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«The Anholt Project The informal island adventure that makes young people grow 2 THE ANHOLT PROJECT Table of Contents Foreword Introduction Background ...»

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The Anholt Project

The informal island adventure that makes

young people grow


Table of Contents




Evolution of an Idea – 2008-2011

SALTO Euromed “Tool Fair” (La Palma, Spain, Nov. 2008)

The “Visico” Seminar (Luetjensee, Germany, Sept. 2009)

Pilot youth exchange – “Me, Myself and Others in Nature”

(Luetjensee, Germany, Sept. 2010)

The “Strategies for Anholt 2011” Seminar (Oeiras, Portugal, Sept. 2010)

The Anholt Project

Aims and objectives

Participating organisations

Profile of the participants

How was the Anholt Project different from other youth exchanges?....... 20 Open structure? Yes... but one with rules

What actually happened?

The Methods

Creating an Environment of Freedom and Self-Responsibility

Research Elements of the Anholt Project

The Scientific Field Research

The Video Documentation

Main Challenges in the Project

Feedback from Participants & Project Leaders

Early Conclusions & Open Questions

Final Remarks

Annex 1 –The Anholt Project Partner Organisations

Annex 2 –List of Participants

Editorial Information


Foreword Close your eyes and think back to what you remember from all the lessons you had in high school. Nothing special? Then you are no different from most of the world’s population. But it is likely that every day at recess you experienced a lot of unintended learning and you met schoolmates who you remained close to throughout your life. This is what we are talking about in the Anholt Project – self-determination and self-motivation as the basis of a sustainable education.

Is a project about informal learning not just “old wine in a new skin” (as we say in German)? Well, old wine can sometimes be delicious but sometimes it’s just vinegar, so is there a bigger sense to taking this informal learning stuff seriously?

We think there is.

Informal learning is the oldest and most natural way humans have of learning.

Discussions about informal learning are “old wine” in the sense that they have been going on for a long time. Yet in spite of this, informal learning still seems impossible to bottle. We are still trying to catch the idea of informal learning and as we discovered in the Anholt Project, this is very difficult to do.

Informal knowledge is street knowledge. Everyone can participate and in an atmosphere free of stress we can be teacher and learner at the same time. So how can it be that 70% of what we learn is learned informally... and yet no one pays attention to it? This is a question we have been asking for years. And how can it be that, as one of the Anholt participants said, “My teacher is not a person to whom you can talk to about learning…” After several decades of experience in youth education and training, I and my fellow Anholt partners wonder what stakeholders in the formal sector are thinking when they talk about visions for future education...

and we ask ourselves why the recognition of youth work is still so underestimated today.

So what makes a youth exchange on informal learning like Anholt so special? Isn’t it more or less the same as, for instance, what the Scouts are doing every week?

We don’t think so. Our approach to informal learning is more inclusive. We bring together people from urban and rural areas, with or without alternative skills, in a special educational frame of freedom and self-determination.

We wanted to put our thoughts into practice because we are not just philosophers

- we are working and living with youth. And we want the results of our project to be shared all over the world. We need more fans of informal learning.

Because as Goethe said: “Life is too short to drink bad wine!” Ansgar Bueter-Menke Kreisjugendring Stormarn e.V, Germany Partner in the Anholt Project


Introduction The Anholt Project (Denmark, August 2011) was an experiment in creating a unique informal learning setting for young people and documenting the informal learning processes which took place as a result. This booklet describes the development, implementation, challenges and early conclusions of that experiment.

The project was carried out within the framework of a European multilateral youth exchange financed through the European “Youth in Action” programme. In many respects, Anholt was a typical youth exchange, bringing young people from different countries together to meet, to learn from each other and to discover different social and cultural realities. Yet it was also different in that this project aimed to stimulate informal learning processes among the participants rather than the usual non-formal learning processes.

Informal learning is the most natural of all our learning processes and it is particularly important for those young people who may not cope well with traditional formal or institutional forms of learning. The Anholt youth exchange was designed to be as open as possible – with no set daily programme, no outside distractions and no interference from the group leaders. Participants were placed on a small island, relieved of their mobile phones and all electronic devices, and left to self-organise and determine their own activities over a period of nine days.

The organisers adopted this approach in the belief that the more informal the setting, the more space there would be for informal learning.

While this is certainly not the first example in the history of youth work of an activity with an open learning environment, it is unique in the sense that it went one important step further. During this project attention was focused on the challenge of improving the visibility of informal learning processes in order to help the young people and their group leaders to better understand what was being learned and how. To do this, the project included two research elements: a scientific field research and a video documentation.

Early indications show that the Anholt project was indeed highly successful at stimulating and documenting informal learning but the experiment has raised as many questions as it has answered. Therefore this booklet should not be seen as marking the end of a project but rather as a step into a wider reflection and discussion on what is now needed in youth work activities to continue to maximise the informal learning processes of young people.

The organisers would like to express their deep thanks to the Anholt partners and participants for their enthusiasm and commitment to making this project a reality.

Sincere thanks also go to the European Commission for their financial support of the long-term development and implementation of this project as well as of the research elements and this booklet.


Background To fully understand the aims and methodology of the Anholt project, it is important to first understand what is meant by “informal learning”.

The term informal learning includes anything we do outside of organized courses to gain significant knowledge, skill or understanding. It occurs either on our own or with other people. (Livingstone, 2002) Informal learning is sometimes called “natural learning” or “learning by doing” because it happens any time it needs to happen – at home, on the street, between friends, at work... any time or any place we need or want to spontaneously learn something new.

Informal learning is different from the learning we gain in school. Informal learning has no structure – it has no set learning objectives or time frame and it does not lead to any kind of certification. When we first learn to speak as babies, we are learning informally. When we learn as children not to touch a red stove because it is hot, we are learning informally. When a friend shows us how to use the latest app on our mobile phone, this is informal learning, too. We don’t take a training course to learn not to touch a red-hot stove and we do not receive a diploma for learning how to use a new app on our phone.

An interesting aspect of informal learning is that although it can be intentional, in most cases it is non-intentional, “incidental”, “random” or “ad hoc”. Because of this, we are not always aware of what or when or where we learn informally.

In recent years scientific studies have been carried out to analyse the extent to which people learn informally in the workplace. A number of these studies agree in their estimates that that the majority of learning on the job takes place informally – ranging anywhere from 70 up to an astonishing 90 percent. (Livingstone, 1999;

Dobbs 2000, Raybould, 2000)1.

Researcher Allen Tough discovered that informal learning processes are not just dominant in the workplace but in all aspects of our lives. During a presentation at

the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto, 1999) he said:

“It doesn’t seem to matter where you are or what group you study, you get a very similar picture of informal adult learning... informal learning just seems to be a very normal, very natural human activity... (but) it is so invisible, people just don’t seem to be aware of their own learning. They’re not aware of other people’s learning, educators don’t take it into account and so on... it’s not talked about, it’s not recognized, it’s sort of ignored...

You could forget it’s there unless you keep reminding yourself...” 2 This is an interesting contradiction. Informal learning clearly forms a significant part of our total learning processes... yet it is invisible to such an extent that we ourselves aren’t aware of it and educators don’t pay attention to it.


The importance of informal learning for young people At this moment the situation of young people in Europe is both complex and challenging. The reality for many young people, and particularly those from fewer-opportunity backgrounds, is far from promising. Every young person, regardless of their background, has competences and skills (after all, everyone is good at something) but in today’s highly competitive job market an individual won’t get far if they do not have some kind of approved paper confirming those skills. Without this, it is becoming more and more difficult for young people to take part in any kind of normal adult life in Europe.

In response to this problem, youth organisations are being encouraged to improve the recognition of both the non-formal as well as informal learning of young people. The “Youth in Action” programme has designed the Youthpass for this purpose and many other similar national-level recognition tools are in use across the European Union. In practice, however, the majority of these tools seem to concentrate de facto on non-formal learning. There are very few tools which focus specifically on the recognition of informal learning.

Taken all together, it appears that there is a disconnect between the significance and importance of informal learning on one hand (particularly for young people from fewer-opportunity backgrounds) and a lack of understanding, visibility and recognition of this type of learning on the other.

What can be done to address this situation? That was the question a group of youth workers asked themselves during a lunch break in 2008. They wondered...

What if we could make a project based on the value of informal and non-formal learning methods, tools, pedagogies and anthropological and social pedagogic fieldwork and that could document the values and importance of these learning methods?

This question was the genesis of the Anholt Project.

The findings of various studies on the total percentage of an individual’s informal learning are listed in Informal Learning – Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance.

Jay Cross, 2007 Excerpt taken from NALL (The Research Network for New Approaches to Lifelong Learning) Working Paper #08 – 1999 "Reflections on the Study of Adult Learning".


Evolution of an Idea – 2008-2011 “SALTO Euromed “Tool Fair” (La Palma, Spain, Nov. 2008)” The first time the idea was put forward to carry out an experiment on informal learning was during a lunch break at the SALTO Euromed “Tool Fair” 2008. A group of youth workers sat together and began to talk about the many obstacles facing young people from fewer opportunity backgrounds, like those in their organisations. Too many of these youngsters were falling out of formal education, losing faith in the system at a very young age. Without an education, these young people had little chance of finding jobs and as a result they suffered from low self-esteem.

The youth workers’ discussion turned to the under-estimated power of informal learning. The group knew of only two examples of institutions (in England and in Denmark) which provide tools specifically to recognise the informal learning of young people from fewer-opportunity backgrounds, despite the fact that such tools have been shown to concretely support young people in finding jobs and improving their self-image.

The members of the group began to ask themselves: would it be possible to create a new pedagogical method... a method based on informal learning which would show young people that they are good at something and a part of something...

which would show them that they are useful... which would offer them opportunities instead of limitations... and which would show them that they are learning because they want to learn and not because they are being forced to learn?

The group became very enthusiastic as the discussion went on. By the end of the Tool Fair, they had put together a first draft project description. Yet the group knew they had to be realistic. As youth workers and trainers, they each had a lot of field experience with youth and their informal competences but they lacked the theoretical background about the informal learning processes of young people. If they wanted to create a viable method, the group needed to learn to walk before it could run.

8 THE ANHOLT PROJECTThe “Visico” Seminar (Luetjensee, Germany, Sept. 2009)

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