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Kaunas, Lithunia

3rd Partner Meeting in Kaunas (Lithuania)

Fourteen professionals from the six partner organisations attended our third meeting of the partnership on ‘Digital Media in Social Firms: A European Comparison’. There were also a number of Lithuanian experts who were available to us for inputs and project presentations on this subject matter. The meeting was held 15 to 17 October 2019 in Kaunas, Lithuania, and was hosted by our partner, Pagalbos Namuose Tarnyba.

The workshop began on Tuesday with welcoming remarks by the director of the Kaunas Samarithian Community, Mindaugas Velyvis. He emphasised the importance of European cooperation arrangements in the field of the vocational training and integration of disadvantaged groups. Jurate Matikoviene, Head of Social and Professional Integration at Pagalbos, presented the agenda for the next three days. After an introductory round, Ulrich Förster, as Project Coordinator, moderated a round-table survey on project developments on location.

The effort to publicise the partnership and its objectives locally will continue and be presented in individual committees and groups of experts. Fortunately, the Erasmus+ partnership has already succeeded in inspiring concrete project activities. For instance, a project on ‘digital learning’ for people with addictions is currently being developed at Caritas Düsseldorf (Germany). Diakonia Sfântu Gheorghe (Romania) is carrying out a computer course for people with mental disabilities and has launched a course on the use of 3D programs and 3D printers for this target group.

In the morning, Gabriele Tervidyté presented us with a good example of the use of digital media in social enterprises. The newly developed ‘Five Senses’ program combines sounds, noises, colours and shapes, and a projector is used to shine images onto a screen in a dark room. The program can be used for relaxation and address psychological stress in social enterprises as well as to promote creative ideas and inspirations.

In the afternoon there was a visit to the Lithuanian Sports University in Kaunas. Professor Jonas Poderys and his team presented the different offers in the field of recreational and competitive sports for people with disabilities. Physical fitness forms the basis for solid career development. Digital instruments are used to check individual performance and to guide any efforts to improve performance. Social enterprises also have the opportunity to use offers of exercise to provide systematic support to their employees.

The group travelled to Vilnius on Wednesday, where they visited the restaurant ‘Mano Guru’. The restaurant offers ex-prisoners and people with addictions an opportunity to learn the things they need to know to regain a foothold in the job market. Use of digital devices such as computerised tills and electronic hand-held devices facilitates qualification in the kitchen and service fields.

Afterwards, we visited the ‘Craft Center’ at Caritas Vilnius. Here, disadvantaged people find employment in a candle manufactory. Young adults who must leave the orphanage at the age of 18 also receive counselling and assistance here. The psychologist Brigita Junkauskaité explained, that these young people do not have access to the Internet as they cannot afford a smartphone or a computer. They are completely marginalised from the digital world.

In the afternoon, the group visited the ‘First Pancake’ restaurant, which has been employing people with physical or mental disabilities for a year. Managing Director Tim van Wijk explained the concept behind this start-up and the approach to digital devices in the enterprise.

Following this, we were guests of the SOPA Institute. Director Jurgita Kupryté provided information about the institute’s digital projects designed to help disadvantaged and young people gain access to the job market. This includes, for example, development of a digital platform to achieve a good fit between firms and job seekers.

The third day of the workshop was dedicated to further work within the context of the project. Pal Bela Vendel presented the new 3D course offered by the partner Diakonia for people with mental disabilities. Jukka Lindberg informed attendees about a new digital counselling and placement platform designed to promote employment for people with disabilities in Finland. Simone Jakobs presented the work of INVIA Cologne to assist young people in the job market and activities around the use of digital media in the vocational training of disadvantaged people.

The group then exchanged views on administrative issues, the planned eBook, the status of the project website and Facebook presence, and the effort to heighten awareness of project activities.

Finally, participants took up the next transnational partner meeting planned for April 2020 at the partner KOISPE in Athens (Greece).