Follow-up is an activity (or a set of activities) that continues something that is in the process or was completed. It is a process of making sure that work plans, meetings, activities, decisions, questions asked, projects, etc. continue to bring outputs. In the world of Erasmus+ projects, the follow-up activities are designed, planned, implemented and followed-through to make sure that the participants can practice the learning outcomes in their respective regions. It makes certain that the participants bring their acquired skills into training on a smaller scale. This way, the message of the project is also proliferated.
The Council of Europe (2009) writes in Manual for Facilitators in Non-Formal Education that “There is no special recipe for the most effective follow-up actions and dissemination of results. It very much depends on the needs of the organisation and the needs of the participants. Have they developed action plans and do they need specific support? Has the organisation made on-the-spot commitments or promises regarding the follow-up? Is the study session only one integral part of a specific development plan of the NGO? Is the study session part of a larger campaign (for example, “All different – All equal”)”?
It is important that the last day of the project is not the end of the young person’s development. (Salto youth)
Salto described the “follow-up phase begins once the young people return home from abroad. This phase can be the most difficult of the entire international experience, because it is in this phase that a young person has to process their learning and make their next steps along their personal pathway.”
The Erasmus+ Program Guide talks about “follow-up (evaluation of the activities, identification and documentation of the learning outcomes of participants, as well as dissemination and use of the project’s outcomes). As a part of the follow-up phase, each project should envisage providing feedback on concrete project outcomes to the young participants, including on how such outcomes have been communicated to other relevant stakeholders and/or used by them.”
The process of follow-up can take place on different levels. For instance, during a project, to ensure the quality of certain activities and its alignment with set objectives, a follow-up with participants would bring critical feedback. Moreover, ‘project follow-up’ and ‘follow-up project’ or project spin-off extends the sphere of any project in different ways (Dillon B. L. 2020). A project follow-up ensures that the project reaches its desired end with set objectives achieved. Whereas, a follow-up project means the stakeholders, mainly the participants with the assistance and support from the organizing team, design a project that furthers the previous project. As soon as a project is near completion, the stakeholders can brainstorm about a follow-up project which builds on the previous experiences to broaden its objectives, aims and impact. However, this can be conducted on small levels where participants organize activities in their respective locales. These activities could range from sharing of experiences, workshops, campaigns, etc. to comparatively affordable bigger events.
Follow-up is meant to:
- Support local communities through the dissemination of the knowledge gained by participants in mobility activities.
- Monitor and evaluate the impacts of a project and communication about the performance of the project.
- Accompany, to disseminate and to expand, project results and achievements, to actively and sustainably utilizing these new competences, results and outputs of the project in one’s own work/life.
- make sure that work plans, meetings, activities, decisions, questions asked, projects, etc. continue to bring outputs.
- Ensure, in the world of Erasmus+, activities are designed, planned, implemented and followed-through to make sure that the participants can practice the learning outcomes in their respective regions.
Follow-up of any project can be divided in 4 different categories:
Project future or Project ideas development:
1.1. Project next steps: It means the continuation of the project in the same or different forms. Logical continuation of the project idea, project development and upgrowth, project extension, expansion and evolution come under this step. Some examples of this stage are implementing the “homework” stage of the project (planned activities after the project), launching an online campaign to promote ideas of the project; creating one more project with the same topic but going on a next level i.e. inviting new partners to change or enlarge geographical scope of the project.
1.2. Project Spin-Off: This stage includes development of new activities, inspired by the project and based on the same idea and/or topic. It is more like branching out from the original idea. The idea could have the same base, but it branches further on an independent level. For example, a computer company whose main product is always computers, at some point they decide to create a new department on manufacturing mobile phones. Later, phone manufacturing could become something on its own as well.
1.3. Networking – (an intersectional category), can be also linked with “Independent ideas development” and divides itself on at least three categories:
- New partners: As participants can represent not just the sending organizations,but also others or their own, it is a great opportunity for creation of new partnerships and networks while working/participating in existing projects. With professional connections developed during the project, new partnerships and new projects and activities could be created.
- New stakeholders:Ensuring new stakeholders, local organization and participation of new organizations is the focus of this part. It is important to involve a diversity of stakeholders in the youth field, from both private and public sectors. Key stakeholders may be: young people, informal groups, youth associations, non-governmental organizations, students’ associations, institutions, youth centers, children protection commissions, youth workers, teachers, schools, policy-makers, youth political parties, etc.
- New contact/connections: participants can network with potential partners that were not involved in the project. Contacts, links and information gathered can be beneficial for future project ideas and collaborations. Through the personal connections, the participants develop their personal competences and it leads to the intercultural learning and breaking of stereotypes. Moreover, very often personal connections can also be a base for the professional ones and creation of joint initiatives and activities.
Independent ideas development:
2.1. New Ideas and/or projects: Independent and new ideas and projects developed, it may not be related to the current project topic. These can be inspired by the project topic, developed during the discussions within the project frame or free time.
2.2. Unexpected outcomes: Project outcome that was not planned, but developed in the frame of the project, or unexpectedly created in the project process. This can be something totally new and unexpected, developed throughout the project period, for example, creation of educational games, new group activities, educational materials, tools, instruments or methods, research results or new products. For example, this project did not aim at creating an educational game to assist the facilitators and trainers, the game FAST FORWARD was an unexpected and powerful tool.
3.1. Own ideas development: Through the projects, participants might bring their own ideas of a project, products or activities and act to implement them as a follow-up of the running project. The participants develop their ideas throughout the project and implement them during or after the project and as a follow-up activity.
3.2. Steps of personal development: After the project participants will continue development of their competencies, based on the competences developed within the frame of the project. The participants reflect on the content of their personal development after the project. For example, after attending a project dedicated to graphical/visual facilitation, they are willing to develop their drawing skills and find some courses or educational tutorials within this topic. The essential part would be to define the concrete steps in this development direction, preferably with a time frame for it, setting up the starting points, milestones and deadlines.
3.3. Participation: Future participation in the activities that support personal development and growth: training courses, youth exchanges, volunteering and social work, etc. After any youth mobility, participants tend to portray more activism in the activities of their organizations, youth work, participation in and creation of projects and activities at the local, regional and international levels.
Project results sustainability:
4.1. Use of the project results: Active use of the project results by all stockholders of the projects for activities at the local and international levels.
4.2. Project results updating, upgrading, development: The development of the outcomes, upgrading them, adding new features, adjusting them for the use in the local regions of the participants as well as for their target groups in this section.
4.3. Impact measurement: When measuring the impact of project results, we need to think about what methods would be best for gathering said data. This will entirely depend on the nature of the project, as there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Nevertheless, we have make some suggestions to get started:
- To ‘pilot test’ the project results in a certain selected region, field or area and comparing those to each other.
- Feedback loop: When mobility stakeholders keep a time-bound feedback from participants and organizations, it increases the chances of mobility impact. monthly or quarterly meetings can bring partners up to date with changes.
- To measure an impact on the personal level of young people, it is possible to use as a support tool: “Outcomes Framework 2.1” (McNeil, B. and March S. 2022). It is a shared framework for everyone working with and for young people to develop the skills that research suggests support positive and healthy development through adolescence and into adulthood.
- Great practices in impact evaluation involve clearly defined outcomes for young people with measurable indicators for success; a combination of large-scale quantitative data with in-depth personal experiences to produce a picture of both what the impact is and how it is being achieved.
4.4. Dissemination and sharing project results:An important part of the project is sharing and dissemination of the project achievements, products and results. This can be done throughout various follow-up activities aiming to increase the impact of the project by multiplying effects and to ensure the sustainability of results. This can be achieved through using and spreading the educational concepts and tools of your project. The goal of this publication and the toolbox on our online portal (http://back2thefuture.4learning.eu/toolbank/) are precisely addressing that issue.