Following the outbreak of Covid-19, the average lifestyle, where kids go to daycare or school and parents go to work, did not exist anymore. People had no choice but to adapt to a new way of life. Families, educators, and social workers have been forced to orient themselves in the new online tools. Also, the international project world had to go through enormous changes as the borders were closed and we had to come up with new ways to implement ERASMUS+ projects that are essentially created to mobilize people around Europe.
The Erasmus+ EPSIR project
ERASMUS+ project EPSIR —Empowering parents and families for active social inclusion and resilience is a collaboration of Finland, Norway, Greece, Croatia, and Poland. Partners from NGOs to higher education institutes have come together in this project in order to find solutions to rapidly changing work environments and to face the changing needs of diverse families.
The aim of the EPSIR project, is to create awareness and empower parents and families by improving parenting knowledge, skills, and their digital proficiency. The primary target group of our project is adult educators. The objective of the project is to promote internationalization by active mobilization and to enhance the educators’ competences in working with parents and families. Another important aspect is to promote benefits of ICT by benchmarking and sharing best practices from the partnering countries.
EPSIR project collaborated with Anna Moring, an expert from Finland of All Families project. In the workshops we were working towards equality and recognition of diversity. For example, 1/3 of all Finnish families diverge from the norm of a cis-heterosexual white Finnish nuclear family. We had an opportunity to widen our perspectives on different forms of families such as bicultural families, blended families, foster families, single-parent families, rainbow families, multiple-birth families, adoptive families, etc.
Family diversity is always present when educators and family workers encounter parents and families. And by participating in training and discussions we will be better at answering to the special needs of diverse families and we will have better competences in facing prejudices and discrimination in working with families.
Flexibility and adjustments due to Covid-19
The original idea was to organize five international trainings, but the Covid-19 related restrictions were still affecting travelling possibilities and there was no time to postpone the trainings in order to implement all the planned activities of the project.
So quite quickly we made new plans and arrangements to proceed with the project plan. Tampere University of Applied Sciences, as a higher education institution had the best readiness to organize high quality online training on short notice. In June 2021, EPSIR projects’ first international training took place as an online event with the title “Diversity and Digitalisation in working with families”.
Exploring and co-learning
In the training the participants learned about:
- the Finnish welfare system and especially the service system in preventive and early-stage work with families
- the different families and respecting the diversity of families
- the possibilities of digital social work and the skills needed in online working
- good practices in digital work with youth and families in Finland
Especially the discussion about diversity of families was very fruitful, exciting, inspiring and thought-provoking in transnational group. Even the concept of family is considered very differently in various cultures. On top of that, the differences of opinions on individual level are enormous.
Among our project’s partners, we can recognize different values. Therefore, it was important that in the beginning of the training we focused on creating a safe place and a safe learning environment for everyone to participate and to be heard, which can be more challenging in online environment. The starting point is that we respect each other and everyone’s opinions and respect the right to self-definition.
During the international online training, we carried out virtual study trips to local NGO´s and also TAMK´s Virtual Lab for Social and Health Care. Virtual visit to virtual lab was found very inspiring and during the visit we got to meet also Finnish family and children in action, operating the digital equipment of the lab, e.g Yeti Tablet, Magic Mirror and Pepper robot.
Positive feedback encourages further actions
The international online training was rated as excellent or very good by participants. The participants valued the interactivity of training very high. Using creative warm-ups and different digital tools such as break out rooms or Padlet was found engaging. Interesting and important topics of the training helped to create the feeling of togetherness and belonging in the group. The next international training of EPSIR is going to take place on 20-22.10.2021 in Croatia. And this time we´ll have a chance to meet also face-to-face and finally we can move from online training to a hybrid event!
Senior Lecturer, International coordinator
Tampere University of Applied Sciences
Social Services and Health Care