Learning from non-formal experiences

The International Training Course has created tools andcollaborative methodologies for a training, but not exclusively for that. The results of the ITC could be and should be applicable in general for young people and youth workers everywhere. A telling aspect of the collaborative nature of this approach is the fact that even the participants of European Voluntary Service were invited to test and use these tools and methodologies developed during the training.

The idea behind the development of an International Training Course on Art Therapy was based on the need to create a dynamic and multicultural environment in which people from six different countries in two different continents could share ideas and experiences easily, overcoming individual cultural barriers. Consequently, the process to achieve this goal was long and composed by several stages. One of the main challenges faced was the selection of useful and effective activities and approaches to share in a multicultural space as the ITC. In Palermo, ARTCOM ITC team worked two months to create this framework which was supposed to allow African and European participants to create and present tools to be used in different local communities. Despite of the difficulties and the challenges, the result achieved exceeded all partner’s expectation, becoming an example of integration and team work

The kick-off meeting and subsequently the ITC provided some great surprises for all participating organizations . It should be emphasized again how important the element of exchange has been throughout the whole cooperation between the international partners. Non-formal education was a completely new concept for African partners and they have greatly benefited from learning about this alternative approach to education. Opening up these doors to them towards innovative ways of inclusion involving non-formal methodologies might have a long-lasting impact on their educational principles.

First, the team focused its attention to analyse the meaning of Art Therapy in Africa and Europe. As illustrated previously in the above research, between the two continents there are several differences in terms of target groups, approaches, methodologies and notions linked to this field. In order to follow a coherent structure,the team of trainers decided to mix and include activities ofArt Therapy with activities focused on team building and self-evaluations within a dynamic framework in which each organization and countries could share their own vision of Art Therapy and learn more from other people’s perspectives, as illustrated in the following image:  

The way in which ARTCOM team built the International Training Course on Art Therapy followed three specific methodologies: learning by doing, learning by teaching and art therapy. The mix of these three approaches is a perfect combination to support participants in intensive and high-impact learning pathways, paying attention on the multicultural aspects involved and the added value of the sharing.

The dynamic and open framework adopted by the team allowed participants and organizations to explore deeply the meaning of Art Therapy and social inclusion through innovative and non-formal tools in which all activities are included and mutuallyinterconnected:. One of the most important results achieved wasthe public street performance organised in Terrasini (Palermo, Italy), on July 2019.

A second step of the development of the ITC was based on one of the main objectives of the project: the promotion and exchange of best practices and cooperation between Europe and Africa through innovative educational approaches. The best way to achieve this goal was to create a collaborative training, in which each organization could propose at least one workshop on Art Therapy presenting a way to involve and empower young people of local communities. Partner’s organizations involved their experts to propose workshops for youth during the ITC. At the end, ARTCOM team selected 7 meaningful workshops to present during the 8days of training in Italy.

The collaborative national workshops helped significantly the youth workers to understand possible adaptation of activities in their local contexts and allowed them to reflect on the importance of positive environments for young people and their empowerment.

The third step of the development of the International Training Course focused on the creation of results to observe and understand the impact of the methodologies delivered among participants in their learning process. The public street performance, inspired by the previous experience of CESIE, fitted into the idea of spreading the project potential in a small local community like Terrasini, raising nativesawareness on the importance of the social inclusion in our society. Making anArt Therapy street performance without a final draft was a huge challenge. ARTCOM team reflected a lot on this aspect . At the end the whole team turned its absence into the possibility of creating a brief performance involving the new skills and knowledge acquired through the dynamic framework.

Due to the large number of participants, finding the right inspiration and the appropriate methodology to use in order to allow 40 youth workers to work in team on a common topic was the crucial aspect of this issue. The final methodology selected by trainers team was a literary device frequently used by writers around the world: the travel of a young hero. 

The definition of travel is “make a journeywhich was the perfect topic for anArt Therapy street performance representing the learning process of disadvantaged young people who aim to overcome the obstacles of their life and grow up in a society who recognize their values. Following the learning objectives of the ITC and the project itself, ARTCOM team created a sub-framework for the arrangements of the performance . The process started evaluating the tools and the new knowledges acquired  during the national workshops and the reflection moment created in the first three days. After this phase the trainers’ team divided the participants into three groups, explaining the travel of the young traveller.

The story of the traveller consist of three main passages that allow people to work keeping in mind a simple structure:


The motivation phase


The development phase


The self-evaluation phase

The Call for Adventure is the first part of this story, crucial for the beginning of the Young Traveller’s journey: it is a reason, a situation, an idea or a starting point that calls this young man and motivate him to move forward in this life-changing adventure.

After having found the right motivation to travel, the Young Traveller faces the most important part of his journey, the “Growing up” phase, in which he will explore the world and will face different life-situations. He will understand better his own skills and capacities and will try to overcome the obstacles that he will meet along the way. This stage corresponds to the development phase representing the growing up process every young man in the world goes through, regardless of his culture or country of origin

Finally, the reflection is the hardest part. Hero knows that the journey is going to finish and his people at home is waiting for him to come back. It’s time to have a self-evaluation and to reflect about the personal development which took placeduring the travel, as well as to think about all people met and the new knowledge, values and inspiration that he  would carry in his luggage from now on.

By using this simple and symbolic structure, the participants developed three different stories using the new knowledge and the methodologies acquired during the national workshops. The stories came up after a day and half of preparation and consisted in three different kinds of visions of a traveller, summarising a long pragmatic work about intercultural dialogue and personal and professional points of view of participants carried out during the first days of the ITC. The three facilitators followed the performance development step by step, allowingeach participant to feel like they were part of the learning process and the implementation.

At the end of the 8days of intense learning process, the “travel of the ITC travellers” ended with a huge baggage full of new knowledge and ideas for the future. New experiences, new people, new approaches and new places enriched the personal and professional point of view of 40 youth workers coming from Africa and Europe. The high impact of the set of experiences tested by youth workers for over a week  proved how important it is to support with this kind of simple non-formal activities young people with disadvantaged backgrounds.