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Author: Nikolina Frangoullidou

RURACTIVE – EMPOWERING RURAL COMMUNITIES TO ACT FOR CHANGE

Around one-third of EU citizens reside in rural regions, representing a significant portion of the EU territory. Despite facing challenges such as population decline and limited access to modern services, rural regions offer opportunities for growth that is both inclusive and sustainable. Bridging the gap between rural and urban areas is crucial for meeting Europe’s environmental objectives.

RURACTIVE envisions rural communities as innovation hubs, focusing on digital innovation, local resource valorization, and training. The initiative aims to create Rural Innovation Ecosystems (RIEs) in 12 pilot areas, fostering collaboration among diverse stakeholders and local communities. To ensure long-term success, RURACTIVE emphasizes multilevel governance, capacity building, place-based development, and inclusive participatory processes, addressing the needs of vulnerable and excluded groups. Recognizing the importance of digital access, the project prioritizes providing digital training and resources to all residents, with a strong commitment to inclusivity.

RURACTIVE aligns with the goals of the EU Digital Agenda by enhancing communities’ capacity to innovate through integrated Rural Development Drivers (RDDs). These drivers include improving transportation options, transitioning to sustainable energy sources, promoting sustainable agriculture and agroecology, preserving local culture, enhancing local governance and social welfare, and promoting nature-based and cultural tourism

Key outputs:

  • RURACTIVE Solutions’ Catalogue including a set of smart and community-led solutions for rural development
  • Women-led rural innovation booklet integrating a gender perspective into smart rural solutions
  • Commercialisation: deployment of a novel product/service (offered to target public/ private/ partnership organizations
  • RURACTIVE Digital Hub for rural innovation containing RURACTIVE tools and services
  • Develop guidance and recommendations for policy-makers on drivers and instruments that support community-led innovation and smart solutions

Green IT Your Work : Youth debates about EuropeanDigital Age

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on millions of people in the EU, with many losing their jobs or experienced significant income loss . This means lots of folks will have to learn new skills or find work in different industries. And for young people just starting out, getting into the job market can be really tough, especially because things are changing so quickly due to technology, shifts in population, climate issues, and how connected our world is. Looking ahead to 2023, these challenges are still there, but now we’re also dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic, which has made things even more difficult.

The main goal of the project Green IT Your Work – Youth Debates about European Digital Age is to emphasize how young people can play a crucial role in green transition as well as promoting the creation of green jobs to help make European cities cleaner, especially in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Another important goal is to get young people talking, sharing ideas, and actively participating in decisions about how we can make Europe greener.

New Educational Resources to Take Science Learning Outside the Classroom

The EU-funded OTTER Project, aimed at enhancing Education Outside the Classroom (EOC) experiences, has concluded its activities end of February with achievements in developing new out-of-school educational methods and pedagogies. One of its core outputs, the “OTTER Lab” is a pedagogical approach to develop student-centered, hands-on, and outside the classroom STEAM activities, aiming to promote sustainable development.

Over the past 30 months, the project has engaged in primary and secondary schools across Finland, Spain, Hungary, Ireland to pilot the OTTER labs. Each Lab consisted of various activities over a certain period of time, with a special focus on the issue of plastic waste, going from theory to practice, and reflecting on their discoveries.

“The OTTER Labs aim to promote three key pillars; Sustainable Development, 21st Century Skills and Inclusion & Diversity. Our teachers have championed the alignment of OTTER Lab learning objectives with their respective curricula across age groups and subjects to provide a holistic learning experience for their students. I t is inspiring to see these teachers express their passion for creating engaging learning experiences for their students, planning for rich exposure to real life sustainable issues in their locality and OUTSIDE the classroom.” – Deirdre O’Neill, UL Pilot Coordinator

Over the lifetime of the project, the OTTER team organised focus groups, meetings, and discussions with educational institutions, including Harjuniitty school in Nokia, Atala school in Tampere, Mare de Deu de Montserrat, Institut Moisès Broggi in Barcelona, KRK Szilády Áron School and Szamóca Gardening School in Hungary, as well as St. Flannan’s College in Ennis, Coláiste Nano Nagle, Scoil Ide in Limerick, and ScienceLinX in Groningen, among others.

The primary objective of these collaborative sessions was to exchange ideas, discuss methods, and share best practices that could contribute to the co-design of new EOC experiences. The insights gathered were transformed into toolkits and guidelines that education practitioners can now utilise in their Outdoor Labs, paving the way for a more immersive and effective learning environment.

One of the key components of the project was the establishment of the OTTER Hub, serving as a nexus for experts from diverse fields, including educators, scientists, and creatives. Monthly meetings held by consortium partner organisations provided a platform for sharing experiences, best practices, and EOC know-how, while also addressing challenges and exploring innovative methodologies.

A significant outcome of the OTTER Project is the development of a comprehensive Learning Platform, featuring materials and guidelines for educators. Working collaboratively with hub members from across Europe, the project has produced toolkits and guidelines that will serve as valuable resources for implementing Education Outside the Classroom activities. These materials aim to enhance the quality of outdoor education by providing educators with practical and effective tools to enrich the learning experiences of students.

As we celebrate the successful conclusion of the OTTER Project, we express our gratitude to our consortium partners who played pivotal roles in this transformative journey. Special thanks to Geonardo Ltd, European Science Foundation, University of Groningen, University of Limerick, Learning Scoop, The Big Van Theory, and CARDET for their commitment and collaborative spirit. The achievements of the project underscore the power of diverse expertise and shared dedication to advancing Education Outside the Classroom experiences. We would also like to acknowledge the European Commission for their generous funding, which made this initiative possible. As the OTTER Project reaches its conclusion, we look forward to the continued impact of its legacy on shaping the future of education across Europe.

For further information, please visit the project website.

Stronger Together: Understanding the Role of Synergies for Advancement of Change

As the saying goes: if you want to go fast – go alone, if you want to go far – go together. The same principle applies to synergies in the context of European-funded projects. That’s why collaborations between initiatives and organisations have been celebrated and pursued for their enhanced effectiveness and efficiency. Synergies serve as an opportunity to holistically address societal, entrepreneurial, environmental, educational and well-being challenges, as opposed to singling out just one of them through a specific initiative. 

With the European Commission (EC) funding various projects across member states, spanning diverse sectors such as research and development, innovation, infrastructure, and social programs, it is more crucial than ever to look for opportunities to cooperate. From optimisation, knowledge sharing, connecting communities of practice, strengthening cooperation, and collectively advocating for necessary policy reforms, together initiatives can multiply their collective capacity to make a difference. 

Synergy in Action

One exceptional example of such collaboration has been witnessed during the final OTTER conference in Brussels in February this year. The event brought together researchers, policymakers, teachers, STEAM educators, and EOC practitioners, served as a unique opportunity for an open dialogue to explore diverse perspectives on the perks of outdoor STEAM education and the promotion of Education Outside Classroom (EOC). 

By sharing, showcasing and reflecting on multiple activities, deliverables and pursued actions, brought to the fore the broader context of over ten ongoing Erasmus+ and Horizon initiatives. ,including SMILE and EcoSTEAM, offering an extraordinary educational value to all of its attendees and organisers.

Reflecting back on this success, there were several reasons why partners around Europe and outside should consider this as a staple practice, especially in the field of education and teaching, including:

Optimising and Enriching Resources 

Combining efforts allows for the optimal utilisation of financial and human resources. By sharing expertise, know-how and practices, all three projects can reduce the risk of duplication of efforts and costs. This efficiency is particularly important in maximising the impact of EU funding.

Enhancing Impact 

Synergetic opportunities, such as the OTTER Final Conference, amplify the overall impact of projects by creating a more integrated and comprehensive approach to addressing common challenges. Sharing and exploring opportunities for collaboration through the conference’s World Cafe session led to innovative solutions, giving way to better results and a broader reach in the future, benefiting a larger segment of each project’s target audience.

Addressing Cross-cutting Issues 

Many educational challenges European countries face cut across multiple domains, such as lack of resources and infrastructure, lack of professional development opportunities for teachers and educators, inflexible curricula and national education systems. Pursuing synergies allows projects to address these cross-cutting issues collectively, fostering a more holistic and integrated approach to problem-solving.

Promoting Knowledge Transfer 

Collaboration facilitates the exchange of knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned between projects. This knowledge transfer can lead to accelerated progress, as successful strategies and innovations can be adopted and adapted across different projects and sectors. This is clearly evident among the projects presented through the conference that, besides their particularities (OTTER = Education Outside the Classroom, SMILE = Sustainable Mobility, EcoSTEAM: Innovative learning approaches) have noticeable overlaps between their overarching themes of coverage and complement each other serving as a rich bank of knowledge sharing

Strengthening European Cooperation

Synergies contribute to the broader goal of European integration by fostering cooperation and solidarity among member states. Shared goals and coordinated efforts contribute to a more cohesive and unified Europe. 

Improving Policy Coherence

Collaborative efforts enhance policy coherence, ensuring that the outcomes of different projects align with overarching EU policies and objectives and, most importantly, lay the foundations for developing recommendations for policy reforms and propositions. Such endeavours facilitate the creation of a harmonised and effective approach to addressing common challenge. 

Going Forward Together 

With such outstanding success, synergies should be more and more common across European projects, especially when we discuss such high-profile events as final conferences. Instead of creating a stale ‘knower-learner’ dynamic, with the audience passively receiving the knowledge from the representative of the consortium, why not open doors to a more dynamic conversation?

All attending parties, institutions, partners, educators can benefit from a wider and larger conversation that can address a wider spectrum of challenges and opportunities from different standpoints. At the end of the day, by singling out initiatives, regardless of how great they are, we are running a risk of missing out on the collective efforts and results that none of initiatives could ever achieve alone. 

If you want to find out more about the OTTER project go check its website

EGIDEV: Educational Game in Digital Entrepreneurship for VET Students

Educational Game in Digital Entrepreneurship for VET Students – EGIDEV project wishes to improve education in entrepreneurship for VET students and to facilitate VET organisations and educators to become agents of the digital transformation in the EU.

EGIDEV aims to facilitate VET students and teachers in learning and teaching the principles of entrepreneurship by gamification in different business development stages. The objective is to develop, implement and provide the VET community with an educational game where learning by playing will allow for better understanding of digital entrepreneurship and challenges.

Based on EQF formal entrepreneurship education requirements and the model EntreComp, the EGIDEV board game will allow for experimental learning and at the same time address the key entrepreneurial competences. By creating new techniques and tools this project is expected to increase VET students’ motivation and engagement to become entrepreneurs, especially in priority areas of digital technologies, to learn about entrepreneurship, how they can start their own business based on digital technologies, test the viability of their own business ideas, as well as to enhance the skills and knowledge of VET educators in entrepreneurship education and the capacity of VET providers to be able to offer learning by playing.

Creation of the European micro and family business service design hub platform for fostering a sustainable digitalized economy

An innovative approach to directly help family and micro-enterprises in creating greater value through service design methodology. SeDiHUB allows family and micro-enterprises to develop their strategic management perspective: design thinking methodology integrated into strategic and tactical planning of an organization’s growth and providing services in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

Green Up Yourself

The GREEN UP YOURSELF project aims to promote entrepreneurship and employability of young people living in rural areas in Europe by focusing on green skills and entrepreneurial training. The project aligns with various EU priorities and initiatives, such as the European Green Pact, Sustainable Development Strategy, Europe 2020 Strategy, and the Strong Social Europe for Just Transitions action plan.

SDG NAVIGATOR – Empowering changemakers towards sustainability

The SDG NAVIGATOR project aims to create unique, learner-centered, and action-oriented learning resources that are openly accessible for VET training. This project will contribute to building individual capacity for action towards sustainability and social and eco-entrepreneurship in participating countries and Europe. The goal is to nurture a culture of sustainability entrepreneurship, reinforce the entrepreneurial mindset, and make it effective at local, national, and European levels through intentional actions that positively impact sustainable development and the SDGs.

2nd Transnational Partners’ Meeting in Nicosia

Although mental health campaigns are common in the European Union, young people with ASD/DS often lack the necessary skills and tools to participate fully in society after finishing school. This can be due to difficulties in learning, such as struggling with communication skills. For example, individuals with DS may have trouble understanding speech and staying focused during learning activities, while individuals with ASD may have difficulties in keeping a conversation and maintaining eye contact, which can be perceived as uninterested. As a result, they may find it challenging to express themselves and engage with others.


TUA is driven by the need to develop curricula that can assist young people with ASD or DS, by supporting the direct target groups working with them, such as teachers, caregivers, youth workers, and healthcare professionals. By addressing these challenges, we can work to reduce the overall marginalisation experienced by these individuals.


2nd Meeting of Partners in Nicosia, Cyprus
During the 2nd TPM of the TUA project, held in Nicosia, Cyprus, on February 1st, 2024, partners engaged in fruitful discussions regarding the progress of the project’s pilot implementations of the Curriculum outlined in WP2. Each partner presented the current state of their respective pilot implementations. Following this, it was agreed that upon finalisation, partners would develop national reports. These reports will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive transnational report that will encapsulate the findings and the finalised version of the Curriculum. Additionally, attention was dedicated to the development of an interactive e-learning platform, encompassing two integral components: a repository of learning materials tailored for professionals assisting young people with DS/ASD and an innovative ‘Express Yourself’ digital platform designed for youth with mental health disabilities. This platform aims to foster communication, idea sharing, and the virtual exhibition of artworks to raise awareness and instigate positive change within their communities. The meeting also addressed strategies for effective dissemination and promotion of the project’s objectives, underlining the importance of qualitative evaluation to ensure maximum benefit for the project’s beneficiaries. Overall, the meeting concluded on a positive note, showcasing strong collaboration and progress towards the project’s goals.

To learn more about our activities and the next steps of the project, visit our website.