Living in a new culture can be a destabilising and perplexing experience for some young people. Sending a young person to an international project with a vacation in mind, or as a temporary fix can often cause more harm than benefit. A young person may return home in a more destabilised state than when they went. Individuals and organisations alike will benefit little from such practices. A project follow-up ensures that the project reaches its desired end with set objectives achieved. These activities could range from sharing of experiences, workshops, campaigns, etc. to comparatively affordable bigger events (MRL). The road to a successful follow up strategy involves stages that go much past the last day of the mobility. During international mobility, the trainers need to already incorporate different elements in the forms of specific activities and courses that will ensure that the learning outcomes of the participants will be sustainable and utilised in their daily lives and their community. In this chapter we will be diving deeper into the steps that can be taken, as well as different tools that can be used and applied in order to promote the follow up activities of the mobility.
Below are some factors and activities that should be kept in mind while the mobility is happening, that could help promote sustainable learning as well as follow up activities. The booklet “No Offence: A practical booklet for setting up international youth projects with young offenders, ex-offenders and young people at risk of offending or currently in prison” approaches the issue of follow up from the perspective of three different stages:
Encourage evaluation and reflection
- Encourage the participants to keep a daily journal. Ask them to evaluate what they’ve written at the end of the project to see whether they’ve noticed any changes in their behaviour, beliefs, attitudes, or skills. If the participants have trouble writing, they can draw a daily picture or build a weekly collage out of photos from magazines to depict events and emotions.
- During all stages of the international project, it is important to encourage young people to think about their future. This can also be done informally, by asking them what they’re thinking and in which direction their thoughts are moving. They should reflect on the plans they had at the start of the mobility and analyse how much those plans have changed or not. The effect of this is stronger in longer projects, but it can also be highly effective in projects with smaller duration.
- Practical components of the international experience are easier to assess than more abstract ones, like the intercultural experience. However, pictures are a very handy and valuable tool for catching the feelings and the experience in a single snapshot. You can give the participants a disposable camera that will help them evaluate their multicultural experience. Tell them to photograph people, places, and objects in their project that are meaningful to them or have left a lasting impression on them. Start a debate about the differences and similarities between countries and cultures using those photos.
- At the end of the project, the organisers can assist the participants in creating an inventory (list) of the skills and learning outcomes they gained during the mobility. Help them determine how those learning outcomes can be of use to them in taking their next steps along their future path (ex. in finding a career, obtaining a qualification, or dealing with their family situation).
- It might be a good idea to organise a group evaluation after a group exchange or if numerous volunteers are returning at the same time. It is really beneficial for young people to be surrounded by peers who have gone through similar situations that they can relate to. Be mindful that a group meeting can have both positive and negative outcomes.
During all stages of an international project, it is important to encourage young people to think about their present as well as their future. Promoting self reflection in various different forms during the activities can help young people assess their feelings, expectations and thoughts. This doesn’t only involve thoughts about the activity topic, but can include a lot of different aspects, like their experience of being part of a group or spending time in a new environment. Practical components of the experience like topic- specific learning outcomes are easier to assess than more abstract ones, like the intercultural experience. Therefore, a multitude of workshops and exercises with different approaches and goals can be used in order to promote self reflection and inspiration for engaging in future activities.
Thinking about the present/ self reflection
Promoting self reflection and expression can be done informally, by asking participants what they’re thinking and in which direction their thoughts are moving. They should reflect on the plans they had at the start of the mobility and analyse how much those plans have changed or not. The effect of this is stronger in longer projects, but it can also be highly effective in projects with smaller duration. A more organised and applied way to spark self reflection is to incorporate daily journals as a part of the activity programme. Trainers can ask participants to evaluate what they’ve written at the end of the project to see whether they’ve noticed any changes in their behaviour, beliefs, attitudes, or skills. If the participants have trouble writing, they can draw a daily picture or build a weekly collage out of photos from magazines to depict events and emotions. The journals should also not be shared with the whole group, as this can put social pressure on some young people, resulting in them not being able to fully express their thoughts and emotions.
- Before the participants travel to the project location, the organisation should spend time with them thinking about their options and developing a post-project strategy. This should include thoughts about their expectations, their wishes about the upcoming project. However, keep in mind that young people are likely to come up with new ideas and expectations during the project.
- Arrange or propose opportunities for the participants to volunteer and be active in their own community.
- Give participants the opportunity to put what they learnt during their overseas activity into practice (e.g implement a workshop they planned during the mobility in their local community)
- Spending time abroad can be a life-changing experience. Rounding off or closing the international experience in a constructive way is an excellent first step in the evaluation/follow-up phase. This can be accomplished by throwing a farewell party at the end of the mobility project.
- Provide the participants with a certificate called “Youtpass” to commemorate their achievements, experiences and learning outcomes in the project during the farewell party or during a small ceremony. For example, all EVS volunteers are given a Youthpass certificate, which outlines and confirms the nonformal and informal learning experiences they had while on the project.
In the publication “Erasmus Skills: Workshop Guidelines: Organising & running an effective workshop on maximising mobility-related KSAs for Erasmus+ Students”, the approach is more directed towards the Academic Erasmus+ Mobility Programme, but practices from that field can definitely be also applied to short- term Erasmus Exchanges if modified and adapted accordingly. In the publication it is recommended to give participants a handout during the mobility, that will contain the most important information of the topic, a summary of the mobility’s key takeaways and learning competences, names of the trainers and participating organisations, and anything else that might be deemed important. This will help participants remember what the mobility was about, and will work as a reminder of the whole experience.
https://www.erasmusskills.eu/eskills/tools/workshop-guidelines/_intro/ES_IO4_Final_Workshop_Guidelines.pdf (Page 12)
Furthermore, according to the publication “Manual for facilitators in non-formal education involved in preparing and delivering the programme of study sessions at European Youth Centres” the next step after the evaluation of the project with participants, the focus should be shifted on how to put the ideas, comments and suggestions of participants into action. This stage should also include recommendations on how to continue working on the project’s topic in the future within the organisation and its operations, as well as the possibilities for sharing and using the new information and skills gained during the project in their local communities.