As a local association, Rota Jovem’s goal is to support the local community of Cascais and to create an impact in youngsters’ lives, by organizing activities, projects, and giving them the necessary tools and support in order to implement their own ones. To come closer to this goal, Rota Jovem joined the Connectivity project, which brought together a group of 6 local volunteers eager to make a change.

Connectivity has been a great way for our organization to get more involved and to reach out to local youngsters with less opportunities, who are currently facing difficulties when it comes to entering the labor market. During the first training, our 6 volunteers had the possibility to share experiences and knowledge with other participants and gained a lot of new insights that have helped them start organizing their own activities back home. They learned how to design an activity according to their target groups’ needs, and how to measure the impact of these learning programs; furthermore they practiced new tools that are useful when planning and implementing projects.

Returning home from Connectivity’s first meeting, the Portuguese group has been very busy sharing their new knowledge with the local community. They have reached out to their network in order to work together with other organizations that are also involved in supporting disadvantaged youngsters. In the past months, they have decided to collaborate with Take.it, another local association in the Educa project, which aims to train young unemployed adults in basic employability, animation and mediation skills, through initial and further training in a work context.

What was first designed to be a one-time activity, was then proposed by the coordinator of Educa to be further done with other groups, due to the success and potential of the first session. The interventions implemented were focused on sharing the knowledge acquired in the meeting with other youth workers in the municipality, through three different training sessions targeting Educa project facilitators. The aim of these sessions was to improve the effectiveness of their interventions at schools, by highlighting the importance of planning a specific impact in every aspect of their work and acknowledging specific needs in case of their target groups, through which they can better plan and deliver a set of activities to achieve the desired goal of meeting those needs. We believe that having more frequent, longer and sequential sessions will increase the effectiveness of our intervention. This is greatly because it enables us to get to know the group better, and to create empathy and connection with each member, while guiding the learning process.

Following recent activities, the idea of creating a monthly event of non-formal education came up, where the facilitators from Rota, Educa and other youth workers from the municipality could come together and share activities, dynamics and best practices, while creating a space for sharing knowledge, discussing ideas and learning new tools on how to approach youngsters in different contexts. The outcomes of these monthly sessions could be of great interest to any professional in this field, with the possibility of creating a website and other databases, available to these professionals locally or nationally. Another project discussed for the future, was the possibility of creating an exchange between Rota and Educa’s teams in order to provide new experiences and opportunities, by sharing knowledge, ideas and putting these into practice in an outdoor context. Our organization will continue to work on tailor-made interventions in order to reach more youngsters and to involve them in this learning process, all this by taking advantage of the surrounding nature and of other outdoor possibilities that our town has to offer.

Up to this point Connectivity has offered a substantial area for learning for all staff members of Active Bulgarian Society. The organization has managed to expand its educational dimensions through outdoor activities and to expand its network. ABS has contacted many unemployed adults that are with fewer opportunities or such that fall into the NEETs sector (that are not in education, nor employment). ABS has also made connections with regional Employment Agencies, thus, making more opportunities available specifically to those people who are part of these circles.

Furthermore, the first activity that was executed in Ommen, the Netherlands, and in which 5 representatives of the local learners and staff took part, gave further insights and a new direction to continue the work on tackling adult unemployment through outdoor activities. The concepts acquired by the participants were later shared with the management team of ABS and prepared the path for the next steps of the project – the follow-up activities on a local level, which would be the core of the long-term sustainability of the project. The participants, along with the help of the ABS staff are now on the part of creating the follow-up campaign on a national level and involving more adults with disadvantages into the project activities.

As an outcome, ABS has benefited from implementing certain new tools and models (presented in the above mentioned training meeting), especially the 12 steps of Winkelaar (how to do investigation regarding the needs of the target group, analysis, what is the purpose of the activities, creating the activities; facilitation of the activities – how to do an opening speech, how-to guide the activities, how to give instructions, how to debrief the activities; how to create a follow-up for these activities so they don’t become one-time events with no impact in the long-run) and the Impact tool of Erasmus+. 

The active participation in the first phase of the Connectivity project proved that there is a beneficial impact on those specific participants. They expressed their first-hand experience as being meaningful in personal and professional aspects and are now more eager to develop further in life and also to support other adults with disadvantages on a local level.

On an organizational level, the research and examples of the participants are motivational factors to continue the work on the objectives of this project. In the future, ABS foresees to gather the final data from the first training and to evolve accordingly, taking into consideration the specific needs, expressed by the participants and the further research made on the topic of tackling youth unemployment.

From the very beginning YOBBO saw this project as an opportunity to achieve many of its goals as an organization; mainly to increase the international network with new partners, to engage more young adults in YOBBO’s work and to start creating an impact in the field (especially in small local realities). The idea was to reach fewer opportunity adults through the new resources and competencies gained within Connectivity.

The first real impact was visible for the people volunteering in YOBBO, those members who were taking care of the project management during last year; they had the occasion to learn a lot and to improve many different skills: arranging a small event like the kick-off meeting, exchanging information with the international partners and learning how all the project administration works.

Moreover, thanks to the first training event an even bigger impact has been created, since the participants selected for this event were coming from small realities and were active in the field of adult education (active especially within our organization). It was a great occasion for them to improve their knowledge during the training and for YOBBO to include more adults in the organization’s “life”. In this way, the first Connectivity training turned out to be an exchange of good practices about adult education between the participants and a great opportunity for YOBBO to include these learnings and methods by being more active in the field. 

With these new possibilities and new resources, we could move in two different directions. On one side the participants could gain many different skills to use in their jobs and in their work with adults; on the other side YOBBO could cooperate with them while organizing events in the field for the same target group.

It is great to see how, thanks to this project, YOBBO has now the means to create a real impact for people coming from small and disadvantaged realities and it is great to see how the first Connectivity training could create such an engagement for the participants. More specifically, the next step will be to use the knowledge gained in the last year and in the last training to engage more and more adults through activities and events co-created by YOBBO and the Connectivity participants, with the goal of raising awareness on non-formal education opportunities and all those skills that can give to this target group more possibilities and can increase their employability. 

By participating in the Connectivity project so far, we strengthened our way of working locally. We learned more about mapping our needs, creating local programs, evaluating the results, and creating a sustainable method of inclusion. As an organization that is already working with adults and young people with fewer opportunities, supporting them in gaining skills via non-formal education, we have always seen the need of a tailor-made method of inclusion for this target group. Towards this direction, after one and half years of contributing to the project by exchanging different practices and ideas, getting together with our partners and local participants, we feel that we can implement in a more structured and easy way our local activities and projects. We have created work-forms and evaluation forms as new tools, which seem to be great guidances while we are working and recording our experiences.

We are very proud that from the very beginning of Connectivity we have given the opportunity to young people all over Europe to get involved creatively by designing for example the logo of the project, through a creative contest. The response was great, we received a lot of very good high-quality proposals, the results were inspirational, based on the description and the terms all these outcomes exceeded our expectations. So, we started dynamically with the active participation of young adults in our programs. This extra idea strengthened our self-confidence and we will continue to work on a successful program.

We also cooperated with some other local organizations, we have done ourselves or our teams have participated in outdoor activities with local organizations in Serres Greece; organizations that are experts in orienteering outdoor activities. For some extra indoor training we also involved the UNESCO club of Serres, particularly during the pandemic quarantine.

Even though the COVID pandemic period is strange, we strongly believe that Connectivity is a good example of cooperation between different types of organizations, since so far, we managed it well under unforeseen situations. We agreed on a rolling schedule for promoting activities through our social media accounts so we are always in connection and collaboration. Moreover, because of the COVID situation we improved new online tools for our work (tips and tricks while working on Zoom, creating interactive online experiences). Since our first training activity was postponed, because of the pandemic, we kept the flow on the social media writing articles about our work that we do locally, promoting what we have done, connecting & promoting Connectivity through Facebook. We also created a group with Greeks involving also our candidate participants for the first training event and we had online – via Zoom platform – meetings/seminars once per week about “youth involvement”, thus producing online content/learning programs, while presenting and including the Connectivity project. Regardless of what we faced especially in the last months, we had Skype meetings or mailing contacts in order to discuss, propose ideas and create ways in order to overcome the obstacles. That is a well-functioning practice that we can recommend to everyone and one that has great benefits and insights for our organization as well!
 

The implementation, in person, of the first training event, gave new wings to our participants!

After their participation in the first meeting in Ommen, the Greek team immediately started to plan our activities regarding the project, taking into consideration the feedback from the meeting.

Priority for us was to disseminate the knowledge that our participants gained during the meeting regarding the impact tool and to adapt it to our work with different target groups. Furthermore, we used the impact tool during the implementation of our campaign for FARE network football weeks (Football Against Racism).

Our team is in a very nice flow and we are eagerly working on new ideas and upcoming steps.