Author: connextadmin

Proud to present: Games, seriously!? handbook

Proud to present: Games, seriously!? handbook

Two years of transnational discussions, pilots and development processes related with games are now compiled in a handbook. CONNEXT is proud to present: Games, seriously!? Serious games as a tool for empowerment handbook.

Games, seriously!? handbook summaries the gamification approach of CONNEXTGames, seriously and presents practical examples of game processes and game challenges carried out. Some questions discussed in the handbook include:

  • Why should one use games as a tool?
  • What are the steps in game development?
  • How does empowerment link with games?
  • Why and how to involve participants in creating games?
  • How can one use games to support inclusion and equality?

Co-writing served as an enriching and educational process for the authors of this handbook from Belgium, Finland and Sweden. We also discovered a new concept, which crystallizes what we have been doing all along: game-based empowerment. We have noticed in practice that games have an inspirational and engaging power. We are also convinced that they can be used to support youngsters and migrant groups in a meaningful way.

We now welcome you to read the handbook, become inspired and continue exploring game-based empowerment together with us!

Handbook Games, seriously!? Serious games as a tool for empowerment

Psst! We have also published some CONNEXT game challenges on the website of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Stay tuned, as there is more to come!

Gamified explorations in school context

Gamified explorations in school context

Can games serve as a tool in student recruitment or in orienting students to their new school environment? Facilitated by CONNEXT Finland these contexts were explored in small, agile game experiments at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

Experiences of student recruitment

Many vocational schools and universities make a great effort to advertise themselves to potential students, Metropolia being one of them. Webinars have been commonly used as a tool, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lacking the personal experience of the campus environment reduces the attractiveness of this tool. The activation of participants in a webinar environment can also be challenging, as potential students often remain quiet and are shy to ask questions.

An element of fun was introduced through gamification into Metropolia recruiting webinars, as high-school students were able to look for answers themselves to questions relating to their future interests instead of waiting for others to tell them. The game challenges allowed the students to familiarise themselves for example with Metropolia’s videos. The picture on the background of one of the game challenges was taken during one of our high-school events at the Myyrmäki campus.  This visualisation allowed the students to see what the campus grounds look like, and this was an entertaining way to get the students excited to participate.

In the gamified Metropolia webinar, students were able to approach the topic of moving into higher education in a relaxed online setting. This allowed for increased dialogue with the participants during the webinar. The gamified webinars achieved an active rather than a passive atmosphere.

According to feedback forms collected during the gamified session, the information that Metropolia provided during the webinar was found to be interesting and informative. 61 players played the game itself during the webinars. Gamification allowed Metropolia to experiment with new techniques and develop experiential webinars for high-school students. Gamification brought value to potential students and allowed them to use recent technology while gaining important information about future study opportunities. 

Gamified orientation to studies

The start of a new course, area of study or degree programme is always one of the most exciting and nerve wracking times for a student.  The amount of new knowledge about structures and expectations that students need to be aware of in order to fully function is formidable. Every year teachers discuss how to share large amounts of information with their students without increasing their anxiety or sense of being overwhelmed. The aim is to provide them with a visual, experiential as well as an auditory, lecture-based learning experience.

During orientation studies at Metropolia, students are welcomed and immediately introduced to the group of people they will be studying with. The push to find like-minded study partners and develop friendships begins. As they negotiate their new relationships, they are introduced to the tools for their studies: the intranet page structure, how to find information, what study platforms are used, rules and regulations as well as the curriculum they will follow over the next three and a half years. As one can imagine this leads to confusion, feelings of insecurity and a sense of being overwhelmed. 

A game was developed as a solution to this challenging situation which was visualized as a ‘Learning Path’. The first step was to meet with first year students already in their second semester to test the game and garner feedback. The game challenges were meant to take new students on a visual journey through their studies. Together with the first year students, different activities such as short videos, links to internet pages and quizzes were fine-tuned based on what the players found while exploring. 

The students very actively participated and were excited about co-creating as they felt their own experiences were taken into account. The plan is to have one more focus group session with first year students during the spring semester. The goal is that with a more dynamic, visual and collaborative way to access and learn important data, students will have a fun, experiential memory of the topics and retain more information.

These gamified explorations were funded by Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and facilitated by CONNEXT for inclusion project. 

Authors:           Elsa Mäki-Reinikka and Leigh Anne Rauhala, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Pictures:          Wokandapix/Pixabay, screen shot from game platform

Wow! Is that what gamification means?

Wow! Is that what gamification means?

I participated in the Virtual Gamified Diamonds Seminar, which presented some of the activities of CONNEXT project in a gamified way and discussed digital youth work. However, what inspired me the most, were the perspectives presented by PhD researcher Lobna Hassan (Centre of Excellence on Game Culture Studies; University of Turku, Finland). I’d love to share some of them with you. 

For a long time gaming was considered a useless and time-consuming activity for socially isolated nerds and geeks. However, professionals who use games in a learning context know better!

While playing we apply diverse techniques that are also useful ‘in real life’. In this way we can develop skills such as perseverance, problem-solving, thinking and dealing with failure. Moreover, gaming provides increased intrinsic motivation and therefore a higher and longer (learning) effect.

Well, now that we have agreed that games are, not only fun but also useful, the gamification can begin. We take some elements from games such as assignments, points and nice decorations, we apply one of these elements to an event and make a ranking. If you do an assignment well, you’ll receive a virtual badge. Ready to go! 

Wrong! You won’t motivate anyone that way… It has to be said, this simple version of gamification does work, but there will only be an effect in the short term.

With game-based empowerment we aim for a long-term effect and that requires more than just giving rewards. It is about how everything comes together. The story of the games must appeal to the inner motivation. A Serious (Urban) Game always has a goal in mind. It is about achieving that goal in a way that works for the intended target audience.

An example.

The Cullman County School in the United States converted the whole school building according to a Harry Potter theme. In this way they succeeded in motivating children from socially vulnerable situations to come to school. However, it is more than just painting the walls and providing nice decors. Youngsters can recognize themselves in the story of the poor Harry Potter who did not get many opportunities from his foster parents. The teachers implement a variety of elements of Harry Potter in the daily school work: books to learn grammar, spells in chemistry, scoring systems for good behavior. Above all teachers teach the children that a good education can be the basis of a good start in life.

And it works! The children have to stay less in detention, many of them do their homework more often and love going to school. Yes, yes, this is what gamification makes possible!

Curious about all the insights of the seminar?

  • You can watch Lobna’s whole presentation on Youtube here.
  • You can get acquainted with the CONNEXT Diamond game challenges, which present some of the activities and collaboration partners of CONNEXT in a gamified way here (the link is coming)
  • Text: Marjolein Schabregs, gameWise
  • Picture: Screenshot of The Cullman County School from Lobna Hassan’s presentation during Gamified Diamonds Seminar
Fighting lockdown apathy with games

Fighting lockdown apathy with games

When teaching, hobbies and other group activities suddenly end or are turned online, it’s difficult for many of us to keep up the motivation. The exceptional lockdown experience of spring 2020 gave also CONNEXT project an incentive to develop single-player games, which can be used during a lockdown situation to support the wellbeing of youth.

In CONNEXT, we’ve learned that games are at their best when people come together physically and that increases collaboration and flock intelligence. In 2020 the emergence of COVID-19 questioned a very valuable element in games: playing, sharing, having fun and learning face-to-face with others in a group. Because of the COVID-19 situation, physical forms of reunion had to be kept to a minimum, which forced us to reconsider the possibilities of gamification and explore game ideas that can be carried out independently.

Over the years gameWise in Belgium has been developing a game called Mindfits™. As the lockdown took place, the game was opened for free access and soon spread to over to 1700 youngsters mostly in Belgium. Among them, 500 have given feedback on their experience, which seems to have been predominantly very positive. As the game has been translated to English as well, it can have a much wider audience.    

Mindfits™ Lockdown Edition: a serious game about mental wellbeing for youngsters.

In this game you’re stuck in your studenthouse during a lockdown. Get to know your housemates and learn how you can deal with difficult moments, stress, loneliness, anxiety and other taboos. Try gaining enough connection with all of your housemates to complete the game. This game was realised with the feedback and input of numerous youngsters and experts.

Mindfits ™ Lockdown Edition can be played for free (single player, webgame on Android, iPhone, Windows, MacOS).

In the meanwhile, CONNEXT Finland shared some of it’s game challenges online in order to inspire teachers, youth workers and other professionals working with youngsters to use gamification as a tool. For example Metropolia University of Applied Sciences compiled a game Keep well #isolation, which encourages participants to look around their own home and to identify tools, which can be used to support wellbeing. Another game, Ukko ylijumalan luontopeli (Nature Game of Supreme God Ukko), created by Helsinki Vocational College (Stadin ammatti- ja aikuisopisto) gave inspiration to start exploring outdoors. Practice+++ developed by YMCA Helsinki, encouraged youngsters to continue their volleyball exercises and physical activities on their own, despite the isolation.

Here are some examples of game challenges from these isolation games:

  • What do you see when you watch out of your window? Write down 5 words that the view reminds you of. Make a short poem, where you use these words in a random order. 
  • In the times of COVID-19 washing hands is essential. What else can you do for others from a distance? Send a short, encouraging message to your friend or a relative. 
  • Watch this film prepared by your coach. Make a short film of yourself doing the same exercise and download it on the game platform. Do your best, but don’t worry if you cannot be as fast or do as many movements as him – it’s really difficult to beat the coach!
  • I am Supreme God Ukko. I want you to build a high tower to honour me! Go to the nature, look for stones of different sizes, try to balance them on each other and send me a picture of your highest tower.

Most of the CONNEXT Finland isolation games are in Finnish, but you are welcome to get acquainted with the Keep well #isolation in ThingLink in English.

The interest towards gamification among teachers and counsellors has clearly increased alongside with the lockdown and other social distancing measures. At best, games can serve as a great way to draw the attention of, activate and even engage youngsters online as part of teaching or other activites. Yet, in CONNEXT we can hardly wait to the day when we can play games together again!

Text: Mai Salmenkangas, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Bram Allegart, gameWise

Pictures: Logo of Mindfits and screeshot of Keep well #isolation game on ThingLink (original picture: Pixabay)

Step-by-step model for game development

Step-by-step model for game development

When we implement games in the classroom or in other contexts, the role of the teacher or game master is extremely important. How you design the games, determines everything! That’s why in this article we focus mainly on the important question: how can we co-create and implement games in the best way?

Here we briefly go through the eight steps you can take in implementing a game. Using a design-based research procedure, Vanderhoven, Carrillo and De Latter (2018) developed a step-by-step plan called Game.Learn.grow. It has been tested and modified by the international partners of CONNEXT project. Based on their experiences, the importance of co-creation was so significant that its role in the process has been emphasised. Our updated model is therefore called Game.Learn.Grow.Create. and it can be used as a framework for game-based learning in different contexts.


Before you start, think about the initial situation of your group. Every class or group is different, every teacher or instructor is different and also every school or context is different.

Ask yourself the following questions about (1) the target group, (2) the infrastructure and (3) the context:

  1. Who will play the game (target group)?
    • How is the group dynamics?
    • Do the players have experience in playing (technological) games?
    • How much support do they need?
  2. What infrastructure is available?
  3. In which context will the game be played?
    • Informal? Formal education? Youth work?


Think about what you want to accomplish with the implementation of games. What is the question that has to be ‘solved’ and thus the focus for your design of a learning activity with games?  It is good have dialogue also with the target group when determining the focus of the game.

Ask yourself the following questions

  • What is the main focus of the game? Why do you play it?
    • Learning goal?
    • Personal goal?
    • Group goal?


Once you know the main focus, think about the different goals you want to accomplish. Specify them more concretely. Keep in mind: to work in a goal-oriented way, goals must always come first, no matter what resources, e.g. teaching aids, technological aids or infrastructure you will use.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are all the things you want to achieve with your target group?
    • Learning goals
      • What do they need to know after playing the game?
        g. to learn something about the system of migration; education goals
      • What skills do they need to have after playing the game?
        Also think about the 21st century skills (e.g. problem solving, critical thinking, self-regulation, ICT and new media skills, creative thinking)
      • Which attitudes are aimed at by playing the game?
    • Personal goals
      • g. to let the player feel more confident in applying for a job, learning more about themselves
      • Think about: initiative, commitment and perseverance, discipline and punctuality, dealing with stress, flexibility, creativity & innovation, self-knowlegde (own motivation, strengths – weaknesses, preferences)
    • Group goals
      • g. getting to know each other, teambuilding, creating relatedness between groups, making connections / networks, communication, collaboration
    • Other goals?


Determine the game activity you want to work out, the content of the game, group organisation and evaluation. Remember to play the game elements with a test group that represent the target group. Co-creation can take place during the whole process of the game: at the start (input from the target group before making the game), during the making of the game prototype (feedback from target group) and/or and the end (as a test group).

Also think about your timing and your role as teacher or game master. In this step, also determine your resources, including the game platform that you will use. In the illustration of the game process  you can see that there is an interaction between all these elements, and that they cannot be determined linearly. At the end of this phase you have a first detailed game activity.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which game elements and missions can contribute to the goals?
    • What content is needed to accomplish the goals (step 3)?
    • How does the input from target group direct your thoughts?
  • What organisation is needed to accomplish the goals of the game (step 3)? g. should the game be played individually, in small or big groups, everyone simultaneously or at own pace
  • What is your role as a game master?

Give clear instructions about the organization of the game. Think about:
  what is the role of every participant.

  how the results should be registered. 

  what is expected once the game missions are finished.

  how the participants can ask for help

  how the group division is

  where to find the materials

  how to start and exit the game and reboot (if necessary)


  • How will you evaluate if the goals are accomplished?
  • What resources and infrastructure are needed?


Execute your learning activity with your target group. In the meantime, carefully observe what is happening.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is everything going as planned?
  • How do your participants respond?


Executing game activities doesn’t always go smoothly. It goes with trial and error. Therefore, always reflect on your game activity afterwards. Involve your participants in this phase to evaluate the game activity from different perspectives.

Ask the following questions:

  • Goals:
    • How are the goals achieved?
    • Are there positive or negative unexpected side effects?
  • What can be improved:
    • technologically? Infrastructure?
    • on the content?
    • on the organization? Timing?
    • in the instructions?


Really good learning activities are created by refining them. After playing the game several times, you will know better and better where to pay attention to and you will be able to enjoy the use of the games. Go back to the previous steps and rethink and redesign what is necessary. Every time keep your goals in mind when redesigning the game elements.


You have now a well-developed game activity that you can be proud of!

Text: Liese Missinne, Artevelde University College of Applied Science

Picture: Artevelde University College of Applied Science


  • Vanderhoven, E., Carrillo, L., & De Latter, E. (2018). Developing good practices to facilitate the integration of digital games in the classroom: a design-based research. In Edulearn 18. 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technology (Palma, 2nd-4th of July, 2018): conference proceedings(pp. 7203-7210). IATED Academy.
  • Vanderhoven, E., De Latter, E. & Devis, R. (2019). Aan de slag met games in de klas. Wat? Waarom? Hoe? School- en klaspraktijk. Jaargang 60 (3), pp 22 – 31.
Exploring educational choices of young men

Exploring educational choices of young men

Boys and young men with immigrant background are, compared to their native peers, at higher risk of dropping out of the educational system and being unavailable to the job market later. This phenomenon is labelled as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). In Finland the CONNEXT for Inclusion project is searching for methods and ways to prevent particularly boys and young men to fall out of the education system and have a prosperous professional future instead.

To deliver supporting information on educational choices of boys, I focused in my Bachelor’s thesis on the transition process from lower to upper secondary school within the Finnish system and how choices are influenced by families, e.g. in form of transfer of socioeconomic status.

Additionally, I looked into boys’ experiences of communication between family and school, the support they get from teachers and school curators, their own suggestions on how to improve this support as well as their own experience of participation and disadvantage in society. I interviewed boys and young men from 2 different schools and made use of the Capabilities Approach developed by Martha C. Nussbaum in the analyzing process.

Importance of role models

As professionals in the social field support boys with immigrant background to find their future professional path, it is important to not only provide information on different choices, but also be available as a role model ourselves. It became obvious in my research, that boys benefit from having role models.

Throughout their process of growing up and becoming more independent from the family and parents, role models outside of the family setting gain more importance. They might also be found in organizations providing free-time activities, e.g. sport clubs. A social work practitioner might want to reach out to these players, if it seems to be of benefit for the development of the boy in question.

Certainly, family members play a role, e.g. values are being transferred and influence decision-making. This can be understood as an indication that the socio-economic status of one generation is transmitted to the next. Boys also discuss their educational choices with parents and use these discussions as reflections of their personal interest, motivation and values that lead to a certain decision on a future career.

However, the participants in this research stressed the importance of separating school and family life. Nonetheless, parents can have a motivating effect on the young men. E.g. one can make them proud by getting good grades. The young men see grading as a beneficent tool to estimate their own school performance and react accordingly in case there is a need. They could include their parents into this process. However, they did not express a need to involve their parents in a common forum with school professionals to consider questions that refer to their professional future.

Support networks for youth and families

The interviewees in my research showed high levels of participation. According to the Capabilities Approach they were able to envision their own future and apply practical reasoning skills in order to pursue a professional education (Nussbaum, M., 2011). Nonetheless, they experience disadvantage, e.g. learning Finnish is a challenge for first-generation immigrants.

The situation seems to be easier to tackle, if the experience is shared with other peers. A boy, who is embedded in a Finnish speaking class being the only non-Finnish speaker, most probably learns the language faster, but might have a rougher experience of this task and therefore needs support to deal with this phase, idealistically in form of peers, being in the same situation.

Similar phenomena can be seen in the social surroundings of the family. According to prior research, well functioning communities of minorities have a positive effect on the school performance of the children within the communities (Coles, B. et al, 2002, p.27). As social work professionals we can reach out, support the organization and structuring of these communities and include them into the support system of families. They can also be included into the decision-making process of boys with immigrant background, supporting the boys’ own network of peer support.

For more detailed information please acquaint yourself with my Bachelor’s thesis Participation and Educational Choices: Influence of Family and School on Immigrant Boys.

Text: Moritz Cartheuser, Social Services student, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Picture: Kat Wilcox/


  • Nussbaum, M., 2011. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Coles, B.,Hutton, S., Bradshaw, J., Craig, G., Godfrey, C. & Johnson, J., 2002. Literature Review of the Costs of Being “Not in Education, Employment or Training” at Age 16-18. Norwich: Queen’s printer.
  • Cartheuser, M. 2020. Participation and Educational Choices: Influence of Family and School on Immigrant Boys. Bachelor’s Thesis, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
Assessment through Most Significant Change (MSC)

Assessment through Most Significant Change (MSC)

CONNEXT project experiments, how MSC method based on story-telling works as an assessment tool with migrants. As Vanessa, the new assessor of CONNEXT from Artevelde University College, describes there is still a lot to learn.


Since autumn 2019 I have been involved in CONNEXT. My interest was tickled from the start. My task in this project is to measure the impact of game-based learning by the methodology of Most Significant Change (MSC).


What is it all about?

MSC is a method based on collecting stories. It’s common for people to tell stories and to remember them. And it is a way of detecting unexpected changes.

There is a specific way, how MSC stories are collected and sorted out. To explain it very briefly , stories are collected from different actors that are involved in the project or program, for example participants, staff or frontline workers. Collecting the stories starts from the question ‘What is the most significant change you experienced thanks to this project? And Why?’.

The collected stories are analyzed in steps. First workers choose the most significant stories from their groups. These stories are passed on to the decision makers, e.g. a project board of members, who choose the most significant stories in their view and discuss them with the assessor. This is the starting point for discussion on what the (un)intended impact of the program is. (Davis, & Dart, 2005)

In CONNEXT, using MSC should finally result in a manual inspiring professionals in using game-based learning method in working with migrants.


Sounds like a good idea, but…

Already during the first CONNEXT partner meeting in Ghent it became clear that there are some challenges to tackle. Some participants have too little language skills to write a story. Also too short or superficial experience of the theme assessed, in this case gamification, makes it very difficult to produce a story. Several encounters and long-lasting experiences makes assessment easier. It seems that some facilitation in carrying out MSC assessment with migrants is useful. However, collecting stories should be easy and not too time consuming for professionals either.

In the second partner meeting in Karlstad I had the opportunity to get to know partners and the challenges they meet in carrying out MSC. Very fast it became clear that we should use a light version of Most Significant Change and connect it with other tools. As the partners in the project work with different target groups on different topics we are confronted with different challenges such as lack of language skills (oral and writing), different ages and the workload of professionals. So we had to look for an approach that meets these challenges. 

During a partner meeting workshop the professionals brainstormed about techniques that could work for their target group to collect information on the most significant change. They came up with different proposals to inspire others. For example support for assessment could be gained from pictures, emojicons expressing emotions or a larger group, if the whole MSC discussions were carried out in a group.  

The learning process connected with MSC is to be continued. I am already very curious to read the stories.


Further reading:

Text: Vanessa Vanhooren, Artevelde University College of Applied Science

Illustration: Johanna Syren, Puntland Society of Finland

Motivation is the key!

Motivation is the key!

The aim of CONNEXT is to empower migrants and refugees to be part of our societies and believe in their own future. Self-determination theory (SDT) –  a theory on motivation –  serves as the basis for all CONNEXT actions: we should support autonomous motivation and game-based learning seems to be a fabulous tool to get there!

While writing the project application, designing learning labs for a CONNEXT training or playing games, the self-determination theory has served as a framework. According to SDT (Ryan & Deci, 2000) different kinds of motivation exists. When there is controlled motivation, a person feels HE HAS to do it, he feels obligated and there is pressure in order for him to get things done. On the otherhand, autonomous motivation means that a person WANTS to do it. Research has showed that autonomous motivation has more qualitative outcomes and is accompanied by more sustainable behavioral changes.

The self-determination theory argues that the quality of motivation is more important than the quantity of motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Thus, the type of motivation is more important than the amount of it. The SDT defines three types of extrinsic motivation (see 1-3 in Figure 1). For example a person can be very motivated by extrinsic rewards such as money or bonuses (see 1 in Figure 1), but that is rather a less effective type of motivation. Not surprisingly, autonomous motivation (including both intrinsic and identified regulation) is most beneficial because people are motivated in their actions because of their own will. They feel psychological freedom and there well-being has shown to be better.  This is in contrary of controlled motivation, where people are obligated and feel pressure (external or internal) to do things.

Figure 1. Different types of motivation; adapted from Ryan & Deci (2000).
Figure 1. Different types of motivation; adapted from Ryan & Deci (2000).

In order to encourage the most qualitative type of motivation (namely autonomous motivation), we need to stimulate three psychological basic needs. These three needs are explained by Richard Ryan (animation by Laura Kriegel) in this short video. They are also visualized in the Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: ABC of the selfdetermination theory, inspired by Aelterman, De Muynck, Haerens & Vande Broek (2017)
Figure 2: ABC of the selfdetermination theory, inspired by Aelterman, De Muynck, Haerens & Vande Broek (2017)

In CONNEXT the aim is to support these psychological needs in a balanced way. It is done by allowing participants to define their role and actions in a game-based learning context themselves. The participants are giving a lot of choices while playing and become owner of their own game process.  They have choice in defining the group roles of each group member, they can choose the order of missions the encounter in the game, their voice is being heard and many more game elements stimulate their autonomy. Additionally it is important to carry out games together. The small group provides support and serves as an opportunity to feel connected to others and so belongingness is stimulated. Commonly, game-based learning in CONNEXT also challenge participants to become and feel competent in new tasks by expecting different challenging tasks to be carried out. In order to win a game they need to make an effort and they are challenged and perhaps even exceed themselves. This is often rewarding for all, because even if not winning, playing a game is useful and fun at the same time!


Text: Liese Missinne, Artevelde University College Ghent

Picture: Unsplash/ Kevin Jarrett


For more information:

Heart Mind Online: The ABC of Self-Motivation at



Aelterman, N., De Muynck, G. J., Haerens, L., Vande Broek, G., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2017). Motiverend coachen in de sport. Acco; Leuven.

Deci, E.L. (1975). Intrinsic motivation. New York. NY: Plenum Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The” what” and” why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological inquiry11(4), 227-268.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary educational psychology25(1), 54-67.

Vansteenkiste, M., Soenens, B., Sierens, E. & Lens, W. (2005). Hoe kunnen we leren en presteren bevorderen? Een autonomie-ondersteunend versus controlerend schoolklimaat, Caleidoscoop, 17, 18-25.

“Dear diary…” Reflections from Ghent by Swedish delegation

“Dear diary…” Reflections from Ghent by Swedish delegation

S_U+G Serious Urban Game® – challenge + location = mission

by Sofia Gustavsson

In March 2019 the Swedish project team from Karlstad travelled Ghent in Belgium to participate in training on how gamification as a pedagogical methodology can promote learning, motivation and integration. Eight professionals from Karlstad became game masters of the S_U+G Serious Urban Game® #WORK ™. It was the start of the transnational learning network that will be developed in the project.

During four intensive days didactics, target groups, participation and horizontal perspectives were discussed. Theory was mixed with practical exercises and we as participants got to experience and learn about the SUG-platform by playing a game and completing different missions. The energy level increased as the participants completed the missions and we learned about how our different personalities could be strengths in different missions as well as competitive driving forces. How can we as professionals create a learning environment that offers both the swiftness and competitive elements as well as creating opportunities for reflection and deeper knowledge?

Apart from training on the SUG-platform where we also got to create our own missions, we played the S_U+G® Business Angels which is about entrepreneurship. It was very positive to learn that all the S_U+G Serious Urban Game® are developed in a co-creative process between professionals and the target groups. A lot of thoughts and ideas came up on how we could create our own games together with our target groups. The work with developing the S_U+G® methodology will continue through the learning network.

During the last day we got an insight to the Flemish part of the project. Staff from Artevelde University College Gent described how they will evaluate the project based on the Most Significant Change (MSC) method. MSC will be used both on national and transnational level.

As an addition to the training, workshops and lectures we were also given the opportunity to participate in a variety of study visits – all with the incredibly beautiful skyline of Ghent!

As part of the training and the transnational learning network we will create a new S_U+G Serious Urban Game® together. The game will be about creating trust in society. To feel trust in society is essential to participation in a democratic society. Our target is neither modest or impossible and the journey towards our goal started in Ghent!

Sofia Gustavsson is a teacher in Swedish for immigrants at the adult education division in the municipality of Karlstad, core trainer in CONNEXT for inclusion.

Reflections by Swedish steering group members

Four out of five members of the Swedish steering group had the opportunity to come to Ghent for two days. They got an introduction to S_U+G Serious Urban Game®, participated in study visits, listened to different local experts on labour market integration and participated in world café discussions. Here are their reflections.

Gunilla Gröndahl Ohlsson

First, I want to say that it was a wonderful trip. We had a lot of fun and it was very useful to get to know each other and the work we at home do in different departments in the municipality. Belgium and Ghent offered some nice experiences. The whole trip from beginning to end was very well prepared and organised both from the Swedish side and the Belgian side.

The first thing that I realised when I arrived was that we were expected and welcomed and got a nice framing presentation and a description of S_U+G Serious Urban Game®. The staff from [ew32] exuded strength, dedication and faith in their model. This transferred to us and we became carriers of the same dedication. The fact that [ew32] will be very involved in the local adaptations of their games is very positive as it shows protection of their model which is very important as you develop new methods and ask yourself “are we doing what we are supposed to do?”.

I found several of the S_U+G Serious Urban Game®’s interesting and I think they could be useful in our Swedish context, one of them being MindFits ™, a game abour mental health. The time frame for playing the games, 3 hours devided into 30 minutes for preparing, 2 hours for plaing the game and 30 minutes for debriefing might need to be adjusted for our target groups in Karlstad, we will have to think about how we can make the best adjustments to fit our local contexct.

Another thing I realised was how tight the connections between the Swedish participants were and how they expressed their job satisfaction and happiness at work. It is a very nice group that seem to have found each other and that are eager and excited to bring S_U+G Serious Urban Game® to Sweden. New collaborations among professionals working with the target groups have been established.

The days in Ghent were well organised with fun and interesting study visits where I could see both similarities and differences between the Belgian and Swedish ways of working. The learning ateliers were very interesting, and I realised that the issues concerning the target groups in our two countries are very similar. One difference is that the participants could stay in the ateliers for many many years which would not be possible in Karlstad. There didn’t seem to be any work or treatment addressing the social or psychological issues which might obstruct the rehabilitation process.

It was a journey that gave me concrete knowledge about S_U+G Serious Urban Game® as well as different labour market integration activities. It will be fun to host the Belgian and Finnish delegations in Karlstad in December. They will probably notice that we are better at gender equality than Belgium!

Gunilla Gröndahl Ohlsson is Manager in Unit for young adults, department of integration, income support and employment, labour market and social service administration, Municipality of Karlstad

Malin Rådman

It was interesting as a steering group member to be able to participate in Ghent for a couple of days. Apart from experiencing Ghent which is a very beautiful city, we got to learn more about Belgian labour market politics, about CONNEXT and about S_U+G Serious Urban Game®.

I got a deeper knowledge about how S_U+G Serious Urban Game® works and what is required in terms of preparations and follow-ups to play the games. It became clear that we will have to work on finding good Game Companions in Karlstad to make it work. An important part of the journey was also to get to know the Swedish project team better and I realised that we are all from different platforms and therefor our possibilities to play S_U+G® with our participants will be different and that we will have to consider how we can arrange the set up differently for different target groups.

An interesting reflection for me was that Sweden has come a lot further when it comes to gender equality. For is it’s natural that women work full time but this was not as natural for our Belgian partners. That this is an issue in other EU-member countries made me realise that we realise that we have a big challenge in Sweden working with immigrants and refugees when it comes to gender equality and women working full time.

I look forward to continuing working with the development of the project and that we get started and can try our and adapt the games to our local context.

Malin Rådman is Manager at  Jobbcenter, department of integration, income support and employment, labour market and social service administration, Municipality of Karlstad

Kristian Roos

The journey to Ghent gave me the opportunity to understand the different challenges and possibilities of the different partner countries and platforms. There were many commonalities but also some things related to different national structures that has led to different solutions for working with integration and inclusion.

We were presented many good examples that can be put in to action in our project platforms and in other administrations in the municipality. The way they were dealing with recycling disposed food was interesting. The ateliers for recycling bicycles and other items were similar to Solareturen in Karlstad.

An unexpected bonus of the journey was the internal cooperation within the Swedish delegation. Both within our own administration but also with the other participating administration. It made us realise the scope of possibilities for cooperation between professionals on different levels in the municipality.

I got a better knowledge about S_U+G Serious Urban Game®, how it has been applied previously and what experiences this has led to. It gave me an insight about the challenges and possibilities we have in relation to our own implementation. I really appreciated the competitiveness of the games which I believe our target groups will do as well.

Kristian Roos is Enhetschef, department of newly arrived refugees, labour market and social service administration, Municipality of Karlstad

Jennie Holmberg

The week in Ghent was very well planned and organized and we had a warm welcome. The training had a high standard with a good variety of exercises. Study visits and workshops also gave us some new perspectives and we’ve seen both similarities and differences between our countries. There is a lot of experience to exchange about how we solve different issues and situations working with our target groups.

For me it has definitely confirmed the feeling I had when we first started developing the project together with our Belgian and Finnish partners, that this is a future way for us to work if we want to engage target groups that don’t feel motivated by our traditional ways of teaching and supporting. There was a variation and joy in the method that engaged us all whilst learning new things.

The Swedish participants that will become core trainers through the project and cooperate with each other are very professional and creative. Both them and us had questions that we needed answers to during these days in our eagerness to get started and try out the method with our target groups. I think that our internal cooperation in Karlstad will strengthen through CONNEXT in many ways and on different levels.

The fact that we had both the steering group and the core trainers in Ghent was very valuable and shows that the project is very well established in our own organisation. This will facilitate a good implementation and sustainability of the project.

I am really looking forward to continuing the work in the project and disseminating it to other municipalities in our county.

Jennie Holmberg is Project coordinator, Värmland Tillsammans, labour market and social service administration in collaboration with the department for adult education, Municipality of Karlstad

Madeleine Bäckström

The fifth steering group member is Madeleine, but she was unfortunately not in Ghent.

Madeleine Bäckström is Principal in Unit for Swedish for Immigrants, adult education division, Municipality of Karlstad

Pictures: Pixabay/ Pexels (cover), CONNEXT project (portraits)

What do we mean by horizontal perspectives?

What do we mean by horizontal perspectives?

All projects funded by European Social Fund need to determine their relationship with horizontal perspectives. To make it more concrete, CONNEXT arranged a world café discussion in the Ghent partner meeting to clarify what could horizontal perspectives mean in view of ethnicity and gender.

First, the importance of cross sectorial training for professionals on horizontal perspectives to make sure that the professionals are not emphasising stereotypes was discussed. We should be careful when talking about cultural differences in general and instead try to identify the core of the topics we want to discuss. Perhaps it’s the gender spectrum and redefining gender roles that we should be talking about instead of cultural differences? How to we work with career counselling? Are we being gender sensitive when we talk about the possibilities for women and men when it comes to different education and jobs?

The group discussed also the importance of always thinking twice before separating groups for different activities. We need to make sure that we don’t create more segregation in our attempts to integrate. Separate groups could initially be beneficial to create trust, getting to know the group and identifying different needs, but the aim should eventually be to work towards integrating different groups.

A good example of working with integration and inclusion is through positive role models and mentors. By creating opportunities for people to meet and to get to know each other beyond gender, age and culture we combat prejudices and create a better understanding for each other’s differences as well as similarities. This also gives people a chance to start building networks that can be very useful when it comes to practicing the language, understanding society, finding jobs etc.

One practical example of how this could work was presented by one of the participants from DUO for a JOB. Their aim is erasing disparities and inequality in access to the labour market for young people with an immigrant background. DUO fully values the experience of our elders, breaks down age barriers, encourages inter-cultural and inter-generational activities through a mentorship programme. Simultaneously it combats stereotypes such as ageism and xenophobia, by recreating close social ties based on understanding and solidarity.

The use of ambassadors is another good example that could inspire and motivate people, as well as strengthening the ambassadors themselves.


Text: Marie Andersson, Karlstad municipality, Sweden

Picture: World Café Community Foundation/ Avril Orloff