Our goal was to find out new possibilities for digital storytelling by bringing this method together with the concepts of inclusion and empowerment. This project was planned to give possibility to improve and extend the competences of educators and adults with different special needs. We wanted to deepen the participants’ understanding of the value of empowerment in all teaching and learning by the wide aspect of digital storytelling as a new method.

The main objectives of the project were to create a research and training partnership which would bring together expertise in digital storytelling, community engagement and adult education, to organize workshop-based activities to explore the process of digital storytelling, to explore how digital storytelling could be a tool for learning, empowerment and inclusion. Also, we offered possibility for adults with special needs to increase their learning competence and life quality.

The partnership was formed with seven partner organizations. Keski-Pohjanmaan kansanopisto (Finland) as the coordinator represents a large federation of education (KPEDU). Our specific unit offers non-formal adult education for different target groups. Digital Storylab (Denmark) and Reykjavik Academy (Iceland) acted as expert partners with professional knowledge and wide experience of digital storytelling. CIK Trebnje (Slovenia) offers a variety of education programs, Anffas Pordenone (Italy) has wide experience of working with adults with intellectual disabilities, TDKT (Lithuania) works for adults at social risk and Alanya University (Turkey) offers higher education in social ¨services. Together we brought in different know-how and competences into the project work.  

During the project period, we arranged two transnational project meetings, three short-term training events for staff members, two transnational workshops for our learners, three seminars and eight local workshops. The digital storytelling facilitator training in Denmark was the key training for teachers and assistants working with the selected target groups. After this training, each partner arranged local workshops in order to gain more experience in facilitating the process and learn how to apply the method to each target group. Transnational workshops were organized side-by-side with two other short-term training events to deepen the understanding and practical skills of the method. Iceland and Turkey arranged national seminars in the end of the project period in addition to the final seminar in Lithuania.

As general results, we reached increased participation, increased understanding, knowledge and wisdom of inclusion and empowerment. All the partners involved various stakeholders as family members, social workers, volunteers and new NGO’s into the project activities and identified new contacts for future cooperation. This project gave us the possibility to raise awareness for important issues by the means of digital storytelling.

Impacts to the participants, both staff members and learners, were very positive. Staff members could identify better communication skills, understanding and cultural integration not only in their groups, but also between learners and staff members. They evaluated digital storytelling as an excellent tool to get deeper relationships. Participating to the project activities helped all the learners to overcome their fears and other emotional barriers. Participants really opened up their personalities and improved their self-esteem. Most of the participants felt they got possibility to improve their life quality even after the first digital story. Also, the participants gained better writing, reading and digital skills and found new ways how to apply digital tools in their everyday life. Staff members gained a lot of new knowledge especially on working with adults with intellectual disabilities and immigrants. As a detail, this project offered a fantastic experience to learn something about a person who has no linguistic communication. Staff members deepened their understanding how important it is to identify and acknowledge the true skills of their learners with special needs.

Two partners included digital storytelling into their current activities already during the project period. Three partners have concrete plans to arrange local workshops in future. Going through the process of digital storytelling improves in general creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, learning to learn, ability to read and process information, encourages to be an active citizen by improving personal and social skills and responsibility. The experience of digital storytelling was very positive for all the participants, during the project period at least ten of the learners improved significantly their personal skills, reached better self-esteem and were truly empowered by the method. These concrete and direct benefits have helped and encouraged these learners to move forward in their life.