13 November, 2015

MEDART kicks off

From October 2015 onwards the school of social work is involved in a new European project, under the project leadership of the Slovak organisation Divadlo Bez Domova.

MEDART is a transnational project of 8 European organisations and institutions focused on creating a methodical guide for education of socially disadvantaged adults by using theatre and dramatherapeutical approaches and techniques. The partnership will find, create and use theatrical practices, techniques and methods, which will help to dramatically increase disadvantaged adults´ chances of getting a job.

The basic rationale behind the project is that non-formal and informal education methods that are applied in dramatherapeutical work can be used for the acquisition, training, enhancing and empowering of skills and competences that can increase adult learners' employability. To be more specific, education in the field of social skills like self-knowledge, self-appraisal, self-confidence, communication skills, empathy, assertiveness, giving and receiving feedback, cooperation skills, decision making, conflict management, problem solving skills, creative thinking etc.

The result of the project will be an open educational resource – a methodical guide (PDF file) disseminated via online platforms, social networks, partner organisations´ websites, eventually by allied websites.

The major target groups for the methodical guide will be teachers, educators, trainers, drama therapists, social workers, students, schools, universities, institutions, NGOs and to everyone who is interested in working with socially disadvantaged people. Besides this, the project will have a direct impact on disadvantaged people involved in the theatre exercises as they will significantly increase their social skills and competences.

These are the project partners for MEDART:
Divadlo bez domova (Slovakia, coordinator)
Bielskie Stowarzyszenie Artystyczne Teatr Grodzki (Poland)
ProSoc - drustvo za implementacijo projektov in razvoj socialnega podjetnistva (Slovenia)
Acta community theatre ltd (United Kingdom)
Magyar Vöröskereszt Budapest Fovárosi Szervezet (Hungary)
Asociación cultural, social, de salud y bienestar ACUNAGUA (Spain)
Centro per lo sviluppo creativo DANILO DOLCI (Italy)
Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences/ Hogeschool Rotterdam (Netherlands) 

Here are some of the visuals of the kick off meeting in Bratislava, work in progress.
More pictures can be found here

This project has been funded with support of the European Commission. This communication reflects only the author's view and the European Commission and the National Agencies are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

27 September, 2015

Can & Do , a TC in retrospect

Last July Palermo was the venue for a European Training Course that brought together 32 youth workers, youth leaders, youth advisors & peer educators, staff of intermediary organizations and social activists working with young people. Participants from 12 different European countries took part in an 8-day training course that was based on the themes of entrepreneurship, innovation, culture, creativity and the development of a “can-do” attitude.

The basic rationale behind the Training Course was that young human and social capital can be enhanced by unfolding essential aspects of an entrepreneurial and innovative culture, by developing a “can-do” attitude and applying creative methods to attain this.

All TC activities were carried out through non-formal and informal methodologies, such as the Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) as well as creative thinking and learning approaches through art. Apart from this, some theoretical sessions were integrated, in an interactive mode. The main outcome can be described as an enhanced understanding of European themes like youth unemployment in our knowledge-based society and economy, human and social capital, sustainability and inclusion.  But also a better understanding of how to apply non-formal education methods with youngsters in developing a more creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit leading to self-confidence and a can-do attitude.

Apart from this, it must be said that participation in European training courses like these generally tend to lead to a better understanding of how other European countries struggle with similar issues and tackle, in this case, youth unemployment. Acquiring  broader perspectives on common European issues is an important step towards more solidarity and inclusion in times like these where Europe is faced with a number of difficult issues and has to conquer numerous challenges.

Once again we saw two participants (Amina and Nicky) returning home to our university of applied sciences with fresh ideas and an enriching experience due to the CAN & DO training course. For this we’d like to express our thanks here to the TC coordinator, Centro per lo Sviluppo Creativo “Danilo Dolci” (Italy) as well as the other participants from Azerbaijan, Georgia , Greece, Moldavia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine.

This TC was made possible with funds from Erasmus+, KA1 : Learning Mobility of Individuals, more specifically mobility of youth workers.

Here are some photos of the session where our 2 participants shared their experiences in the course and disseminated what they’d learned during the TC in Palermo. 

13 June, 2015

Cork through the eyes of Rotterdam social work students

It was at the end of March 2015 that a group of students studying Social Educational Care Work (SPH in Dutch) flew out to Ireland together with a lecturer, to stay at Kinlay House, Cork City Centre Hostel for a 5 day study trip, covering field visits, an academic exchange, some cultural outings, and last but not least, a convivial and memorable pub crawl to round it off. This short-term international experience is an integral part of the year 2 curriculum for all SPH full time students. Here's a visual report of the study visit to Cork, one of the options for the students.

The visit to University College Cork and its picturesque college campus (very much like Harry Potter !) amazed many of the students, especially the Quad and the stone corridor. There was opportunity to  talk to students of social work and attend a lecture, before transferring to the first field visit.

This snapshot was taken on a visit to a youth community project in Cobh, near Cork.

Cultural visits were paid to Cork City Gaol (right) and Spike Island, including the Titanic Experience Museum (left).


Another visit on the programme was to the Cork Simon community, a community that responds to the changing needs of those who experience homelessness and those at risk of doing so by providing a range of empowering and supportive care for as long as people need it. It offers care, accommodation and support for 127 people every day – 44 people in emergency accommodation, 56 people in five high-support houses and 27 people in Cork Simon flats throughout Cork, according to the website. 
This slide provides an overview of the services that they offer.

Another interesting experience was the visit to MyMinda centre for mental wellbeing. The guided tour provided an excellent opportunity for the students to compare and contrast it with mental health services in their home country. Walking around, these posters caught the eye of some of the students. 

All in all, study visits such as these are a stimulating strategy to enable the large majority of students, the 80-90% who are not internationally mobile, to acquire the international skills considered essential for social work professionals in an ever-growing global Europe.

Credits for the photos go to the students, thanks for sharing them.

27 April, 2015

COHEHRE revisited

Let's reassess, one year on !
With that motto in mind I took off for Budapest to participate in the Cohehre conference on Health and Social Care Perspectives for a Sustainable Future, which included the subthemes of: 
• Innovative and sustainable teaching for health and social care education 
• Global partnerships for health and social care education 
• New challenges in health and social care services 
• Equity in health and social care
About a year earlier I wrote in my blog here that for our school of social work the Cohehre network was probably not such an interesting option to invest in. Well, this year's edition of the conference turned me around.
I was pleasantly surprised by more social care & social work perspectives and input. Clearly, seeds had been sown and efforts had been made to pay more attention to social practices and studies. 
This year interprofessional learning (IPL), a term I picked up during the conference, was highlighted , especially through the keynote speaker on day 1, Blair Stevenson. Stimulating us to think about innovations in education, his main message was that there's been hardly anything new under the sun in education, except for cooperating in multidisciplinary teams of students on new ideas and products. He asked the audience to imagine what it would be like to bring together students from health and social work and have them collaborating on a prototype together with business and graphical design students. In posing this question he set the scene for the conference for me. The Cohehre network can indeed be considered a powerful catalyst in European interprofessional training for intervention practices and reflection. And while attending different workshops and sessions scattered across the following two days that impression stuck with me. Cohehre is definitely not a network for people with a silo mentality.
Meanwhile, students from health care and social work course programmes had already been working intensively on the theme of Diversity and Inclusion.  Interestingly, they  applied the method of "city exploration", a wonderful "learning-by-doing" strategy on which I wrote in an earlier blog post here
On the last day they were to share their findings and present their joint work to all the conference delegates, among them their own lecturers. From their enthusiastic presentations it was obvious that lots had been learned in a week's time and that the experience had fostered their interprofessional and intercultural understanding. 
On another positive note, the Cohehre network appears to be steadily evolving, not only in numbers, but also by producing a rich and growing menu of opportunities for students and staff alike. Additionally, the network is also involved in new Erasmus + projects, adding knowledge and expertise to the network.

Riding back on the bus to the airport, I concluded that I was not disappointed, using typically British understatement. The conference programme, the relaxing atmosphere of Budapest and all of our hosts at Semmelweis University, who had shown us what Hungarian hospitality was like, substantially added to the success of the conference.

30 January, 2015

Social Work All Inclusive

Last week the School of Social Work welcomed a large group of youth workers from around Europe to exchange and discuss good practices, projects and programmes on inclusion. It was senior lecturer Hans Donders from the Cultural Social Work programme who had invited a variety of European partners in order to explore the universal components that turn projects in this field into successes.
All over Europe (youth) organisations plan and implement different projects to help underprivileged groups of youngsters to find their place in society. Some prove to be successful, some fail. Curious to find out the secret behind successful projects on inclusion or combating exclusion, Hans wrote a project application for a European conference of a week to be held in Rotterdam in order to discuss this issue face to face. The common goal was to identify a number of effective tools and methodologies to enhance youth work practices and subsequently share these in the respective organisations and countries. With the results and conclusions from the Rotterdam conference, new activities are to be planned and implemented in the next few months as try-outs. The outcome of the project as a whole will take the shape of a manifest (a.o.) and will become available towards the summer of 2015.
What made the conference special, was the involvement of all year 2 students of the Cultural Social Work programme. They were either hosts, presenters or facilitators. Their active involvement and enthusiasm in working with the international visitors contributed largely towards the success of the conference.
For the students, the conference was an excellent opportunity to practise their intercultural skills and English language skills. All students had been working steadily towards this special week: on the one hand in a minor programme called Art in Social Action, on the other hand via all kinds of project activities. For these students, their international experience isn't over yet ! For within a week's time they'll be leaving for Palermo for the annual year 2 study visit. In that sense, the year 2 programme has managed successfully to gradually take students out of their comfort zones: first within the safe environment of the school, next outside their own country, but always under the supervision of their lecturers.

Speaking to one or two students today, it became crystal clear that the conference had had a large impact on them and had definitely made them eager for more international steps and experiences.
So is it mission completed ? Yes, definitely: the result is that students have been able to get hands on experience in what it means to collaborate internationally on youth issues, thereby enhancing their international views on the social work profession. We'll know more about the longer terms effects within a few months, when students choose their placements for year 3 or possibly within a year, when students can choose to attend a minor programme abroad.
Meanwhile the international partnership will steadily work towards the final output.

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.