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Introducing the NEMESIS Online Course! (MOOC)

Everything you need to know to get to grips with Social Innovation Education and how to deliver it!

The NEMESIS MOOC is online

NEMESIS has already brought you the Replication Handbook – a comprehensive guide to help you understand Social Innovation Education (SIE) and how to get it going in your school. It includes everything from the philosophy behind SIE, the benefits for all involved and how to plan and run your very own Co-creation Lab.

As fans of collective action, this handbook is not alone! It works alongside the Resource Bank – a resource that is choc full of activities for you to use and adapt at every step of your lab. There are so many to choose from that you may need a starter menu so schools and teachers already using SIE told us their favourites and we’ve marked these with an N – why not try those ones first?

And finally, the second annex to the handbook includes a wide range of inclusive practice that’s taken place during the 3.5 year NEMESIS project. Teachers and School Leaders from all over Europe who’ve already implemented SIE in their schools shared their insights and practice as inspiration to help new users tailor their approach to SIE and Co-creation Lab (where the SIE magic happens!) to suit their context and students.

Now, enter the MOOC! This Massive Open Online Course is free and available to all. It offers an 8 module course that takes you through SIE from start to finish in both an informative and interactive way. 

Setting off

Start your SIE journey by getting to grips with the theory and philosophy behind SIE – how this innovative pedagogy came about to tackle inequality in society by using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to guide young people in identifying and addressing social issues in their local area. Find out the numerous benefits for all involved such as the opportunity for young people to drive a project to create sustainable social value, connect with a diverse group of people and have fun along the way!

Teachers and School Leaders already using SIE share invaluable insights through interviews and case studies on how to prepare young people to take part, whether that’s through the curriculum, attached to an existing initiative, such as Citizenship Education, or in extra-curricular activities. You’ll get to know the Social Innovation competence framework and choose which competences, such as empathy, collaboration, critical thinking (or a combination of more!) your young people would most benefit from developing and then learn how to put these into action through starting your very own Social Innovation project!

You’ll get examples and suggestions on how to enthuse young people about SIE and links to materials, such as promotional leaflets, that you can download for free to give young people and adults alike a flavour of what they’ll get from taking part in SIE.

Full steam ahead!

The MOOC has a very practical approach so not only will you be introduced to what SIE is but also how to deliver it in your educational setting. After getting to grips with the reasoning behind SIE, the modules take you through how to set up and facilitate a Co-creation Lab. You’ll be introduced to each step of a lab:

  • preparing for the lab
  • getting to know each other
  • understanding social innovation
  • identifying a social issue
  • planning how to address the issue
  • carrying out your project

You’ll get a practical checklist of how to prep for your first lab and will get to know activities from the Resource Bank to use for each step. There’s reference materials for the Sustainable Development Goals and activities to get you and your young people familiar with them. There’s links to the NEMESIS platform so you can find people involved in Social Innovation if you fancy being inspired by real life Social Innovation or there are activities to help deepen understanding instead. Mix and match – it’s up to you!

At the end of each module, there’s a short quiz or place where you can add to your personalised Co-creation Lab plan, so you are ready to go with a plan of action by the end of the MOOC. 

Sharing your Social Innovation Education journey

For each step of SIE, activities and ways of documenting your journey are suggested so you can reflect, share and see how far you’ve come – always a great feeling and super motivating for all involved (see some success stories on the project page).  And you can add your digital story to the NEMESIS Community on the platform to share your legacy and connect with people all over Europe. 

We hope you enjoy the MOOC and can’t wait to see your very own digital stories of how your young people changed the world!

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.

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.

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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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How can the incorporation of democratic citizenship, entrepreneurial competences and social innovation practices in education contribute towards the empowerment of students as active citizens and drivers of positive social change?

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