[blog]

Summer School with an Italian Twist

Note: This post was originally published on the Pixel Dust website on July 15th 2019.

It’s summer and everyone is thinking about their next holiday destination. Should it be Spain, Portugal, Greece or Italy? If you want to get some sun, enjoy a good meal and some great wine, any of these might do the trick. They might be the perfect place even when you’re planning to mix together learning, knowledge and fun. At least that’s what I did last week when I got to enjoy some Tuscan sun, eat the best pasta and shoot photos of some lovely people, all while learning how to write a research summary.

Earlier this year, I started collaborating with Momentum [Educate + Innovate] on various projects, one of them being the 2025Skills RSVP Project in Città della Pieve in Italy. RSVP stands for Read Summarise Verify and Publish and it’s an European Project aimed at young people, in order to encourage them to research and publish mini research papers on the top 10 skills that employers will be watching out for when taking on new employees in 2025, as identified by a report of the World Economic Forum called “The Future of Jobs” (January 2016). The 10 skills are Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Creativity, People Management, Coordinating with Others, Emotional Intelligence, Cognitive Flexibility, Service Orientation, Negotiation, Judgement and Decision Making.

Research is usually seen as an exclusive academic territory, but RSVP is planning to change that. Youth workers are encouraged to engage in research through small steps, read research in a more focused way and become better professionals by acquiring knowledge and engaging with stakeholders in a new way. So, we spent this past week learning about what it means to summarise a research study and what steps we need to take in order to publish a mini research paper.

The man behind all of this is Antoine Gambin from VisMedNet Association, who came up with the concept and structure of the RSVP project. He was joined by Dr Rabia Vezne from Associazione ValIda and an Assistant Professor at the Akdeniz University of Antalya, who designed most of the training content for research methods for the Community of Practice.

Antoine Gambin explaining what it feels like to immerse yourself in research.

Antoine Gambin explaining what it feels like to immerse yourself in research.

I attended the workshops both as participant and photographer. The sessions spanned five days and were structured to give us all the information needed for mining, research, reading and writing summaries and mini-papers. These mini-papers are called literature reviews and they compile at least 10 or 15 summaries of research studies, together with our own field research (questionnaires, interviews or focus groups).

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Participants from Malta, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Ireland, Poland, Bulgaria and Spain engaged in the workshops. We each had to choose one of the 10 skills mentioned above and write a mini-research paper about it, which needs to be submitted by the end of September. But everything starts with small steps, so during our training in Italy we first had to identify one research study worthy of reading, understanding, summarising and publishing on the Project platform. This was such an engaging task, because it allowed participants to familiarise with research articles, learn how to approach the subject and extract the main ideas from the paper.

We started every day with a short and fun morning energiser – consisting of mind & body exercises – followed by the training session headed by Dr. Rabia Vezne, and continued with a couple of hours dedicated to reading and writing.

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The skill I chose to write my mini-paper on is Creativity and I began with a summary for a small study conducted in Poland in 2015. I think the study is quite interesting, because it links employee creativity to overcoming role ambiguity in the hospitality business (hotel employees). Role ambiguity is a state of stress, confusion and uncertainty experienced by people working in hotels during service encounters with clients. The study concludes that the more creative you are in this business, the more immune you’ll be to role ambiguity, because you poses the skills to interact with each client in a unique way. So, hiring more creative people in guest-contact positions in hotels can have a better impact on the overall image of the organisation, considering the fact that these employees are often seen by clients as brand ambassadors, acting as the face of the company.

What I enjoyed about the whole RSVP experience was the perfect balance between learning and fun. Città della Pieve is a lovely small town in the province of Perugia, a stone throw away from Tuscany. Walking on the narrow old streets, tasting the heavenly wine and the delicious food will surely boost one’s creativity and good mood. The region is known for it’s saffron – which they use in a number of dishes -, Pecorino cheese and a great home made pasta called Pici. I can still remember the taste of an amazing Pecorino cheese & Saffron risotto I had at one of the local restaurants.

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Because we kept well to our writing schedules, on the fourth day of training we took a short trip to Tuscany. We went to see the hot springs of Bagno Vignoni, admire the great architecture of Pienza and taste the wine in Montepulciano. A few hours to see all these places is not enough, but I’m definitely planning a new trip here in the near future. It’s a place that needs to be experienced in a slow pace, with a piece of Pecorino cheese in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

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By the end of the fifth day, everyone had their summaries published and peer-reviewed. Now, all we have to do is decide which direction each of the mini-papers will take and follow through with some more reading, summarising and actual field work. In my case, I might decide to follow with more research on the hospitality business, because it’s important to understand the meaning of creativity as a skill for employees working in this field.

These being said, I think this is the most beautiful place I ever travelled to in order to attend a workshop. A great combination of food, scenery, people and knowledge that I would repeat again in a heartbeat. Thank you, Antoine & Co.! Till next time! :)

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The New Data Set VET Guide to Data Skills Development

Context

In today’s digital, connected world, the savviness with which entrepreneurs employ information and communication technologies is essential to competitiveness. However, while digital communication skills have improved across the population generally, the ability to leverage information, especially data, is still underdeveloped. This is a lost opportunity: the volume of data that business owners have access to has grown exponentially and if “big” data is turned into actionable “smart” data, it can drive productivity, innovation and growth.

The EU states that “data-driven business models are the engine of Europe’s growth, industrial transformation and job creation”, which is part of its commitment to the digitalization of the economy.

One of the benefits is that businesses responding to smart data can improve products and services, which would, in turn, generate economic growth while contributing to social progress. However, micro-enterprises and SMEs, which make up 99% of businesses, still lag in digital technologies. Micro-enterprises and SMEs must develop data skills or risk being uncompetitive if the European economy is to flourish.

Nevertheless, there is an obstacle: today’s entrepreneurship teachers and trainers also face a data skills deficit. The majority entered the workforce before big data existed and there is currently no reliable source of training to help them boost their own skills. Prior to the start of the Data set project, East Belfast Enterprise conducted a small survey across 28 Local Enterprise Agencies in the Enterprise NI Network which found that “52% of business advisors said they were completely unaware of the range of data that is available and 70% rated their own knowledge of data skills as poor.”

About the VET Guide

The objective of the Guide is to raise awareness regarding the value of data skills for current and future entrepreneurs and increase knowledge of what contemporary data skills are and how they can be taught.

The Guide presents a comprehensive introduction to the role of data skills in VET and includes the results of a data skills survey, outlining the current skills and skills deficits of business trainers and advisors in participating countries, a review of the policy environment regarding data skills for entrepreneurs and data skills education, at both EU and national and regional level and an introduction to strategies for teaching data skills to entrepreneurs, including best practice examples and testimonies.

Needs Analysis Assessment

The basis of the VET Guide is a needs assessment, which is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired conditions or “wants” of a specific group. The chosen method for conducting the Data Skills Needs of Business Trainers and Advisors in Ireland, Northern Ireland/UK, Spain, Netherlands and Denmark was an Internet survey. This method was selected because it allows for a more diverse survey sample as survey link was widely shared online, it is a low-cost, fast and efficient method and the extensive networks of the partners allowed for a ready-made pool of participants.

The survey was made up of 12 short questions, it had a 100% completion rate and it was completed by 33 Business Advisors from 5 countries (Ireland, Northern Ireland/UK, Spain, Netherlands and Denmark).

Needs Analysis Survey Results

Data Skills proficiency is quite low among business advisors, with only 21% of those surveyed feeling their skills are proficient.

The acquisition of Data Skills is of great importance to business advisors. 81% of those surveyed indicated that they would be interested in receiving/accessing free training and/or practical resources that they could use to teach entrepreneurs and SME owners about applicable data skills to their businesses.

Business Advisors today favour a Hands-On approach to providing business support, therefore, our data set materials should be very practical in nature and be solution-oriented.

Five key areas were identified where business advisors need upskilling with regard to digital skills and also 5 key areas which are particularly relevant for SME’s  – these are ranked in order of importance in the table below:

Data Skills for Business Advisors Data Skills for SME’s and Business Owners
Data/Information Analysis Application of Data to solve problems/inform business ideas
Reporting Skills Communication Skills
Application of Data to solve problems/inform business ideas Data/Information Analysis
Data Collection Creative Thinking  
Technical/Digital Skills Technical/Digital Skills

The VET Guide also includes a section that goes in-depth with regard to the Policy Environment regarding Data Skills for Entrepreneurs and Data Skills Education in the UK, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark, as well as a section dedicated to Strategies for Teaching Data Skills to Entrepreneurs.

The main goals of the VET Guide to Data Skills Development are to raise awareness of the value of data skills for business advisors and entrepreneurs and approaches for the delivery of data skills training and to lay the foundation for the data set Open Education Resources, which will consist of a curriculum, trainers’ guide and suite of interactive online learning materials which will enable teachers and trainers to enhance entrepreneurs’ data skills in classroom and small group training as well as for the data set Online Course, which will consist of a multilingual, interactive learning course in which entrepreneurs at all stages of entrepreneurial activity can learn more and put data skills into practice.

More detailed information regarding the findings of the online survey is available in the VET Guide, which can be accessed in its entirety on the project website.

Slow Adventure Tourism

One of the projects we are working on here in Momentum is The Adventure Tourism Innovation Partnerships (AVIP) so we’ve been busy researching adventure tourism.

Living in Ireland we have so many adventure tourism providers and Val decided to check out a couple of Slow Adventures to see what they were like.

The first adventure was with Adventure Sligo. This group has been set up to promote various adventures in the County of Sligo. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or prefer life in the slow lane there is something for everyone and all levels of fitness too. Val went along for a kayak trip, this leisurely paddle took place on Lough Gill, made famous by the poet W. B. Yeats. A coffee break was held in beautiful Hazelwood Forest before the paddle back. Val thought it was really quite magical with the water lapping around the kayak and the wildlife and wilderness all around.

The second adventure was with Slow Food Mayo which is a branch of Slow Food Ireland. This group is run solely by volunteers and brings together the communities of like-minded people who champion the ethos of good, clean and fair food in Ireland. 

The Slow Food Mayo event took place in the stunning grounds of Belleek Castle in Co. Mayo. There was a tour of the garden by head gardener Alex Lavarde who introduced the group to so many different herbs and plants, all of which are used in the castle kitchen. Head Chef David O’Donnell came up with a superb feast of food sourced from the gardens for lunch.
There was also pork and beef from Andarl Farm, oysters from Achill Oysters, Aran Goat Cheese from Gabriel Flaherty and lamb from Achill Mountain Lamb. There was also a variety of breads, homemade lemonade and delicious cakes. After lunch there was a foraging walk with Alex Jaromin in Belleek Woods. Alex was pointing out all things edible – and some that weren’t!

Both days out were really worth going on and just shows how interesting Slow Adventure can be. You can find out more about the Adventure Tourism project here: https://www.adventuretourism.eu/

Saving water through Frugal Innovation

Sometimes the simplest ideas turn out to be the best. One of the projects we are working on here at Momentum is Frugal Innovation. This is both a mind set and a series of techniques that enables entrepreneurs to innovate despite resource constraints.

In simple terms Frugal Innovation helps people understand the need for innovation in their communities or business and empowers them to find a way with limited funds.

During our research of Frugal Innovation we came across 22-year old Maithili Appalwar who came up with a simple idea to help the water crisis in India.

Maithili has founded a business to create affordable solutions that pull Indian farmers out of hunger and poverty. The flagship project is an affordable water conservation product, which has so far conserved 200 billion litres of water. This is a fantastic achievement especially in such a short amount of time. You can read the full article here.

To find out more about the Frugal Innovation Project including free learning resources you can visit the website.

Epoch – a new kind of summer camp for teenagers

Empowering Digital Citizenship

Here at Momentum we are big advocates for raising awareness around social media and helping young people to make responsible choices about what they do online. We are involved in the Empower Me project which aims to do just that through online learning resources.


We recently found out about Epoch, which is a new kind of summer camp aimed at teenagers. The word Epoch is defined “as an important period of time in an era” … and there is no-more an important time than the formative teenage years.

Epoch is a week-long residential experience taking place in July, based in Sligo, Ireland, for teenagers between 13 and 15 that encourages learning in a holistic manner and instills that a healthy body equates to a healthy mind.  The concept has been developed of three key pillars namely; Nutrition, Activity and Personal Development.

The Epoch experience will be a digital detox encouraging little or no technology and a workshop will be delivered to create awareness and consequences of misuse of social media platforms. All participants will be given the coping skills to deal with the pressures of life today. It’s hoped this will help teenagers develop their confidence and maturity – and perhaps even give them the opportunity to make lifelong friends.

If you want to find out more about the Epoch course you can check out their website.

To find out more about the Empowering Digital Citizenship project that Momentum are involved with you can visit the website. This project will teach young adults about the risks of online communication and provide tools and strategies on how to safeguard themselves.