A report from planning the third installment of “Activate your strengths through art”
By Rebecca Baumeister, Germany
In early 2020, our team was faced with a unique challenge: planning an Erasmus+ project during a global pandemic. We knew we had a choice to make – postpone the project or try to organize a digital version.
We took the plunge and almost two years and two digital mobilities later, we are glad we did. Our project “Activate your strengths through art” has challenged our educational approaches in unique ways and helped us to grow as facilitators of learning experiences.
In the online formats, we learned to structure project days into manageable chunks of time for the participants, including individual tasks and lots of small group discussions. We invited guest speakers and made use of online learning platforms like Slack, Zoom and Miro.
But in the summer of 2021, the true challenge arrived. We were allowed to organize in-person Erasmus+ programs again and the team was incredibly excited. Then came the nervous thoughts: would we be able to channel the atmosphere from the digital youth exchanges into an in-person mobility of youth workers? Would we be able to round off the project and translate our learnings into a training course?
Luckily, our team has always been very diligent with evaluating our projects. And this is where we found the answers to our questions.
Reading through our evaluation reports from mobilities 1 & 2, we were able to summarise which methods and workshops had been most helpful and interesting for our participants. It was especially interesting when participants pointed out factors we hadn’t expected. For example, one participant shared:
This project came to me in a time when I really needed to focus on my mental health. Because I am an active person, it is difficult for me to stay home and not have a goal, so this was the perfect opportunity to take care of myself while learning new things and meeting new people.
Many participants noted that the daily individual creative “mental health sessions” had been essential for a good start into their day. Through the answers to the follow-up questionnaire that we sent 6 weeks after the project week ended, we also discovered that many participants had continued with daily mental health practices and were much more aware of their mental health.
This way, we realized that the project week had had a huge impact on the participants’ mental health even though it was never planned as a deep focus of the mobility. And what does this have to do with planning a youth worker mobility?
Well, a youth worker mobility is designed as a training course where we test and share methods and types of facilitation with youth workers in training or those who want to expand their repertoire and boost their skills.
From our evaluation report, we were able to gather which methods would be best suited to sharing with international youth workers and which experiences we would like them to be able to have.
1. Final evaluation and discussion
During the last day of your project week, get all the participants together and discuss their experience during the project week. You can use flipcharts with “Stop”, “Start”, “Continue” for participants to write down what the facilitators should ideally stop doing in future projects, what we could start doing and what went well and should be continued. Another approach is using Dixit cards for the participants to describe how they feel at the end of the week.
2. Evaluation questionnaire
A standardized questionnaire will make it possible to assess whether the objectives of the activities/project have been achieved and the expectations of the participating organizations and participants have been met. It is helpful to check in how much the participants enjoyed each session or workshop (just be mindful that they might not remember each one in detail so it would be good to have a summary of the week beforehand or give participants access to a timetable). We also advise you to include lots of questions e.g. What was your favourite part of the week? What is something you will always remember about this week? What is something you would like to forget? You can also ask your participants to give a review of the project week.
3. Follow-up questionnaire for measuring impact
This questionnaire helps you evaluate the long-term effects of your project week, e.g. improvement of the participants’ English level or whether they have implemented some of their experiences in their personal and professional lives. Some open question ideas could be e.g. Which part of this project has shaped your life the most? Do you feel motivated to take part in more Erasmus+ projects?