Summit Report

Three exciting days of plenary presentations, participatory workshops, brainstorming and informal networking – this was our #ParentsFirst Parent Summit in Vienna, Austria. Participants came from various parts of the world: from as far as Australia and as near as Hungary and Vienna itself. Participation, engagement, empowerment, scaffolding, equity and inclusion, active citizenship in the digital age, education, rights and duties were on the agenda, and the 3 days were barely enough to touch upon these topics, all burning issues for parents and organisations working with and for parents. In this report we are trying to capture the highlights of the Summit and are also sharing links to presentations (both plenary and workshop) as well as plenary video recordings.

DAY 1 – 03.11.2019

Opening Session

The opening plenary session took place at the inspiring physical space of the University of Vienna. The event was officially opened by Karoline Iber, Director of the Children’s University of Vienna, our co-host and the Chair of our Supervisory Board, Brigitte Haider. Karoline highlighted that parental engagement is a relatively new, but important focus area for them as a non-formal education provider, and Brigitte recalled the journey of Parents International since its establishment in 2016 and especially since we became a legal entity in February 2018. Karoline used a very nice visual example of how the two different perspectives of parents and professionals in education can create a totally new framework for working for the child’s best interest.

Janet Goodall: Parental Engagement – the way to quality education

The first keynote of the day was by the Chair of our Advisory Board, Janet Goodall EdD. Being one of the most important voices of parental engagement, she set the stage for the discussions by highlighting the importance of breaking the cycle of poverty – a phenomenon leading to lower performance through lower expectations -, the possible negative effects of ‘civil-servicitis’ (there is an issue we should do something about it, so let’s do it, without taking local needs and context into account), the benefits of seeing parents as a resource, ones on the supply rather than the demand side and the dangers of homogenising certain target groups. She urged for stopping a discourse on achievement gap, and rather focus on educational debt. As school enrolment increases, the gap in outcomes is growing, and it is a result of wrong school practices, not parents. She also emphasised how important it is that parents realise that while they do have a right and duty to influence what happens at school, it is not their job as educators to support schooling (17-25% of children’s lives), but be engaged in the learning of their children in the other 75-83%. She called for schools to stop having school improvement plans and to rather have learning improvement plans, not only focusing on curricula. She also called parents of teenagers to give the right support to their children: not in coursework and homework, but be there for moral support, interest in learning and guidance
find her presentation is here

Sonia Livingstone: Parenting in the Digital Age

Professor Sonia Livingstone, an authority on child rights and parenting in the digital age talked about anxieties, questions, answers and solutions parents have in relation to digitalisation. She emphasised that the major difficulty comes from the fact all parents look back at their own childhood for solutions, but the ‘avalanche of technology’ is something they cannot find examples to follow for. She also highlighted the impact of cultural differences on parenting practices, digital and traditional alike. A large body of research evidence, mostly qualitative was shared on digital technology use, and it shows that the picture is far brighter than the media likes to draw. Digital access and devices are often a primary means of learning even in low income families, and it is also a means of learning to share (the device), responsibility, negotiating, respect and values. She burst the myth of the no-device policy of Silicon Valley parents and criticised restrictive approaches, eg. the new French ban on phones. She also recalled that digital technology might be the only means to maintain family relations. The main discussion point she raised was who is to support the parent who already invested, sometimes over their possibilities, in technology to really understand what it is for. Simple, generalised messages are not a good solution, as they miss the complexity of family realities.

Miquel Essomba Gelabert: The role of municipalities in engaging parents

Professor Miquel Angel Essomba from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, former Education Chancellor of the City of Barcelona talked about the role of municipalities in engaging parents. He started with analysing why organisations of parents are varied even within one regulatory framework. He emphasised the importance of training parent leaders as well as professionals, school staff, community leaders in order to achieve our goals. He presented three inspiring practices on the basis of the fact that not all parents will be equally engaged, so he advises municipalities to focus on the 20% that has the potential to become leaders. His first inspiring practice was a public-private partnership project that focuses on positive parenting, communication, learning at home nd participation. It is a 10-step programme that is self-sustaining after initial funding. The second example, the Baobab project mainly focuses on non-formal and informal setting and aims at social inclusion, while the third one is a long-established network of municipalities, Educating Cities that collaborate to leverage urban life opportunities and implement an urban design that helps overcome urban life barriers.
find his presentation here

Renate Heinisch: Intergenerational learning

Renate Heinisch, Member of the European Economic and Social Forum gave a passionate keynote on intergenerational learning, the role and importance of older family members, especially grandparents and the need to not focus on learning for a long life when designing lifelong learning opportunities. She highlighted how the importance of carers will increase in the near future. She introduced her work on creating intergenerational learning platforms and called our hosts to introduce an elderly people’s university parallel with the children’s university.
find her presentation here

DAY 2 – 04.11.2019

Sonia Livingstone: Parenting in the Digital Age

Sonia Livingstone moderated a very interesting discussion the possibilities of getting the parents voice heard in digital age discourse where it is often missing while the children’s voice is already present. Participants also discussed possibilities of bringing the laughter of children back to public places as a norm again and less focus on technology itself in the discourse.
You can find more information on her blog.

Fred Verboon: The co-creation method – an introduction to the NEMESIS project

Fred Verboon, director of the European School Heads Association introduced the NEMESIS project. NEMESIS stands for “Novel Educational Model Enabling Social Innovation Skills” and it is a European project bringing together education and social innovation. NEMESIS represents a new approach towards the attainment of social innovation skills by combining innovative learning models, open technologies, and participatory relations and processes. The objective is to foster entrepreneurial mindsets and creative thinking among primary and secondary students, allowing them to become the social innovators of tomorrow, with the close cooperation between pupils, school, parents and the community. At the workshop, participants could try the so called O.P.E.R.A. method, a collective decision making process, while looking for a solution for the problem of social exclusion in schools. We agreed at the end of the session, that systemic change is necessary as any other solution is temporary only.

You can find the full ppt here.

Edit Schlaffer: Mother School: Parenting for Peace

The ‘MotherSchools: Parenting for Peace’ are an empowerment program for women all over the world to stabilize society in a fragile world, to prevent their children from radicalism and to create safe spaces for women. Women without Borders started a platform for mothers in 2000 to support the role of mothers in peace building. The MotherSchools model strategically positions and empowers mothers as natural change-makers in their families, neighbourhoods, and communities and strengthens resilience from the bottom up in at-risk communities. Affected and concerned mothers participating in the program find a trusted space to build up competence (conceptual awareness, knowledge, skills, tools) and confidence (empowerment, self-confidence, trust) and to translate their learnings into action in their families and communities.

Since 2010 more than 3,000 mothers have graduated from the MotherSchools program across 12 countries.

More details see here.

Renate Heinisch: Intergenerational Learning

Regarding the fact that a lot of grandparents support parents in educating and upbringing their grandchildren grandparents have to be taken in the focus. Considering peace, culture, education and many other important issues of everyday live these topics need to be discussed and re-thought including all generations as well as decisions have to been made together. Actual examples are e.g. “Fridays for Future”, “Parents for Future” and “Grandparents for Future” movements.
An important approach is considering learning with & learning from & learning about others.
Regarding grandparents you need to establish/work on a positive image of age.
But we are facing a big challenge: Elderly are often deciding on/voting for the future. How to make them aware that they decide on something they probably will not experience themselves?
More details see here.

Laura Gutierrez: Basic financial literacy

In this workshop the first outcome of our #BasicSkills project, the basic financial literacy skills, competences and concepts were presented jointly with our main collaborator WSBI-ESBI, the global organisation of financial providers. The a sometimes heated debate was focusing on the role of different players, especially school, policy makers, parents and banks in financial education, both for children and adults, and the need for education to go hand-in-hand with ethical company behaviour and consumer protection. A direct link was made between financial literacy and well-being as well as agency. The lack of accessible, nationwide financial education programs was a problem mentioned by all of the participants, regardless of their origin country. Dr. Wilhelm Krätschmer explained us the situation in Austria, that the initiative to teach financial education came from the banking industry, and they created the ERSTE Financial Life Park (FLIP), an interactive financial education facility in Vienna. The goal is now to create more learning spaces, also outside the capital, therefore they just recently purchased a bus that goes around Austria, teaching children about finance. The participants praised the idea, but criticised the fact, that parents are not yet actively engaged in this program, they are simply used as childminders.

Our document on basic financial skills, produced together with WSBI-ESBG, is available here

Miquel Essomba Gelabert: Municipalities role on parental engagement

In a hands-on workshop with Miquel Angel Essomba an interesting initiative was tested and discussed. Participants tried and also gave ideas for alternatives for some activities in a Spanish parent training programme, Programa Social para el Apoyo Familiar al Exito Educativo aiming at better learning outcomes by parental engagement.

Eefje Cottenier – Judit Regős: Alternative approaches to childcare for families – Families Share and House of Parents

Eefje Cottenier and Judit Regős are both social entrepreneurs who managed to set up alternative peer support projects in Belgium and Hungary.
Parents’ House has become a model and methodology for integrative Family centers (4) in Hungary. Each centre offering different services, they all are an open physical space where parents can meet each other and empower each other offering the network, building community for parents and their children. Judit explained how Parents’ House got there and how its model is possibly expanding in Ghana and Morocco. She explained the challenges and the possibilities gathering parents and letting activities grow from the communities. See her full presentation here.
For more info contact @judit@szulokhaza.hu
Eefje explained how parents in community’s build trust and out of that trust comes a collaborative after school child care system. These groups of parents operate in schools after school hours and in community houses, even at workplaces. The impact on parents and children is very diverse. Gender equality, work life balance, family resilience, cohesion… In the European Horizon 2020 CAPSSI project Families Share software is build, methodology is captured and we are ready to help you start up your own communities. You can try the (MVP) application and see the presentation here. This model can also help schools involve parents, but most of all the impact on young children being at school within a family setting helps children feel at home in school. It takes a village to raise a child. A very effective method and support system! For more information contact eefje@destuyverij.be
Find the presentation here.

Luca László: Mentoring for parents and teachers – engaging disadvantaged parents

Ms. Luca Laszlo, project manager of Parents International introduced the Parent´r´us project to the workshop participants. Parent’r’us main aim is to support teachers increasing parents engagement in children’s academic achievement and well-being at school by extending their competences throughout an innovative mentoring model approach integrated in a holistic approach. At the session participants could try out different activities, that allow and foster equal participation, communication and cooperation between possibly very diverse groups, using individual, pair, group exercises and role play, that we intend to carry out with the project target group to show how parents, teachers, students and professional staff can work together. The workshop participants then shared other ideas that help the engagement of disadvantaged parents in their children’s learning, such as the community building power of food, and cultural activities, where disadvantaged parents can show their strengths and thus feel empowered, or cases where the school organised after hours child care, so the parents could bond with each other and the school staff.

Eszter Salamon – Christian Gary: STE(A)Ming up education- collaboration between formal and non-formal education providers

The workshop was strongly linked with our now project, coordinated by the Children’s University of Vienna, Phereclos. After a short introduction of the basics, especially an open schooling approach and science capital, participants discussed how STE(A)M education works in their own contexts with special focus on the role of non-formal education providers and interinstitutional collaborations. In the second half of the workshop they designed their own initial models for collaboration for STE(A)M learning improvement.
find the presentation here

Barbara Schuster: Kinderhände – inclusion with hands

Based on her own history Barbara Schuster, a deafmute mother, established this NGO in Austria. If you are not able to communicate with your environment, you cannot make any informed decision. It is important that deaf or other people with hearing problems have both languages as early as possible. Therefore, their trainings start with children from 6 months to 15 years. Presenting deaf persons as role models provides more self-esteem for handicapped people.
This organisation offers bilingual trainings for families and other pedagogues. There are also special trainings for deaf parents with hearing children.
They developed special training materials. They also established a bilingual children’s choir.
The participants of the workshop could practice some basics in sign language like yes, no, thank you, hello, good-bye, spelling their names etc.
Although Austria has ratified the UN CRPD Kinderhände is the only organisation in Austria offering these courses to families. Regarding restricted financial funding not every family needing such support has barrier-free access.

More details see here.

DAY 3 – 05.11.2019

Janet Goodall: Parental engagement for better education

Janet Goodall, assistant professor at Swansea University and well-known researcher of parental engagement had a workshop, where participants could reflect on their own setting, celebrate their successes in parental engagement, express their wishes, identify the barriers and help each other find possible solutions to overcome our obstacles.
The research and especially her latest book can be a great inspiration for those struggling with parental engagement.

Bruria Schaedel: Conflicting cultures engaging together – experiences of success with Jewish and Arab parents in Israel

In a very interesting workshop, Bruria Schaedel from the University of Haifa presented her research on involvement of Jewish and Arab parents. She gave a historical and cultural overview of the topic in Israel and provoked an interesting debate in the audience when she showed some assumptions, based on stereotypes are not proven by research. Participants had the opportunity to discuss their own experiences in different countries on cultural determinants of school parental involvement as well as experiences with different school types. Some worries were raised over child rights issues in religious schools in Israel and elsewhere.

find her presentation here and the workshop exercises here
find some of here research in our library here and here

Ursula Mauric: Global citizenship education and the role of parents in it

Global Citizenship Education is part of the SDG no.4. This SDG aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and to promote lifelong learning, but it is only referring to formal education! Another critical aspect in this respect is the question who is heard and why this happens. E.g. the world bank has a strong voice, but parents and everybody else included in the leisure time of children are totally missing in this framework!
Other critical questions raised in this workshop were:
· What is meant by sustainable development?
· What is meant by successful economic development?
· What is meant by inclusive and quality education for all?
· What is meant by good life for all?
More information on SDG 4 here

International Youth White Paper on global Citizenship, 2017
Details on the HEADSUP reflection methodology see here

find her presentation here

Ton Duif: Towards a common understanding of basic entrepreneurship education

Our Financial Director, Ton Duif moderated a workshop that was related to both our #BasicSkills initiative and a new project we are about to kick-off, ParENTrepreneurs. In this workshop participants had the opportunity to think about roles and skills in the field while the example of Star Schools from the Netherlands was used for inspiration. The starting point was to keep natural entrepreneurship of young children alive with a strong emphasis on entrepreneurial spirit rather than the often-assumed company-establisher picture. An open schooling approach was also mentioned there, especially the importance of distributed leadership and relations to local entrepreneurs.
find his presentation here

Brigitte Haider: Parents training teachers for migrant inclusion

In this workshop participants were invited to learn more about the Open School Doors Project Parents International was partnering. Participants reflected on their own preconceptions and prejudices on migrants. They were actively searching where the “welcome culture” is already present, but perhaps not really visible in their environments.
They were reflecting why it is important to include migrant students, parents and teachers as well as other supporting staff in their thinking and were exchanging their experiences.
They were discussing what has already been started and/or what urgently needs to be changed/developed in their schools referring to the whole school approach including all important stakeholders.

More details on the OSD project see here

Judit Horgas: Future Memory – supporting future success of disadvantaged children

Judit Horgas, editor in chief of the Hungarian Dragonfly magazine, and leader of the Future Memory project introduced the participants to their efforts in giving a brighter future for disadvantaged, Roma teenage girls, who are destined to live a life with many difficulties. At the workshop the causes and effects of trauma were explored and explained, building on neuroscientific research in the Future Memory program trainers work together with the children, their family, the school and the professionals around the children. Parents International is supporting the project with our experience of engaging disadvantaged families.

Bert-Jan Kolmer: Dichotomy in education or equal chances?

In this highly critical workshop the case of Dutch education, one of the best in the world, was discussed for inspiration. Bert-Jan Kollmer, Director of Stitching OVO, a group of Dutch primary and secondary schools, our future Financial Director used a report from the education inspectorate to highlight weaknesses they still need to overcome. A kind of loop was created as their data clearly shows a vicious circle of low expectations and subsequent lower achievements as it was emphasised in the first keynote session of the Summit.

find his presentation here

Hermino Correa: Supporting parents of disabled children – a successful training programme

Presentation of the ELPIDA project (empowering parents of children with intellectual disability in order to better support the needs of their children) purposes and objectives, the methodology used and outputs, followed by discussion, reflection and clarification of doubts. In view of the possibility of a second phase of this project, some issues were raised to participants’ debate.

Closing Session

A fishbowl session was organised to harvest the outcomes of the 3 days, listening to keynote speeches and participating at numerous workshops. All participants had the opportunity to take and active role. The topics of the discussion were the most important things to take into account in working with parents, the most important things to avoid and wishes for the future. The spirit of the session was that of hope, motivation, co-creation and participation, always taking the child’s perspective into account, too.

DAY 4 – 06.11.2019

We held our first Members’ Assembly meeting with members and official partners present and very active in evaluating the work done since the legal registration and giving guidance for the coming 2 years.


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