Pilots, goals and activities

Although in the beginning we wanted to work towards almost every goal of the Big Picture of the INCLUSO project, finally we decided to focus mostly on the following ones:

  • Personal development
    • Improving communication skills (mostly through communication with peers, but also with external institutions)
    • Preparation for independent living (ex. through getting time and money management skills)
  • Social participation
    • Fostering social relations (making new friends, strengthening the existing ones)
    • Community capacity’active citizenship (taking actions in local communities through organisation of youth events)

The Polish pilot from the very beginning was planned to be a combination of real-life and online activities. Young people from U Siemachy daytime care institutions (and one cooperating institution) were to be involved in the organisation of thematic youth events, addressing the local communities of Krakow and Chorzow. The events were supposed to be developed and organised by the young people themselves. It could have been anything: a concert; a culinary art festival; a dancing workshop. The events were meant to happen in real life, but discussions, arrangements and the planning process were planned to be online based, as well as promotion and advertisement.
We expected young people to use a wide range of tools. First and foremost Gadu-Gadu (instant messaging tool) and Nasza Klasa (classmates networking portal), which were the most popular and willingly used Polish services. Apart from those we expected YouTube, Wikis and Google Apps to play an important role in the pilot. It turned out that we have used neither Wikis, nor Google Apps throughout the whole pilot, and the use of Nasza Klasa has been limited. However, we used indeed Gadu-Gadu, YouTube and additionally online forums and Ning, which after all happened to become the most important ones.
The original Polish pilot started in April 2009. At this time 35 young people joined the project, aged from 13 to 21 and varying in background, personal motivation, level of civic involvement and social abilities. Most of the youngsters did not know each other prior to joining the pilot. At the beginning, the concept of the pilot was difficult to understand for group members as they were unfamiliar with online projects.
All the participants had some experience with social software (instant messaging – Gadu-Gadu, networking portal – Nasza Klasa), but had never used it as a tool for collaboration. We needed a tool allowing for one-to-many communication and for collecting all the messages. One of our INCLUSO coaches suggested using an online forum (www.incluso.pl) which was launched towards the end of April 2009.
The main goal of the pilot was to help young people to organise events, but the youngsters lacked knowledge and abilities to make them happen and they did not know where to start. They got stuck exchanging repetitive, general, empty messages (“Let’s organise a dance workshop for children!!!” “Good idea! :D Lets!” and so on). We discovered three main reasons of our trouble: 1) most of the participants did not have enough communication skills to use the online forum and express themselves properly; 2) they still were separate individuals instead of being a team; 3) and finally, it showed that they needed much more training in project organisation.
We used a pre-arranged group meeting for staff and young people as an opportunity for problem solving. It brought together 32 young people from Krakow (Malopolska region) and Chorzow (Silesia region) as well as 9 staff members, and focused on team-building. Participants engaged in activities such as team-building games, improving their confidence in using online forums, discussing the Incluso project and so on. The most active participants of the Polish INCLUSO were given awards to show appreciation for effort.
Thanks to the pilot meeting we could build up team spirit within the group, which influenced the online communication both in terms of quantity and quality. One of the outcomes of the meeting was an Incluso profile on the Polish social networking site Nasza Klasa. All the participants joined as friends. However, as mentioned above, Nasza Klasa does not provide good opportunities for group communication, therefore the profile has not been used actively.
We started a new Incluso chapter just as the new school year began after summer 2009. From the feedback collected by the INCLUSO advisors, we knew that the concept of the project still remained unclear to the participants. They were rather waiting for ready actions to join instead of developing actions themselves. They found online communication boring and empty, they would prefer face-to face meetings. On the other hand they were not able to put more life into the online community and make it meaningful. The participants seemed not to be aware of the fact, that what happens in INCLUSO depends on themselves. This was a great challenge for the project team.

To answer the participants’ needs more accurately, we decided to experiment with a more immersive online environment and a more structured way of work. First of all, we set an “INCLUSO hour” – once a week, on Friday afternoons, the participants had some time to discuss (online and offline) the INCLUSO issues. It was the time to upload messages, pictures, movies and chat with others. Secondly, we decided that adults should prepare a general framework for the upcoming event, so that young people could join a pre-organised activity instead of getting stuck on brainstorming again. One of the coaches prepared a general idea of an ecological project, titled “My world – my business”, and a set of tasks to be completed (including a short film, a song, a photo-collage). The young people were supposed to be working on the tasks in small groups and share their work-in-progress results on the Ning platform (www.inclusopl.ning.com) – a much more immersive and rich in functionalities social software tool. The final results were to be presented at the event planned for November 2009. We thought that finally the participants knew exactly what to do. They seemed to be excited about their task and happy of the possibility of creating their own things.
However, we ended up deeply disappointed. We did not manage to organise the event in November. December 2009 and January 2010 were difficult for the INCLUSO pilot in Poland. The INCLUSO group was working on an ecological event, but everything was happening very slowly. Although each of the Daytime Socio-therapy Centres involved in the project had a specific task to fulfil and the participants were very excited about it in the beginning. After some time, the enthusiasm collapsed. After a while the ecological theme turned out not to be that interesting for the young people. However, their preparation processes had gone too far for them to stop. At some point in January we all got stuck. Thanks to the commitment of the most active participants we finally managed to organise a very successful event, which gathered about 100 people from the local community of Chorzow. The programme included:

  • Eco-commercials
  • Quizzes
  • Video survey presenting views of Chorzow inhabitants on ecological lifestyles
  • Presentations on attitude to the ecology in Indonesia, China and India
  • A rock band concert
  • …and many others

The reportage from the event is available online at our Ning platform.
After the event we organised a workshop for the whole INCLUSO group to find ways for the Polish pilot to develop and to solve some problems that arose throughout the preparations for the event. We spent several hours on brainstorming and discussing what to do. Finally, we all came to some conclusions. First, the oldest group of the participants (20-22) decided to leave the project. We all realised that actually they do not need INCLUSO that much – they were quite comfortable with social software tools and they were already active in their social life. So we said a mutual ‘farewell’ to one another. Secondly, we decided that we need to have a broader range of activities than just organising an event. That is why we decided to implement some simple activities: a) online gaming and exchange of information of the best games (in one of our socio-therapy centres gaming on Kurnik has become a very important part of social life) and b) use of THE Polish social network site Nasza Klasa for spreading information about what is going on in all the Daytime Socio-therapy Centres (it has been used this way until now). A few people decided to create a MySpace account for their music band. Finally, we decided that our events need to be smaller, so that they are easier to organise. We went for flashmobs (an unexpected event involving a large amount of people who appear somewhere public and perform a short act): they are fun, short, simple and exciting. Three of the flashmobs are already behind us.
On the 12th of March 2010 the INCLUSO group of 15 young people, together with some of their friends, came together to mop the surface of a Small Market Square in Krakow. We called this action a “flashmop”. It got a lot of attention from the side of the inhabitants of Krakow, meaning passers-by. There is no doubt that a group of young people pointlessly mopping the pavement must raise quite some attention! The team was divided into “moppers”, “photographers” and “filmmakers” – the event is well documented and the results can be viewed on YouTube, out Ning platform and at the www.incluso.org website.
On the 23rd of April the time came for a more interactive flashmob, oriented not only on gaining attention, but also some involvement of other people. Our group, armed with flipchart paper and markers, went to the very city of Krakow to invite people to a drawing-guessing game. Krakow is full of street performers, but none of them invites the audience to participate in the performance. That is why at first the passers-by simply observed with interest, but did not feel like joining the game. After a while, the INCLUSO participants managed to get their trust and motivation. Not only inhabitants of Krakow, but also tourists joined the game with pleasure. The INCLUSO group, although they found it very hard in the beginning, claimed that the action was a great fun. Beginning interactions was difficult, but later on the people’s energy and commitment was more than rewarding.
On the 28th of June 2010 the INCLUSO group organised a “bubble flashmob” in Chorzow. The participants were trying to involve as many people as possible in blowing bubbles in the centre of the city. Everybody who joined the activity was labelled with a funny sticker “Bubble girl” or “Bubble fellow”. The flashmob appeared to be very exciting, especially for kids and their parents. We ran out of the bubbles very, very fast.
In the participants’ opinion, although they valued all the INCLUSO experience, the phase of organising flashmobs was the most fruitful. It allowed for being innovative and creative. It also let them learn management skills and “get the feeling” of being managers. The fact that they could see the results of their work pretty fast was crucial. Young people at risk do not have enough patience to wait for ages. Big events and long preparations are not for them, while flashmobs are just enough to maintain their motivation on a very high level.
All of the three actions were prepared on the Ning platform. Gadu-Gadu and Skype served as supportive instruments. These tools seem sufficient for the purpose of flashmob organisation. Chat – one of the Ning functionalities – played the most important role in the process. It was the place for brainstorming, discussions and taking major decisions. That is a pity, that it is impossible to keep the record of the Ning chat conversations! We would have collected plenty of useful material to work on (and plenty of nice memories too!).