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

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

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

Student at the centre

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

Involvement of external stakeholders

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

Parents involvement

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

Teacher professional development

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

Interaction with schools implementing NEMESIS

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

Process than results-oriented 

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

How to implement Social Innovation Education effectively in your school?

Change is the only constant. – Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

Our world is changing fast and many European education systems are changing accordingly. This requires school leaders to lead changes as effectively as possible. Drawing from well-known change management models, the NEMESIS consortium partners have developed a new change management model especially for primary and secondary schools that want to become a NEMESIS school and therefore need to implement Social Innovation Education. This model will enable school leaders to plan and manage the implementation of the NEMESIS educational model, so that it can become part of their schools’ pedagogies.

The model focuses on the most important elements to implement sustainable change in schools. It will enable school leaders to get insight into the barriers to organisational change and how to tackle these barriers. This is important for a successful implementation of Social Innovation Education. The elements that play a central role in the model are:

  • Inspiration: the ability to inspire
  • Vision and strategy: ability to create a common understanding of the schools’
    identity
  • Leadership: the ability to lead changes
  • Community involvement: the ability to include the community
  • Resistance to change: the ability to accept change and facilitate change
    acceptance
  • Resources: the ability to allocate sufficient resources

 

 

The overall purpose of the model is that Social Innovation Education becomes part of the school’s identity and is supported by all school members. Their commitment is essential for the success of the implementation. A well-executed inspiration step will ensure that staff members are more likely to contribute to the new or adjusted strategy.

The NEMESIS organizational change model was tested by more than 100 school heads and teachers in whole Europe. This extensive testing approach has ensured that the model is well applicable and easy to implement in schools. In addition, the model takes into account the needs and possibilities of the target groups. During the development of the organisational change model, various supporting tools have also been developed, such as the change management guide and guidelines for school leaders. School members, not only school leaders, have to complete a questionnaire before the school starts with the implementation of Social Innovation Education. These questionnaire aims to give insight into the development areas of a school and serves as a starting point for discussions in a school’s management team about how to tackle barriers that the school still has to overcome. Participating schools in the NEMESIS project can also share their outcomes with project members after which they will receive advise on how to tackle the barriers.


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.

Social Innovation in Schools. A proposal for the future of education.

For the last 30 years, students have been taught the same way. We keep teaching them how to acquire and memorise knowledge, even if what they need in this era of ‘information overload’ are skills and tools that allow them to make sense of that information  – and act accordingly. That is part of what we’re going to discuss in this NEMESIS event in Zaragoza.

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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). We have begun working closely with four of them already.

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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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