These are blogs written by Cliff Hague for the Innovation Circle Network.
 
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Wednesday, 04 March 2015 16:41

New opportunities

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ERASMUS+ covers education, training, youth and sport. It has a strong emphasis on addressing the social and economic impacts of the long crisis created by the banks. Youth unemployment is a major concern. However ERASUMS+ also seeks to the address the development of social capital among young people, and to empowerment them to be active participants in society, in line with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty to "encourage the participation of young people in democratic life in Europe.”

As in other 2014-2020 EU programmes there is a desire to achieve more effective use of funds through better integration across policy areas. However, there will be separate categories (potential policy silos?) within ERASMUS+, largely based on previous programmes that are being “integrated” under the ERASMUS+ brand. For example ERASMUS+:Youth in Action is the new version of the previous programme that funded non-formal learning activities for young people.

The objectives, which any application for funding should look at, include a reference to the Europe 2020 strategy that seeks smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and to European values (respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities).

Actions for Youth
Much of the money and focus will be directed at higher education and language training. However, in the youth field, ERASMUS+ will support:

  • Youth exchanges and mobility for youth workers;
  • Capacity building projects in the youth field, with an emphasis on their “qualitative development of youth work, youth policies and youth systems”; and
  •  Structured dialogue – international meetings between youths and decision-makers.

 There is a strong emphasis on formal youth work and training of youth workers, while for the young people themselves the link with labour markets is stressed. There is also recognition that some young people face barriers, e.g. through health, learning difficulties, poor school performance, low income etc. The list includes a reference to “geographical obstacles: people from remote or rural areas; people living in small islands or peripheral regions; people from urban problem zones; people from less serviced areas (limited public transport, poor facilities)”. Some IC members could benefit from this provision.

The priorities are:

  • Social inclusion, well-being and youth unemployment;
  • Promotion of healthy behaviour and lifestyles;
  • EU citizenship;
  • Entrepreneurship and digital and language skills;
  • ICT in youth work;
  • Transferable qualifications.

The priority on healthy behaviours and lifestyles makes a strong connection to sport and outdoor activity – anyone for an IC ski-ing or basketball tournament? What is does not mention is how everyday activities such as walking in pedestrian-friendly settlements can be part of a healthy lifestyle. The educationalists, sports bodies and EU career bureaucrats who designed the programme have probably never thought about the relation between urban design and healthy lifestyles, though this is a topic attracting increasing attention: see for example the recent lecture by Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer http://www.befs.org.uk/calendar/48/164-BEFS-Annual-Lecture . The aspiration for integration between different policy fields is negated by the traditional blinkers of educational policy makers unable to see beyond the school playing fields.

Mobility projects
For youth mobility projects such as those that IC has run, there are a number of aims. The one that IC type events most closely matches is “to raise participants' awareness and understanding of other cultures and countries, offering them the opportunity to build networks of international contacts, to actively participate in society and develop a sense of European citizenship and identity”.

Proposals need to cover not just the event itself, but also the preparation and follow-up, including “dissemination and use of the project’s outcomes”. There is support for language preparation, for example. A further point of interest for IC is that ERASMUS + “will offer space for developing mobility activities that involve partner organisations with different backgrounds and active in different fields or socio-economic sectors (e.g. traineeships of university students or Vocational Education and Training learners in enterprises, NGOs, public bodies; teachers in schools following professional development courses in companies or training centres; business experts giving lectures or training in higher education institutions, companies active in Corporate Social Responsibility developing volunteering schemes with associations and social enterprises, etc.)”. Thus a link might be possible, for example between some of the academic institutions close to IC and IC members, e.g. a Latvian student being placed in a Swedish local authority.

Applying
The deadlines for applications in 2014 are 3 April and 2 September. However any organisation applying has to register and provide basic legal and financial information in the Unique Registration Facility (URF) of the European Commission's Participant Portal. Before doing that you have to get a password and login fromhttps://webgate.ec.europa.eu/cas/eim/external/register.cgi.

In summary, the ERASMUS+ programme may be of interest to some IC members and could potentially fund youth camps. However, anybody looking to use it needs to thoroughly address the aims and priorities and carefully fit the conditions, which have been drafted by and for professionals in education. The key document is onhttp://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/documents/erasmus-plus-programme-guide_en.pdf and versions in other languages are also available.

In particular it would seem sensible to look to engage youth workers in proposals – their imprint is very clear in the sections on youth projects. Alternatively IC might look to use ERASMUS+ to strengthen its links with higher education institutions in an international network linking students to practice.

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