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Piloting the NEMESIS Lessonseries

On a sunny Tuesday in October, we went to a high school in Alphen aan de Rijn, Netherlands. Today I was going to do my first pilot of the NEMESIS Lessonseries Co-Creation. I felt excited and a little nervous. What would they think? Will the students dig it?

What I had planned was two groups of 60 students each. Wow, 60 kids lined up to do the Co-Creation. The biggest group I ever taught. Getting them silent was quite of a challenge, but luckily I have a loud voice, so I managed. Then we started with the Co-Creation. After getting to know each other it was time to really start diving into the environment and find the social issues that were bothering them.

To summarise our first day: it was awesome to see so much motivation and drive. The students in the two groups were instantly motivated when they were able to take up the pen themselves and were allowed to bring in their own ideas. They ended up with projects in all sorts and sizes. Every time I witness a process like this I cannot help to feel inspired, motivated and creative as well.  

Two weeks later, we came back to see the end results of the chosen projects. We reserved a spot in the huge auditorium where the 60 kids and tables drowned! Haha! Next year we will come back and fill it up with 200 students… When the “market” started and the students started presenting their materials I barely had enough time to see everything they made. The results of the kids were mindblowing. A few went to the municipality and are currently in talks of making parts of the city greener. Action posters to make the streets cleaner were made. The director of the school got invited into a project to “make the school green again”. Vegans were interviewed, students started showering for a shorter period of time and loads more. 

All-in all the students ended up becoming more empathetic, more self-and-environment-aware, they worked on their team-cooperation skills and they started to take action to change the world for the better. Just to name a few of the many skills they developed… Funny how doing a lessonseries can turn out. Teaching in a small village somewhere in the Netherlands felt like it made no sense at first. But in the end it turned out to be the inspirational birth of the changemakers of tomorrow. 

    

Is there a link between student participation rights and “doing well” at school?

I want to draw your attention to the article “Four arenas of school-based participation: towards a heuristic for children’s rights-informed educational practice” by Mannion, Sowerby and L’Anson (2020).  They sought to understand if and how young people would make a link between their participation rights and ‘doing well’ at school.  The research involved a number of Scottish schools in areas of socio-economic deprivation chosen because they had higher than average attainments given their catchments.

So are these two things linked? Yes, they are. Is “doing well” at school just another way of saying academic achievement?  Not exactly. According to Mannion et al, it entails many other aspects that came up in the evaluation findings of NEMESIS pilots such as an increased sense of belonging and trusted relationships with different members of the school community.  

What I found particularly interesting is their framing of participation opportunities in 4 different arenas, and the 3rd and 4th in the list have strong connections with NEMESIS Co-labs:  

  • formal curriculum (what happens in the classroom);
  • wider curriculum (e.g. school trips);
  • decision making groups ;
  • and connections with the wider community 

In the concluding remarks, authors highlight the need to broaden the focus of pupil participation and children’s rights in education beyond the typical student voice initiatives such as pupil council membership and non-dialogical consultations.  

The choice of words matter and authors employ ‘Participation’ as it transcends the meaning of the student’s voice. Or to put it other way, this is an invitation to explore scenarios where children cannot only have their voice heard but participate fully in the decision-making process and become actively engaged in bringing ideas to fruition. This ‘engagement in decision making with consequence‘ which is vital, and it should involve meaningful dialogue (not just an undiscussed reaction to an idea), be intergenerational and based on trust and ethical responsibility. 

I may be wrong but this last sentence resonates strongly with co-lab experiences in NEMESIS pilot schools, don´t you think?

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Competence development 2: Developing collaborations and building meaningful relations

Education is not solely about preparing young people for the world of work but also about equipping them with competences that will enable them to become socially proactive, empowered, responsible and engaged citizens and thus collectively contribute to and benefit from an inclusive and sustainable future. 

As part of the second blog series, this volume draws upon those competences which are important for developing collaborations and building meaningful relations. The development of those competences and also the assessment of the progress made has been an ongoing process since the beginning of piloting NEMESIS in schools. 

According to students’ testimonies, working on their social innovation projects has indeed helped them towards supporting each other and working as a team to solve problems collectively and creatively (Collective and creative problem solving). 

“For me, I believe that people do more things as a team and help each other, support, behave better” (pupil, CEIP Los Albares)

This collective process enabled the allocation of different roles and responsibilities to everyone involved. Students were thus given the opportunity to feel and act as adults who are accountable towards their team.

“The distribution of responsibilities was done collectively and each one is responsible for specific tasks in our project” (pupil, 6th Intercultural School of Kordelio)

The student- adult interaction is another important and yet effective element that further attributes to the cultivation of this competence as students are taking action together with adults in their quest to influence issues that they care about. In parallel they are put in a position to offer suggestions and make adults hear those suggestions and further negotiate on those who are really driving a positive effect. 

 “I could tell my own idea and then teachers and other grown-ups were listening to what I had to say. Then all together, we were trying to come up with solutions and creative and effective ways of helping our neighbourhood and the blind people” (pupil, 1st Experimental School of Thessaloniki)

Evaluation results have shown an interlinkage of this competence with the ‘Embracing Diversity’ one, since diversity, in the sense of different stakeholders involved, has enriched the collective work and made students see things from the perspective of the adults. Embracing the power of differences constituted an effective new way to unlock innovation. 

“(…) here we are talking about children-parents and the entire educational community, because we are also with the city council and with all the entities that we need, that is what enriches this project” (Head of studies, CEIP Los Albares)

The fact that students are working with a diverse group of people from parents to younger children, older children, experts, external to the school people, provides them with ideas and space where they realise that when working all together collaboratively, creative ideas can come out.

“One idea completed another and we made a bigger idea” (student, AEMAIA)

However, their engagement at first has proven to be quite challenging as their role was not fully understood by teachers nor was it completely infused in students. Once projects progressed, this collective interaction has proven to be essential and students could understand that people who have different backgrounds could help them and that this interaction could be of benefit for all and it could be seen as a strength to help others. 

“NEMESIS has been a real inspiration to us all as we have discovered that we have the ability to find solutions that make the change. It is also a different way of gathering parents, teachers, social innovators… With this project we have the autonomy to say “I want it this way”, we are the ones who choose” (student, AE Maia)

It has been observed that as part of the co-creation Labs, the interactions among students and adults have been essentially meaningful, favouring students’ ability to embrace diversity and effectively collaborate with creative and different minds towards a common goal. This interaction has also enabled them to develop their collective problem-solving skills by taking social action together with adults seeking to influence issues that they care about.

To be continued…

Photo by Giulia May

Staying Together: online call between Los Albares, Ruffi and Willow Tree Academy schools

One of the main outcomes for a NEMESIS school to participate in NEMESIS is that teachers and pupils become part of an innovative European community. After some months of lockdown, some of our NEMESIS schools decided to have an online call in order to share experiences to making connections across the world from Los Albares, Ruffi and Willow Tree Academy (all four schools). We had 32 participants in total and everyone was able to contribute and share ideas.

We were able to share our experiences, worries and memories during this difficult time. The children were thrilled to finally meet each other virtually after writing letters and learning a lot about each other and their culture/traditions.

The children asked lots of questions about school, learning from home and whether or not they were allowed to go out and meet their friends. Here are some examples of the things we explored.

Mrs Buttree’s children asked the first question:

What’s the best experience you’ve had?

Freetime with your family. Daniel Santolaria and Pablo were good-excellent English!

Discovered new apps – Irene.

Have you found there’s more community spirit?

Yes.

Was it easy working (doing school work) from home?

No!

Daniel (Spain) – it’s very possible if you pay attention.

Easy for Laura (Spain) – she has everything on a calendar!

Have you been more active during the lockdown? More exercise?

The first two months people in Spain were not allowed out at all. Children under 14 were allowed out after 2 months with one parent for 1hr. It felt like you were doing something very dangerous. March and April were hard, the streets were empty. Daniel said he exercised in his home (treadmill).

One of the UK boys had been trying to improve his fitness through runs and walks with his dog, being in the garden and done doing a sports day at home. Sports day – used a sock and a frying pan instead of a tennis ball & racquet. Children filmed themselves and scored themselves.

France – (teacher Anna) schools closed March 13th. Lockdown for everyone began mid-March – the start of May. You couldn’t go out at all except for 1hr to exercise and you had to have papers with you to prove why you were out. A positive for Anna has been increased links with children and parents and have Improved relationships with the parents – they feel like friends! Jane said teachers in the UK feel the same. You could speak to parents 1 2 1. The children enjoyed organising their time as they wanted. France has 400 children but only 40 are back in. The teachers work in shifts.  Teachers have to wear face masks in French schools – different to the UK. In WTA each group of children has their own social bubble with their own teacher – The Invincibubbles, The Incredibubbles…

Daniel (Spain) question

How do you make school welcoming but safe, as we start coming back?

A child replied – Bjorn from the UK said that as they enter they have spaces to line up and their own space within the classroom and their own equipment,

Mrs Fearnley’s question – How much did you miss going to school?

UK children – a lot!

It’s nice to get back to normality because we’re more productive at school.

Everyone thought it was going to be fun having no school, but we missed it towards the end.

One boy was worried about coming back but it feels OK. Mrs Buttree said they’ve been doing work on emotional well being due to what’s happening.

Spanish children want to come back – ‘I don’t see my friends and I don’t see my teachers and it’s a little difficult to understand the homework and that’s it.’

It was such a wonderful experience to get the children’s viewpoints and what is happening in other countries, we are scheduling our next meeting with Ana and the children in Spain to discuss our NEMESIS projects and how we are moving forward with them.

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 

NEMESIS, Social Innovation, Digital Technology and COVID-19

 The last few months the COVID-19 has affected everybody’s lives and changed substantially our way of living. One area that these changes are particularly evident, is education. The current situation all across Europe is changing the way schools operate, the way teachers deliver content and communicate with their students, and the way students learn and communicate with their fellow students. Digital technology can play an important role in supporting schools to implement these changes by enabling synchronous and asynchronous content delivery and communication between teachers and students but also between teachers and parents. When used correctly technology is typically not a simple add-on channel but is instead often quite transformative enabling new things to be done, and therefore transform the educational experience.

Using digital technology to solve complex problems has become widely accepted, even though resistance is not absent, but using digital technology to solve complex social problems is a relatively new concept that is gaining real momentum around the world.

The role of digital technology regarding social innovation is twofold, supporting and enabling social innovation. Digital technology can support and improve existing social innovations, or existing types of social innovation. For example, it can support unemployed people to find employment and/or perform related tasks much faster and more accurately than traditional approaches. Furthermore, digital technology can enable social innovations that would otherwise not happen, and this may sometimes even lead to completely new types of social innovation. For example, creating completely new social, business, educational and governance models and value chains without unnecessary middlemen and which empower the individuals as members of the society.

The use of technology in social innovation can be associated with a positive meaning. In education, though can play a vital role in encouraging and promoting collaboration, inclusion, and co-creation. That can be achieved via digital platforms which facilitate peer-to-peer interactions, co-creation activities, a wealth of information, examples of social innovation projects and stakeholders’ database in order to solve social and/or environmental problems (Ozman, Gossart, 2018). The online (digital) tools and platforms range from tools which focus on creating content and identifying unmet social needs at one end, through matching assets to needs, to those which focus on identifying solutions and taking action to meet those needs (Tepsie, 2014). However, it has been observed that education tend to deploy bespoke ICT more often than other areas, in order to enable new types of social innovation.

NEMESIS is a social innovation project, which deals with bringing social innovation to schools and introducing a novel social innovation education approach, and as such is using technology to support its actions. Since, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NEMESIS traditional physical activities with schools, teachers, students and other stakeholders have been challenged, the project is looking for alternatives, meaning to replace traditional phase to phase interactions with digital ones, wherever it is possible. These activities are part of the NEMESIS co-creation labs. NEMESIS conceived co-creation labs as open learning environments where teachers and students join forces with parents, social innovation practitioners and other local, national or international stakeholders collaborate in the design and development of social innovation projects. Digital tools can play an important and role in breaking down the physical barriers and transform the co-creation labs into virtual co-creation labs using standard or bespoke tools. The bespoke NEMESIS Social Innovation open learning platform can provide an open learning environment that supports virtual peer-to-peer interactions, upload of materials, communication tools, database with Social Innovation Practitioners (SIPs), collaborative tools, setting up of group work etc. Standard tools (e.g. Skype, Zoom, Jisti Meet, Wire etc.) can be used for video conferencing and co-creation sessions with all stakeholders allowing more direct and synchronous contact. 

Digital technology is an important supporter of social innovation in education by increasing efficiency and effectiveness, facilitating social innovation through greater connectivity, simplicity and convenience. It enables new types of social innovation which deliver new impacts and new opportunities through the use of different combinations of online platforms, and the configuration of online communities and their relationships with offline communities. 

 

Dr Aristidis Protopsaltis

Coordinator of NEMESIS Project


References

Millard, J. and Carpenter, G. (2014). Digital technology in social innovation: a synopsis (tepsie). Available at: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/content/original/Book%20covers/Local%20PDFs/124%20TEPSIE%20synopsis%20digital%20technology%20in%20SI.pdf

Ozman, Muge and Gossart, Cédric, Digital Social Innovation: Exploring an Emerging Field (September 7, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3434363

 

NEMESIS Projects Map

During these times of uncertainty, the education system is one of the things that has been affected more than anything. With schools and colleges closed, there was a sudden shift to online and home-learning, as well as uncertainty about the future regarding exams, graduations, and ongoing projects.

Like many other school activities, most of the NEMESIS activities and projects have also been put on hold for now, although some of them have continued with their projects online.

In the meantime, to learn more about the projects so far, we have published an interactive map with every NEMESIS school in Europe. Clicking a school on the map will bring up more information about the school, with links to some of the projects they have been working on for NEMESIS.

 

 

Stakeholder engagement in NEMESIS: Lessons from Pilot 1

NEMESIS conceived co-creation labs as open learning environments. Here, teachers and students join forces with parents, social innovation practitioners and any other member of the local community to collaborate in the design and development of social innovation projects.  You can think of a Co-Lab as the main decision-making structure of the project, bringing together student representatives, teachers and a range of different community actors including families.

Community involvement in NEMESIS

Schools in Pilot 1 have managed to engage a rich mix of community partners.  Parental involvement has been a consistent feature in all Co-Labs, particularly in Primary Schools.  As observed in the figure below the number of parents (Family) attending Co-Lab meetings is only second to teaching staff. Non-Profit organisations (including SIPs) and Local Authorities do also feature prominently in the Co-Lab Member Lists provided by the schools.

 

Profile of Co-Lab members

Stakeholders from non-profit sector outnumber the rest

Piloting schools have adopted an expanded approach to stakeholder engagement that goes beyond Co-Lab participation. In total, schools have established fruitful links and worked alongside 92 unique external stakeholders representing a diverse mix of profiles as evidenced in the figure below.  Representatives from the non-profit sector (including Social Innovation Practitioners) outnumber the rest of groups. The key input and support provided by local authorities is also worth noting and acknowledging.

 

Overall Stakeholder Engagement

External stakeholders were mainly sourced by teachers and schools.

“Contacting external stakeholders takes time, effort. It slows things down. Sometimes you need an expert. It would be nice to have a list of contacts.“ – Teacher, Portugal

However, the need to reach local stakeholders is described by one of the teachers:

“It’s not only geographical proximity,  but personality, feeling the space is shared, sense of connectedness, belonging to the same community (neighbours)” – Teacher, Spain

New possibilities and practices

Quite interestingly and in spite of the fact that most of them were institutions and individuals from the local area, two out of three external stakeholders had not collaborated with piloting schools before NEMESIS. This indicates access to new cognitive and relational resources opening  up new possibilities and practices (Drew, Priestley & Michael, 2016)

Previous collaboration with school

When asked to describe the role played by external stakeholders, schools described it in different terms.  In some cases, stakeholders acted as mentors (26) or as collaborators (18) with quite a lot of contact time with the group of students. Some others brought in expert knowledge (14) needed to deal with specific aspects of the project.  Inspiration is also fundamental in the initial stages and the SIPs appointed by NEMESIS have excelled at this. Last but not least, local companies have provided goods and services.

Main role of external stakeholders

When asked to rate the level of involvement, schools did not only consider contact time. Some stakeholders were considered as highly involved simply because they provided some relevant input to the project once.

Stakeholders’ level of engagement

Difficulties finding an SIP

The difficulties reported by schools in finding an appropriate SIP was one of the main lessons of this first pilot. There are three key reasons or explanatory factors.

First and foremost, the SIP category is problematic in itself. It is hard to find people who define themselves as Social Innovation Practitioners. In order to overcome this constraint, schools have embraced a more inclusive definition that has informed our decision to rename SIP community as NEMESIS community and include all stakeholders that have community and social focus.

The second aspect has to do with relevance. Schools are expecting to find a good match that is in a position to provide expert advice on the topic they have chosen. Obviously this was (and it’s going to be) hard to anticipate in advance.  So while the efforts at creating a SIP community are laudable, they will never meet the unpredictable range of demands arising from school projects.

The local factor has made the difference, evidenced by the strategies devised in schools. So while local community stakeholders are easier to reach, they are also more likely to be concerned and willing to act on issues affecting their communities. Tapping into local community actors does also help to prevent some issues regarding the cost and time of attending Co-Lab meetings or undertaking actions with schools.

NEMESIS enables new, stronger connections with local community

Co-Labs, a central element in NEMESIS pedagogical model, have enabled collaboration between young people and adults to address problems in the school and their local communities and allowed students to have a say in issues of their interest and assume leadership roles in change efforts.

As we have discussed in this article, NEMESIS has enabled new and stronger connections with the local community. A broad range of local stakeholders, mainly sourced by schools, have been engaged in the project. Factors like proximity, relevance and disposition to collaborate on a voluntary basis are key to build a strong NEMESIS community.


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 (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) or fill our contact form.

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

What is digital storytelling and what is not?

Digital storytelling has its origins in one of the oldest arts in the history of mankind – telling stories. It is based on creating and telling or sharing narrations using not only words, but also modern IT tools and multimedia materials like: graphics, video, audio, animation. As Silvia Rosenthal points out in her article “Digital Storytelling: What it is and What it is not”: 

“Humans are natural storytellers. It has been THE FORM of passing on knowledge from generation to generation. Storytelling existed in some shape or form in all civilizations across time. In the 21st century, which we have the luck to live in, Digital Storytelling, has opened up new horizons, inconceivable without the use of technology. Storytelling is evolving, as humans are adapting, experimenting and innovating with the use of ever-changing technology, the growth of human networks and our ability to imagine new paths”.

Nowadays, storytelling is still widely used in education and in everyday life. However, the development and the widespread use of technology has changed the tools we can use to tell a story. The use of ICT tools in creating and sharing stories has changed the range and impact that such stories might have. Further, it has allowed us to reach larger audiences and its impact might be much more effective.

It is not just about the tools. It is about the skills

Jenna McWilliams, who participates in the project of New Media Literacies, describes in a very graphic way the idea of reading with a mouse in your hand. She says that sometimes teachers encourage students to read with a pen in their hand. It is about committing themselves critically, taking notes, raising questions, thinking, rather than simply looking at the words. Likewise, when students read with a mouse in the hand they take one more step: they assume that they must actively respond to what is in front of them; they are pushed to participate, to be responsible for the quality of the information they receive and to correct it publicly, if it is incorrect.

via GIPHY

It is not about creating media. It is about creating meaning

More and more content is shared on the Internet over time. It is valuable to contribute our perspectives to a type of content but is much better if the emphasis of the stories we share create some meaning— and make that meaning visible to others — not the act of creating the content itself. We found a wonderful example with this teen user of TikTok. She expresses a heartbreaking criticism of the mass detention of Muslim Uighurs in China, in the format of a makeup tutorial. We take our hat off to her.

It is not only about telling a story. It is about contributing and collaborating with others

Thanks to the Internet educators are able to collaborate and share ideas and information all over the world. Without question, Twitter could be a very rich source of information, but the feed moves pretty fast. As a result, the information can be difficult to keep up with.

Twitter chats are conversations to add value to other people’s learning. Chats take place on a specific topic on a specific day and at a specific time. Participants in the chat use a #hashtag specific to that topic, which allows for a search to be conducted even after the chat has ended.  There are plenty of them related to education.

It is not about telling an isolated story. It is about sharing and connecting experiences and perspectives to a community

Me Too is the name of a virally initiated movement that emerged as a hashtag in October 2017. It was created to denounce sexual harassment, following accusations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Many celebrities used the hashtag to tweet their experiences and demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynist behaviour. In other words, #metoo movement triggered a global cry of women, proving that the problem was not a simple aggregation of individual stories. #Metoo has been the evidence of a structural issue beyond far the film industry. 

It is not about substituting analogue stories. It is about transforming stories

Digital storytelling, because of its technological component, has allowed new forms of interactivity. Interactive stories enable us to experience different routes based on the options we choose. For example, the project CHESS (Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling), co-funded by the European Commission, aims to implement and evaluate both the experiencing of personalized interactive stories for visitors of cultural sites, facing the important challenge of making their collections more engaging to visitors, especially the young ‘digital natives’, while exploiting new forms of cultural interactive experiences.

In conclusion

So, conceived like this, Digital storytelling is not about how to make the most professional video ever. Digital storytelling is about different types of skills that are developed in the process, that allow students and teachers to be engaged and critical digital media consumers. Just like what we do in a social innovation project in a school. The main objective is not that the student learns how to paint a patio or garden, or how to organise a second-hand market. The clue is the process during which they can develop skills. For example identifying opportunities that create social value or forming and valuing new cohesive relations and collaborations.


This article is an extract of the Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling. 

Digital Storytelling is an integral part of NEMESIS as it is a learning tool as well as a way to document and showcase the work created in the Co-creation Labs. Is a way to document and share your social innovation project in a participative way. Read our Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling for further information: https://nemesis-edu.eu/about/resources

Launching the online learning platform: A new shared space to bind the growing NEMESIS community

NEMESIS’ online learning platform marks a new step in the journey of the project.  The online platform provides resources to teachers and educators interested in applying the model. There they can find practical information, good practices, and online courses for their professional development. 

The platform also works as a hub for educators and social entrepreneurs to be part of an online community of like-minded people interested in education and social innovation. In short, the platform matches schools with experienced social innovators practitioners (SIPs) so that together they can create projects that benefit the local community. The functions of the new platform merit some explaining. And who better to do this than two of the social entrepreneurs who are already stuck into their NEMESIS journey? We sat down with SIPs Natasha Anathisadou and Alex Theodoridis to discuss their experiences of the project so far and to ask how the new platform will prove useful in the progression of NEMESIS.

Matching Entrepreneurs with Projects

One of the uses of this new platform was illustrated by Natasha. She noted how the new platform is particularly well geared towards prospective social entrepreneurs like herself who could be interested in joining. In its earlier stages, members of the programme sought out relevant entrepreneurs to see if they would be interested in joining. The online platform, however, would give prospective SIPs a greater insight into the range of school projects on offer, allowing them the chance to see which one would be the best fit for them as a partner and where their skills and contribution would be of most use. They can also upload their portfolio of work and create a profile that can be viewed by other schools and partners.

NEMESIS Portfolios

Natasha knows the good that can come from marrying a SIP to a project related to their field. She experienced this first hand when she was matched Rockingham School’s project ‘Forever Fashion’ in England. Thanks to the experience she had gained through setting up her own sustainable fashion business ‘Generation Generous’, she was perhaps more qualified than any to help these students realize their plans. The case was similar for Alex, who was matched with a project related to his own social enterprise ‘Boroume. He distributes excess food from homes and businesses to homeless shelters and those in need. Both noted how the lessons they learned from their social endeavours meant they were able to contribute a lot to their given projects.

“I have lived through the motions of it. I have the inside information”.

Natasha remembers fondly how passionate the children were about their NEMESIS goals and feels proud she was able to be a source of inspiration. Likewise, Alex concurs that his school visits were, for him, the most impactful part of the project. If this is the level of success that has come from the matches we’ve made so far, then imagine what projects we can achieve if SIPs have a platform to select and create projects by themselves!

Natasha Athanasiadou, Social Entrepreneur & Partner in NEMESIS

“SIPs would be able to see open projects where they can offer their help as well as areas of interest that they can contribute to or initiate and run.”

“Ideally, it will be a very helpful tool which will connect them to schools and their students who need their guidance and inspiration in order to become themselves also social innovation practitioners!”

Training Programmes

Furthermore, Natasha and Alex believe the new platform to be worth its weight in salt for another reason: training programmes. That’s right. The platform will serve as something of a guideline. It will be a toolkit that can empower our students, parents and teachers to succeed and to help stimulate ideas that can further develop and improve the programmes that they have designed.

Examples of these training programmes include teacher training modules, a medium for teachers to get a grounding in the NEMESIS ethos. It provides examples of ways to apply the social innovation education model – something that we reckon will come in handy given that this initiative is one of the first of its kind. 

Connecting the NEMESIS community

Last but not least, both Alex and Natasha see the online platform as a way of “connecting a community of changemakers across countries, progressions, and ages to make social innovation a norm in education”. Given that the schools and social innovation practitioners (SIPs) involved in NEMESIS are now spread over a host of different states, this new measure seeks to bind the international NEMESIS community. The platform is available in seven languages* and has a Co-Creation Area where teachers and students can find the tools for work in their Social Innovation projects as well as sharing ideas and content.

This aims to allow all NEMESIS individuals to maintain relations, exchange ideas and ask one another for advice that can help to develop each person’s respective project and, in this way, continue to advance the programme as a whole. This is certainly what Alex believes:

Alex Theodoridis, Social Entrepreneur & Partner at NEMESIS

“For me it’s the exactly its raison d’etre, namely to create a place where the various stakeholders of a different approach to education in the future can meet, discuss, co-create and change young people’s minds about their approach towards society, the environment, etc.”

It is hoped, then, that the platform will strengthen the international NEMESIS community – one that Natasha and Alex perceive to be full of likeminded people and many of whom they would call “friends” by now.


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 (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) or fill our contact form.

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

* Deutch, Ελληνικά, English, Español, Français, Nederlands, Português

7th partner meeting in Utrecht

Our 7th international partners’ meeting wrapped up three weeks ago, and as usual, it was filled with both insight and inspiration. The beautiful city of Utrecht served as the backdrop to a discussion on the progress of the project and how it is being developed. The event was held at UniC, an innovative school with flexible schedules and personalized coaching, which encourages students to take ownership of their own education and to create their own system of learning.

Over the course of two intensive days, our partners and several schools involved in NEMESIS came together to present some of their discoveries/developments advances and explore new opportunities surrounding our second pilot. Our meeting was mainly focused on the work of our first pilot NEMESIS schools and the new ones that are joining us this year.

Conclusions of the First Pilot: shifting the education system

The results of the first pilot period showed how students can benefit from their involvement in the NEMESIS co-creation labs in terms of their emotional, cognitive, behavioural and agentic engagement.

Focusing on the collective group of students rather than on the individual, our practice is largely derived from participatory design techniques and collaborative thinking. This, in the context of our (evaluation) findings, enables teachers to motivate students, and stimulate their cognitive engagement with the subject matter. They can highlight the connection between different subject areas, create team-based teaching strategies and encourage students to take action. This ultimately improves the relationship between individuals in the school, making for a better environment both inside and outside the classroom.

“For me, it’s absolutely different: working with external partners, dealing with something global, the neighbourhood… it’s not so much about results but about giving kids exposure to the different issues and putting them in the driving seat. We see a problem, we investigate it, and together we find a way we want to solve it. That’s the goal, to work together with kids to find a solution, and in the process to make them realize that even if it doesn’t work in the end, they are still capable of taking action” (Headmaster – France)

The co-creation labs can be viewed as an extracurricular activity that facilitates the participation of families and external stakeholders. However, NEMESIS also presents an opportunity to create links between the project and core schools subjects and coursework:

“In class, we learn about cleaning up the ocean. The fact that this was related, then, to our NEMESIS project really enhanced the learning experience for the kids.   It added a ‘real’ element to the work.” (Teacher, Willow Tree Academy, UK)

Expectations for the Second Pilot: shaping our future

The previous year in NEMESIS, 8 schools, 56 teachers and 1030 students around Europe tested our new and experimental educational approach to empower young people. Once that NEMESIS has proved its potential to be extended to a larger number of new schools, each country started working on their national plans to scaling up the project.

For the new schools in pilot countries, the NEMESIS team is introducing teacher training programmes. This, it is hoped, will help to give them a concrete idea of the NEMESIS ethos and lay the foundations for their participation in year 2 of the pilot project.

The project coordinator, The Institute for Learning Innovation, presented the prototype of the NEMESIS MOCC to the partners, where the teacher trainings, among other materials, will be available on our Learning online Platform by the end of this year.

Exploitation and sustainability of the NEMESIS’ outcomes

We had a very interesting session facilitated by Catherine Brentnall and Jen Wall. This work session was designed for NEMESIS members to come up with how to make the positive impact of the projects sustainable and potentially exploit them further. It aimed to ensure greater longevity of the projects.

To facilitate this, Catherine and Jen used a practice called Cooperative Learning, developed by Jakob Werdelin, It consists of a pre-structured group effort the success of which depends on each specific member carrying out certain tasks at certain times. Cooperative Learning aims to solve questions that often arise during the participative sessions, like the difference in how confident participants are at speaking publicly:

“The learning method that is espoused is true learning — it encourages the development of the inner voice and promotes an ability to speak out loud and engage with others. This issue of individual versus group is as old as the discussion of knowledge versus skills. It brings us back to the discussion of finding alternatives to the aspiration discourse within widening participation.” cooperative learnings works 

We perceive strong potential in the NEMESIS model to help to shape the future of education, to empower students to be change-makers and contribute to a better society. Not only can it embed social innovation in curricular and extracurricular activities. It can also provide a lasting practice for schools who wish to reshape social or environmental systems that perpetuate injustice or lack of participative representation.


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 (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) 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.

Scaling up social innovation education in Europe

In collaboration with primary and secondary schools from Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Portugal, the NEMESIS framework and resources were developed and tested over the last year. A second pilot phase will take place from September 2019 to June 2020, in which more schools will be invited to join the project. NEMESIS expects to involve 400 students and 100 teachers directly and to involve a further 5000 students and 2000 teachers indirectly.

The implementation of NEMESIS at Dutch schools
In cooperation with the Dutch association of entrepreneurial schools, a professionalisation programme for teachers has been developed. This programme aims to support the implementation of social innovation education at Dutch schools.

What does the programme look like?
Before they begin, teachers and school leaders from each school will complete a questionnaire, which tests the school’s willingness to change. After sharing the test results with NEMESIS partners, the schools will be advised on how they can implement social innovation education in their school organisation, taking into account the needs and possibilities of the specific school. The overall purpose of this approach is for social innovation education to become part of the school’s identity and for it to be supported by all school members. The commitment of the individuals involved is essential for the success of the implementation.

Two training sessions in which all schools come together will take place after the test is completed. The joint training sessions stimulate discussions between the participating schools and the exchange of experiences and best practices. The two important themes of the first training are:
– The school and the social challenges
– Social innovation projects and classroom activities.
The second training deals with:
– Collaborating in co-creation labs
– Working together with schools in Europe.

After the training sessions, the schools will receive on-site guidance in order to improve the implementation of social innovation projects and classroom activities. The professionalisation programme will come to an end with a final event. This event for students and teachers focuses on sharing social innovation projects and classroom activities between participating schools. In the coming year, we will explore how the professionalisation programme is received by schools. However, it is not a fixed programme. If schools want to change it, for example through practical (im)possibilities, then the programme will be adapted. In this way, NEMESIS tries to meet the needs and possibilities of the participating schools as much as possible.


Are you a school member and do you want to implement Social Innovation Education in your school? Feel free to surf the web and drop us a line (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) or fill our contact form.

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

How students’ attempts to contribute to a better society impact the school?

The previous year in NEMESIS, 8 schools, 56 teachers and 1030 students around Europe used a new and experimental educational approach to empower young people. This involved the creation of social innovation projects within schools. Co-creation labs were set up to promote collaborative relations between students and adults where they were tasked with jointly address social challenges in their school or the wider community.

The results of the first pilot period demonstrated that students can benefit from their involvement in the NEMESIS co-creation labs in terms of their emotional, cognitive, behavioral and agentic engagement:

In terms of emotional engagement, students felt that their voice was heard, valued and acted upon. This made them feel important to their school, increasing their sense of belonging there. As a result of the redefined relationships that were formed with adults, students’ confidence was boosted, making them feel like they were not being treated simply as children, but as skilled individuals capable of fulfilling their goals.

“It’s like getting out of the classroom, it’s more real. We are not treated like kids but as people” (pupil, CEIP los Albares).

This increase in their self-confidence also manifested itself as an increase in the children’s maturity.

“I like that I feel more grown-up because I am talking to adults” (pupil, Rockingham) 

On top of that, students came up with the ideas for the projects themselves, making them feel more autonomous and empowered. 

“NEMESIS gave us more independence to do things that we wanted. It made us more able to carry out our projects.” (student, IES El Batan)

The fact that the projects were of tangible benefit to their community further reinforced this emotional engagement. It positively impacted their feeling of connectedness to their communities as well as strengthening their sense of collective efficacy as a result of the new relationships that were formed with adults and peers.

“If the task assigned to the children was to start a business, it wouldn’t have the same emotional charge. It becomes even more evident these days, that we need to give back to the community. Getting children to understand this can have serious emotional benefits” (Teacher, 6th Intercultural school of Kordelio)

In terms of cognitive engagement, students greatly understood the real purpose of their learning. They took ownership of their ideas to drive their projects forward and thus felt more motivated to perform in class because it felt personal, important and relevant to them.

“I can now see my student’s willingness and passion to perform activities that they found boring before. Now they suddenly all want to become “readers” and “writers” because they see the practical importance these skills can have.” (teacher, 6th intercultural school of Kordelio) 

In terms of behavioral engagement, the inclusive environment created by the co-creation labs as well as the support from adults helped shy students to come out of the woodwork and generally built confidence among the class. Moreover, the way students behave towards each other in school has also been positively affected by NEMESIS. In working together towards a common goal, students were required to act maturely and put aside their differences.

“In some cases, I felt NEMESIS was really changing the school culture. Students that didn’t normally speak now behave differently … they have ideas, ask questions… I did not know they had their own ideas; that they thought so critically.” (Teacher, AE Maia) 

Finally, with regard to agentic engagement, it has been observed that students have been very proactive, making constructive suggestions. Such an increase in the students’ agency is connected to the strong sense of ownership and enthusiasm that they have developed in their social innovation projects and the collective effort of the co-creation Labs.

“It’s our project, we make decisions. Before we were told what to do.” (student, AE Maia) 

“We will improve the school. And I will be helping to do it. We will change it. If we all assume our responsibility, we will make it! I believe it!” (Student, AE Maia) 


Do you want to learn about other school 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 (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) or fill our contact form.

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

The student experience of NEMESIS: cultivating self-positivity in the classroom

Having had the privilege to take part in and closely observe pilot period 1 of NEMESIS at Rockingham Junior and Infant School, I realise how important the power of self-positivity is. We all know what it means to be positive, and how this can sometimes be a struggle. So when ‘positivity’ becomes an intrinsic part of someone’s mentality, it can be extremely powerful. While ‘self-positivity’ may not be an element you can tap into in every part of your life, that does not mean it is not attainable. Even if you are only experiencing positivity in one aspect of it, this can be harnessed to permeate your whole mindset!

A new driving force

‘One parent noted that it made her son feel worthy – a powerful sentiment – which I know from my teaching career can increase motivation, engagement and feeling good about oneself.’

During the 9 month NEMESIS project, children took the lead in restoring the caretaker’s house at their school. The trends in behaviour visible over the course of this project were complex and intriguing to say the least! It seemed that the children’s motivation within the programme came from being given ownership over the project. Activities such as teaching adults how to record on tablets encouraged the students to see how valuable and important their work and ideas truly were. One parent noted that it made her son feel worthy – a powerful sentiment – which I know from my teaching career can increase motivation, engagement and feeling good about oneself.

Praise can take many forms

NEMESIS gives students a voice and we can make decisions” – a NEMESIS student.

As a teacher, I also understand that different forms of praise must be given depending on the child and situation in question. The children’s participation in the NEMESIS project, however, seemed to create a form of praise all of its own. The pupils were left feeling “valued, worthy and important“. This is because, in getting the chance to take charge of the operation themselves, they were not only being listened to… but heard! They were not merely dismissed as token children. As one 9 year old boy commented: “NEMESIS gives students a voice and we can make decisions.” The fact that their decisions were taken seriously became an implicit form of praise – implicit because praise didn’t always have to be verbal. Carrying out the ideas that the children had come up with was praise enough. As the adage goes ‘actions speak louder than words.’

Real life = real feelings

Working on something real to create a positive outcome for yourself and others brings about a sense of achievement, happiness and positivity. Knowing the project was really happening, and not just an abstract concept to write about in class, had a significant impact on the children: ‘it was interesting because we got to see the proper house,’ ‘I really like the house and hope it will be finished,’ ‘it’s not how I thought it would be – it’s bigger and better. Students would be comfy here.’ Children could take pride in the knowledge they were doing good for themselves and others. The contribution that they were making acted as motivation. It encouraged them to carry on…

 

Students at Rockingham School, In Sheffield (UK)

That communal spirit

“I can help alongside other people.”

Working with children and adults of all different ages and backgrounds was a novelty for the students of Rockingham. Despite the Junior and Infant school being a newcomer to the programme, however, the educational programme proved to be a resounding success. The collective feeling of working together towards something positive nurtured good feelings and positive results as the children, and adults, saw how two, three, four… (you see where I’m going with this) minds are better than one! The children all said that they enjoyed working with people more as the project went on while one adult noted the joint collaborative effort to be “very powerful.” It seems it’s not only the children that are motivated by this shared approach to improving the world.

All these important things, feeling empowered, valued, listened to and important, interlink in complex ways, mirroring the complexity of the human mind to bring about that wonderful feeling of positivity. The combination of emotional, cognitive, behavioural and agentic engagement was different in every child, usually comprising more than one element, to produce a combination that made them feel good. This, when sustained over time, can become innate in the child – making them happier, more motivated learners. Imagine if all education made you feel this good!

Author: Jen Wall

Author’s note: the research conducted was on a small group of 7 children aged 6 – 11 years old hence my qualitative findings are not generalisable. I am not suggesting this would be the same for everyone, merely sharing initial insights gleaned from my research.


NEMESIS is a Horizon 2020 project bringing together education and social innovation to empower the changemakers of tomorrow. The project started in 2018 and it will continue until 2021. At the moment there are ten schools involved from five European countries and a second pilot will start in September 2019, for which we invite more schools.

 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 (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) 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

Pedagogies for active citizenship: flavours, strategies and tensions

“Our education systems and schools need to prepare young people to become active, participative and responsible individuals: the complex, multicultural and rapidly evolving societies we live in cannot do with less.”

(Reference Framework for Competences for Democratic Culture  vol.1, p.7)

Few would disagree that preparation for life as active citizens in democratic societies is one of the major purposes of education.  As observed in the opening quote schools are expected to drive “activation”, the process(es) of becoming an active, participative and responsible individual. Yet, the expression “active citizenship” is taken for granted. What does it really mean?

By way of scene-setting, we can locate the different flavours or conceptions of active citizenship along a continuum.

  • “personally responsible’ citizens… ‘public spirited’ citizens who obey the law and pay their taxes
  • ‘participatory’ citizens …. active community members who volunteer and take on leadership and initiative within established systems and structures
  • ‘justice-oriented’ citizens…. concerned for social justice, a desire to improve society and question structural factors that perpetuate injustices

You may have noticed the three categories are not mutually exclusive, but each of them may require different pedagogical strategies.  Woods, Taylor, Atkins and Johnston (2018) took the “justice-oriented” route “where the aim is to equip students with the ability to critically analyse society and address social issues and injustices” and tried to understand how this particular learning journey is best planned and supported in an educational setting.

By observing and talking to secondary school teachers and students involved in a citizenship curriculum initiative in New Zealand,  the authors sought to identify pedagogies with potential for critical and transformative citizenship learning.  New Zealand teachers employed a combination of  strategies to deepen affective and cognitive engagement  in order to win the hearts and minds of students:

Pedagogical Strategies to deepen affective engagement

Teachers encouraged students to:

  • Step into other people’s shoes
  • Access digital media which connected directly with people associated with the social issue (eg.  personal blogs of refugees or homeless people, videos of inspirational actions of others)
  • Connect  with inspiring community members who themselves were already making a difference
  • Select their own social issue to study

Pedagogical Strategies to deepen cognitive engagement

Teachers encouraged students to:

  • deepen the level of critical thinking.
  • work on the root causes of a problem.
  • explore the controversial and contested nature of social issues by considering alternative perspectives

Two tensions came to the fore in conversations with teachers and students:

  • The first tension had to do with the “heart vs mind” conflict or to put it in slightly more technical terms, balancing the right dose of affective and cognitive engagement.   “Feeling inspired or moved to take social action alone did not lead to critical or transformative acts of citizenship,  deep knowledge was also essential.”  Lack of knowledge, low levels of confidence or little prior experience in taking social action may result in poorly conceived social actions. More structured and teacher-led approaches are needed here. Drawbacks? Lower levels of student engagement or  even resentment
  • A second tension had to do with immediate or delayed gratification. “Unless teachers took a strong and intentional focus on critical and transformative forms of social action, there was a tendency toward apolitical and ‘quick-fix’ forms of social action.”   So this is not action for the sake of action, but action that goes hand in hand with a critique of institutional injustices and attempts to leverage policy change.

And while I was reading this I recalled a third tension, the one between” civic-mindedness (construed as solidarity with and loyalty towards other people) and moral responsibility.” (Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture Vol 1, p 44). Should we go with the flow or swim against the tide? Should we always take action, or refusing to act is the best option to confront social injustice?

Dealing with all these tensions confirms the need for highly skilled specialist teachers who are “agile and creative in mastering a wide variety of topics and issues as well as figuring out curricular connections, often on the fly”.  Teachers are adept at managing a delicate juggle that entails  “letting go” and “jumping in”,  keeping students’ spirits high through action while creating time and space for reflection, identifying short-term milestones while not losing focus on long-term and structural change.

Finally, authors stress it is unrealistic to think a single experience, no matter how positive, could churn out active citizens as if by magic.  So, don´t be harsh on yourself if projects fall short of achieving the critical and transformative level you aimed for.  Students will get better at if they are given more than one opportunity to practice social action.  As experiences accumulate,  they will be able to take on more difficult and systemic social issues.

So, what’s in it for NEMESIS?

1.       It helps to clarify what we mean by socio/political activation in our definition of Social Innovation. “Social Innovation Education is a collaborative and collective learning process for the empowerment and socio/political activation of students to drive social change […]

2.       This is more of an open question for teachers in NEMESIS pilot schools.  Do the pedagogical strategies and tensions identified in New Zealand resonate with your experiences in the piloting phase?

 

Further reading:

Wood, B. E., Taylor, R., Atkins, R., & Johnston, M. (2018). Pedagogies for active citizenship: Learning through affective and cognitive domains for deeper democratic engagement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 75, 259-267.

It’s time for better schools: NEMESIS partners meet in Sheffield

In June 2019 the pilot schools, along with the rest of the partners involved in NEMESIS, met in Sheffield (UK) to put in common the experience with those pilots schools that have been implementing NEMESIS. The meeting was held in The Chimney House, a part of Sheffield’s important historic industrial heritage that once housed an elephant named Lizzie during World War One. 

Children guiding us towards a new school model

During our first day, we visited Herringthorpe Junior School, a beautiful school located in Rotherham, part of the Willow Tree Academy. Jane, their Headteacher, gave us the welcome and introduced us to the children who would be our tour guides. As part of NEMESIS, Herrinthorpe’ pupils have been developed a large variety of projects, form a renovation of a caretakers house, to a second-hand clothes market. After their pilots, they are now looking at how they can roll this out across the academy, looking at using the NEMESIS framework in all classrooms and in all year groups from September.

The link with real-life experiences

The NEMESIS educational model was co-designed and tested over a period of 3.5 years by primary and secondary students, teachers, social innovators, businesspeople, researchers and members of the community in France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Holland and the United Kingdom. As well as offering us an important opportunity to reflect on the NEMESIS’s educative model, this meeting also provided us with a chance to ponder its potential to be extended to a larger number of new schools. Teachers from all our pilot’s schools presented their projects, talking about their challenges, unexpected outcomes and advice that they would give to future schools. 

This meeting was the time to see, after all the theory, how NEMESIS is actually changing the realities of the schools. As part of the expected and also unexpected outcomes of the pilot, hierarchical relationships between children and adults are being transformed.  As one child of the Albares School said: “It is like getting out of the classroom, it’s more real. We are not treated as simple kids but as persons.  It’s very interesting to collaborate with people of different ages […] if I think about the future that’s the kind of situation we will be facing […] dealing with different kinds of people that you may not know very well, but with whom you’ll need to collaborate anyway.” 

“We are not treated as simple kids but as persons.” 

Co-creation labs are safe spaces to identify and ponder social problems, but also are processes that allow students to have a comprehensive view of their connection with the others, which motivates them to engage in social action and increase their civic engagementStudents participating in co-creation labs have increased their confidence and sense of belonging and feel more empowered. This empowerment is manifested in underlying psychological processes such as increased autonomy, belonging or connectedness.  Moreover, this empowerment can also be seen also in the rise of self-confidence and more articulate discourse of their needs and interests, especially in those children with a tendency toward shyness or with relationship problems. 

As one the NEMESIS community members, Catherine Brentnall, said, language constructs reality, and those kinds are testimonies that show what is in the core of the NEMESIS educational model: to put the children at the centre of everything so that the become the changemakers of tomorrow. 

And now, what? 

With all the experience gained, the time has come to move on to pilot two, in which new schools are invited to participate. NEMESIS now not only have a tested pedagogical framework, but also the experience of other teachers, parents and social innovators who may have never heard of the term “Social Innovation Education” before and ended up immersed in a process in which their students become more socially aware and innovative.


NEMESIS is a Horizon 2020 project bringing together education and social innovation to empower the changemakers of tomorrow. The project started in 2018 and it will continue until 2021. At the moment there are ten schools involved from five European countries and a second pilot will start in September 2019, for which we invite more schools.

Are you a school member and do you want to implement Social Innovation Education in your school? Feel free to surf the web and drop us a line (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) or fill our contact form.

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

Three concepts in a boat: co-creation, youth-adult interactions and student voice

Co-creation is a central piece in NEMESIS model.  Such a fancy word deserves a better explanation. What follows is an attempt at translating it into educational jargon. I’ll be indulging in two conceptual leaps to make my point.

NEMESIS projects aims at bringing individuals from different backgrounds and ages (parents, SIPs, teachers, students) together to accomplish common goals.   As a result NEMESIS  Theory of Change postulates:

  • “Students participating in co-creation processes will increase their confidence and sense of belonging and thus feel more empowered. Empowerment of students is linked to underlying psychological processes such as autonomy, belonging or connectedness.”
  • “The involvement of SIPs in co-creation labs provides inspiration and motivation which will broaden the horizons of students and trigger them to engage in social action and increase civic engagement. […]”

Now, pretending the magic of co-creation will simply happen by gathering people, young and adults,  together is a paradigmatic example of wishful thinking.

 

1st leap: Co-creation –> more and better youth-adult interactions?

The first leap consists in considering co-creation as an enabler of high-quality youth-adult interactions.  We all know it does not always work that way but NEMESIS projects would ideally fall into the Youth-Adult Partnership category in the continuum of Youth-Adult Relationships model proposed by Jones & Perkins (2004).

Adult-Centered Adult-Led Youth-Adult Partnership Youth-Led Youth-Centered
programs that are conceived and driven completely by adults adults provide guidance for youth, but the youth have some input in decision making, albeit limited by adults’ discretion Youth and adult participants have equal chances in utilizing skills, decision making, mutual learning, and independently carrying out tasks to reach common goals programs or projects where youth primarily develop the ideas and make decisions while adults typically provide needed assistance. programs or activities led exclusively by youth, with little or no adult involvement

 

Ok, so this gives us a glimpse on things to look for to gauge the quality of youth-adult interactions. In such a situation,  youth and adults work collectively, engaging in one or more components of a project and fully exercising an equal opportunity to utilize decision making and other leadership skills. But, one may still wonder what’s the impact of high quality youth-adult interactions in young kids competence/skills development. Bear with me for the next conceptual leap.

 

2nd Leap:  more and better youth-adult interactions –> expanded student voice?

Our second conceptual leap links high quality youth-adult interactions with student voice.  Mitra wrote some time ago “More extensive student voice initiatives include collaboration between young people and adults to address problems in the school, with rare cases even allowing students to assume leadership roles in change efforts (Fielding, 2001; Mitra, 2005).”

The impact of student voice intiatives has been extensively studied.  While most research has been undertaken in secondary school settings, Mitra and Serriere (2012) have identified similar impacts in primary school students mainly on the development of Agency, Belonging (sense of), Competence, Discourse and (Civic)Efficacy, or what the authors summarise as the ABCDE of student voice impact.

The ABCDE Impact Framework of Student Voice (Mitra & Serriere, 2012)

 

Collaboration between young people and adults to address problems in the school seems like a good description of what’s going on in most NEMESIS pilot projects (watch this and this) But what’s interesting here is what happens when you reframe these projects as student voice initiatives.

 

So, what’s in it for NEMESIS?

  • Translates “co-creation” into a more teacher-friendly language
  • Sheds further light into theories regarding the potential impact of NEMESIS on students.
  • Provides additional means for assessment/evaluation of NEMESIS pilots, which may be helpful in determining the quality of experiences and areas for improvement.

Further reading:

Jones, K. R., & Perkins, D. F. (2005). Determining the quality of youth-adult relationships within community-based youth programs. Journal of Extension, 43(5), 1-10.

Mitra, D.L & Serriere, S.C. (2012) Student Voice in Elementary School Reform: Examining Youth Development in Fifth Graders. American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 743–774

NEMESIS and the unexpected

In the Co-creation Labs at Rockingham Junior and Infant School the process is bringing up some exciting possibilities and activities that we hadn’t bargained for.  One idea that a 10 year old (Year 6) voiced about feeling intimidated by older children when he walks to the local shop has led to a whole off shoot project.  The Y6s have made a video to show the older children so they can explain how they feel and talk about how this could be tackled, perhaps just through simply getting to know the older children.  Now, because these Year 6 children have become involved in the project, they support the younger children, as one 10 year old girl said – ‘I don’t take part directly but indirectly by helping the younger children’.

Louise Greenwood, the school leader, has noticed how this helps the Y6s develop their empathy for the younger children. So, the development of social innovation competences happens not only through direct input by the Lab facilitator but through the children working together – intergenerational collaboration can take place between children of different ages, not just adults and children. Seeing this success has prompted Louise to consider having older children involved from the beginning in the future to see how the relationships develop and whether the younger children would seek out the older children outside of the Lab for support or friendship. This video is going to be put to further good use by linking in with one of the school’s existing initiatives called Philosophy for Children.

The video can be used in class with a range of age groups to promote reflection and discussion about the issues it addresses which would develop social innovation competences such as empathy and collective and creative problem solving.  So, a learning resource created by children that originated from a social challenge experienced by children is permeating the curriculum helping a wider range of young people to develop their SI competences and be made aware of local community issues.  The ideas and people involved are snowballing!

An interesting development that has been noted by the local rector as well as school staff is the difference in the children’s confidence. Their presenting skills and interaction with adults are improving, the children’s body language is more open and they now make eye contact with the adults. Today the children interviewed the adults and recorded them on tablets.  After helping the adults operate the tablets, they took part and children as young as 6 were confident and using appropriate face and body language as if they were trained reporters!

Another insight mentioned by the school governor was how useful it is to refresh their knowledge of the issues affecting children and how they make them feel, as there are not many forums for this. Hence, really being able to listen to and engage in dialogue the children is seen as a strength of the Co-creation Labs. Additionally, many of the adults live further afield and aren’t aware of the social issues in the local area of the schools so talking to the children in the Labs enables them to learn about any challenges and use the perspectives of the children to help address them.

As a Y6 girl astutely mentioned – “adults have a wider perspective, so the children bring their imagination and the adults makes sense of it.” One school governor of Herringthorpe Junior School said that she felt she had the power to effect change alongside all the actors in the Lab and one Y6 girl reiterated this sentiment, saying that she feels she can make a difference but only when part of a bigger group, as in the NEMESIS project.  The benefits of a collective mindset that’s happening within the Labs is being experienced by children and adults alike.

At Willow Tree Academy one of the 6 life skills that are practised in every lesson is problem solving and this is evident when observing the Co-creation Labs.  Two boys were given the task of coming up with ideas for a multi-functional room and, without prompting, were thinking of ways to keep any technology safe.  They then thought that having chairs without wheels for people to use would be less chaotic and that chairs like you have in a classroom could be good for this as long as they had some cushioning in case people fall or walk into the chair.  The boys then began looking at the chairs they were sitting on and talking about where the cushioning would go. Seeing such problem solving lead to creative prototyping in less than a minute was fascinating and it’s great to see how NEMESIS can support the existing skills approach of the school.

Having a real purpose is helping the youngsters with their writing skills as often when asked to write about an abstract concept it can be hard for them to engage but NEMESIS provides a tangible reason to write.  The children understand the project and have taken ownership of their ideas to drive the project forward so they are more motivated to write about it because it feels personal, important and relevant.  The interaction with real places, people and events helps their understanding which makes the writing easier and more enjoyable.

On a personal level, what struck me the most is how NEMESIS can be tailored to support different children in very different ways from pastoral nurture to competence development and how important it is to know the children well to be able to use NEMESIS as such focused, inclusive intervention.

With great innovation comes great citizenship…

With great innovation comes great citizenship

How social innovation and youth activism skills complement each other to create the 21st century citizen!  Or what Spiderman’s uncle would say if we asked him about the power of social innovation…

 

Maybe it was Gandalf, the benevolent white-haired wizard of Lord of the Rings, or some presidential decry by Thomas Jefferson, or Martin Luther King’s fiery speeches of resilient dreams… perhaps it was somewhere whispered by the virtuous, paternal voice of Morgan Freeman (otherwise put, the narrating Voice of God), or maybe it was really Spiderman’s uncle… In any case, someone wise once said ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Power and responsibility are two notions worth fussing about, and two that concern us deeply in the NEMESIS project.

How can we think about great power in our times? What constitutes it, what makes it up? What is its source and effect? Today, power is skill, skill embodied, skill learnt, skill developed, skill sprung from the right attitude and the right mindset that moves us forward through new activities and initiatives. Social innovation is in itself a form of power. And what is the basis of any skills formation or mindset? Training and education. The learning process starting by the foundational ‘learning to learn’ capacity – pretty much, like the ‘right to have rights’ is the starting point of all rights claims in a world of increasing boundaries (see Hannah Arendt) with various social groups like refugees and asylum seekers being excluded from basic rights. The foundational starting points are sort of like a charmed talisman, a ring to rule them all… Once this foundation is decoded and children learn how to learn and learners are granted all their learning rights, the rest becomes a matter of time, commitment and effort. But the door has to open first, which is what innovative training and educational programs try to do.

And how can we think about personal and collective responsibility in our times? Sense of responsibility is the mother of all initiative and action. It is the attitude to be able to say ‘I will do this’, the belief to state ‘I can make it’, the determination to declare ‘It is up to me to change this’. Just like Nikos Kazantzakis used to say ‘Ν’αγαπάς την ευθύνη. Να λες: Εγώ, εγώ μονάχος μου έχω χρέος να σώσω τη γης. Αν δε σωθεί, εγώ φταίω’ (translation from Greek: ‘You should love responsibility. You should say: I, I alone am indebted to save the earth. If it’s not saved, I’m to blame’). Feeling responsible means that it is up to you to change the things you don’t accept as just, the things that are wrong, the things that have room for improvement. This sense of responsibility, understood as self-awareness of our powers and responsiveness to them, make up the base of good and active citizenship. Good citizens are responsible citizens who are willing to learn and work with others in new ventures for the collective benefit.

The NEMESIS Social Innovation Learning Framework

Learning is the groundwork of all individual and collective development and learning opportunities should be offered to all people without discrimination. Personal growth and social advancement, as well as inclusive education, are at the heart of every good educational program, as is the case with NEMESIS. And in order to yield results, one needs to have a plan. Just like NEMESIS and its Social Innovation Learning Framework (hereafter SILF).

SILF is the vehicle NEMESIS proposes for the development of the future Changemakers of Europe who will be able to put their knowledge and skills into practice in order to work together towards solving critical problems that our societies are facing. NEMESIS steps in to provide a working definition of Social Innovation Education (hereafter SIE) that highlights what we think, as a team, is essential for the creation of better and fairer future societies. Within this context, we define SIE as:

‘a collaborative and collective learning process for the empowerment and socio-political activation of students to drive social change no matter what their professional pathways. SIE builds learners’ competences to identify opportunities for social value creation, to form collaborations and build social relationships, and take innovative action for a more democratic and sustainable society’.

These three elements, namely, the ability to identify social value opportunities, to form collaborations and relationships, and to take innovative action for the benefit of society, shape the tree trunk of NEMESIS SILF with its three interconnected tree branches that grow stems of skills and leaves of competences, vital for pushing social change forward, transforming lives and activating people for societal betterment. We also highlight the importance of specific values that should underpin all competences since values are essential for shaping a social innovation culture. Simply put, it is not enough to encourage the formation of the high-powered 21st century citizen who has powerful innovative and creative skills, but this future citizen needs to have a responsible and ethical compass if he or she is to wield this power in favor of the common good.

As such, the competences and values we envision in NEMESIS include self-efficacy and social communication skills but also temper them with empathy and the embracing of diversity and democratic decision-making. Our model promotes problem-solving skills and resource mobilization abilities, but also pairs them with reflective learning and social resilience. In its ethical core, NEMESIS aims to encourage the development of collective capacities for taking innovative actions inspired by key values, such as equality, respect, generosity, trust and altruism. When such results become evident through our collective efforts in the NEMESIS project, we will know that our tree is blooming and is about to bear fruits. Youth activism goes beyond charitable and voluntary work for the community, it aims at influencing policy and institutional practices for the promotion of social justice.

We should clarify that the NEMESIS SILF does not aim to provide a fixed and closed learning framework with definitive and prescribed answers or solutions. It aims to include its participants in its creation and development and to provide a flexible set of suggestions that can be taken on by educators, students and community members and adjusted to their local reality and context-specific needs. As Inamorato dos Santos and his colleagues put it (2016: 24), ‘the answers come from the insights generated by the process of interacting with the framework’. The initial NEMESIS SILF constitutes the first step towards the development of the ultimate NEMESIS SILF which will be tested and validated through real-life pilot implementations in primary and secondary schools around Europe during the project’s duration. The results of these pilots will be used to update the NEMESIS framework whereby all respective outcomes will be reformulated according to the directions and insights offered by the participants. In this way, the participating students, teachers, parents, and community members are active components of the design of the NEMESIS SILF.

And how do we do that? The NEMESIS model is activated through Co-creation Labs (hereafter CCLs), open learning environments where different stakeholders such as teachers, students, parents, social innovation practitioners, or any other interested member of the local community, collaborate towards a common goal: to co-create new knowledge, achieve a clear understanding of social innovation and develop relevant competences by participating in the design and development of social innovation projects. Through its CCLs, our NEMESIS project redefines existing hierarchical relations between teachers and students, the old and the young, parent and child, professional and amateur, and empowers young learners to become equal co-creators of the social innovation educational process. The resulting projects can be socially magical and politically enchanting.

What is social innovation education and why should I care?

It’s five o’clock, and Óscar – student from year 3- has his hands covered in dust. He’s kneeling in a sunny corner of the playground together with his mother, Itziar, who is rolling up her sleeves before pouring soil into some recycled tyres. The soil has been brought by Luis, father of another student in year 2.

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The assessment of Social Innovation Competences at CEIP Los Albares: qualitative and quantitative tools

Authors: Ana Cristina Blasco-Serrano (Zaragoza University), Teresa Coma (Zaragoza University), Ana Echevarría (Los Albares School)

CEIP Los Albares is a state school of  Early Childhood and Primary education, situated in La Puebla de Alfinden, a small town, close to Zaragoza city. The educational identity of the school is based on the values of democracy, respect, solidarity, critical thinking and commitment to the community. 

Through its participation in NEMESIS, a European project, the school aims at developing social innovation skills in pupils and, therefore, improving the social innovation responsibility. To do so, teachers have worked together to integrate and embed social innovation principles in their teaching practice.  

With a strong focus on co-creation and other participatory methodologies, teachers, students and parents have joined forces to develop a set of social innovation competences: vision for a better world, responsible and critical thinking competences, empathy, self-efficacy, collective and creative problem solving, embracing diversity, collective efficacy, social resilience, digital social innovation competences, take the leap for value creation, organisation and mobilisation of resources, social communication competences, reflective learning, collaborative planning and democratic decision making. 

Teachers want to understand their practices and improve them. For assessing pupils’ competence development, the teaching team collaborates with Zaragoza University researchers in what qualifies as an action research project (Kemmis & Mctaggart, 1988). 

The research is a mix of qualitative and quantitative methodologies that complement each other, favoring the triangulation of information.  Qualitative data is mainly collected through participant observation (Merrian, 2009) and a questionnaire yields quantitative information. 

Qualitative tools

The qualitative research includes a wide range of tools. Teachers, as natural participants, and external researchers observe the action taking place in the Co-Lab sessions and in other NEMESIS activities. The external researchers keep a low profile so as not to disturb the interactions between participants. Teachers and researchers collect data in a field diary, in a reflexive way, analyzing the data from the first moment (Gibbs, 2012). 

Data collection is complemented with semi-structured interviews. This tool allows in-depth exploration of the data collected by participant observation (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). In the interviews,  teachers, pupils and families express their perceptions, experiences, insights and feelings, and delve into the issues raised during the investigation (Spradley, 1979). 

In this study, children are active agents, so narratives are another important tool to collect data (Prout, 2002; Punch, 2002). The narratives give children the opportunity to freely express their opinions and perceptions about the NEMESIS project (Hyvärinen, 2016). In combination with narratives, this study will also analyze children’s drawings and productions so that all children, even if they can not write, can express their perception of reality.

Quantitative tools

From a quantitative approach, a questionnaire (Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003) will be used to analyze the development of social innovation competencies at the beginning and at the end of NEMESIS project. The questionnaire will measure children’s self-perception of their competences, and this information will be compared with teachers’ perceptions. 

The questionnaire has been co-designed with the management team of CEIP Los Albares. During 5 sessions we defined indicators for each competence and converted statements to pupil-friendly language.

The survey was created using Google Forms, which allows viewing and managing responses in a functional and immediate way. This research instrument could be used by other schools to, in this way, generalize the findings.


References

Creswell, J. W., Plano Clark, V. L., Gutmann, M. L., & Hanson, W. E. (2003). Advanced mixed methods research designs. In A. Tashakkori & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research (pp. 209–240). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hyvärinen, M. (2016). Narrative and sociology. Narrative Works, 6(1), 38-62.

Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Sage.

Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (1988). Cómo planificar la investigación-acción. Barcelona: Laertes

Merrian, S. B. (2009). Qualitative Research. A guide to Design and Implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Prout, A.  (2002). Researching  children as social actors: An introduction to the children, 5 -16 programme. Children & Society, 67 -76.

Punch, S. (2002). Research with children. The same or different from research with adults? Childhood, 9 (3), 321-341.

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic Interview. N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

 

Introducing NEMESIS schools

In every journey there is a a group of brave pioneers whose involvement and commitment are essential to succeed. Such is the case in our schools. We are already on the hunt for more schools to be involved, so keep an eye on this page – we will be updating!

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Meet our Social Innovation Practitioners

In NEMESIS we are trying a social innovation education model for and with schools to empower the changemakers of tomorrow. For that to work, the combination of teacher and social innovators expertise is essential. In three years, we aim to develop a European social innovator community and engage around 200 SIPs (‘social innovation practitioners’, our code for social entrepreneurs). For starters, we are already working closely with four of them.

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NEMESIS partners meet in Seville

What is social innovation? Is it about finding imaginative solutions for social problems? About subverting power relations? About bringing systemic change? Is it the same that social entrepreneurship?  Trying to define social innovation was one of the challenges NEMESIS partners faced at our second project meeting, held in Seville.

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3, 2, 1… NEMESIS!

Fürth, Germany. October 10th 2017. Around twenty people from fourteen organizations across Europe meet for the first time. Some have known each other for years. For others, this is their first encounter. But we are all here for the same reason: to build a bridge between education and social innovation. Welcome to NEMESIS kick-off meeting!

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