Grundtvig Partnership Project Innovative Adult Education for a Sustainable Rural Development Educational Guidelines

INTRODUCTION Sustainable development was first endorsed at the UN General Assembly in 1987. From 1987 to 1992, the concept of sustainable development matured and wrote the 40 chapters of Agenda 21: the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were adopted by more than 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992. Initial thoughts concerning education for sustainable development (ESD) were captured in Chapter 36 of Agenda 21, “Promoting Education, Public Awareness, and Training”. Unlike most education movements, people outside of the education community initiated ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). As the concept of sustainable development was discussed and formulated, it became apparent that education is key to sustainability. Two founding documents preceded The Rio Declaration: the Belgrade Charter (UNESCOUNEP, 1976) and the Tbilisi Declaration (UNESCO, 1978). The Belgrade Charter was adopted by a United Nations conference and provides a widely accepted goal statement for environmental education: The goal of environmental education is to develop a world population that is aware of, and concerned about, the environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations, and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions of current problems and the prevention of new ones.1



A few years later, the world's first intergovernmental conference on environmental education adopted the Tbilisi Declaration. This declaration built on the Belgrade Charter and established three broad goals for environmental education. These goals provide the foundation for much of what has been done in the field since 1978: • To foster clear awareness of, and concern about, economic, social, political and ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas; • To provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment and skills needed to protect and improve the environment; • To create new patterns of behaviour of individuals, groups and society as a whole towards the environment. For about a decade, many people were realizing that education is important to any effort that would create a more sustainable future; however, little was progress was being made under the name of ESD. In fact, many considered education the forgotten priority of Rio. The importance of ESD was confirmed to the world when in December 2002 the United Nations declared 20052014 to be the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Now many educational organizations around the world are exploring how to reorient their curricula and programs to address sustainability. Environmental education is rooted in the belief that humans can live compatibly with nature and act equitably toward each other. Another fundamental belief is that people can make informed decisions that consider future generations. Environmental education aims for a democratic society in which effective, environmentally literate citizens participate with creativity and responsibility.2 What is ESD? Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 was the first document to describe ESD. This chapter identified four major thrusts to begin the work of ESD: (1) improve basic education, (2) reorient existing education to address sustainable development, (3) develop public understanding


Ibidem note 2


and awareness, and (4) provide training for all sectors of society including business, industry, and government All sustainable development programs must take into consideration the local environmental, economic, and societal conditions. As a result, ESD will take many forms around the world. Because each place has unique local environmental, social, and economic conditions and issues, ESD must be created locally rather than imported. One innovative approach is the “strengths model”. In this approach, every discipline and every teacher can contribute to sustainability education. Many topics inherent in ESD are already part of the formal education curriculum. To implement the strengths model, begin by ensuring that educators and administrators understand the concept of sustainability and are familiar with its principles. Once they understand the concept of sustainability, educators from each discipline can examine the curriculum and school activities for existing contributions to ESD. ❖ Mathematics helps students understand extremely small numbers (e.g., parts per hundred, thousand, or million), which allows them to interpret pollution data. ❖ Language Arts, especially media literacy, creates knowledgeable consumers who can analyse the messages of corporate advertisers and see beyond “green wash”. ❖ History teaches the concept of global change, while helping students to recognize that change has occurred for centuries. ❖ Reading develops the ability to distinguish between fact and opinion and helps students become critical readers of political campaign literature. ❖ Social Studies help students understand ethnocentrism, racism, and gender inequity as well as to recognize how these are expressed in the surrounding community and nations worldwide. Education about sustainable development vs. education for sustainable

development The difference between education about sustainable development and education for sustainable development is an important distinction. The former is an awareness lesson or theoretical discussion. The latter is the use of education as a tool to achieve more sustainable futures. Reorienting teacher education involves transforming institutional programs, practices, and policies. Institutions involved in reorienting teacher education to address sustainability

must “practice what they teach” and go through the processes necessary to make progress towards becoming an institution that models what it teaches.

Environmental Education Guidelines for Learning should: • • • define expectations to perform and achieve ; define a framework for effective and comprehensive environmental education programs and curricula; define how environmental education can be used to meet standards set by the traditional disciplines and to give students opportunities to synthesize knowledge and experience across disciplines; • define the aims of environmental education.

These guidelines should set a standard for a quality environmental education, define what a person should know and be able to do outlining the core ingredients for environmental education. Environmental Literacy Interdependence: Human being is inextricably bound with environmental quality so we are challenged to recognize the ramifications of our interdependence. The importance of where one lives: Beginning close to home, learners forge connections with, explore, and understand their immediate surroundings identifying causes, connections, and consequences Integration and infusion: Disciplines from the natural sciences to the social sciences to the humanities are connected through the medium of the environment and environmental tutoring. We need an environmentally literate citizenry that is not only capable of taking individual action, but of making well-informed public policy decisions collectively. Increasingly, individuals are asked to make choices on complex issues that affect their own lives, the lives of their families, their communities, and the world beyond their shores. Choices are made every time people enter a store, turn on a water facet, plant a butterfly garden, or set the thermostat in their homes. Each time citizens vote, they make environmental

decisions. When public policy is made, these decisions not only impact the economy and jobs, but the environment. Environmental literacy is predicated on the belief that if we educate our citizens so they are capable of making quality decisions, they will do so when the time comes. Criteria related to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) 3 The proposal should: 1. be locally relevant and culturally appropriate. 2. be based on local needs, perceptions, and conditions, but recognize that fulfilling local needs often has global effects and consequences. 3. engage formal, non-formal, and informal education. 4. be a life-long endeavour. 5. accommodate the evolving nature of the concept of sustainability. 6. address content, context, pedagogy, global issues, and local priorities. 7. deal with the well being of all three realms of sustainability – environment, society, and economy. Pitfalls to avoid are: 1. to import from another cultural, economic, or geographic region what it’s not necessary. 2. adopt “one size fits all,” without taking account of regional differences. Best practices from one place must be adapted and modified to become locally relevant and culturally appropriate in another place. It is possible to use a framework of five components: 1. knowledge, 2. issues, 3. skills, 4. perspectives,
5. values and their interrelationship (McKeown et al., 2002).


Unesco guidelines


It is necessary the reorientation of teacher education to address sustainability within the realms of curriculum, programs, practices, and policies. In keeping with the theme that all education for sustainable development must reflect environmental, societal, and economic conditions and that it must be culturally appropriate, it is left to faculties of education to create their own guidelines and design criteria that will steer their efforts to reorient teacher education to address sustainability.
1. The learner is an active participant. Instruction should be guided by the

learner's interests an treated as a process of building knowledge and skills.
2. Independent thinking, effective, responsible actions and communication

skills mean that learners will be able to both demonstrate and apply their knowledge.
3. Because environmental issues can prompt deep feelings and strong opinions,

educators must take a balanced approach to instruction. Educators incorporate differing perspectives and points of view even-handedly and respectfully, and present information fairly and accurately.

Guidelines Steps suggested: 1) Background description
2) Identification of target groups and their needs

3) Definition of finalities and objectives 4) Organization about tools and materials, times and places
5) Specification of contents and methods. 6) Results



CAPACITY BUILDING FOR NEW RURAL ACTIONS by Neda Leonaviciute NGO “Sustainable Development Initiatives – DVI” Lithuania

Background The long-term aim of our trainings of rural communities was to guide them in their thinking and action in order to improve sustainable development and environmental protection in rural areas, and the short term goal – to set up new projects for the UNDP GEF SGP programme that would benefit environment and local livelihoods. We aimed to assist local leaders in becoming self-confident development players, who would be able to mobilize local communities for strategic thinking and planning through participatory project development and implementation. Our aimed outcome of the capacity building trainings was two-fold: first - local communities taking action with a broader awareness of global environmental issues and new approaches, and second – better quality and sustainability of the GEF SGP projects. During 8 years we have run more than 160 training courses and trained more than 3000 learners, mostly from rural areas, which resulted in 104 local sustainable development projects.

Training approach Our trainings were based on the specific needs of identified target groups: they were designed to be fitting to local conditions, needs and future plans. A “tailor-made” response

to the learners expectations proved to be effective in supporting the project promoters, the leaders of rural communities, in carrying out the project planning and encouraged the local people attitude’s transition from a “willingness to take action ” to a “ capacity to take action” Training meant not only responding to real needs, but also making training a catalyst:
 To enhance motivation of rural residents;  To support start-up of a new activity in line with sustainable development principles;  To support governance, participation and self-confidence.

We aimed to innovatively shape our teaching methods so as to offer non-formal education method that is based not only on knowledge provision, but also on showcasing lively real examples, good existing practices, inspiring disadvantaged people to be more active and taking self-care. The approach was based on understanding an area’s needs, identifying the projects which require support through training in order to succeed, bringing together local stakeholders into partnerships for project planning, creating together a project vision, developing a project framework and actually setting up a project.

Method and tools Before planning a specific training, we would draw up an inventory of training measures and tools. Each training programme was given specific attention describing: • • • • • •

Locality context (social, governance, environment, economy); Target group; Training objectives; Training content; Training tools; Expected results and further training or consultancy needs; Organizational arrangements (duration, frequency, venue, materials, etc.).

The training is then provided “on site” (it was the trainers who did the traveling) with operational support of municipalities or other institutions. Before the training we usually have a meeting with the project promoter, and if feasible – officials of local government, for

ascertaining exactly what the problem is and what are the community’s ideas, needs and their compatibility. Based on this information we would design the training course content. Usually our courses were focused on global, national and local environmental aspects, community development and participatory issues, local rural environmentally sustainable project development tactics and methods, project implementation and management techniques, which were adopted to the local community necessities and conditions.

Training courses were 1-2 days length, in line with the Lithuanian Agricultural University research conclusion stating that the most acceptable duration of training for rural dwellers is one to two days. The training consisted of several such courses. Training included the theory and effective practical work and was organised in such a way that learners were able to gradually apply the theory to the practice of project development and implementation. The emphasis on imaginative analysis, reflection and personal consultation, whilst opening a path for creative thinking, increased participatory dynamic and good mutual relation between trainers and learners.

During the trainings we employed a variety of training tools, depending on the audience, to cater for different abilities and backgrounds. Firstly, we used a mix of “adult education” and “community development” methods: combining information-based and action-oriented as well as personal-focus and community-focus tools. The major our tools applied were: brainstorming, meta-plan, mind-mapping, problem tree analysis, nominal group voting, SWOT analysis and logic matrix. Training was organized in classes, in groups, in pairs, playing roles and having fun.

We found that it is very important for trainers to develop good facilitation skills. This is particularly applicable to the rural adult learners that are less educated or experienced. The good facilitator should be able to address the “difficult” participants, maintain high energy levels, and encourage participation, especially of more shy learners, by using correct training tools.


The second (follow-up) training course usually involved one day travel to the other communities or places to learn from real “good practices”, or sometimes – opposite, “not so good practices” - to learn from the lessons of the others. Such learning trips proved to the most effective triggers for communities to start their own actions. Rural learners are very perceptive to other examples and learning-by-doing.

Outcomes The style of teaching boosted rural learners’ communication skills and reinforced local people participation. The good outcomes were: established close contacts with local communities, created understanding and awareness of local people about sustainable livelihoods and ways to protect environment, increased capacity to develop projects, trust in them-selves and each other, and the utmost, for us as funding programme managers the enhanced quality of project proposals, which is one of the indicators for projects smooth implementation and sustainability that at the end turns to the greatest benefit for the local communities.

We did not loose the contacts with the project promoters after their projects were developed. We would meet to review progress of the projects and suggest changes to the training programmes and project implementation, if needed. We tried to be their personal consultants and “baby-sitters” to assist in any issue they face during project implementation. In Lithuania, due to such interactive programme management and training approach, the GEF SGP got a nick-name “a greenhouse for project developers”. And we do not intend to loose it.



Case 1 by the “European Pole of Knowledge”- Verona- Italy In the following workshop Nr.1 the “European Pole of Knowledge”- Verona- Italy presents a training module like an example of how senior rural people can overcome some difficulties due to isolation of rural areas and become aware of what sustainable development is by mean of ICT and help from youth people in order to perform it. Workshop Nr.1: “European Pole of Knowledge”- Verona- Italy

Training module “ICT necessary skills to overcome rural barriers “

• Need assessment: analysis of training and support requirements and needs Nowadays it is more and more important
• •

to involve the seniors to help them to feel part of the world changement and to understand their role through the ICT tools . to involve the seniors living in disadvantages areas (rural) and the disables and immigrants seniors living in those areas.

In all these cases the ITC can be a very useful tool, a socialization tool, to help them to get closer to different realities and therefore avoided the isolation from the world In Italy many seniors are totally beginner of ICT They must understand that is not true that: • The Pc is a mysterious object • That only young and very young people can understand a bit of it • That certain things can be learned only when is the “right time” and after that it is impossible to deal with it anymore

The seniors who will to create a pressure group wish to improve one’s own ability to communicate and, therefore, represent one’s own peers in a society that continues to exclude the elderly. They look for a leader in their group, a conscious spokesman and often a mediator of the values, of the requests and of the cultural background of the group he belongs to. But… it’s not so easy to be a leader. The group in fact is strong and efficient only if each member feeIs free and not forced. If a leader only limits to centralize and concentrate the power on himself, his group of peers will lack autonomy and will not feel responsible for the common good. Instead when in the group there is a participated leadership, the atmosphere becomes active and collaborative. The leadership must be meant as a service given to the community.

They are people that would like to feel committed but they see their retirement as having deprived them of an active participation in society. They would like to find their own new role, but they often do not know how to go about doing this. They are a minority, but they are also a force on which to aim at so as to create a political pressure group. Furthermore, we should not forget that they have a lot of free time available. Often they already have abilities to count on, or there are people who want to create a new role, either from an interest or a hobby. GENERAL IDEAS

Background – Senior citizen in Rural area (Verona province and Adria) We can distinguish the senior citizens to whom we are directing our interest from those to whom we give our training courses to create a future “pressure group” of senior citizens into: • motivated senior citizens

They are people that would like to feel committed but they see their retirement as having deprived them of an active participation in society. They would like to find their own new

role, but they often do not know how to go about doing this. They are a minority, but they are also a force on which to aim at so as to create a political pressure group. Furthermore, we should not forget that they have a lot of free time available. Often they already have abilities to count on, or there are people who want to create a new role, either from an interest or a hobby • Senior citizens with no abilities or just practical abilities

There are senior citizens who take an active part in cultural or physical activities which are offered them, but do not commit themselves on a higher level because they have no abilities. They might have a low cultural and economical level (housewives, workers, farmers..) but they have a great wish to increase their own abilities, even if this wish is hindered by the fear of “not being up to standard”. If there were some training modules targeted towards these groups, they could give positive results and create the wish to take an active part as a pressure group in society. Didactic Methodologies The contents must bear in mind the age of the target group and, for example, the low knowledge the elderly have with computer language and territorial barriers. It is therefore important to teach only a few but clear concepts. It would be useful to have a senior teacher who understands the problems of his peers. The target group of seniors has to be guided step by step, because the learners could feel embarassed and ask even simple questions as they have not been brought up, as the younger generation (for example on computer language) and because their mind is less flexible towards novelty. One has to check that the elderly have understood the concepts and do a lot of practice on what they are learning. Another example: in dealing with subjects as: self-awareness as an element of success to sail ones own emotions to manage oneself - motivation and reaching the aims, a senior teacher will bear in mind the problems of his peers and will try to make them understand the importance of aiming at one’s own skills to achieve greater active participation from society

Case 2 By Ivo Zambello and Salvatore Filella

Permanent Territorial Center for Adult Education and Training of Adria and Basso Polesine (Italy) In the following general outline the Center for Adult Education and training of Adria (Italy) presents operating procedures which are essential steps in order to involve existing associations of farmers, fishermen, hunters and operators in local tourism in a particular training plan which start from a actual problem - insufficient maintenance of draining grooves at the borders of fields and properties – and involve the critical passage to sustainable rural development.

Rural people who live in Po Delta Plane (Italy) Adria CTP and Liceo Bocchi Guidelines and examples 1. Inquiring local conditions and needs In our area occur floods frequently. They due to insufficient maintenance of draining grooves at the borders of fields and properties. Farmers cultivate fields till the edge of the grooves damaging the banks of the grooves and whenever they mow the weeds along the sides of the grooves they leave the weeds there without taking them away. 2. Get awareness about the dangerousness of the habit taking count of the recent climate changes. Visits to the damaged places. Asking for meetings. Writing down leaflets and delivering them during public discussions on detailed report. To gather their opinion through a questionnaire. 3. Underline the new practices which come from the new sustainable development policies. Understand the difference between the traditional and the organic agriculture. Organize courses on organic agriculture held by experts at CTP in Adria. 4. Clarify either environmental and economic advantages deriving from a passage to an organic agriculture, fishing, hunting and tourism coherent with sustainable development.

To show by reports, films and documentaries how best practices carry advantages both for the present and the future generations. 5. Introducing the European, National and local rules about sustainable development. Every two months organize a seminar addressed to different target groups: farmers, fishermen, hunters, operators in local tourism in the area of Delta Park. During these seminars rules are presented stressing the consequences of the violations of the rules. 6. Training and education about the values of rural sustainable development. Visits to rural sites where the innovative practices are run and keep in touch permanently with the authors of those good practices. 7. Coordinate and select the courses for adult learners that the associations of category already organize giving priority to those which respect the values of a rural sustainable development. Adria’s CTP will coordinate with the following associations: Provinciale Cacciatori, Ente Parco Veneto del Delta del Po. 8. Monitoring and evaluation about expected results. Presentation of a questionnaire to a focus group enquiring about feeling, knowledge and practices linked to sustainable rural development. Associazione Polesana rural

Coltivatori Diretti, Associazione Agricoltori, Cooperativa Pescatori del Delta, Associazione

Method and tools Adult learners need a “enquiry-based method” • Adult learners should be involved in making decisions in some or all learning areas. • The teacher's role as conveyor of information is altered significantly to incorporate when appropriate that of a facilitator of enquiry. • The teacher helps the adult learners to plan, carry out and present the results of investigations. Traditional teaching retains an important place but there is an important shift towards active participation by the adult learners. • There is a greater self-discipline on the part of the adult learners . • As the teacher acts more often than in the past as a guide and consultant, more and more communication is initiated by adult learners .


• Adult learners are encouraged to question, to investigate and to express their considered views. They are also given the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. • The teacher's role as guide and support calls for a closer than usual working relationship with adult learners. • Enquiry-based learning provides increased opportunities for interaction among adult learners. • Adult learners re encouraged to take part in drama- lessons (writing, acting and performing) • Adult learners are encouraged to become involved in self-assessment. Teacher assessment is extended to include the degree of interest shown, the level of involvement, the capacity for self-direction demonstrated, and the understanding and employment of the skills of enquiry revealed. Outcomes Points of weakness 1.Some problems met during the courses were due to the short time for developing methods and tools. 2. Here in Veneto Region learners usually speak local dialect and as a matter of fact dialects are plenty and different so oral communication had some problems. Points of strength 1.Good results given by the structure question-answer not compelled by the teacher but carried out by learners starting from a real problem. 2.Positive aspects and results are obtained from group work and self management which have increased the sense of responsibility in order to the results. 3. A specific course concerning medical herbs employed the structure of drama and role play. This method, in short time, gave very good results and learners asked the method to be applied to other courses, as well.

Conclusions Using such method learners showed to be involved and satisfied and motivation increased. Our Organization will suggest to all the Organizations quoted at the point 2C above to use this method in carrying out their scheduled courses.


By Peter Petrov – Executive Director 1. INTRODUCTION

The “Greener Bourgas Foundation” has a focus in its strategy to bring knowledge mainly to rural area communities. Our Bourgas region is a typical sample for a rapid economic development. Its coastal area on the Black Sea is with a good infrastructure parallel with a deep inland rural background. Some of the Region’s municipalities like Sredets, where our first training took part, present a good picture of the entire South –East-Bulgaria. It has an area of about 1050 sq. km with only 14 000 inhabitants, half of them living in the town of Sredets. On the other hand the rural part of the Bourgas region provides alternatives for good agricultural practices, which could give a chance for families and even for vulnerable citizens to start-up their own small scale business. We decided to focus our training with target groups in two main directions: • To bring knowledge about new alternative agricultural businesses to young entrepreneurs and members of the local initiative groups • To provide trainings to the lowest group of the society – vulnerable people in order to build up their knowledge capacities and to let them think active and look for own opportunities


The objectives of trainings are oriented to the people of the Strandzha mountain municipalities – Sredets, Malko Tyrnovo, Carevo, Primorsko and in addition Kameno are as follows:

• • •

To cover learners in adult education but, but also teachers, trainers, education staff and facilities that provide these services Increase the number of people in adult education and improve the quality of their experience To enable adult learners to participate in Workshops (learning events) and to to provide necessary knowledge of appearance elements (visual images)

• Ensure that people on the margins of society have access to adult education, especially older people and those who left education without basic qualification

To provide information on EU operative programs , part of the National program for rural area development

3. ACTIONS Having in mind the main focus and the target groups on one hand and on the other hand the training objectives, the scope of training were oriented in:
• •

Improving adult education systems through the development and transfer of innovation and good practices Creating local networks of experts and local authorities, working on developing adult education structures, spreading good practices and supporting partnerships

• Organizing local mobility groups, which visit people “on place” and provide information in alternative business opportunities • Providing knowledge to people in rural areas how to enter procedures for certification of their conventional agricultural production In addition a group of Gruntvig trainers is obliged to develop a project application form for re-building of two existing community buildings into centers for social contacts and starting partnerships of vulnerable people. 4.WORKSHOPS & SEMINARS The Grundtvig workshops and seminars are one of the basic mile stones of the Grundtvig Programme. The objective of this action is to enable adult learners to participate in learning events.


Grundtvig workshops and seminars bring together individuals or small groups of learners from different social groups for an innovative learning experience relevant for their personal development and learning needs. For each workshop we have a short description of the activities and some information on the workshop organiser.
• • • • •

Title of the workshop/seminar Project number of the workshop/seminar Subject of the workshop/seminar Date of the workshop/seminar List of the participants

• Evaluation questionary 5. METHODOLOGY Our trainers who follow traditional teaching methods have to face new problems when involved in this Grundtvig project :
• To achieve the necessary competences in order to provide new communication

• To preserve their knowledge made up of traditional teaching strategies

What our trainers are doing :
• To develop a self-learning activity in order to be able to increase the active role of


To active participation of the learners during the learning activities didactic units to promote interaction and focus sessions during the workshops/seminars

• The didactic material supplied during the preparation phase will be organized in

• The workshop/seminar participants will be invited to discuss and study in detail the

different learning materials What will be the main approaches:


The approach in the training activities will be that of “Learning by thinking”.It will be realized together with cooperative learning, that encourages the sharing of ideas and experiences among people.

This methodological approach is based on the principle that effective learning is essentially made of experience through the understanding and elaboration of facts, situations and behaviour.

The case study analysis, adopted in the training activities will allow the participants to achieve the following objectives: to gain considerable ability in the analysis and intervention skills; to develop analytical and active decision-making skills in line with; to allow the adoption of problem solving strategies through discussion and confrontation in different situations.

In our project the target groups consist often of elderly people. This predicts that the workshops/seminars ha to be understandable information, presented in an appropriate form, with visual presentations an printed and materials. A very important point is the friendly relaxed atmosphere during the workshops/seminars.


We have developed our own procedures how to evaluate the results of each performance and to estimate how effective are our efforts. A very important issue are the evaluation forms, which are provided to the participants of the training courses. We could formulate the following conclusions :

The number of participants was as expected – the two workshops/ seminars were attended by 27 participants(40 in the project plan) Participants’ evaluations of the courses were positive. The participants gave usually ,that the have obtained new knowledge and skills which they found useful for their future

• •


Our participants have showed their interest in more contacts with EU citizens, which could bring them direct knowledge how to solve their problems, living in a rural area

In both municipalities partner countries

Sredets and Kameno we were asked to use this

Grundtvig project and find contacts to local initiative groups in some of the

The participants were happy to listen to clear goal formulations, provided by our lecturers



Helping disadvantaged learnersBy De Groene Kans vzw (DGK)

De Groene Kans vzw (DGK)

is a Belgian organization which provides

learning and

working opportunities for disadvantaged groups. We work with

specific target groups

such as the long term unemployed and the young, disadvantaged , unemployed. Besides having a need for knowledge, attitudes and skills to enter or re-enter employment, the majority of the unemployed face challenges in other areas of life such as financial, familyrelated, housing and addictions. These can interfere with or even overtake our clients’ capacity for some form of sustained labour market preparation. It is therefore important for us to focus on the wider “social ecology” of the participant’s lives and apply holistic approaches to professional practices within DGK and across the network of other local organizations.. This involves teamwork, rather than individual social workers or instructors “getting it right”. In order to achieve this, we have embedded DGK in a local network of social services, charitable organizations, job centres, counselling and guidance organizations. Such teamwork entails systematic consulting and cooperation between offers multi-dimensional perspectives on the problems faced by professionals and

clients. Our common aim is to support the clients, to build on their strengths and help them to minimise their weaknesses. (Warner Weil et al, 2005)

But the deprivation and disadvantage of our clients is stark. As indicated, a lack of paid employment does not only mean a lack of income but also a lack of structure in one’s life and it often leads to social disintegration and social isolation. In addition, our clients have multiple problems. Some are recovering from mental illness, some have problems of alcoholic and drug addiction, some have been imprisoned for years, some neglect hygiene and health. Often they come from families with no tradition of employment and little motivation to find work. Often they have been unsuccessful in the basic skills of literacy

and numeracy at school and very often they lack self-esteem. The exceptions are a few migrant workers from Afghanistan and the former Soviet Union, who are keen to gain some form of employment. The remainder fit within the broad category of NEETS (Neither Educated, Employable or Trained). Our task is to enable them. This requires not only providing them with job skills and some improvement in numeracy and literacy but perhaps most important of all the development of their self esteem and confidence to enter the world of work. The task is not easy.

We do provide training in jobs which are just outside the clients’ zones of comfort such as forestry, bicycle repairs, market gardening, jam- making, cooking and baking. Classes by adult educators are provided to help clients learn to read and do simple calculations. Often they have learnt defensive strategies to avoid these tasks and those strategies are identified and gradually transformed, with some success, into coping strategies of basic reading and arithmetic and developing the confidence to ask questions rather than pretending to understand. We provide social support on such matters as debt counselling, financial management and obtaining accommodation. Underpinning all of these activities are helping clients to develop self-confidence and self-esteem. This was not our original intention but through our experience and observations we came to recognize that enablement is our core task and that task is both psychological and social. It would be good to say that we have been influenced by Freire (1970) and others (Van Regenmortel, 2002). In truth, we were not. Rather we discovered their writings after our experience of the ‘swampy lower lands’ of helping, professionally, the disadvantaged to learn (Schon, 1983, 1988). Some case studies To illustrate our work with clients, three case studies are presented. Each of these provides an indication of the problem encountered by a client and our attempts to help him or her, and each reveals a dimension of our work. All names have been changed. Going to the doctor Yvan, one of our less able and very shy clients had to see an ophthalmologist because he had a very serious eye infection. He had never visited an ophthalmologist before, he was

very anxious and stressed about this visit. An appointment was arranged via DGK and on the given day Yvan actually went to see the ophthalmologist, he was examined and he obtained a prescription. But to relieve the stress prior to the visit, he had drunk even more than usual. So that both for Yvan and the doctor the visit was memorable. On his return to work that day, he was delighted with his achievement and was praised for his achievement by a social worker and his instructor. But one social worker noticed and commented critically on the alcohol abuse, not his achievement of overcoming his fear and, for the first time in his life, he had had his eyes examined. That same social worker had in the previous week had given her first presentation at a national conference. She had oscillated between being fearful, stressed and fabricating excuses not to go. She returned to DGK pleased that her presentation went well. Until it was gently pointed out to her by her colleagues, she did not see the parallel between her behaviour and feelings and those of Yvan’s nor that these feelings and anxieties of ‘doing something for the first time’ might transcend subcultures.

This cameo shows the importance of giving praise where it is due and, perhaps more important, looking for the familiar feelings and anxieties in what is initially perceived as strange, even inappropriate, behaviour. Few middle class social workers would think of getting drunk before seeing an ophthalmologists but for Yvan it was a habitual way of coping with stress. Through our discussions with the social worker we were able to help her to develop her understanding and empathy with the client. We strengthened the selfconfidence of the client and we were able to explore with him that such feelings and anxieties of ‘doing something for the first time’ were normal, were always present but became less strong, and one did not always need alcohol as a prop when faced with a challenge.

Taking the bus Diksmuide is a small town in a rural area. In order to connect small villages, without a regular bus service, with the town, there is a “Belbus’ system. You can book the Belbus three hours in advance and the bus will collect you at the bus stop. Although this seems a

fairly straight forward system, it assumes at least three basic competences: the ability to use a phone, the ability to find the bus stop and the ability to plan ahead. Although most of our clients have mobile phones and use them frequently but they are afraid of ringing someone they do not know or someone in an “official” role , such as a member of the bus information service. Stefaan had been in psychiatric care (due to a serious drug addiction) and he had a job interview in Veurne. In order to get there he had to take the train and then the Belbus. His mother took him to the station and told him to get off at the first stop. There, he was unable to identity the Belbus and decided to walk. He walked for hours and in the end rang his mother. The following day he could barely walk because of his blisters so he was provided with medical care by a local nurse.

His experience of getting lost prompted us to analyse the tasks involved in travelling by bus to an unfamiliar location, and to plan and implement a short practical course on finding one’s way by bus, reading a simple map and telephoning strangers. The course has helped many of our clients to be more confident about travel although some still prefer to avoid travel outside of their immediate, familiar environment.

Having your hair done Carine is a 47 year old woman, with a long history of alcoholism. She found herself a new partner, who had a 10-year old daughter. At the start of the school year (as is indeed the case in many primary schools), some children had lice. The partner’s daughter had lice and consequently Carine had lice as well. She chose however to ignore their presence. More precisely, she did not try to get rid of them. Instead, she scratched herself till her skull was covered in small wounds. We tried to persuade her to use a shampoo and a lice comb, without any success. So we invited a local lice nurse, who was willing to demonstrate to everyone how to remove lice. The nurse was an elderly lady, with much experience of working with poorer families. She spoke to the clients in simple, everyday language and she used examples and illustrations which were related to the experiences and views of the clients. She was patient, and judging from the reactions of the clients, she was perceived as non-threatening, friendly but of high prestige. After the first initial reservations, one of the client’s, Dirk, agreed to act as a volunteer to have his hair checked. The nurse talked to him and gave him some simple tips on hair care. She

followed this procedure with all the clients on the course. When it came to Carine’s turn, the nurse gave her some tips for her hair and skin which would help her to look and feel better. The nurse suggested that to help Carine, she could arrange for someone to visit her. Carine agreed. A community nurse visited her until she was lice free.

Although it would be pretentious to say that Carine’s attitude to personal hygiene changed dramatically, she did gain from this experience. Her bodily hygiene is much better, she usually washes in the morning and her hair is clean. She even walks differently. She does however continue to need some encouragement. After all, years of bodily neglect can not be overcome in only a few weeks. But perhaps the most valuable learning gains from this experience for instructors and social workers is the importance of using persuasive explaining rather than attempting coercion, of speaking a language register familiar to the clients and treating the clients as persons not as problems. The early work of Brookfield proved useful and relevant in this task (Brookfield, 1986)

A trip to a foreign country In 2006, one of the forestry instructors suggested that a group of our forestry workers (clients) should visit a similar forestry group on Kent, England to meet them and see how they work. At first, the clients were very apprehensive. Few had travelled more than 20 km from their homes and none had been abroad. They reluctantly agreed to go providing they could take their own food with them. They had heard that food in England was awful. They visited the forestry camp and with the aid of the forestry instructor, who spoke fluent English, they were able to talk with the English forestry workers, they watched the English workers and worked with them for a few hours. They ate in an ‘English’ Macdonald’s restaurant and were surprised that it was so similar to MacDonalds at home. On return, they talked much about their experiences in the Kentish forest and of the travel. This year, they asked if they could return and some did so with some new clients.

Although for many middle class people this experience may seem trivial, this brief, simple experience widened the clients’ horizons. In ethnographic terms (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995), it helped the clients to see the familiar in the strange. It gave them more

confidence in travelling, eating abroad and conversing with ‘foreigners’.

A few learnt the

some different approaches to logging and cutting and the experience reinforced

importance of safety measures. Some of the clients were surprised to find that safety was also a concern in other forestry organizations- not just a chore required by DGK. But most important of all, it gave the clients a positive experience which they could share and talk about, even reflect upon. It was an achievement for them and it increased their self esteem. These modest case studies capture some of the ground work we do with clients. They reveal some of the challenges and some of the approaches which can enhance the learning, self esteem and confidence of our clients. However, it would be wrong to leave readers with the impression that DGK is wholly successful. The inter-cultural forces affecting disadvantaged groups are strong (Elchardus et al, 2002). Often we are asking our clients to break away from their indigenous culture. “Success” has to be measured in context. What counts as a success with our clients is very different from what counts as success for an intelligent graduate. Nonetheless, we continue to reflect both individually and as an organization on ways of assisting our clients . It would also be too bold to claim we are a fully fledged learning organization (e.g . Senge, 1990) or part of a strong community of practice (e.g. Wenger, 1998) but we continue to strive to develop ways of helping our clients through learning together in our organization and in our network of local organizations.


Literature 1 storyCode=206416&sectioncode=26 Guidelines for promoting sustainable agriculture in Alpine mountain regions 1 2 Education for Rural People (ERP) 3 _index.html Community Sustainability in the Rural West: Enhancing Graduate Education through Inter-disciplinary, Place-Based Learning 4 Education for Sustainable Development: Human Geography (Agriculture and Rural Development) Author: Guy Robinson 5


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