TEAC16 Reflections: I-LINC Young Advisors Interactive Session

On October 7th, Gasper Andrejc, Tomislava Recheva and I (Karen Triquet), were given the opportunity to host an hour long session at the Telecentre Europe Annual Conference (TEAC) 2016 in Ghent. Within this context (and the event being co-hosted with Digipolis and the I-LINC platform), our aim for this particular session was first and foremost to generate a lively discussion amongst participants on this years theme: "Digital Skills for future work", within the framework of I-LINC objectives and consequent emphasis on empowering youth.

More specifically, the idea was to collaboratively explore session participants' outlook (importance, relevance and strengths/weaknesses), on several previously identified gaps and needs regarding finding solutions to enable youth. These solution points had been collected and consequently aggregated from the iLINC platform wiki-inclusion prior to the session and ranged from: enhancing teacher support, fostering leadership, developing digital skills and mindsets to recognising community responsibility, credentials and accessible spaces to name a few. Hence, asking session groups to prioritise these aimed to further understand and build upon current views and priorities towards practices that bridge the digital skills gap and/or deliver relevant skills to youth.

The session initially kicked off with a projected instant feedback quiz-approach, using Kahoot. The purpose behind our selection of the medium was twofold in contributing to the session objectives. Firstly, it allowed participants to get comfortable sharing their views, whilst quickly getting to acquainted with one another over the triggered competitive points displayed. Secondly, and most importantly, by highlighting certain stark figures and unexpected barriers and actions, the quiz acted as a stimulus for topical discussions and exploration that followed in inciting group discussion on the need to enhance pathways for youth skills, employability and entrepreneurship.  

Overall, the session provided much food for thought on several dimensions. Many of these points will in-turn serve to feed into and re-evaluate input on an ongoing collaborative I-LINC position paper. Moreover, these equally highlight more broadly the critical challenges faced in ongoing multi-level and multi-actor dialogues regarding priorities towards empowering youth.

Therefore, although by no means a comprehensive account, some of these points given the nature of discussion they brought forward are worth highlighting and reflecting upon. The disagreement on prioritisation, and how to begin to address these changes in practice and policy that surfaced between and within groups, provided a welcomed deviation from the initially timed session steps and approximations. This observed and healthy lack of disagreement instead, led to an organic discussion in which the following points (amongst others) surfaced:

  • Shared understandings: The need to develop a shared understanding and vocabulary on the factors being discussed, was one that came forward often when participants consulted a respective identified gap. This need was enriched as a result of the diversity of participants that were present for the session. Therefore, this need to further address terminology and clarity thereof, is one that will feed in to strengthen the ongoing work and clarity of action points in the i-LINC paper.
  • Diversity of agendas and priorities: The “who” in prioritising points. Again as a result of the various participants functions and backgrounds in the session, “whose priority” was questioned often in aiming to find a balance between acting on presented points. How should participants go about prioritising “for and according to whom". However, in not wanting to drive the discussion, we asked participants to come to an agreement amongst themselves (given their agendas and backgrounds) on the various agenda points they were given. These between-group and participant variations were equally informative in nature (often seemingly a result of their organisational background), and consequently reflected in the prioritisation of actions towards enabling youth skills, employability and entrepreneurship.
  • Prioritised points: Although Several points came to the forefront across the groups, each equally, and interestingly, seemed to have different driving priorities decided upon following the group activities (as visible in the posters groups created). Prioritised points, and more importantly the distinctions between what is of most urgent need for attention, depended largely on the group approach.
  • Distinctions in action approach: Moreover not only did the points themselves differ, but group approaches differed widely. The ways in which groups described undertaking and realising actions towards closing the digital skills gap, went from very linear to a more clustered nature. One group for instance clustered the various action points they were presented with in order within four themes: 1) Actors, 2) Pedagogy, 3) Spaces, 4) Structural/Systemic Change Dynamics, whilst on the other end of the spectrum another group took a much more linear dependent-view of actions with inclusive spaces (online & offline) as their first action.
  • Additions: Beyond presented points, participants were also asked whether any key factors (action points) were missing in their perspective from those they had been presented with. As a result, participants suggested the addition of (in no particular order): 1) emphasising the importance of play across skills development actions, 2) the value in developing basic literacy, and 3) the need to take into account the offline nature of accessibility and delivery for youth. 
  • Questions: Furthermore, several questions were raised during the group discussions as to the nature of the challenge in prioritising. This further highlighted the complexity and diversity of input which such a broad topical discussion entails.

It must be noted however that what was gained in breadth of coverage, as a diverse group process, may in-turn have been a loss at depth of gain regarding prioritisation points (within the topics themselves) for actor-specific levels of action. Nevertheless, seeing as the intention of the session was to gain broadly on the need and validity of current position paper drafted points, this was not judged as a limitation for this session. 

All in all, these aforementioned points and the rich discussion that ensued amongst participants, whilst they attempted to come to agreement on priorities for youth, provide fruitful information in contributing to the ongoing I-LINC position paper process and critical debate more generally. 

Furthermore, any continued discussion on the highlighted points above is very much welcomed - be it through blog comments (directly below), or discussion and shares more generally on the topic of empowering youth to learn, participate and lead in our current and future societies through the I-LINC Platform: Wikinclusion's Discussion & Activities Spaces.

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