Working locally

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 for 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, and getting together with our partners and local participants, we feel that we can implement our local activities and projects in a more structured and easy way. We have created work forms and evaluation forms as new tools, which seem to offer great guidance 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, and the results were inspirational – based on the description and on 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 social media writing articles about the work that we do locally, promoting what we have done, and connecting and 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 – 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. This 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 meeting, 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.

How do we create impact in the long run? What are the tips and tricks that we would like to share?
Keep reading and find out more… 

The socio-economic reality in Central Macedonia and Serres

The prefecture of Serres is located in the northern part of Greece, in the administrative region of Central Macedonia, and is one of the largest provincial areas in Greece. The prefecture’s total population is just over 175,000 while the biggest city and capital of the prefecture is the city of Serres, with a population of approximately 60,000. The prefecture of Serres is mostly agricultural, as the plain of Serres is the third largest in Greece but there are also industries producing dairy, furniture, and sugar, to mention but a few. Thousands of citizens live and work in rural areas. 

Regarding the profile of youth, the rates of population change over the last years indicate a decline. Specifically, the population in the region of Serres declined by 7% from 2011 to date, a figure that mainly includes young people. In the 10-19 age group, the total population in the Serres region is almost 16,000, while the number of the group of young people from 20-29 years old is similar. Numbers are rising rapidly at older ages.

One of the biggest problems that have afflicted Greece’s youth in recent years is unemployment and immigration (brain drain), the latter being driven by the desire to find better working conditions in the rest of the EU and abroad. Serres is no exception to that. Official statistics show that in Greece the overall unemployment rate is 17% (May 2020) while for the age groups 20-24 and 25-30, it is 38.3% and 28.6% respectively. 

In Central Macedonia, the overall unemployment rate for the last quarter of 2019 was 19.4%, higher than the national average. So far as youth unemployment (18-30) is concerned, according to the latest report of the Greek Labor Organization in Serres, in August 2020 it was 16,5 %. This number, however, records only the number of people who are registered in the Greek Labor Organization’s database and does not include the number of unemployed youths from rural areas and the refugee community who do not have access to GLO. 

A large number of underprivileged – often illiterate – people in Serres come from vulnerable social groups. Specifically, there are Roma people and refugees, many of them not involved in the educational process. In actual numbers:

  • over 10,000 Roma living in the southeastern part of the city, in 4 settlements; 3 additional Roma settlements exist in the wider area of the prefecture, with a population of approximately 8,000 people;
  • the refugees in Serres are accommodated in two different facilities: the camp in Klidi Sintiki, with approximately 500 guests, and the camp in the city of Serres, with approximately 1,000 guests (IOM SMS Fact Sheets).

Typically, these populations, along with the youth coming from other kinds of underprivileged backgrounds, at the borderline of social exclusion, are susceptible to additional weaknesses that hinder their employability prospects. 

Supporting people from vulnerable groups in their search for employment, the methodology of PRAXIS

In one catching phrase, we could summarise the needs of the majority of our target group as follows: Preparation in order to enter the job market with some good chances to get a job. 

With this as the overarching aim, PRAXIS is organizing a number of activities, respecting and taking into consideration the cultural background of the target groups following the methodology as described below. 

The methodology we use consists of 4 levels that have continuous interaction with each other while having Youth Employment (here we mean young adults as well) in the center. 

  • needs’ analysis and goal setting;
  • use of outdoor activities;
  • skills development, acquiring new knowledge, and providing learning opportunities;
  • social inclusion and participation.

Needs analysis and goal setting

  • research to record the needs of the different groups facing exclusion from the labor market;
  • support individuals to define their needs and set priorities; 
  • provision of mentoring – coaching techniques to youth in order to support them in how to set goals and act towards achieving them.

Use of outdoor activities

  • our experience from sports;

PRAXIS, through its participation in European Partnership programs with reference to sports, and through collaborations with local sports organizations, has developed a model for the inclusion of young people in society through sports.

Following the STEP method, we adapted its content to our own needs in relation to the implementation of sports activities focusing on refugees.

In our case, understanding and respecting the cultural differences of the participants, the cooperation between institutions for the best possible achievement of our actions, and the values ​that come from the Olympic Games are core elements. Sports activities are an important part of outdoor activities and an important approach to supporting young people in the labor market as it seems to contribute positively to social inclusion.

  • connection with nature.

The connection to nature, the environment, and ecology are also at the heart of our actions. We make sure that our actions aim in this direction both for the protection of the environment and for the support of the mental health of our participants. Contact with nature contributes to psycho-social support in order to help those people to meet their emotional needs, which often become obstacles to reaching educational and other needs that lead to social inclusion. 

  • urban street workshops.

Organizing civic actions with the participation of local authorities to promote both the local culture and the engagement of different social groups. 

Skills development, acquiring new knowledge, and providing learning opportunities

Our goal is for the participation of young people in outdoor activities to be a field of action and motivation aimed at developing skills and gaining knowledge.

  • providing access to substantive language support through language courses in order to obtain the necessary skills;
  • providing opportunities through NFE (Non-Formal Education) programs and training courses for skill development that would increase the employability options of our beneficiaries;
  • facilitating the learning process of individuals through mentoring support.

Social inclusion and participation

The fourth and last part of our methodology aims at supporting the work of young people. However, work is an integral part of society just like participation in it… Therefore, all of the above-mentioned contribute to the activation of young people as active members of communities with continuous actions that include the labor market.

To conclude, we would like to point out that the methodology for outdoor activities is a process with several extensions and dynamics that is constantly changing. Outdoor activities result from the analysis of the needs of the target groups, and by providing the appropriate support tools through mentoring techniques we lead the skill development of young people that they can benefit from later on during their work.