The context of our project is represented by the social meeting places, both public and private, where people experiencing fragility (in our project, especially asylum seekers, refugees, homeless, and Roma gypsy women) meet “social workers”; these workers often complain about not having adequate competences and skills to manage efficiently this kind of meetings, a situation which negatively affects also the organisations in which they work.
The general objective is to promote mutual awareness on the part of both university students, faculty and organisations of the sector in order to develop competences and skills in community and peer mediation; such development could help current and future professionals to foster their own employability, as well as their interpersonal and socio-educational development. The project aims to design and develop innovative outputs in the field of peer and community mediation.
Specific objectives are the following:
- to design, develop, test and readjust a learning-teaching module in community and peer mediation that could be introduced both as a transversal University module or used as a life-long learning course.
- to promote a continuous collaboration circle between University and in-service professionals, connecting all the activities carried out in the project to surrounding communities, also facilitating the participation of disadvantaged groups.
- to promote learning and training cooperation between public Higher Education Institutions, also within themselves, and non-profit and non-academic partners belonging to the private sector, promoting in students the civic and social responsibility and recognising the importance of voluntary and community work.
For community mediation we mean a process and not a finite series of potentially continuing sessions made up of different actions (cultural, social, training, recreational, etc.), useful for working with the territory or organisations involved in a process of real empowerment that pursues a relationship understood as conscious action and positive interaction. The aim is to overcome «co-existence», though involving tolerance, to move toward «living togetherness», promoting communities that are able to prevent conflicts, and to manage and transform them into opportunities for collective personal growth, not only thanks to the intervention of an external third party (professional mediator), but empowering themselves in the process of being trained in peer mediation and acting as peer mediators.
The methodology used is based on action-research theory and practice, as well as on the basic principles of mediation: involvement of as many key-actors as possible, listening to their needs and perceptions, make potential conflicts emerge and turn them into a growth opportunity, fostering self-reflexivity, and empowering participants in order to make themselves heard and to be trained to act as peer mediators. This methodology is reflected into the aCT peer and community mediation handbook.