Creativity, The Connected Economy and Offenders (CCEO) Erasmus+ project was developed to make a really difference to the lives of individuals in the criminal justice sector.
Our European society and economy is in a period of transition from and Industrial to Connected Economy, which is about exploration, risk taking, personal production, networking, making connections and active participation. At the heart of this new economy is creativity.
For offenders/ex-offenders to embrace this new economy, they need to develop their creative capabilities and understand how to make connections to increase their social capital. Added to this challenge are the barriers that offenders face accessing the labour market.
The Confederation of European Probation highlights that offenders across the EU are five times more likely to be unemployed than the working age population. The UK Ministry of Justice report ‘Analysis of the impact of employment on re-offending following release from custody’ (2013), highlights that employment of offenders decreases reoffending from 69% to 32% for offenders serving less than one year in prison and from 43% to 18% over one year in prison.
Engagement into the new Connected Economy, therefore, makes cost effective sense.
The Connected Economy
The Connected Economy is based on 4 key conditions, which are also the cornerstones for successful resettlement and in the reduction of reoffending:
- Coordination of meaningful connections
- Trust that creates value
- Permission to share ideas through mutual desire
- Exchange of ideas through the recognition of time, place and purpose
Underpinning this engagement into The Connected Economy is human creativity. Creativity that facilitates learning about oneself, personal development, survival skills and for offender’s resettlement.
An individual’s creative senses need to be ignited, so they become aware of their environment and wider community thus developing empowerment in society and a greater awareness. This empowerment and awareness opens the individual to a new world of opportunities, it facilitates engagement into learning.
However, so often for offenders the words “No!” and “it will never work” dominate.
The CCEO Project
The aims of the CCEO project have been to open doors for offenders to this new Connected Economy by developing new approaches and learning materials. Igniting creativity and recognizing connections are required to effectively access the new Connected Economy, which in turn enhances the resettlement process and reduces the risk of re-offending.
By linking internal creativity (one’s passions, ideas and positive thoughts) to The Connected Economy, the CCEO project has created a conduit for offenders/ex-offenders and individuals at risk of offending to start making connections. Connections that develop their social capital, which in turn enhances their prospects of employment or self-employment.
The CCEO project, therefore is about igniting internal creativity, developing approaches to learning to share and trust, making connections and understanding how the Connected Economy working (both in terms of its tools and rules!).
Finally, it is about helping the offender develop their contacts and social capital, which in turn supports their progression to employability or self-employment.
The CCEO project had 4 partners across the EU: Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and the UK – all of whom work within the criminal justice sector, including the delivery of training and support in prison.
Training tools for non-traditional learners in prison
Project partners developed eight training tools specifically designed to help non-traditional learners in prison to understand what The Connected economy is and develop skills to survive and thrive in this new environment. The tools have been piloted in each of the four EU member states and consist of:
- Creativity and The Connected Economy
- Social Media and Positive Connections
- Igniting Creativity
- Block to Creativity
- Learning to Share and Trust
- Creativity Lab
- Who Am I?
Each training tool has been tested, evaluated and where required, modified. Each tool represents 2hrs to 2.30hrs contact delivery time. The tools, delivery details and support materials can be found in the CCEO Manual and the accompanying CCEO Study of Lessons Learned can be downloaded from the project website.
The project used a variety of evaluation methods, but of significant interest are the results of a Wheel of Life evaluation of project learners. This evaluation is based on a series of questions asked at the start and end of the learning programme with offenders, which captures the changes in learner attitudes/personal perceptions.
Collating the global Wheel of Life data from across the CCEO project highlights some positive and interesting trends. From the global average results of CCEO learners (see Comparative Global Results - data), the following trends are noticeable when considering the impact of the programme on offenders:
- an increase in the confidence of learners when considering preparing for an interview
- an increase in finding a work passion in life
- an increase in confidence working with other people
- an increase in confidence about the learner’s future
- an increase in understanding The Connected Economy
- a decrease in considering that having a criminal record affects employment.
The later point is important as it directly combats the development of the condition of ‘Learned Helplessness’, in other words the development in a prisoner of the idea that they will now not be able to achieve anything in life, due to their criminal conviction.
This development in positive attitude, linked to the offenders’ new knowledge and skills relating to the Connected Economy helps offenders with resettlement and indeed resilience to integrate back into society and the labour market.
All partner organisations noted that prisoners found the learning materials/tools engaging. Panevezio Correction House (Lithuania) found that prisoners completing the 1st pilot were requesting to do the programme again because they enjoyed it so much, while Pictora (UK) had prisoners asking to join the 2nd pilot as a result of peer recommendation. Many learners in their evaluation were recommending more training sessions and longer sessions.
It is interesting to note that at the start of the programme many learners felt they were very competent in their knowledge and use of social media, after the training programme many started to see the employment/business opportunities offered by social media, which is highlighted in an increase in their understanding of how to use social media to create a positive personal network and increase their social capital.
Continued use of CCEO tools and learning materials
Following the Erasmus+ project period, the tools and learning materials produced have continued to be used and developed. Of particular interest is the continued use of the programme in the women’s prison Panevezio Correction House, Lithuania and the collaborative work of Pictora, with Insider Access and NCFE in the UK.
Insider Access specialises in training of vulnerable and excluded groups in the UK especially the training of non-traditional learners in Prisons: NCFE is a national UK qualifications awarding body and together with Pictora who specialises in creative learning for employment and resettlement, the three organisations have developed and are piloting a new distance learning qualification, Developing Creative Sustainable Solutions.
The qualification uses the tools and learning materials from the CCEO project and has blended them with those created in the Green in Everyday Life Erasmus+ project to create a programme that helps to prepare the offender for resettlement. Specifically, the programme develops the offenders creative thinking skills and how awareness of sustainability issues can help both with cost saving at home, also the development of new employment or business ideas.
The Developing Creative Sustainable Solutions has now been piloted with 35 prisoners at HMP The Mount in England. The programme has been well received by the prisoners, and the initial evaluation of the qualification show that it is having a positive impact on prisoners as follows:
- Considering the impact of their actions
- Awareness of trust issues
- Confidence with accessing the labour market
- Creating positive goals for their realise and practical pathways to achieve them
- Increased knowledge of how the modern world works and to use their social capital
For more information on the CCEO Erasmus+ project or the Developing Creative Sustainable Solutions Qualification, contact Robert Morrall : firstname.lastname@example.org
Example of CCEO learning materials used in the Developing Creative Sustainable Solutions distance learning qualification work book.
The project Creativity, the Connected Economy and Offenders (CCEO) was funded by Erasmus+ from 2015-2017. It brought together a group of European partners working in the criminal justice system: Pictora, LTD (UK) - coordinator; Associação Humanidades (PT); Panevezio Correction House (LT); and RIA - Resocializacijas un Integracijas Asociacija (LV). These partners are passionate about exploring new approaches to support offenders in resettlement and to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
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