“They are very excited and proud that they got a badge. They see it like they graduated from school or got a degree, and then they’re motivated to go further with the lessons.”
Monique Kirindongo is one of two digi-work coaches at Rotterdam Municipality, supporting people with low or no digital skills to take part in learning opportunities to build their competences. Through the initiative, 400 participants from the target group will be able to participate, earning open badges for everything from turning on a computer to making an online appointment and more besides. And, sessions are delivered by a partnership of training providers; Digi Surfer, De Bibliotheek Rotterdam, Stichting Unie van Vrijwilligers, Fastlane/Cisco and Stichting MANO.
The digi-work coaches meet with each participant at the outset and signpost them to the most appropriate training provider for them, where they take part in digital skills sessions and work their way through a series of seven playlists on the Rotterdam City of Learning platform, earning open badges along the way. And, the team believes, this approach is enabling learners to prove their newly developed abilities.
“Everybody deserves to have something in their hands to show another person that they did something to develop in this world, and aren’t just sitting around doing nothing,” explains project co-ordinator Isabel Soares. “And that something - the badge - is recognised by a platform by the municipality of Rotterdam. The size of it is small, but it has great meaning”
“They can use it for applying for a job, and put it on their CV. And then they can show that employer that they didn’t just sit still for a year. They can say ‘listen, I’ve been working on myself, and these are the badges I got to prove it.’”
The team have seen how participants not only get a sense of achievement from earning badges, and have a record of what competences they developed that they can use when applying for work, but also gain digital independence; being able to do things for themselves.
“It's like liberation,” Monique added. “Because starting a course in digital skills frees you from people that have to help you. In the end, they can do their own stuff online, so that thirteen weeks we invest in them is a great success.”
Partnership working makes the project a reality
The impact of the project isn’t just being felt by the learners either, the team at Rotterdam Municipality believe that partnership working has been key to its success, and has led to increased collaboration.
“We have a lot of organisations in Rotterdam that wanted to give the people here digital skills, but the challenge was to find the ones that knew the urgency of this and wanted to help,” Isabel explains. “It wasn't something we could have done for ourselves.”
Previously the organisations involved in delivering the project weren’t working with each other on a regular basis. But with the project acting as a catalyst, a strong partnership has been developed with a shared aim.
“Now it's really a group that wants to work together to get the digital skills out there,” Isabel added.
Platform perseverance makes success
Speaking about the platform itself, the project team from Rotterdam Municipality believe that persevering with it is key to making it work.
“When I first saw the platform, I thought, ‘oh my god, what is this? How am I going to work with this?’” Monique laughs. “But with the help of Dutch Cities of Learning and our meetings together, I learnt how to work with the Cities of Learning platform and the badges, and now after six months, my experience is very positive.”
Throughout the course of the project, Dutch Cities of Learning supported the project team to enhance their skills using the Cities of Learning platform, offering advice and input to make it work for them and ultimately, allow them to achieve their aims.
“It's something new and whenever something is new people get a bit of anxiety,” Isabel added. “But you sit with them and hold their hands and eventually they realise that the platform is a really friendly tool.”
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.