The intensive week´s agenda was executed in two countries at the same time. We were in online connection until lunch, working together, sharing thoughts and workshops online on daily bases. Working in small groups and excursions were organized locally.
There are big differences in having a live event, online event and a hybrid event. And when working with young people from socially risky environments, low treshold to participate must be considered thoroughly in any format of the event. Hybrid event is actually even more challenging than a totally online event because not all participants have the equal opportunity to participate, use their voice and to be heard.
During the live intensive week Making my future participants gain courage to multicultural communication and to speaking in a foreign language more and more every day. Spontaneous encounters with how are you?´s are super important for getting the interaction started. Not all can be proactive, but the participants encourage and help each other.
When you are not even nearly fluent in English, even listening to someone else speaking takes a lot of effort and concentration. Quite often the online sessions have to be more engaging to keep the listeners on track. Opening your mic takes courage and online surroundings make you more vulnerable and insecure than live situations. You become more aware of yourself and English seems to vanish from your brain. You might feel muted even though your mic is on.
Group meetings of 25 people in zoom would need a lot of equipment (laptops etc.) in order to create equal possibilities for all participants. To offer a pleasant and easy-going, safe space for interaction and participation we decided to have the small group activities locally, meaning that the Finns were in one group, and the Estonians and Latvians in mixed international groups.
To create the feeling of togetherness and possibilities to share our experiences between Finland and Estonia, we created a whatsapp group for the participants where they shared their own photos and introductions and some highlights of each day. In a hybrid event it is really important to get the feeling that we are in this together, sharing our experience though we are in different countries.
Another challenge was the internet connections. The theme of the intensive week was My future, my planet, and both groups were staying in rural areas in the countryside where the connections we not perfect all the time.
Though there were challenges the hybrid did turn out really nice. And also we learned a lot and are able to use the lessons learned in the next projects.
Tips and ideas for a hybrid intensive week:
Create equal possibilities for participation
- Keep good internet connections in mind when deciding the location and accommodation
- It is best, if everybody has their own laptop or tablet, or 1 for 2 people. If some participants are alone and some in groups on screen, it might provoke feelings of uneasiness in project´s target group.
- Speaking in foreign languages
- Offer a chance to say something, for example introduce yourself in low threshold situation with miximum of 3-4 people
- Slowly offer possibilities to speak in bigger groups
- Very often the ones who are confident in using foreign language will do the speaking for all, how could you prevent that?
- Courage participants to speak and make mistakes all the time, this is not an English test
- Speak slowly enough and clearly yourself
Create an atmosphere that promotes the feeling of togetherness and belonging
- “This is our group”, “We will do this together”, “We need each other”
- Find out what connects us all, what connects you with another person
- Use apps for possibilities so share something in writing or as a photo
- Take hybrid group photos
- Create online community art together
Eeva-Mari Miettinen, project expert, social pedagogue