2 Nexus Institut (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN23 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Pages: 2702-2709
ISBN: 978-84-09-52151-7
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2023.0772
Conference name: 15th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2023
Location: Palma, Spain
Being online is a way of living for young Europeans. In 2021, 95 % of young people in the EU made daily use of the internet, compared with 80 % for the whole population. (Eurostat, Young people in Europe – digital world, 2022). However, young people do not use the full potential of digital technologies to access information on their civic rights, on health and education issues, and to participate in decision-making processes. In 2021, only one quarter (24 %) of young people aged 16–29 years in the EU used the internet for civic and political participation – expressing opinions online or participating in online consultations/petitions. There is a clear gap in the way young people use digital technologies, and this gap is even wider when it comes to disadvantaged youth.

ACTIon – Promoting active citizenship through civic education and active online participation of youth role models is an Erasmus+ KA3 Social inclusion project that started at the beginning of 2021 to fill this gap. The three-year project aims to train young people on how to use digital technologies to participate actively in their community, and in society as a whole. The project aims to support the integration of adolescents and young people (aged 14-25) from socially disadvantaged areas, minority and refugee groups into mainstream society by enhancing access to health, education, online participation, the labour market and civic engagement.

Based on an extensive theoretical framework outlining learning objectives, the ACTIon project partners adapted and developed two tailor-made training programmes for youth role models from disadvantaged groups that can be used in both formal and non-formal education: Digital Participation and Active Citizenship (DigiPAC) and Model for Opinion Leaders Activation (MOLA). Doing this, the project partners stepped on three good practices: Popular Opinion Leader (POL) model, F.I.R.E. – From Idea to Reality and Execution app and OPIN youth e-participation platform.

The ACTIon training approach was piloted by five project partners from four countries (Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, North Macedonia) with complementary expertise in social inclusion, education, digital participation and network cooperation, while the partner based in Belgium took active role in communication and dissemination of the project results. During 2022, ACTIon partners involved over 580 young people in the training programme and built a network of over 30 youth NGOs and schools, with over 60 practitioners in a position to deliver one of the training modules.

First evidence of the project’s external evaluation suggests that young people’s indicated (based on self-rating) the skills they developed most during the training was in knowing what information they can believe online, and in how to take action when they see something is wrong. While practitioners saw the biggest impact on their ability to help young people critically engage with online content, as well as engaging with community action. Teachers in particular were beneficiaries of seeing how ACTIon can help them make connections beyond the classroom to the real world.

This paper will showcase the theoretical basis and methodology approach of ACTIon’s training programmes highlighting some major piloting outcomes in schools and community-based education settings as an alternative approach to close the digital gap and promote active citizenship for disadvantaged youth.
Disadvantaged youth, online participation, media literacy, digital skills, social inclusion.