New horizons for re-engaging and re-mobilizing hard-to-reach adults in long-term unemployment situations

“Time has now come to try new ways of bringing people out of poverty and promoting growth and well-being not only for, but also with citizens.”
Commission: Empowering people, driving change: Social innovation in the European Union, 2011

Gamification for hard-to-reach adults will:

1) Identify and operationalize powerful digital gaming strategies for entrepreneurial empowerment
2) Build gamification readiness among adult mentors
3) Include groups of hard-to-reach adults in immersive gamification processes and empower the adults to build taking-initiative mentality
4) Produce experienced based documentation to share among adult educators and mentors across Europe.

European citizens mostly in need of lifelong learning are the ones not benefitting and not engaged – and not reachable. These are the clear word of the Commission.

We call them hard-to-reach-adults, as they are not motivated to engage in the learning and training provisions offered by formal and non-formal adult education – for multiple personal, social, economic and psychological reasons.

The hard-to-reach-adults does not constitute a homogeneous group of citizens, however they are characterized by a combination of different forms of dead-end situations and lack of motivation or capacity to change their situations through taking action, learning or engaging in the community.

They are, so to say, hard-to-reach for the overall rather traditional adult education provision, still based on teaching and classroom.

Many efforts have been made to alter this situation and to re-attract groups of such adults into education and learning, however most attempts remain punctual, superficial and unsustained.

The described situation can be called one of the major failures in European lifelong learning.

Thus Europe2020 calls for dramatically different and innovative approaches to reach these adults. In fact this is the major challenge to adult education today.

Such innovative approaches need to break away from traditional adult education didactics, but also from traditional “empowerment” methodologies, as these still lack an entrepreneurial taking action mentality.

The basic approach in this project is to change mentality though taking action in the community.

Gamification in an inclusion context means exploiting powerful motivational and entrepreneurial methods in digital gaming to re-mobilize the initiative-taking of demotivated people, to help them change behaviour and to empower themselves through taking action in the community.

Gamification for hard-to-reach adults is one of the first systematic attempts to explore in-depths the powerful potential of gamification for such mentality and behavioral change.

The project will offer the following key results:

  • Open virtual platform:
  • Gamification for overcoming dead-end life and work situations
  • Gamification and serious gaming for inclusion and empowerment of adults in dead-end situations
  • 10 hand-outs on the most powerful elements in gamification of dead-end situations – win and lose with gamification for adults in difficult life situations – lessons learned through immersive practice
  • H2Rgame open business opportunity
  • H2R gaming towards deeper knowledge and new open opportunities
  • Policy paper: The inclusion potential of gamification in connection with hard-to-reach adults
  • The project partly builds on concrete experience with hard-to-reach adults in the Directing Life Change project funded by the European Commission, and in particular on the identified short-comings of life change strategies linked to this group of adults.

    The mission of the project is not to offer large-scale gamification to large groups of adults across Europe, but to explore the potentials of gamification for hard-to-reach-adults by allowing small groups of adults from different countries to immerse into concentrated and highly focused change processes.

    The results of such in-depths experience are expected to benefit the participating adults, emerging adult education strategies as well as upcoming gamification research.

    The participating groups of hard-to-reach-adults will be empowered along the project to drive the actions and to document their experience.

    This means that the project in itself will offer a 21st century learning process to the adults. In short: the adult teams will step by step take over the project progression.
    In fact, and this is the core approach of the project, gamification can be perceived as a strategy to foster entrepreneurial mind-sets and behaviour.

    Gamification of these adults’ dead-end situations is expected to create such changes as:

  • Perceiving the dead-end situations and the reality that created them as a serious game, in which you must play to win
  • Increasingly be motivated and capable to change your situation by taking action in the community, in groups of peer players in particular
  • Building up a mentality of creating things and situations, not simply being stuck in structures of rules and regulations
  • Breaking out of the object of change situation and breaking through to a subject of change situation
  • Taking unexpected risks when needed: if you don’t play, you don’t win
  • Building up pride in ones actions and efforts, even if they partly fail
  • Countering isolation by increasingly acting out social depression and anxiety in the surrounding reality, and in more and more constructive ways, such as social, economic, cultural and political
  • In many cases such behavioral change will spontaneously lead to a demand for and drive towards for example learning, creating economies and joining community missions.
    Why is the gamification methodology expected to bring about such changes in mentality and behaviour?

    Because the adults will experience that they:

  • Are not asked to be joining an educational set-up
  • They work to support their own interests
  • They are allowed and encouraged to use whatever skills and experience they have to drive the missions
  • They will approach problems and challenges through acting, not through theory, books or tests
  • Most adults enjoy competitiveness and gaming

    They counter isolation and social depression through acting in the community

    The word “gamification” has become quite popular in certain circles across the US and Europe lately.

    However, many forms of gamification should be regarded superficial and primitive, such as giving people points or badges for small accomplishments. Such popular or “Americanized” approaches to gamification cannot be expected to have any impact on hard-to-reach adults; on the contrary.

    The project is linking to the deeper meanings and more powerful potentials of gaming and gamification, generating substantial and sustainable changes in mentality, motivation and behaviour.
    This is why the project organizes its main activities in the form of in-depths exploration involving small teams of adults and linking gamification to the field of entrepreneurial learning.