Social innovation competence development Vol 3: taking action both on an individual and collective manner

Social innovation competence development Vol 3: taking action both on an individual and collective manner

Having the ability to activate individuals into achieving collective goals while being committed towards a shared vision even if efforts fail to produce results, is when groups become more effective and productive (collective efficacy). During the first piloting period, both teachers and students have emphasised how satisfied they feel to collaborate and thus help others to achieve a common goal. It was affirmed that the benefits of a collective mindset are being experienced by children and adults alike. 

“Students have started using the “we have to” wording, including everyone. They realised that it is not an individual achievement but a collective one” (Director, CEIP Los Albares)

Even if efforts fail to produce results, teachers’ involvement in NEMESIS further reinforced their beliefs that they have to encourage their students and make them realise that they need to collectively keep on trying and that they are capable of acting and delivering results. 

What has evolved out of the first year’s evaluation was the fact that the collective efficacy competence is very much linked and should be looked together with the social resilience one, that is the ability to persevere, stay focused on the vision and be self-directed when witnessing a setback or failure. One of the most important contributions of resilience to people involved in social innovation is teaching them to look at problems consistently and consider the broader impacts of their ideas. 

The evaluation results have shown an evolution in children from a position of passive involvement, “a must be done” attitude, to a real and active involvement, whereby they make decisions, propose and act. When students’ ideas are valued and when they are given the autonomy to raise their voice has shown that this has contributed to developing a sense of social resilience that will make them determined and enable them to stay focused on their mission no matter the setbacks. However, it is not only that, as by increasing their voice, you are increasing their willingness to make efforts in order to apply the new knowledge and ideas developed by them. And this was evident in all pilot schools whereby students deeply understood that what was proposed by them was meaningful and were prepared to go the extra mile and apply their ideas, act upon their vision and bring social value to their mission by developing solutions that match the challenges that society is currently facing (Take the lead for value creation). 

   “They continue because they are clear about it, that their proposal for the future is a clean town, a town that recycles. One of the words that repeat the most is ecology, care of the earth, they will continue until they get it”      (Director, CEIP Los Albares).

On top of that, what has also proven to be important is thinking more about a solution, making in-depth discussions, and listening to everyone about the different actions that could take place. 

   “NEMESIS not only made us think of the different and responsible ways we could help the visually impaired people in our neighbourhood but it was through this period of discussion that we realised of our future actions   and so we made them real and acted towards them by sensitizing our community towards those people so that they too become responsible like us” (pupil, 1st Experimental School of Thessaloniki)

Another notable result refers to the motivation provided to students and the confidence gained throughout their involvement with NEMESIS in terms of engaging with the digital technology (digital social innovation) as well as organizing and mobilizing resources (human or financial) for achieving their vision and turning their collective ideas into action. It has thus been observed that little progress has been recorded on that end. This was mainly attributed to the subject of the projects that each school has decided to work on but most importantly on the age of the students. However, what is needed the most for being able to mobilise any such resources is time, effort and patience.  

“Children in Rockingham school are part of the project, but they are not the one’s activating it because it’s so grown up. The funding aspects and the architect take some of it out of the children’s hands because they can’t do those things, which also reduces the amount of ‘organisation and mobilisation of resources the children can effect” (Jen Wall, NEMESIS observation team for UK).

The ability to effectively communicate and interact with others has proven to be an essential dynamic process of the NEMESIS model as students have been able to communicate effectively and negotiate with all stakeholders, uncovering each other’s needs to enhance understanding and be more effective in creating social value and perform purposeful and impactful actions (social communication). According to teachers’ testimonies, NEMESIS has been a catalyst towards students’ integration in groups, especially those with social and integration difficulties. 

“What we have seen is that it has been especially positive for children with social problems. For some children it has been a path of integration, of enjoyment, of relaxation “(Director, CEIP Los Albares)

The generated adult-child relationship and interaction is thus further improving students’ social communication competences because they are becoming more adept at communicating with adults and adapt their behaviour accordingly to be able to do so. This relationship is also providing the opportunity to everyone involved to be a reflective learner, favouring in this way the continuous improvement of the ideas and solutions provided, as one of the most important elements for creating social value through their actions.

“I would improve what we’ve done this year…everything can be improved … and gather ideas from more students” (pupil, CEIP Los Albares) 

As far as the competence of collaborative planning and democratic decision making is concerned, during the implementation period, it has received a high number of references from students and teachers to parents and other stakeholders involved. What is standing out is the joint decision making that takes place in NEMESIS between different and diverse participants, the level of decision making, being active listeners and most importantly, the leading role of students in the decision-making processes in the co-creation Labs without undervaluing anyone’s ideas and opinions.

“We all do the same, although some of us are older and others are younger, up to 6 years” (pupil, CEIP Los Albares)

“We were really pleased and amazed. We contributed the ideas and adults helped us improving them” (pupil, AE Maia)

All in all, even though the focus on assessing students’ competence development has been different in the five countries, one common outcome is that they see all competences being naturally developed in students through their involvement in the different activities of NEMESIS but in order to be able to witness a complete level of competence development more time is needed.

“NEMESIS is not so much about results but it rather puts kids in situations where they see and understand the problem, they are posing questions, and we are going to find together the solution we want to build. That’s the core. Adults adopt a different attitude and we will try together with kids to find a solution and also make them understand that even if it may not work in the end, they are still capable of acting on things” (teacher, École Ruffi)

And what stands out the most is that it is not only the outcome that matters but the process that you need to undergo and the setbacks you will encounter and be able to overcome as a group and continue, that makes this process valuable and important.

8TH ICSD 2020 International Conference

Partners of the NEMESIS consortium (Stimmuli, ILI-FAU) participated in the International Conference of Sustainable Development organized by the European Center of Sustainable Development (ECSDEV). Through a virtual presentation (available at the link: Stimmuli presented the results of the first pilot period of the NEMESIS project through a recorded video narration entitled: “Assessing the impact of Social Innovation Education on student’s engagement”.

Competence development Vol. 1: Identifying opportunities for social and collective value creation

Drawings of Willow Tree Academy students reflecting upon the 14 SI competences

During the 2018-2019 academic year, 8 schools from 5 European countries involving 56 teachers, 1030 students and 80 external stakeholders, experimented with different methodologies for embedding Social Innovation Education in their contexts. The impact of these efforts towards the cultivation and progression of students’ social innovation competences has been outstanding. The 14 SI competences have been evaluated in terms of progress achieved looking upon a rich mix of sources of evidence. Research findings showed a positive progression in almost all of them leaving, however, space for some adaptations and refinements. 

This positive progression is mainly attributed to the model’s three core principles: 

1) the student-centred approach to learning, rendering students active and self-determined producers of their own learning, 

2) the co-creation process that fosters intergenerational interactions and collaborative problem solving, empowering thus students by making their voices heard and valued and also, 

3) the transformative social action whereby through their projects, students are able to witness the impact they are bringing about behind little actions that can help the world further. 

This is one of the three blog series that are looking into the evaluation results of the first piloting period in terms of competence development. In this volume we are tapping into the first of the three main SI competence categories, i.e. those which are important for identifying opportunities for social and collective value creation.

Evaluation insights have shown that students have evolved from a position of ignorance to a position of interest and positive consideration towards the activities they were involved in and the ideas they were discussing. As such, they think that their learning makes a difference to their community and the wider world (vision for a better world). As the project and their activities evolved, students were able to envisage a better world by focussing on aspects they find unpleasant. Many students seemed to find it easier to think about ‘big’ problems such as world hunger, but they did not immediately view ‘smaller,’ more local issues as a problem that needs solving. Whenever the engagement of external stakeholders was constant and meaningful to them, students felt more motivated and highly inspired and were bursting with ideas about how to make the world a better place by simply following their examples.

“Mr Alexandros made us imagine our society a whole lot different. With his inspiration and motivation, we came up with so many ideas that we felt we could provide solutions to many social problems in our community” (pupil, 1st Experimental School of Thessaloniki).

Students were able to see the good and bad things around them and come up with ideas and ways to improve them. However, the level of evaluating those ideas and responsibly acting towards accomplishing their goal was not that evident (responsible and critical thinking). This was expected given the different and, sometimes, challenging subjects that each of the schools and classes have been working on. Nevertheless, students have gained an increased sense of belonging and ownership. The fact that they are raising their voice and they have been heard making at the same time decisions of their own is of great value to them and make them more responsible and critical towards the subject they are focusing on.

Right now, children feel much more responsible because they are the ones that create the programme and they have understood that. So this makes them directly more responsible. And gives them more social sensitivity. I think it is a very good preparation at least starting from elementary school” (teacher, 6th Intercultural School of Kordelio)

On another note, empathy has proven to be the backbone of the project’s model and the starting point of all activities. The possibility of participating, collaborating and helping others has favored the development of empathy in students. It has been observed that without empathy, without being able to put someone’s self into the shoes of another person and sympathise or even understand and respond to their feelings, other competences could not be developed.

Drawing upon students’, teachers’ and parents’ reflections, the cultivation of this competence has also been dependent upon different things, such as the activities that students have undergone, the age of students, their interaction and hands on experience and research with the subject of their project, etc.

“The inspiration and sense of responsibility that all students have shown provided the strength and impetus our project needed. NEMESIS helped us realise how me as an individual, we as a team and everyone else are equals and that we must show respect and empathy to everyone and not only to those in need” (pupil, 1st Experimental School of Thessaloniki)

Finally, having the ability to believe in oneself, identify and assess strengths and weaknesses without undervaluing the opinions of others is of the essence in NEMESIS and is what drives people into building their confidence towards effecting positive social change (self-efficacy).

It was evident through the observations and focus groups that when telling what NEMESIS has given them, children explained that the project has favored their autonomy and their self-confidence and that this enabled them to positively use it for their benefit. They felt they could identify their strengths and weaknesses and use that positively for their project as further explained through students’ narratives.  

“(…) you feel like they trust you, it’s a beautiful feeling” (pupil, CEIP Los Albares)

“Before NEMESIS we spotted things that could be improved but we didn´t know how… after NEMESIS, we became better persons, we achieve more things and we are more imaginative…” (pupil, AE Maia)

They feel that they are treated as people and not as children but as equals. A student from AEMAIA (Portugal) has referred to her own experience, asserting that at first, she was unsure about her role but then her confidence and self-efficacy was building gradually. She was really surprised because initially she expected teachers would tell her what to do but that was not the case.

“(…) they did not treat us like some girls who had an idea but instead as if we were two people who wanted to bring a project to school” (pupil, CEIP Los Albares)

The discussions we had with students, teachers, parents and external stakeholders made us realise that sometimes the development of some competences go hand in hand with the subjects that the different schools are involved in and working on and also the focus of each school curriculum as was the case with the Rockingham Junior and Infant School who have shown a positive progression towards ‘collective and creative problem solving’ as this was one of the six learning skills of the school. There are also occasions whereby competences need to be looked and developed in combination as was the case of the 1st Experimental School of Thessaloniki who was working on facilitating the lives of the blind in their neighborhood. Given that the subject they have chosen includes a quite special group of individuals, students had to work on developing a lot in empathy competence. However, we have witnessed that this competence would not have been cultivated and progressed if teachers had not also focused on making them responsible and critical thinkers. There are thus competences that cannot be developed in isolation and this is something that we will be looking into during the second piloting period. 

 “What matters is the combination and focus on a set of competences that are mutually needed in a given situation” (teacher, 6th Intercultural School of Kordelio)

…to be continued 

Revisiting the NEMESIS philosophy: key messages for the second pilot period

Reaching a wider impact scale in NEMESIS means thoroughly looking back into the principles and structural aspects of its philosophy and redefining and better communicating essential aspects, that were highlighted during the evaluation process, as described below. 

Student at the centre

NEMESIS philosophy, that of stepping back and letting students lead the way was something not easily understood by teachers at the beginning. Putting their students at the centre, giving them the autonomy and voice to raise their concerns and letting them be the ones to decide which challenges and areas they like to be involved in was a shift in their instructional style that made things quite difficult. However, as things were progressing, the power dynamics in their class have changed as NEMESIS affected the way they were working. And ultimately, they wanted to do even more of that, not only letting their students decide but also creating stronger intergenerational relations by bringing more external people in the class to collaborate with them. 

Involvement of external stakeholders

Despite the beneficial relations that were formed between students, SIPs and external stakeholders, co-creation was not an easy take from the beginning of the co-creation labs. Although most schools are used in inviting external people in the classroom to present their work, they are not used in involving them in co-creation activities. This was evident as in some schools SIPs were initially treated as “invited speakers” whereas their role is simply that of a mentor. It does not have to be someone that will come from the same field that their projects are looking into but it has to be someone who will inspire them, who will light up their imagination and who students can look up to, someone who will guide and support them in their decisions and will help them unravel their thoughts and put them into action. Hence their role is essential for creating long-lasting relations with their communities and help schools towards creating an engaging environment where they will redefine their role and be transformed into open communities of learning. 

Parents involvement

The engagement and involvement of parents in the co-creation process was critical as they could easily reflect upon the effect that NEMESIS had on their child’s behavior, attitude and beliefs and thus understand their capacities better. They felt they were part of a process that they have never experienced before the introduction of NEMESIS. The need to be more involved and work together with their children was strongly highlighted as a good opportunity for family bonding and for building a better and stronger relationship with the school and teachers. 

Teacher professional development

Bringing schools together and training them in the NEMESIS process is of crucial importance as educators appreciate the idea of having a structure, a scaffold and clear stages that they can work on. 

Interaction with schools implementing NEMESIS

SIE is not only about interacting and working with social innovation practitioners or any other extremal stakeholder but it also about encouraging schools from different countries implementing the NEMESIS model to collaborate and share their experiences and learn from each other; open a channel of communication and exchange and promote the work they do, building thus a Community of Practice, a NEMESIS school network. This, in turn, will enable them to feel that they are part of a wider community and will thus impact on many more children, schools and whole communities across Europe. 

Process than results-oriented 

NEMESIS is very much about the process, not just the outcome. It is not so much about the results, but it is rather about putting students in situations where they understand a problem, they pose questions and collaboratively work on the solution they would like to build. Teachers shall then bring in their expertise and together with them and other stakeholders they would make students understand that even if something is not working at the end, they are still capable of acting on things.

Teachers’ Training Event in Thessaloniki

Some days before the official start of the academic year 2019 -2020, the NEMESIS team organized a teacher’s training workshop in the premises of the 9th high school of Kalamaria in Thessaloniki, Greece. The aim of the workshop was to introduce to new schools and the 56 participating teachers the NEMESIS educational philosophy and set the ground for their involvement in the second pilot year of the project.

The training focused on different aspects of the projects:

i) concepts around social innovation and social entrepreneurship,

ii) the key principles guiding the NEMESIS educational model, namely: the student-centred approach, co-creation and transformative social action,

iii) the project mechanisms that will be utilized in each school to facilitate the pilot implementation such as the co-creation labs and the NEMESIS SI open learning platform.

To avoid long theoretical discussions, teachers from the three Greek schools that participated in the first pilot year of the project shared their experiences and helped the new schools with practical tips and guidance. Also, the Greek SIP Alexander Theodoridis from Boroume helped the participants to better understand concepts around social innovation and social entrepreneurship and the role of the SIPs in the NEMESIS co-creation labs.

Overall, the discussions held during the workshop enabled the new teachers to get to grips with the NEMESIS model but most importantly brought to surface some “expected” challenges for implementing the NEMESIS model in the new academic year. As anticipated, the challenges that were pointed out relate to

i) teachers established teaching practices and the need to change their instructional style, step back and let students lead the way,

ii) difficulties in understanding the wider concept of social innovation

iii) existing attitudes and narrow perceptions towards linking entrepreneurship and school education.

However, the valuable experience and the lessons learned from the first pilot year will help the NEMESIS teams to better address teachers concerns and challenges ensuring an even more successful and enlightening second pilot year whereby more than 30 schools around Europe will try to implement the NEMESIS model in their contexts.

Dr. Aristidis Protopsaltis (ILI-FAU) giving a presentation during the training


The NEMESIS team would like to thank all participants and wish them a creative and successful school year.

 Do you want to learn about other schools projects in NEMESIS? Click here.

Are you a school willing to learn more about NEMESIS or thinking about joining the project? Feel free to surf the web and drop us a line ( or fill our contact form.

Are you a social innovator who – as those mentioned here- would like to collaborate with the schools in your area? Click here for more info on how to become a mentor.

NEMESIS in the 7EMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise

In 24-27 June 2019, the NEMESIS team participated in the 7EMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise which is one of the world’s central meeting places for all researchers that are involved in social enterprise, social entrepreneurship and social and solidarity economy research across the globe. 

The first day of the Conference was launched with a Transdisciplinary Forum and NEMESIS was presented during three sessions. In the first session, a fishbowl technique was used and the 20 participants had the chance to get information about the project and reflect upon social innovation in education. In the second NEMESIS session, the OPERA technique was utilized enabling people to reflect upon how could education help society in the 21st century. In the last NEMESIS session, Catherine Brentnall (SEI) gave a presentation on NEMESIS as an alternative to competitive Enterprise Education. 

Figure 1: NEMESIS session 1, facilitated by Catherine Brentnall (SEI) and using the fishbowl technique to discuss about Social Innovation in Education

In the second day of the conference, NEMESIS was presented through two research papers by the project partners Stimmuli and ILI-FAU, focusing on discussing the Social Innovation Learning Framework and the Social Innovation Open learning platform developed by the project.

Figure 2: Presentation of the research paper: “Towards a Social Innovation learning framework” by Irene Kalemaki (Stimmuli)

Figure 3: Presentation of the research paper: “Social Innovation Open Learning Platform” by Dr. Aristidis Protopsaltis (ILI-FAU)

The novelty of the NEMESIS project, as well as the first research findings that were presented, attracted the attention of the audience and fruitful discussions were held on how social innovation education can impact the wider education domain.

 Do you want to learn about other schools projects in NEMESIS? Click here.

Are you a school willing to learn more about NEMESIS or thinking about joining the project? Feel free to surf the web and drop us a line ( or fill our contact form.

Are you a social innovator who – as those mentioned here- would like to collaborate with the schools in your area? Click here for more info on how to become a mentor.