract matters.
The spirit of Grundtvig is clearly present within the idea of the learning partnerships as the main focus is placed on relationships and face-to-face communication.
Being a participant in such a partnership comes down to learning on many fronts, from and about the European context, while sharing and collaborating on common issues in an innovative way. It allows you to see for yourself the actual context in which your European counterparts operate on a daily basis. In learning partnerships the emphasis is clearly on the process of European cooperation and the enrichment of everyday practice through professional exchange and partnering.
In contrast to multilateral projects there is not the administrative burden of documenting every single item and the strict adherence to the work packages in order to deliver a number of clearly defined products.
That doesn't mean that "anything goes" in projects like these.
It does mean that if you come up with a good plan and a number of solid European partners, in combination with a set of concrete activities to work on predefined objectives staggered over a period of 2 years, you stand a good chance of being awarded with a grant from your own National Agency.
For me nothing can beat a Grundtvig learning partnership project when going international in adult education. Let's hope that in the new Lifelong Learning Programme from 2014 onwards this fabulous opportunity for European cooperation will be continued.

Detailed information about Grundtvig Learning Partnerships can be found here.

30 November, 2011

First INVEST project meeting in Madrid

The first meeting with all the partners in the new European INVEST project is now behind us: time to look back !
In the run up to the meeting, an ambitious agenda had been designed in an interactive way and well in advance. To ensure that all the intended goals for this kick-off meeting were met the original application form had been studied intensively again and the essential ingredients were reviewed on the spot to refresh our memories.
All 5 partners had been preparing for the meeting and gave presentations to familiarise the delegates with the contexts they were working in and to share good practices in line with the aims of the project. Within the 2-day time frame we succeeded admirably to get the project well under way and to broaden understanding of the key issues in the project: volunteering and learning. Among others we discussed the draft list of contents of the booklet that the project members are working out as one of the major results of this Grundtvig learning partnership.
Many issues were clarified and important interactive and detailed planning was done towards the second meeting when the European volunteers will be involved and invited to the workshops the partnership will develop for them.
Towards the end of the meeting most of us had gained valuable new insights in the volunteering infrastructures, realities and experiences of the other partners. An interesting new insight to me was the distinction between intentional learning by volunteers, that is volunteering to learn, and unintentional learning, that is learning through volunteering without any intention at all to learning anything, on the other hand. This distinction may be two sides of the same coin, but they are worthwhile exploring in our approach, while applying a needs analysis and creating educational opportunities for volunteers.

And after the inspiring and productive visit to the Plataforma del Voluntariado de Espana we concluded our meeting, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. What had impressed us most however was the many efforts that our Spanish host had made, the Cibervoluntarios foundation, to make us feel at home in Madrid. It is hard to imagine a warmer welcome than the one we received from Yolanda, Angel and Jorge. Many thanks to them once more ! However, let's not forget that the other partners also deserve to be thanked for their many contributions and for establishing such a good and positive working atmosphere, so thank you Silvia and Glenda from Ciessevi, Milan, Steven from Roehampton University, London, and Ole, Kirsten and Rikke from the Center for frivilligt socialt arbejde, Odense, Denmark.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.
For a visual report of our meeting, click here .

24 November, 2011

Preparatory Rotterdam meeting for INVEST

Today was the first day that we finally all sat together to discuss at length the steps that we are about to take in the new INVEST project. In the summer period we'd heard from our National Agency, Europees Platform, that we had the green light to get the project underway from September 1st onwards. And since then we have put many things into place, including a solid and strategic partnership with Centrum voor Dienstverlening (CVD), a large umbrella organisation located in the centre of Rotterdam but covering the larger Rotterdam area, including the boroughs. CVD promotes and supports volunteering in all its aspects, fulfilling the role of advisor as well as intermediary. A number of our year 2 students will support their volunteers in the development of portfolios and through that interactive process empower them and enhance their own skills.

What is INVEST about ?
INVEST stands for INvesting in your Volunteers by creating Educational opportunities Small scale and Tailormade.
The objectives in a nutshell are to invest in and support learning processes of volunteers, facilitate creation of portfolios, apply educational tools and good practices, and to acknowledge competences acquired through volunteering. The main approach is learning by doing in the local contexts, cooperating and sharing expertise and resources on a European level and collaborative work on a booklet to disseminate at the end of the project.
The project activities will result in a collection of instruments to perform a needs analysis of volunteer competence development, a collective pool of training resources, a collection of experiences in working with portfolios and the types of portfolio, tips & tricks as well as sample documents that volunteers receive stating the skills and competences they have acquired.
Learning through volunteering is still a relatively new idea that has a lot of potential as an alternative path in adult education, when it's taken seriously and when there's a willingness to invest in volunteers.
In the upcoming project meeting in Madrid all 5 partners will meet for the first time. A number of partners already know each other through the European Volunteer Centre. This is a European network of 88 national, regional and local volunteer centres and volunteer support agencies across Europe, that work together to support and promote voluntary activity.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.

30 October, 2011

MaS in the spotlight, in retrospect

An interesting concept: a national conference, also accessible to international guests by developing concurrently an international programme in English . The focus was on civic internships, or service learning, MaS (maatschappelijke stage)for short in Dutch, a recent development in the Netherlands. It was one of a series of activities held within the programme of the NL tour of the European Year of Volunteering.
A tour organised to provide volunteers with an opportunity to exhibit their achievements, meet one another, share their concerns with citizens and convey their energy and enthusiasm and discuss key issues for the future of volunteers.
But what is MaS ? This was how it was explained to the international audience: a mandatory 30 hour school-based (community) service for all secondary education students (12 - 18 years), regulated by Dutch law. It's often NGO's which offer these civic internships to students, 195,000 all in all, from around 650 schools ( head locations) and 1950 sublocations. A quick calculation leads to 6 million hours of service done each year !

Many fine examples and achievements were demonstrated and discussed in separate rooms for the many (Dutch) participants ranging from students and teachers to internship agents and non-profit organizations.
The international guests could listen to talks from Spain, Germany, Croatia and the Unites States, showing a rich caleidoscope of examples of how service learning is implemented in their countries and the way it was developed.
Intriguing question for discussion afterwards was: what was the spark for the beginning of the initiative to get service learning on its way ? was it a volunteering starting point or an educational one ? Responses amounted to partial answers and comments but no clear comparisons, nor definitive conclusions. This highly informative part of the programme ended with an appeal to keep on examining, documenting and researching how service learning is developing.

07 October, 2011

EDDILI drawing to a close

Cyprus was the venue for the fifth and final meeting of the EDDILI project, a European project co-funded under the Grundtvig Multilateral Projects programme.
Following the dissemination and exploitation seminars over the past months and the launching of the R M A manual, the EDDILI consortium discussed ongoing issues and the final report, to round off with an overall evaluation of the outcomes and working process.

Over the course of the two-day meeting, there were also workshops and presentations exploring once more the many facets of R M A and creating a broad survey of RMA applications within diverse European settings. Moreover, work was also done on a valorisation product in the group of adult learning professionals.
The event took place at the University of Nicosia and aimed (among other things) to help the further development of relationships among adult learning professionals at a European level and lay the foundations of a sustainable (virtual) network.
As part of the final get-together of the consortium, an international seminar open to the general public took place on Friday afternoon, October 7th. It was organized in order to reach a wide audience of academics, practitioners and enthusiasts of adult education, both local and international. This seminar created a platform for showcasing how R M A can be applied in a diversity of settings and stimulating the exchange of ideas with other (European) adult learning professionals, besides evoking further interest in the R M A method.

As in all (EU) projects drawing to a close, the time had come to say the final goodbyes and travel back home with some unique mementos and ... a clear overview of the final tasks yet to completed.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.

Here's the manual, without the front and back cover pages.

29 September, 2011

Hosting a delegation from Aruba

A unique phenomenon in our School of Social Work: two international visiting delegations in one and the same week ! As our internationalisation strategies are really paying off at the moment, we were happy to receive two different delegations from two different continents, both interested in cooperation. Not only did we have visitors from Turkey on Tuesday (see my earlier blog post), but this week we were also visited by a delegation from the University of Aruba, who had come to Rotterdam at the invitation of our (former) managing director of the School of Social Work, Rob Elgershuizen.
Most unfortunately, however, on departure, the delegation fell apart due to a serious hitch at Aruba airport. Although this was felt as a drawback, the faculty dean Paula Kibbelaar succeeded admirably in making the most of her visit in Rotterdam on her own. We got well acquainted with the setting, perspectives and history of the University of Aruba, the Faculty of Arts & Science and the bachelor degree programme in Social Work and Development.

Before arrival we had been approached with an extensive list of factual and probing questions to which the talks during the visit would hopefully provide answers. On the final day we could establish that we had come a long way over the past few days and that a lot of progress had been made in familiarising ourselves with each other's organisations, contexts, themes and issues. This had indeed been the objectives of the visit from the start.
Both parties agreed that a win win situation was something we should strive for. And so it was decided that each partner was to draw up their own list of interesting and viable opportunities to cooperate on, in consultation with their own departments and staff. As the common ground and many parallels have been identified during the final meeting, each party will make up their own mind and exchange the lists in the near future. A further meeting will then follow soon to enhance and consolidate this process in order to have some firm plans before the end of the year.

27 September, 2011

Hacettepe University delegation visits Rotterdam

Today we received two visitors from the social work department at Hacettepe University, Ankara. It is this university which can pride itself on having the oldest social work department in all of Turkey (presently 51 years old). We learned that the 1999 Marmara earthquake led to an increase in the demand for social workers, which led in turn to an expansion of social work course programmes across the country. There was a clear need for individual counselling which could help people gain awareness about their problems and gain the skills to use their inner resources to cope with the after-quake issues.
We were told that much like other departments in Turkish universities the social work course programme was American-oriented. Another important influence came from (writer, academic and consultant on social work) Malcolm Payne, who, by the way, among many other things, keeps a fascinating blog site on Self positioning I found out just now.
Most social work graduates in Turkey find jobs in organisations under the ministry of social policies, the ministry of health or the ministry of justice. Apart from that, social workers can also find employment in private social work organisations and NGO's. We were told that there is a real need for social workers at the moment as the number of qualified social workers is low.

It was all in all a good opportunity to get to know each other a lot better and explore opportunities to cooperate with each other. Trying to establish opportunities for sustainable cooperation we decided to start with teaching staff mobility, starting this year. By constructively embedding the perspectives of the other partner in current courses lecturers as well as students on either side can benefit. And this can be arranged on an annual basis for example. Opening up opportunities for student exchange on a reciprocal basis was another idea that was explored, next to organising studytrips to each other's countries. Altogether we had fruitful discussions !

01 September, 2011

The social dimension in European higher education

In the series “European Policy Seminars” of the Academic Cooperation Association, the ACA is planning to organise a seminar (on October 14th) that is spot on: the social dimension of higher education.
Here's the rationale as taken from the invitation:
The “social dimension” is an elusive but critically important issue for European higher education. The European Commission’s 2012 Lifelong Learning Programme call for proposals (issued this month) singles out “the social dimension of higher education” as one of its five priority areas for multilateral projects. In the call, the Commission has indicated specific preference for projects focused on such issues as widening access for underrepresented groups, tracking the development of expanded access for these populations, encouraging increased completion rates in higher education, and further developing the notion of the “social responsibility” of higher education institutions.
Social concerns have traditionally played an important role in the discourse on European higher education. After a boom in the social rhetoric in the 1970s, the issue re-emerged in Europe in the context of the Bologna Process: should the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education reflect the diversity of our populations?
Stated aims and ambitions are one thing, but how about the reality on the ground? Are our universities and colleges accessible for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and immigrants and cultural minorities, to mention just three groups that play a role in the ‘social discourse’? Or is the social dimension, as a report of 2009 found, a rhetorical rather than a real success, and is it true that it is still not the “ability to learn but the ability to pay” which determines participation in higher education? Do universities and governments in Europe have policies for participative equity in place, and are these policies effective?
These are some of the questions which this ACA European Policy Seminar will address. The latest research findings are planned to be presented, among them a soon-to-be released EURYDICE study on the issue, the brand new EUROSTUDENT 2011 report and the external evaluation of the social dimension in the Bologna Process.
The European Commission will present its latest policy position paper on higher education and the OECD will provide intelligence on if and how our universities and colleges are catering to students from migrant communities. Two institutional representatives will provide insights on access and diversity ‘from the field’.
This being the working programme for the seminar, I regret that I won't be able to attend. Still, hopefully some of the reports and results of this seminar will be shared on the web and that's when I can include some links here to relevant, valuable information. I'm already looking forward to that. In today's world we should cherish all talent and provide opportunities for this talent to be developed via higher education.

24 August, 2011

An R M A dissemination seminar

How wonderful to see everyone really opening up to others and telling them about their personal hopes and dreams ! Just one of the many positive comments following a recent RMA seminar in Gent. This seminar was held last June as a channel of dissemination within the framework of a project in which 6 European countries are involved. The project focuses on applying the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) as a specific method and starting point in educational and/or training activities and goes under the title of
"To EDucate is to make possible the DIscovery of LIfe".
And a discovery tour it became ! Attending a taster session, organised as part of a dissemination seminar of the RMA approach, the participants collectively explored views and dreams under the watchful eye of the RMA coordinator / trainer Hans Donders.
The seminar kicked off with a solid introduction to the principles of the RMA methodology and its founder Danilo Dolci. This proved to lay the basis for a friendly, open-minded and non-judgmental atmosphere in the group. After that, while sitting in a circle (symbolic for the sharing of power and feeling equal), participants needed little encouragement to start sharing their views. After all, the strength of a maieutic session is that people can freely express themselves, knowing (and feeling) that empathy has been established in the group, the key cornerstone in genuine human relationships. In such a mutually supportive atmosphere there was ample room for spontaneous and natural tuning into the other person's thoughts and feelings, whatever these were.

All in all, the RMA dissemination seminar provided interesting and useful information about the potential of the RMA methodology. But most of all, the seminar had a positive as well as empowering impact on the participants, a stimulating by-product.
(This project is co-funded by the European Commission through the Lifelong Learning Programme under the action Grundtvig Multilateral projects.)

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.

13 June, 2011

Trends in social work

As part of the regular course programme in social educational care work (in Dutch: SPH)students were asked to identify national and international trends in social work and subsequently write articles about these developments. Some examples of this output was harvested by a few lecturers and passed on to interested colleagues.
One group had approached this assignment in an interesting and professional manner. They shared the magazine they had edited in a pdf format on the web, click here to have a look. And on top of that they set up a facebook group.
A fascinating development to see students applying the digital tools freely available on the web of their own accord.

Clipped from: issuu.com (share this clip)

Issuu was a well chosen platform as it has become a popular free outlet for online magazine publishing and allows clean pages and rapid loading of documents with unique urls for your documents. Well done, a great example of "inside out", providing the outside world with products composed inside university walls!
And here's another collection of international and national trends which was edited into a magazine called The Trendwatcher. Sorry, international readers... the articles were written in Dutch.

10 June, 2011

CMV Study trip to Poland, day 4

A visit to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp
By special guest writer: Frank den Tuinder

When we drove to Gross-Rosen, I already felt sick. Not because of my hangover, but because I knew what was coming. I already knew that this visit would have a really big impact on me. When we were watching the introduction movie, other people felt sick too, or at least, that was what people told me afterwards.
When we walked to the camp itself I got scared. No way that I’d walk underneath that “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign. It felt like I was on deportation myself. Luckily for me, we took a side entrance.

A guide showed us the former concentration camp, or what was left of it. I was walking around with feelings of intense hate and disgust with the people who had done this to others and the filthy bastards who still support this sick ideology. I expect that these people will be spontaneously cured once they have visited a camp like this. And I think that for all the ordinary people who pay a visit to this camp, life will be more valuable than ever before. For example: I realised that life isn’t that obvious as everybody thinks it is. We live in a (relatively) free country where people won’t be prosecuted for who they are or where they’re from. Although there is a kind of counter movement, thanks to the PVV, I don’t think that things as extreme as this will ever happen in Holland. I think that a visit to this camp makes people realize how wrong these hateful opinions are against people from other cultures or countries, and that it’s a good thing to ban these evil practices forever. I even missed my little brother when I was back in the bus… How many times does that happen?!
Back on the bus, I started crying. And I kept on crying for about half an hour. (not joking)
Let’s fight Nazism, fascism, racism and discrimination, and make this world a better place for everyone!!

CMV Study trip to Poland, day 3

The castle of ‘Grodziec’ in Poland
By special guest writer: Jolinda Kijne

During the last night of our trip to Poland we stayed in a real castle. After we had travelled over rough roads with hairpin bends, we arrived at this foggy area on a mountain. We walked up till we reached our destination: the castle. It was an overwhelming experience.

The castle was in its original state, but part of it had been refurnished and renovated for visitors. The owner of the castle showed us around, and almost everything we saw was in the same state as it must have been centuries ago.
There were poster beds, there was a fireplace and there was even a hole in a corner that used to be a toilet. The castle had a cosy atmosphere that made us feel comfortable and seemed to draw us closer together as group. I asked the owner, who had dressed up in medieval style, about the age this castle was built and he told me it dated back to the 11th century. Just when we started to feel hungry our delicious dinner was served: soup, meat and more.. Even the vegetarians among us had plenty to eat.
There was a small shop where you could buy wooden swords, daggers and other medieval weapons made out of wood. Some of us bought a sword or a dagger and we began to duel in the great hall. Some of the swords broke, but the owner was so enthusiastic about our game that he gave us real swords and allowed us to use these for the rest of the time. He also had some medieval clothes for us to wear.

The castle is the perfect place to stay with a group as you really get to know each other better. No doubt you’ll have a lot of fun, as long as you’re willing to share and be creative since there are just a few bathrooms, and the water is cold most of the times. Go and find out what your life might have looked like in the 11th century!!

CMV Study trip to Poland, day 2

Collaborating with Polish students from Kolegium Karkonosze, Jelenia Gora.
By special guest writer: Laila Jansen

Last March we went to Jelenia Gora in Poland. I was asked to write some things about day 2 and an interview I had. So here it goes. On Wednesday we had the assignment on social photography to be done in subgroups. Each subgroup included two or more Polish students and two Dutch students. All subgroups were assigned a different town, so that the output would be a diverse set of pictures. The pictures that were made ranged from just pictures of people to a more focussed approach on social elements. Through this project I learned a lot about the Polish culture and people.

I could also make some comparisons, because we had also done social photography as an assignment in Holland. We had all day to take pictures and wander around in the town, so we also did things students normally did. And that was drinking, drinking, and drinking. You’d really be surprised about how much they drink. Though it was funny to see.

In the evening we all stayed at the campus where we would spend our last night in Jelenia Gora. A drink here, some music there, it was the best night in Poland. At the end of the week I was interviewed by a Polish journalist. She wanted to know, what kind of differences and similarities I saw between Poland and Holland. Well, there were more differences than similarities. But the most important thing is the fact that the Netherlands are a multicultural society and Poland isn’t. It was like they had never seen a coloured girl before!
I’m also coloured, so I really felt them staring at me. But for the rest, it was interesting to really see and experience the differences and similarities in the Poland's daily life.

CMV Study trip to Poland, day 1

Introduction to Kollegium Karkonosze, visit to workshop and art gallery.
By special guest writer: Martin van der Meer

After a decent breakfast at the dormitory of the campus we could start the first day of our visit to Jelenia Gora. On this day the rector of Kollegium Karkonosze welcomed us in what appears to be the main lobby/symposiumhall of the campus and drs Han Bakker explained the objectives of our visit along with the programme for the following days.

This was also the place where we first met the Polish students -mostly first year English students- who would accompany us throughout our stay. After dividing into subgroups there was some time to get acquainted. At first it took some time of course to adjust and get accustomed to each other, but after a while it was nice to share our thoughts about each other’s habits, experiences and expectations.
Later that morning, one of the Polish students of our subgroup and I were interviewed for what I thought was some sort of college-TV, about our visit to Jelenia Gora and The Kollegium Karkonosze, about our first impressions and what we’ve done so far and what the rest of the programme contains.

For that particular day, the program led us to the Warsztaty Terapii Zajęciowej (a workshop for mentally challenged people), where people with mental disabilities are trained for future jobs in several crafts. It was a well-organized and varied programme with a focus on health and independence for the participants.
In the afternoon, after a -let’s say interesting- soup for lunch, the whole group of Dutch and Polish students went to an art gallery in the centre of Jelenia-Gora where, among some other works of several artists, the film “Them” was shown by a Polish artist named Artur Zmijeski. To me, this was one of the (many) highlights of this trip. In short, Poland is a highly divided and torn country, with a lot of conservatism and nationalism firmly rooted in its history on one side, and a liberal and progressive other side grasping to the future. In this film Artur Zmijeski shows the nerve of this conflict by having four opposing movements make an artwork of their ideal Poland, to subsequently let the other groups alter it to their ideas. A brilliant piece of work where a conflict is exposed which actually transcends the Polish borders. Unfortunately, this theme can be found everywhere, and as a social work student at a university of Applied Sciences, I find the method of using art the way Artur Zmijeski does, very inspiring for the future.

30 May, 2011

Norwegian strategies introduced at this year's symposium

How can young people find their way through the jungle of persons and systems ? A question asked here in the Netherlands, but also in Norway.
It's become a tradition at our university of applied sciences by now to hold an annual symposium on approaches to dropout prevention.
Apart from a number of Dutch presenters, this year two Norwegian speakers from the south eastern Vestfold region outlined what steps they had taken to tackle the issues of dropout and talent development of all youngsters. A 10-year action programme that started in 2008 has already shown some progress, we were told. The coordinator of this action programme (Mr Eldar Dybvik) and a member of the steering committee (Mr Thorbjorn Nygaard) explained how many of the stakeholders had come together to cooperate for the benefit of the 20 % young people that still drop out of school, despite a variety of earlier measures.
"United we stand. Divided we fall" is the motto of the cooperation agreement between schools, the labour union, the police, the social security system, nurses, the world of enterprise, the parents and the young people themselves.
When young people drop out of school, they —and society at large— face multiple negative consequences, which makes it worthwhile working on all kinds of preventive approaches.
Have a look at the slides and compare the Norwegian methods with the ones Rotterdam has put into place.

Here's also a visual report of the symposium.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Interestingly, a DJ team called 'Freestyle Party Machine' had put together an appropriate music selection for this occasion: all 20 songs had a link to education and/or youngsters;)

23 May, 2011

Getting a taste of a European project meeting

It's now approximately one year later .... still, it's interesting to get a taste of what happened during a 2 day meeting of one of the Grundtvig Learning Partnerships projects. In our case the theme of the project was: Ethical Competence as Educational component in Adult Education.
One member of the Dutch delegation took it up as a challenge to film all kinds of activities that we undertook.
Here's the link to part 1 of a series of 4 videos posted on YouTube:
In this first part you'll see the opening session of the projectmeeting on day 1 and a guided city tour through Palermo.
Here's the link to part 2:
http://youtu.be/2PZ-MJq3obA , where you'll see the second part of the guided tour and the visit to the Danilo Dolci primary school in Partinico. Our host was after all the Centro per lo Sviluppo Creativo “Danilo Dolci” in Palermo, Sicily.
Here's the link to part 3:
Here you'll get a good impression of the lay out and special surroundings of the Danilo Dolci school.
And here's the final part of the series:
You'll see a continuation of the interview with a teacher AND former pupil of the Danilo Dolci school and the video ends with a series of photos taken in the course of the 2 day meeting.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.

30 April, 2011

Time to disseminate

Yesterday was departure day, departing from Yozgat, Central Anatolia, Turkey to be precise. Behind us is a 2-day meeting, the final meeting of the Ethical Competence project, a Grundtvig Learning Partnership.
Day 1 started with an overall presentation by our Lithuanian project leader Mikas Balkevicius, who set out the state of affairs in our project. Then every partner successively presented their work on the Ethical Competence Guide, that is to say the additional annexes that showcase how the particular ethical values can be applied in specific educational settings, ranging from adult education to higher education. In some cases (however not ours) these educational materials had also been tried, tested and finetuned.
On day 2 we further discussed dissemination strategies, those applied within our respective countries, but also overall strategies so that the guide can be valorised.
As always, a fine balance was struck between the project content management issues and the on-site cultural experiences.
Within our 2-day meeting schedule our hosts demonstrated the best of Turkish hospitality. Besides being always available for any question or issue that popped up, they were flexible, generous and introduced us to a host of Turkish customs and rituals. Some of these cultural experiences included trying our hand at ebru, playing the suz, folk dancing and singing along, sampling Turkish tea and food, visiting a mosque and a local museum. On top of that we familiarised ourselves with the "territory": by taxibus our group (there were 22 of us) were taken to Camlik National Park and Kazankaya canyon on our way to our 2nd meeting location in Aydincik.
Understanding each other sufficiently was never an issue as there was always someone nearby who commanded the English language and could translate for us from Turkish into English and vice versa.
Any amendments or changes plus English language checks and further editing work on the Ethical Competence Guide will be done in the coming 6 weeks. In other words, our European project (officially called Ethical Competence as Educational Component in Adult Education) is right on schedule : what more can we ask for ?
Pictures of the meeting can be found here.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.

20 April, 2011

Memento project: an interesting idea

How to make international students feel at ease in a foreign country ? Many universities try to do their best and find their own ways and solutions to make the transition as easy as possible. Since a couple of years a new annual award was launched by NUFFIC to stimulate universities to make students really feel welcome and at home in their host country.
This year's Orange Carpet Award went to ArtEZ, Institute of Arts in Enschede, for their successful project called Memento.
The idea of this project is based on a quotation by the author Mark Twain:
I'm grown old and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.
The concept of MEMENTO involves the visualization of recollections (memories) and their presentation in a joint exhibition.
The supervisory instructors of the exchange programme stimulated the students the past months to share their personal memories with fellow students from different cultures. To what extent are there important differences in the process of recollecting? Are there also similarities? And are these similarities universal or are they determined by specific locations and/or cultures? All these memories can be related to images, music, film, photos, smells and/or stories.
I feel this is indeed an excellent way to have students work together on a collective assignment during their exchange programme.
Here's a link to some more information about this intriguing project and good practice. You can also check out their blog.
This could also be an idea to work out further for our own international course, even though we do not have any arts students.

13 April, 2011

In retrospect: the ENSACT conference, Brussels, April 2011

Today was the last day of the 3 day ENSACT conference on Social Action in Europe: Sustainable Social Development and Economic Challenges. I'm looking back on it with mixed feelings. As I didn't attend the Monday sessions and had 2 field visits on day 2 of the conference, it was only on Wednesday that I went to the conference venue to get an impression of the atmosphere and all that was going on.

I'd already heard people saying that a number of things hadn't turned out to be the way it was planned, that presenters hadn't turned up, that nearly all field visits proved to have fewer participants than anticipated etc. However, my personal impression of this morning's seminar on curriculum issues was pretty good and all 3 presenters had valuable, interesting information and expertise to share with us. One presenter gave a (critical !) overview of the recent national changes in the Social Work Bachelor programme in Denmark and argued that that there is an urgent need to reaffirm the independent integrity of the social work profession. Another presenter from Switzerland explained the new professional profile of the socio educational assistant and how it was regarded among other social work professionals. And the last speaker from Queens University Belfast shared with us his experience of an EU funded project on preparing social work students to work with victims and survivors of the "troubles", a familiar euphemism for the Northern Ireland conflict.

To round off the conference a panel discussion was scheduled, starting from concise summaries of all that had been dealt with during the previous days. What could have been a grand finale turned out to be a boring session for a diminished audience, fizzling out with just one or two people commenting after the panel had given their views.
Just as a reminder for myself, here are the conclusions / recommendations comprising the four main subject areas:
On the topic of Social Policy
* The management of the current crisis is dominated by economic theories. Growth and employment is put first. The welfare state has to adapt and distribute less resources among more people in need.
* Financial and economic crises create new challenges but also new opportunities. The concept of sustainable development offers an alternative and long term perspective for social action.
* Social transition demands adaptability and resilience from individuals and social systems. The main contribution of the social field is to develop social capital which is key in that process.
* Social professionals should take an active role in influencing social policies. This involves a global view on challenges, a critical and radical attitude, cooperation amongst each other and the development of a joint agenda.
* It is often the regions that have a main responsibility for social policies. They should be supported in developing sustainable approaches.
* Research policy and practice have to be confronted with the view of service users and those directly affected. Examples of anti-poverty policies have shown how important it is to involve people with experience of poverty in the policy making process.

On the topic of Active Citizenship
* Service using and service user rights create a dynamics of perceiving, seizing, and realizing rights. This dynamic endorses successful social interventions.
• What comes first ? Social, consumer or civil rights? How to handle the dynamic?
• Are we as professionals prepared ? Do academics contribute enough to this?
* The relation between service users and social professions is not only service-related.
• But also coming together as citizens, encountering or confronting as citizens
• Are we citizens (practitioners, clients, academics) really belonging to the same “city” or do we belong to different / overlapping spheres of rights, spheres of inclusion, spheres of influence and power ?
* From social citizenship to (social) entrepreneurship ? … to societal citizenship !!
• Further mercantilization and commercialization of more domains in life ?
• Ready for transforming our economy into a “dematerialized” sustainable way of living more efficiently (as less costly in resources as possible), sufficiently (not more than you really need), consistently (as stable / cohesive as possible) ?
• Sustainability means guaranteeing social rights at a high minimum in order to give EU-citizens the necessary economic basis in order to really live and experience societal citizenship.

On the topic of Professional Intuition
* Social work is based on theoretical foundations, technical procedures and ethical framework – a professional field as social policy “do-ers”. Managerialism, standardization and technocratic performance seem to lead to de-professionalization of social work.
* Social work must regain passion, enthusiasm, commitment to stimulate creative, cooperative efforts of professionals, in spite of increasing bureaucracy, challenging the innovating and learning potentials of social professionals.
* Professionals must demonstrate activities to raise public consciousness, must cooperate in building partnership, must transfer knowledge and skills to future activists, and transform tendencies to produce direct impact in social reality.
* Study programmes must facilitate these qualities, developing the newly graduate’s resilience, faith, commitment and belief in the social worker’s capacity to continue as effective, competent and optimistic practitioners.
* Professional intuition and passion in social training and practice shall be shared – practitioners shall be empowered to disseminate the valuable ‘practice wisdom’ they hold, within their communities and on a wider scale.

On the topic of Innovation
* Service users and clients provide valuable experience that needs to be incorporated in social work education, service design, provision and quality monitoring.
* People in poverty are experts by experience and should be co-creators in developing training and service delivery.
* New ICT opportunities should be actively applied to increase quality of life for users, but with an open mind to their limitations.
* The EU should focus its Innovation Union efforts on creative solutions for effective quality social services provision.
* In looking to the future we should not forget to learn from the past.

On balance, social work conferences like these are always an excellent opportunity to exchange views, to network and become more aware of what the social work profession stands for, and how passionate social workers are about the work they do on a daily basis. That in itself is priceless.

11 April, 2011

R M A , reciprocal maieutic approach in a nutshell

The Recriprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) is a “…process of collective exploration that takes as a departure point the experience and the intuition of individuals.” (Dolci, 1996). This way RMA promotes group processes and the plurality of experiences and points of view.
RMA is intended to create a safe learning environment for people to express themselves, to discover themselves, to be creative, to learn relational and communicational competencies, to feel valued as a human being, among other things.
The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach is most of all a learner centred approach.
Here's a visualisation of the method, using the well-known wordle website:

Soon a concise description of the RMA method will follow here.
The prototype as well as the RMA manual are on their way. A definitive version is anticipated to be ready for distribution at the beginning of July 2011.

01 April, 2011

What do you learn from

a European project about ethical competence? That's the question we asked a few students when we were mid-way in a European Grundtvig project. The answers encompassed more than I had ever imagined. It's difficult to put it in a nutshell, still here's an attempt, quoting from the students' work:
"You tend to take your own behaviour for granted, you don't normally give your social competences and actions a moment's thought. But it's in live exchanges like these that you actually become aware of "the Dutch way of life"."
"The fact that we are one Europe and yet so different in the way we think and act made an immense impression. Experiencing a great deal of freedom yourself in your own country, you don't realise that other people elsewhere are faced with corruption, oppression or the maffia."
"You start to become aware of how lazy or how rude you can be from time to time, how easily you complain about things, despite the liberty and openness at our university. Educational systems across Europe differ hugely in the way they treat students and in student - lecturer relationships in general, I learned. We should be proud of the Dutch way of teaching and learning, but that's hard to notice from what I see and hear."

"Most of the European project partners gave longish and tiring powerpoint presentations with around 60 sheets. Sometimes these presentations were given in their own language, which meant that they had to be translated by someone else, which took quite some time all in all. These often theoretically and academically oriented talks were quite unsettling to me at first. I simply wanted to hear about their methods, the way they implemented ethical competence training. It made me realise that we were in fact the only partner who showed, by way of concrete examples, how we develop ethical competences in a practical sense, and moreover, how we transfer that into the workplace after graduation.
It makes you realise how hard it can be for others to implement concrete actions and change elsewhere Europe and in the world."
"I have come to realise that our Dutch mentality is one of acting quickly and efficiently without dawdling. Persistence is another trait of ours."
"Getting to know other European people and discussing similarities and differences have definitely helped me in understanding that there's still a lot to be done.
A project such as this one makes you realise how important it is to talk to each other and cooperate internationally. There is so much to learn from each other."

"I was offered a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of how things work in other countries in the field of ethics."
"I was able to build up good contacts with the people I met in the two project meetings in Italy and Romania and I'm still in touch with them via facebook."
"Creating your own radio show is something I teach to primary school children; it was fascinating to see how they did this in another country and the issues they were faced with."

To put it concisely, it's a culturally and socially enriching experience that will stay with you forever: this appears to be the overall feeling.

28 March, 2011

Establishing the RMA prototype

This time it was Vallodalid, Spain where the EDDILI consortium gathered to have its 4th EU level meeting. Our host was the INTRAS foundation, a non-profit organisation developing and promoting activities concerning assistance, research, evaluation and dissemination of mental health and other disabilities actions, plus an English language webpage to explain more !
Within the designated one-day meeting the project partners managed to jointly establish the definitive prototype, the draft (extended) table of contents for the RMA manual, and get a solid overview of all that's coming up in the next few months.
It was in that sense a most productive meeting, meeting all the objectives set beforehand, while it also demonstrated the cooperative mode that we had been working in up to that point. Meetings are always the best opportunity to share thoughts on (presentations of) work done and updates on current and future work, in order to have everyone on the same page.
This meeting we were joined by two delegates from the EU commission, 2 Grundtvig project managers, who attended the session as external observers and were helpful in making practical suggestions to round off this multilateral Grundtvig project successfully.
Here is a visual representation of the meeting:

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.