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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Giving a positive future through Positive Learning

by Emma Purdon
Language: EN
Document available also in: CS FR

Based in the historic city of Derry-Londonderry, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland, Extern’s Positive Learning project is an innovative programme which supports people who find themselves on the margins of society, including those who are disadvantaged, homeless, have an offending history, are long-term unemployed, or who are refugees.

Supported through €1.8m of funding from the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (, Positive Learning aims to improve good relations and enable participants to reintegrate into society.

As well as promoting good relations those taking part are also offered accredited training in a variety of new skills. 

Extern positive learning event


Now approaching its first birthday, Positive Learning has had a huge impact on the lives of the people it has supported over the past year. For many, this includes developing new skills, while for others it has given them a focal point to combat issues such as loneliness or social isolation.

Building relations

For all those taking part it has given practical experience in its overarching aim of promoting cohesive community relations through learning and socialising, a concept which is hugely important in the context of the political difficulties which have often been experienced in Northern Ireland.

The programme consists of more than just ideas, though, as it offers OCN accredited skills training in ICT, horticulture, catering, plumbing and joinery. Throughout the 26 weeks of programme delivery, participants from a diverse range of cultural and religious backgrounds work and socialise in an environment that has been described in glowing terms by our service users as ‘helpful’,  ‘friendly’ and ‘respectful’.

Cultural pursuits

It isn’t all work and for many of our service users, our monthly cultural events are a particular highlight of the programme. Some of the more memorable activities they’ve enjoyed have been visits to the city’s cenotaph, celebrating the holy Islamic festival of Eid and enjoying some Ulster-Scots heritage as part of Rabbie Burns Night. We’ve even taken to the time-honoured practice of mural painting and created a piece of our own depicting a range of perceptions of the nature of borders.

Peace logo - Northern Ireland


The launch of Positive Learning in 2018 ( coincided with the year that Extern celebrated 40 years of delivering life-changing support to people. For our CEO Charlie Mack this was the perfect opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved in our work: “During this time, we have been creating safer communities, allowing vulnerable people and those on the margins of our society to build positive and good relations within their communities. Positive Learning fits perfectly with what we are passionate about and allows us to engage with many people who need support to re-establish their role in the community, enabling them to make a positive difference to good relations in their local areas.”

Extern logo

You can find out more at our website,, or referral forms are available by emailing


Extern transforms lives as the leading social justice charity across the island of Ireland. Operating since 1978, we believe another chance can change a life.

Each year we speak up for and support more than 19,500 children, young people, individuals and families. We enable them to overcome their challenges, empower positive change and support family unity.

We also support, house, and advise people who are homeless or facing homelessness, refugees, the Traveller community, people living with an offending past, those living with the impact of suicide and those dealing with mental health and drug and alcohol issues, to change their lives.

We employ more than 500 compassionate, innovative, professional, and dedicated staff across the island of Ireland. Every day they are proud to demonstrate our staff values in their work.

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