Working With The Missions
Based on the following argument and a desire to distinguish our work from traditional approaches, the Quality Assurance partner recommended the term mission:
The word MISSION is borrowed from computer gaming. Good computer games take the player through different levels of challenges and tasks that must be accomplished to complete the… mission. Often new levels are more complicated to accomplish than the first ones, and often you will need the resources created along the first levels to accomplish the tasks at later levels.
This means that you accumulate resources and skills along the different levels; precisely the skills and resources you will need to accomplish your mission. Therefore, you cannot simply jump to the last level, because you will not have the skills and resources to be successful at that level. And therefore you cannot change the order or sequence of the levels, as each level will create the needed capacity to accomplish tasks at the next level. Most young people are very familiar with this “logic”; it’s in their blood. Therefore, we believe that this “computer game language” is useful when working with NEET youth.
Working with the missions required the adults in Open the Doors to think and behave in ways different to what they had done previously. The support materials generated by the quality assurance partner indicated a didactical approach based on a particular conceptualisation of entrepreneurship. This involved the mission originating from the young people themselves and being focused on making beneficial change for them and the communities in which they live. There was encouragement to engage with new technology and to recruit from and work in conjunction with the wider community. This guidance was posited on the European Commission’s Entrecomp document. This document contained a suggested range of competences that constitute entrepreneurialism including, spotting opportunities, creativity and vision, taking the initiative, coping with uncertainty, ambiguity and risk, and working with others. These competencies describe the aspired development of both young people and the adults who work with them. They therefore underpin how the adults and young people worked with the missions.
Understanding a mission
Understanding the nature of a mission was core to successful working. Some appeared to have a firm grasp of what a mission is from the outset (See Annex A1) although this was refined through experience (See Annex A2 & Annex A1 – San Jordi & Banyoles). For others, the educational, political and social contexts constrained creation of a mission as defined here. Consequently, whilst all partners had missions with a focus on young people, some were realised in familiar contexts whilst others focused on the adults (See Annex A5) as preparation for understanding and working with a mission. Understanding a mission is significant in shifting mindsets, and how learning contexts might be different. Understanding a mission was the consideration that generated the other themes and is, therefore, at the heart of working with young people.
Moving away from tradition
As indicated in the previous learning point, the further the mission was from traditional learning and teaching, the more it matched the model suggested in Open the Doors. For Kontiki, School No5 and EDUCA, the starting point was dealing with a tradition of education that privileged teaching and systems over learning (See Annex A5). In the cases of Kontiki and School 5, the practice colleagues demonstrated a high level of self-awareness in the need to provide training and professional development for teachers whilst for EDUCA, the starting point was dealing with a highly prescriptive system in which colleagues were constrained by national and local policy.
Nevertheless, each practice partner achieved the overall aim of shifting to a learner led regime in which the young people are at the centre of the mission. Challenging traditional ways of learning is current in all learning contexts, not just second chance schools but second chance schools working with missions, can be at the forefront of generating new ways of learning for all children and young people. Thus, second chance schools and working with missions will make a significant and valuable contribution to the advancement of education, generally.
Each of the missions engaged in real-life learning that enhanced or had the potential to enhance their communities. Enhancement could take the form of cultural (See Annex A2), informative (See Annex A1) and potentially economic (See Annex A4 & Annex A5) through leading to participation in the labour market. Making real changes creates satisfaction and a sense of achievement, again challenging negative identities through experience.
Working with the community
Engaging with the local community featured in the missions. This was working with and for young people of similar of different backgrounds, (Matosinhos, Cancuni), cultures (Kontiki, School No5), ages and economic circumstances (Matosinhos, Educa).
Working with communities brought the young people into contact with others whom they might not have otherwise encountered or felt with whom they did not belong. In turn, this helped change their perspectives on others and others’ perspectives on them.
Recognition of skills, abilities and achievements
This is both a starting point for working with the missions but also a developmental experience for the young people. Acknowledging what young people bring to a mission is a task of working with the missions and is often an enlightening experience for young people when they realise that they have skills and abilities and that other people value and appreciate them. At the beginning of a mission, young people often doubt their own abilities. However, as they work with others to generate the mission, and to make it work, self-awareness of an increasing sense of achievement and being in control of their own lives, develops (See Annex A2).