At the School of Open Cohesion
Engaging students to discover EU-funded projects
At the School of Open Cohesion (ASOC) is an innovative educational challenge and a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) designed for high-school students. It promotes the engagement of students in monitoring the effectiveness of EU cohesion policy investments via the use of public open data. The initiative also aims at fostering the culture of active citizenship, promoting accountability for public institutions and raising awareness of Cohesion Policy among young people. The educational challenge is coupled with a competition: participating students will produce a communication product to illustrate the results of their work and compete with their peers nationally and at European level.
The project is an initiative funded in 2013 in Italy in collaboration with the Italian government and the Representation in Italy of the European Commission. In 7 years, more than 26 000 students and 3000 teachers have participated in the observation of 800 co-funded projects (worth about 8 billion euros).
Following a call for expression of interest, and with the support of the Commission the project has been replicated in 4 Member States during the 2019-2020 school year, in the following regions: Bulgaria, Croatia, Catalonia (Spain), Peloponnese, Thessaly and Ionia Nisia (Greece). Further activities are foreseen in the 2020-2021 school year in these Member States and in Portugal as well.
During this year, the pilot ASOC EU focused on civic education and storytelling, but also cross-curricular skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and interpersonal and communication skills. The courses have been divided into 4 lessons:
- Design: to design the civic monitoring project and learn more about Cohesion Policy;
- Analyze: how to extract the information and make the data ‘talk’;
- Explore: on the territory and the project;
- and Tell the story: adequately communicate to citizens about the impact of the project.
Due to the difficult overall context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pilot project had to quickly readjust to adapt to the closure of schools and the impossibility of going into the field by turning into a 100% digital project. The students had the opportunity to develop skills in digital technologies and statistics and they are now able to better understand and describe the impact of public policies—and cohesion policies in particular—on the region in which they live.
The winning classes in each Member states have been involved in October 2020, in digital labs dedicated to the theme “Empowering Citizens” during the European Week of Regions and Cities. In addition, two representatives of these classes were invited to come to Brussels to physically attend and act as ASOC spokespersons at the Citizens’ Dialogue in the presence of Commissioner Elisa Ferreira.
All support material (teams, lessons, reports, etc.) is available.