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.