Transnational project management is a key feature of all European projects, comprising a range of more or less formalized tasks and activities, that shall allow for the smooth and efficient implementation of projects. Over the past years a broad range of methods and tools have been developed, with a view to support the day-to-day and strategic management of EU projects. The bulk of those however is dedicated to planning, monitoring, documentation of results and outcomes, accountancy and evaluation.
Although those tools can be helpful at certain stages of a project, they show of very limited value when it’s about the a) creation of shared meaning of the project, as well as objectives and tasks, b) building of common ground for collaborative action, c) ensuring commitment, ownership and active engagement of everyone involved in the project and d) promoting exchange of experience and knowledge. In my opinion many of the problems that occur during the course of projects can be attributed to the absence of one or more of these conditions. The reasons may vary, as do the problems caused by them.
Project management software comprises tools, which work pretty well for projects taking place within organisations, but often show inefficient and bulky if applied to projects that operate across organisations and multi-stakeholder environments (typical for most European projects). Another shortcoming can be seen in the fact, that they require full control over all project parameters from the first to last second. The project design is supposed to be exactly right from the beginning, and within some narrow confines to remain unchanged until the end of the project. But, the most crucial downside is the fact, that most of those tools don't grow with the project needs.
In response to these limitations many of my colleagues including myself over the past years have searched for alternatives, which we finally found in WIKIs. Since 8 to 10 years we now work with WIKIs, with the help of which we build common workspaces and collaborative environments for European project partnerships.
WIKIS quite often are confused with Wikipedia, and people think of them mainly as tools for building knowledge repositories, such as encyclopedias or glossaries. However, WIKIs can do a lot more. They are real-time collaborative editing system, based on the wiki concept, which can be shaped in various ways to meet the needs of projects. One major advantage of WIKIs is that they can change to respond to the project's needs as they arise. This makes them attractive for project collaboration, especially when working in distributed project teams.
WIKIs gives project actors visibility into their work process and, more importantly, gives individuals and project partners a clear sense of where their work fits into the big picture, work and efforts of the team, questions they are grappling with and the complexity of tasks. Thus, WIKIs not only support a better understanding of the whole R&D endevaour, but help to break down any ‘them and us’ thinking. Moreover, WIKIs showed a much better means of coordinating contributors than the usual cumbersome method of e-mails and file attachments. And last but not least, WIKIs helped us to bring together all conversation and materials in one place. Jenny Mackness
A technical advantage of wikis over other document management tools is that there are plenty of good open source versions available at little or no cost. Plus, such wikis are usually extensible, so you can customize them to your needs. WIKIs are available as stand-alone software packages, which with the help of plugins can adapted to different needs. Those software packages are available for free, but require installation on a server (for example MediaWiki). So, some technical knowledge is required in order to make the WIKI work the way wanted. On the other hand there is various web services, such as pbworks, which offer free WIKI spaces, with an option to add extra features for a small fee.
Although some preliminary work (around 3 days) will be necessary to set up a WIKI, this investment pays off during the lifetime of the project and beyond. When creating a WIKI, the first step usually is to develop an overall structure and to define the areas and categories of utmost relevance for the project. All that should be kept as simple as possible.
Based on past project experience, I’d like to recommend the following basic sections:
Needless to say, that project managers should always bear in mind that, it’s first and foremost persons who come together in projects in order to share their experience and expertise towards solving a problem or developing innovations, while partner organisations by and large remain black boxes for those collaborating on a daily basis. But that's another story.
Over the years WIKIs for us turned out a quite valuable tool, helping to support the project actors towards developing a sense of ownership for processes and results , as well as building common ground and shared meaning for collaborative action.
WIKIs also offer a variety of tools, which can be used to visualize virtually every aspect of a project. For example, our wikis start with a picture of the team, taken at a workshop all participants felt comfortable with. This reminds people of both, that they are part of a bigger team, and in a more subtle manner, of successful collaboration in the past. Moreover, we add photographs of key actors to each single task and activity. So, everyone in an eye-catching manner can see who's engaged in a certain piece of work, team mates sharing the work, persons with leading roles, peer reviewers involved etc. Photos show that a real person is behind each activity. Nothing is sadder than tasks lists with a bunch of partner logos, indicating the organisation a person represents in the project partnership.
The photograph is followed by both, a short and detailed description of tasks and activities. We usually spend plenty of time on breaking down „abstract“ tasks into concrete activities because of two reasons. We often have the situation that applications were written by one or two key persons, who built the project on assumptions, ideas and concepts most of which remain implicit and thus, there is a certain risk that people come to different interpretations of the same text. Also at this point WIKIs can be of great value, because they allow project actors to add their point of view or make comments on conclusions drawn by others. So, step by step the partnership can build common ground for the project.
WIKI page: News section
WIKI page: Repository of project outcomes and results
WIKI page: Monitoring progress
To help cities better address challenges such as Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees, Poverty, and to make the most out of EU funding opportunities, the European Commission has launched a new web portal during the European Week of Regions and Cities.
The new Urban Data Platform of the Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies operated by the Joint Research Centre, gives a single access point to shared indicators on the status and trends of over 800 European urban areas – on a variety of themes, such as demography, urban development, economic development, transport and accessibility, environment and climate, resource efficiency and social issues (including share of persons in tertiary education, participation in education, percentage of early school leavers, people at risk of poverty and social exclusion).
All indicators can be applied to three types of urban areas: densely populated areas, towns and suburbs, and rural areas. See examples below:
Source: Urban Agenda for the EU
Link: Urban Data Platform
The number of refugees and new migrants who reach Europe, escaping from wars or critical life conditions and looking for new life opportunities, has increased dramatically in recent years and is likely to continue growing in the coming years. These newcomers face many challenges in settling into Europe and among these are the obstacles to accessing the labour market or continuing their studies.
Migrants and refugees are in practice often prevented from enjoying their rights by many legal and practical barriers. This also represents an obstacle to their integration in hosting societies. One of the main challenges newcomers and refugees face is that, although they are often educated and skilled, their competences may not be recognised in the host society. There are many reasons for this: their skills and knowledge may not fit into predefined bureaucratic policies and procedures; documentation is lacking; or the curriculum they followed does not match certification structures in the host country. This hinders their access to the labour force and to continuing their studies, jeopardises their chances of fully integrating in the new society as citizens, and represents a source of discrimination and social marginalisation. The main purpose of the VINCE project is to adapt existing proven methods to include disadvantaged people in higher education (HE), so that they meet the needs of the newcomers.
An efficient assessment of migrants' and refugees' prior learning can be critical in enabling them to access the labour market and/or continue their educational studies and improve their qualifications. Recognising and validating the skills and competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning supports the social inclusion and empowerment of migrants, who often have limited opportunities to access formal education. The process of validation of non-formal and informal learning helps to bridge educational inequalities, and offers further pathways for the development of the skills needed in life and in the labour market. Furthermore, by being given the chance to describe their educational and employment experiences and supported in a reflection and analysis of their prior learning, they will be enabled to begin to establish links between that and future opportunities for in education and work, bridging the gap between past and future.
The "TOI TOI TOI" project in the framework of the Erasmus+ programme has developed a range of web tools, which shall allow project coordinators to evaluate themselves, partner organisations and whole project consortia with a view to their capacity towards ensuring sustainable impact of projects.
The tools have been developed based on in-depth analysis of past LdV-ToI projects, and by project coordinators can be used to evaluate their own and other partners' organisational and professional capacities, including a range of basic competences needed in order to effectively contribute to the creation of impact and sustainability of education development projects. The tools can be used for both, self- and team-evaluation.
Website: Toi Toi Toi Project
On 30. May 2016 an informal meeting of EU Ministers with responsibility for urban affairs took place in Amsterdam, at the initiative of the Dutch Presidency. During this meeting an "Urban Agenda for the EU", also called "Pact of Amsterdam", has been established. The goal is networking and knowledge sharing of city authorities at European level, also to achieve better regulation and the promotion at EU level.
The European Urban Agenda is a joint effort of European Commission, Member States and European Cities Networks to strengthen the recognition of the urban dimension by European and national policy actors. Through the Urban Agenda for the EU, national governments, the European Commission, European institutions and other stakeholders will be working together for a sustainable, innovative and economically powerful Europe that offers a good quality of life.
The Award will celebrate educational practices from all over Europe that can demonstrate the use of creative and inclusive learning methods with outstanding results and the potential to be replicated and/or of inspiring others. The Award is not limited to a particular sector; lifelong learning covers education and training across all ages and in all areas of life be it formal, non-formal or informal.
The aim of the LLLAward is to give visibility to such practices in order to attract public attention as well as to inspire new practices and policies in the field. In 2016, the focus reflects the first priority of its Lifelong Learning Manifesto: “Building inclusive and democratic educational systems”. This priority covers different important issues such as citizenship and global education, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, fighting prejudices and discrimination, educational institutions democratic governance and learner participation, learning mobility for all and the use of arts and culture to tackle social challenges and enhance personal development.
The German Federal Institute for Education and Training (BIBB) just published the results of a national monitoring on validation of informal and non-formal learning in Germany. The results are based upon a national survey, conducted in 2015. More than 850 stakeholders in Vocational Education and Training on this occasion have been asked about the future of validation and recognition of informal and non-formal learning in Germany.
According to the answers of the experts, the following key aspects should be taken into consideration towards establishing a national system for the validation and recognition of informal and non-formal learning:
An interesting webinar on Family Learning and Digital Citizenship took place on 26 April 2016. More than twenty participants joined the webinar under the lead of Susannah Chambers, expert in Family Learning.
This webinar, organised by School Education Gateway, explored and presented the links between digital communication technologies, Family Learning and digital citizenship. The webinar highlighted examples of how the power of digital communication tools are used by schools to maximise the positive impact on teaching and learning, enhance home-school communication and increase community engagement.
The Erasmus+ partnership ON THE MOVE just released a best practice guide on how to reach out to and include persons from vulnerable groups in the world of Lifelong Learning. The publication is based on reviews of more than 100 European projects, providing outreach educational guidance and low-threshold learning opportunities.
A major aim of the project is to make staff in counselling and educational institutions in Europe aware of "alternative approaches (predominantly of the outreach kind) bringing educationally remote and low-qualified people to further education and will implement these in their countries".
Urban populations have been growing more rapidly than ever in recent years: more than half of the world’s population nowadays lives in cities, and the number is expected to rise to 60 percent by 2030. Cities become increasingly influential in national and world affairs as they expand. However, this expansion is also presenting municipal governments with multiple challenges relating to social cohesion, economic development and sustainability.
A growing number of cities see the implementation of a lifelong learning strategy for inclusive, sustainable urban development as key to tackling these challenges. These cities are developing innovative strategies that allow citizens of all ages to learn new skills and competencies throughout life, thereby transforming their cities into ‘learning cities’. The UNESCO Learning City Award has been established in order to further promote lifelong learning for all and showcase good practice in building learning cities. It is conferred on cities that are implementing the Key Features of Learning Cities and have thereby achieved outstanding progress in building learning cities.
Source: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, 29. April 2016