We often discuss another problem with our partners, related to the so-called “trainers” in Erasmus+ trainings. If they are part of a certain organization – guess what – they need work. Which means they need projects, therefore they apply for projects, wherein they can be trainers. Naturally, they propose whatever they can do, to whatever extent they can do it, for these projects, learning to argue and model it in accordance with the program’s priorities, so it can be approved, so it can “pass”.
Former active project participants (participating in projects before making your own is generally a good thing), who have decided to change their vocation, become self-proclaimed “trainers”. Non-formal education, in its essence, does not require the proof of formal diplomas and certificates, which leaves the space wide open for interpretations of what a good and experienced trainer really is. Still, to know non-formal methods is to have a full tool box. But you must be able to use them skillfully and in a logical sequence, know what you can extract from the participants and what you can give back as knowledge and skills through these tools. Knowing certain areas, wherein you are a non-formal educator, helps a lot.
I have always thought that training youth workers on Erasmus+ gives a huge opportunity for people with similar interests and needs to have access to quality training, which is not merely “scratching the surface”, but gives in-depth (self)knowledge, practical skills and develops complex competences. In order for that to happen, the trainers are the ones, who have to set the quality of the experiential training experience. Which is why it is important who they are and what they can accomplish with the methods they wield.
It should be noted that working in an international partner network is becoming ever more difficult, regarding building lasting and stable relationships with partners. The international aspect is more than bonus points in evaluations for every Erasmus+ project. It can give added value and enrich the context, good practices and sharing of experience.
But how do we find partners, who are enthusiastic about our idea, motivated to participate and whom we can trust?
The answer is: make “our” idea a mutual idea.
Naturally, this is hard to do in practice, when you have found your partners via social media or another indirect way. When that’s the case, you don’t really know what kind of people are in the organization, what motives lead them in implementing projects. They, on the other hand, usually feel free from responsibility and loyalty to the project and limit their efforts to sending participants. I say “send”, as there has been a trend of “project tourism” in recent years (a response to treating youths as project “users”), wherein people participate, lead primarily by the attractiveness of the destination, maybe by the subject, and less and less by the desire to contribute to achieving social change, using what they’ve learned. The lack of engagement of the partners with the process of participant selection, neglecting to comply with the set profile, could significantly decrease the quality of an otherwise well written project.
Those are, however, the risks. Whoever wants reliable partners must put a lot of effort in finding them, getting to know them, communicating with them, developing a project together, working long term and in solidarity, in order to achieve change.