Helga Moser: you don't just talk about them, you talk with them
I am a researcher and lecturer on the Bachelor and Master Programmes at the Institute of Social Work at FH JOANNEUM University of Applied Sciences in Graz/Austria. In my work I focus on social work in the (post-)migration society, diversity, difference, and discrimination. I have many years of experience working in international projects in the field of education. Bringing in international perspectives definitely enriches my work.
Networking and learning from the experience of other adult educators across Europe – if you are interested in this, you are on the right platform. I am always impressed by the vast online repository where information about inspiring projects can be found, events are announced, and interactive engagement with other adult educators is made possible. Furthermore, a lot of the contributions are multilingual which provides a great opportunity to not purely reach those who speak English.
In my professional career as an adult educator one of the issues I have been dealing with is the improvement in the access of disadvantaged groups to institutions and the enhancement of the quality of offers for diverse groups within these institutions. I am going to share some principles and approaches that guide me in my approach to inclusion and diversity in adult education, in order to promote equal opportunity and anti-discrimination.
I started dealing with the access of migrants to education during my studies of Educational Science at the University of Graz, Austria. For my diploma thesis, I explored the question of whether and how cooperation between self-organisation of migrants and established adult education (AE) institutions can improve the access of migrants to education. In my quest to answer this question, I went beyond a national framework in order to broaden my perspective. During a research placement in 2003/2004 I explored the situation in the United Kingdom. In London I found that through outreach activities such as cooperations with community groups, AE institutions were better targeting hard-to-reach groups such as migrants and ethnic minorities. Considering the perspectives, competences and actual needs of the people you work for is key to ensure that you don't just talk about them, but that you talk with them.
While in the UK I also learnt about terminology. The term migrant – which in the Austrian context is used as a generic term for all immigrants - in the UK refers to newly arrived migrants. For people who have been living in the country for many years or even decades, the term ethnic minorities is used. As a scientist and researcher, clarifying the meaning and underlying concepts of terms and approaches continues to be an important guiding principle for me. Moreover, being involved in international projects, it is important to have an awareness of the need to clarify the understanding of terms and to take the national contexts of project partners into account when developing measures and offers.
Furthermore, when thinking about initiating change and improving equal opportunities, the consideration of different levels is important. Mechanisms hindering equality can be located on the (macro) level of society, on the (meso) level of organisations, as well as on the individual (micro) level. This approach guided the latest project I was involved in, the Erasmus+ strategic partnership Diversity Capacities – Improving the capacities of Adult Education Institutions to successfully dealing with diversity (DivCap).
In terms of the individual level, an Applied Diversity Awareness was developed to improve the personal competencies of the employees of AE institutions in dealing with diversity. In terms of the meso level, DivCap partners established support structures in AE institutions. To this end, concrete measures to promote inclusion and diversity at an institutional level were developed and implemented. In total 14 educational institutions in 7 partner countries were involved in this process in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Spain. In the first phase, in a case study each institution was analysed based on its diversity orientation.
Concrete recommendations were then put forward. A summary of the most important results was compiled in a tool kit for the analysis of an organisation and initiation of change processes. In the second phase, concrete measures were implemented in pilot projects. The results of the working process were documented in reports. A video series follows seven institutions, showing how each of them addressed the respective topics.
The experiences and findings of the 14 institutions were then incorporated into overarching principles for the implementation and design of diversity processes in educational institutions.
All reports and handbooks can be found on the DivCap website: https://www.diversitycapacities.eu/.