[O] Hard to engage learners: Hypothetical Scenarios

Hard to engage learners: Hypothetical Learning Scenarios

As an volunteering organization you want to attract different target groups so your organization is an reflection of society.
It’s very important that your communication is accessible and readable for those different groups. So if you haven’t any one in your team it is good to make contact with other organisations who know the target group already or with members of this groups.

The target group can advise you on how to reach them. What do they want, wat is important for them,…?

A better communication helps you to reach other groups and gets you in contact with them.

DINAMO started a reading group for their brochure with all their activities in it (and the one with information for volunteers). People of different (cultural diverse) organisations give them feedback on the language and words they use en if the content is interesting for the people they want to reach with the brochure.


Creating Masks ( ‘prosopeion’) was an experimental workshop that took place in CYCLISIS under the coordination of Artist Magda Roussis and it was introducing the drama expression reflected in Masks in Ancient Theatre. Participants were volunteers of CYCLISIS and refugees from Third Countries. Together they worked in creating masks based on models form ancient Greece and with a purpose to express major feelings, i.e happiness, pain,anger sense of fear, disappointment. Also that participants had the opportunity to discuss about the way these expressions are reflected in their own cultures and to find similarities in human feelings and face images.
Additionally to this exercise, the participants visited Archeological Museums and connected their own experience with the museums expositions

Fighting stereortypes , connecting people form different background, find ways to make projects together, creating a friendly and collaborative environment . Find similarities than differences between cultures.

Artifacts (masks, etc) can be used in multiple workshops as a chain of recreation form one group to another.

It was a surprise to seeing male refugees to participate so intensively with passion in order to understand and communicate this knowledge with other participants. It was also an exercise in language speaking because their need to collaborate mobilized the second language skills (CYCLISIS Volunteer Artist)


More than 60.000 Danish youths experience loneliness and social isolation. This can lead to self-harm, anxiety, depression and even suicide. That is why offering a safe inclusive social network for students struggling with loneliness is one of the main focal points of Studenterhus Aarhus. We aim to be a place where they can grow their confidence and learn how to reach out on their own. However, as an organization we have learned that it requires more than the intentions of management to become a truly inclusive organization. The culture of inclusion and appreciative mindset needs to be integrated not only in management, but also in the mindset of all the volunteers, who are the ones that interact with the more vulnerable volunteers on local group levels. So how does one work with culture in one’s organization? We are inspired by Edgar Schein’s view on organizational culture:
The culture of a group can be defined as a pattern of shared basic assumptions – learned by a group as it solved it’s problems of external adaptation and internal integration, – which has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.

Schein says organizational culture can be identified by looking at three different levels:
– artifacts and behaviours
– exposed values
– assumptions
The three levels refer to the degree to which the different cultural phenomena are visible to the observer.

Artifacts include any tangible, overt or verbally identifiable elements in any organization. Architecture, furniture, dress code, office jokes, all exemplify organizational artifacts. Artifacts are the visible elements in a culture and they can be recognized by people as not part of the culture.

Exposed values are the organization’s stated values and rules of behavior. It is how the members represent the organization both to themselves and to others. This is often expressed in official philosophies and public statements of identity. It can sometimes often be a projection for the future, of what the members hope to become. Examples of this would be employee professionalism, or a “family first” mantra. Trouble may arise if exposed values by leaders are not in line with the deeper tacit assumptions of the culture.

Shared basic assumptions are the deeply embedded, taken-for-granted behaviours which are usually unconscious, but constitute the essence of culture. These assumptions are typically so well integrated in the office dynamic that they are hard to recognize from within. (Copied from Wikipedia).

If you want to work with changing the culture in your organization, you therefore have to address not only the written values, but also the underlying assumptions.
This is why in Studenterhus Aarhus we have implemented regular, recurring value workshops, where we discuss not only the written values and the mission statement from the bylaws of our organization, but also the practical implementation of these values and intentions into the daily activities and the way we act around each other.
We hold these workshops as group discussions. First there is an introduction to the concepts of culture, values, and basic assumptions as well as the overall written down values and strategy paper of our organization. These are some of the questions we then ask the participants, our volunteer staff to discuss:
All people have a set of personal values that guide their actions
Everyone lives by their own unwritten, but applied rules of life.

  • What are your rules of life?
    • Follow up question 1: Look at the different personal guidelines just expressed in your discussion group. What is shared and where are the differences?
    • Follow up question 2: Look at the values of the organization that are written down. Discuss what you think are the underlying basic assumptions.
    • Follow up question 3: If you base your actions on the basic assumptions and values of this organization as you have just identified them, which concrete actions towards your fellow volunteers and group members would be an expression of the desired organizational culture?What is important / proper / right for you? Take 15 min. to write down your personal guidelines and then 15 min. to share with the others.

This leaves the participants with a very tangible/operational action plan on how to act as an in this case open and inclusive volunteer community.

Results for the organisation
Having these discussions openly and together help create a shared awareness of the goals and values of the organization and it helps management address what the goals are and where there might be any misunderstandings or differences between the intentions of management and the every day lived out actions of the volunteers and paid staff.

Results for the volunteer
The volunteers are given an opportunity to both learn more about the organization and their colleagues AND contribute to shaping the culture of the organization. The workshop also helps them create very useful and operational guidelines as to how they should act towards new volunteers to make them feel welcome and included.

We recommend having a workshop like this once or twice a year for everyone, and once every semester in the individual groups.


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