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Environmental NGOs and other environmental organisations across Europe (i.e. the third sector) have been involved in the provision of life long learning opportunities on an informal basis for many years through volunteering and by many people working within their communities. This has not been recognised as a mechanism for life long learning as traditionally people have worked on environmental projects out of a passion for the cause. In 1995 research work on volunteering in Europe showed that 18% of volunteers questioned volunteered to gain new skills, yet there appear to be few systems to recognise the skills gained.
More recently in Western Europe environmental volunteering has been recognised as a means of gaining skills and qualifications. In the UK the environmental training body LANTRA recognises leadership of volunteers as a unit to gain an NVQ. In France working on environmental improvement schemes is a recognised route to rural employment. However in some countries such as Italy or Greece there is no official recognition especially for adult learners. In Eastern Europe volunteering is barely recognised as an activity. In Lithuania the law has just been passed to make volunteering legal and it is a new activity in many other countries of accession. Many of the partners especially in Eastern Europe are quite isolated in their country and need to look to other parts of Europe for a shared experience.
BTCV has worked with the partners in the proposed network from between 2-10 years and the idea of a network has come about as a means of continuing what was an informal relationship and to strengthen the links between all the partners. BTCV and some of the partners have had requests for information, help and support from other organisation in their country and other parts of Europe. Networking has become a 'buzz-word', however we see this network taking the role of supporting various groups to develop their own capacities, based on their needs, by networking with other groups with similar needs. In the process BTCVs own capacity is also strengthened.
The aim of the project is the establishment of a network of organisations involved in Environmental Volunteering and community environmental projects to facilitate knowledge and experience acquisition, capacity building through shared learning and to gain recognition and support for these activities.
* Establish a network of European environmental organisations that facilitate and promote opportunities for adult life long learning skills through volunteering and community environmental projects to enhance the quality and standards of the learning available.
* Identify and promote innovation and successful practices leading to improved quality by research and presentation of up to 12 cases studies
* To provide at least 6 learning events for co-ordinators in environmental organisations to enhance and increase the provision of adult learning by creating new opportunities for learning on an informal basis on environmental projects
* To facilitate and support partners to establish links to adult learning establishments and in collaboration to develop a flexible accreditation process and recognition by producing examples of existing good practice and systems.
* Promote the techniques of using environmental projects as a means of providing learning opportunities for excluded groups by showcasing good practice and running a European Conference.
* Identify mechanisms and resources that would expand the network to a wider audience than the initial members by linking into other networks and attracting new partners to the network.
Traditionally the environment has not be seen as a means to achieving life skills and has been perceived more as a means of obtaining land based and science skills whether as a volunteer or through community based activities. However, a leader of an environmental workcamp or a community day project gains and develops real communication and inter-personal skills, basic management and project organisation skills yet this is not recognised in many countries.
Research work carried out by Oxford Brookes University has shown that by participating regularly in environmental volunteering individuals who are unemployed or women out of employment have gained in confidence, social and communication skills the acquisition of which has lead to employment. In Italy older volunteers work with young people on local environmental projects as a means of transferring life skills. In all the countries of the network these informal experiences on environmental projects are not recognised or in most cases supported.
This network will help to share and promulgate the ideas and techniques needed to create these innovative techniques in helping individuals gain life skills. Longer term the network will help to enhance the quality and standards of achievement in adult learning. A longer-term aim beyond the life of the Grundtvig project would the establishment and recognition of this process and ideally some European wide quality standard.
The main methodology used within the network for learning activities will be through the principles used for learning by groups rather than the individual. In particular the active participation of others in the process of challenge and support which is recognised as a very powerful action learning tool. The network will use mechanisms such as exchange of experiences, shared experimentation, and examples of success
In establishing the network a decision was made to keep it quite small and to initially work with those organisations that were truly active in the field and willing to contribute to the process. New members could be incorporated by securing other outside funding once the initial group was up and running.
In the first stage of working an initial meeting would be organised to get common agreement and methods of working and communicating.
The direct target group will be the trainers, volunteer co-ordinators/project workers and community development workers from partner environmental organisations who will play an active role in the network. They will benefit from the shared learning and experiences of the network partners and participate in the learning events. The work achieved by the network would be relevant to many other environmental organisations who work in this field and are not members of the initial network.
The indirect target groups are individual volunteers involved in environmental projects community groups seeking to achieve environmental improvements and a range of disadvantaged groups. Many of the partners work with one or more of the identified disadvantaged groups on environmental projects. The network does not aim to work with all types of disadvantaged groups but it is more that the environment can be used as a medium, to which some people can easily relate, to create an alternative pathway for some individuals to learn life long skills.
ProductLangMediumVolumeUsersEnd GroupImplementation/methodologyNetwork Establishment Event - meeting to introduce all partners to each other and to establish the processes of the networkENVerbal with written report ??? partnersMembers of the network organisationsWeb based communication toolENWebContents could include:
* Reports from learning eventsMembers of networks, specifically, volunteer co-ordinators and trainersVolunteers, community citizen groupsWeb site co-ordinated by BTCV, examples produced by partners and ideas from web implemented by all partners as appropriate
Regular web-based discussion forums at fixed timesA series of 5 Learning events which probably would include
* Supporting volunteers Evaluation techniquesVolunteer co-ordinators community workers
Trainers participants in networkVolunteers on Environmental projects Volunteers, citizens groups disadvantaged communitiesImplemented by partner's who run volunteer projects or those wishing to establish volunteer programmes. Will use interactive process with problem solving, shared experiences and ideas, active learning and action planningConference on Environments for all. A European Conference on working with disadvantaged communities on environmental projects.
ENEvent and printed report.Large scale event with 100-200 people lasting 3 days. Will be run in the UKDirectors of NGO's and other organisations working with disadvantaged communities, governments, local authoritiesDisadvantaged groupsThe implementation of the findings and ides generated by this conference will be implemented at the grass roots level by those directly working with disadvantaged communities and at a more strategic level by those implementing policy and creating a climate in which disadvantaged can gain access to informal learning opportunities.
Methods used will be presentations, workshops, discussions and break out groups Local collaboration with learning establishments leading to joint projects and learning eventsENLinks and identification or areas of collaboration Will be variable in each country and the outputs will vary depending on the strength of the relationship and ability to identify shared activity and goals. If 10 of the initial partners establish such a relationship this will be successfulLearning establishments and any of the none academic partnersAny individuals or groups involved in informal learningImplementation would be achieved by using peer support from the college in the partnership, presentations and facilitating meetings.
Methodology would be by sharing information and ideas and using peer support AccreditationENA useable and flexible accreditation system for informal learning opportunitiesThe project would like to establish a system and to be able to pilot it in 2 countries.
Environmental organisations and learning establishments.Individuals participating in informal learning activitiesImplementation would depend on the system however having piloted the process in 2 countries there would be a review and revision process followed by the need to implement in other partner countries. Methodology would be by review of existing systems and development of own systemExpanded networkENWeb, email and eventsAt least another 10 members wit a stronger emphasis on Western EuropeEnvironmental organisationsVolunteers, citizens groups disadvantaged communitiesLink with other networks approaching partners of the network not yet involved but who have shown an interest
Some of the outputs from the network will be more generic in nature and apply to both the direct and indirect target groups.
The network itself will provide peer support and successful modals as well as provision of a forum where common concerns can be explored in a safe environment. Participation in the network will also enhance all the organisations capacity and resources and learners will benefit as a result. The network will help to build progressive pathway or the least developed organisations. Finally the network will provide opportunities to identify other areas for future joint working
The outlined monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are proposals for ensuring timely progress and function of the project. However, changes may arise through discussion with network partners at the initial network meeting. It is believed important for the viable and sustainable network, that all partners should agree to the systems of monitoring and evaluation proposed, as active participation including self-evaluation is imperative for success in not only the implementation but also evaluation and dissemination of the project.
4.1 Monitoring of the project will take the form of quarterly reviews and be collated by the identified network facilitator with contribution from all network partners. The monitoring review will cover the following aspects: