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Validation System in Lifelong Learning Experiences of Youth Volunteering
Start date: 01 Mar 2015, End date: 28 Feb 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The theme of recognition and validation of learning outcomes from informal or non formal settings is commonly understood as one of the most important challenges for educational and training sector nowadays. One of the most powerful informal learning contexts is represented by the volunteering sector where people have the opportunity to experience different situations, putting into practice their own skills and getting new experience. Most of this new knowledge can represent an asset for volunteers in other areas of their life, as for e.g. in professional career. Unluckily, in most cases both volunteers and the staff/trainers working in volunteer organizations, are not enough aware of this ongoing learning process and the wide range of competences that can be developed. VALLEY aims at providing a new approach to promote volunteering among young people as a resource of personal empowerment and to validate skills and competences developed during their volunteering experience. The project will be supported during its lifecycle and beyond by the “VALLEY community” set up at the beginning of the project and joined by all the volunteering organizations and stakeholders at European level strongly committed in recognition and promotion of the learning dimension of the volunteer experiences. This growing community will be actively involved in the development of the project and will represent an excellent multiplier for the dissemination and valorisation of the project results. VALLEY will focus on the following target groups: - Youngsters already involved in volunteer activities - Young people who have never experienced volunteering, with a specific focus on two potentially disadvantaged groups: • NEETs young people who are neither involved in education, training nor employed: They can get benefits from becoming a volunteer and from the validation of the competences acquired in this context, having the opportunity to (re)establish social networks, build social capital, connect to educational and occupational possibilities and to focus again on their own future, embedding a sense of achievement. • Young people with migration background: Volunteering represents an ideal opportunity for helping young migrants to facilitate their integration into their community. It provides a basis for people to make new social connections, share their skills and help people in need, develop community knowledge, increase language skills and acquire new competences potentially valuable in terms of employment opportunities. VALLEY represents a development of a process started with the successful RIVER project, run in 2012-2013, aimed at validating competences acquired by elderly people during volunteering activities. RIVER represents a relevant test for the application of the flexible validation system LEVEL5 developed specifically for validating learning outcomes in an informal learning setting – as the volunteering sector actually is – and many lessons have been learned during the implementation of this project. Through the customisation of LEVEL5, VALLEY will develop a fully-fledged user-centred approach for validating informal learning processes in volunteering actions. VALLEY will develop and provide the required approach and the necessary instruments taking into account the potential synergies and interfaces with the Youthpass system. A training course on validation of learning outcomes in volunteering services will be organized for at least 15 multipliers working for volunteering organisation in the six partner countries, in order to raise awareness of this issue and to enable participants to set up learning projects and apply the LEVEL5 methodology against the developed reference systems in their specific context of volunteering. The VALLEY methodology will be tested in a piloting phase with at least 30 young people from the six partner countries that will be invited to take part in a volunteering activity and to apply the validation methodology. Before starting, each young participant will have access to a mentoring service, for planning his/her own activity as a learning project and for fine-tuning the personal learning pathway. At the end of this process all the main outcomes will be compiled in a unique “VALLEY toolbox” consisting of the methodology description, the mentoring guidelines for volunteers, good practices from the piloting phase and information on how to join the VALLEY community. Finally, the VALLEY approach can become a comprehensive European concept to promote the validation of learning outcomes in volunteering, especially for young people with disadvantaged backgrounds. To reach this ambitious objective and to guarantee the sustainability of the project, a VALLEY quality label will be provided, which shall be awarded to the volunteering organizations that work along the lines of the VALLEY validation methodology.
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