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22 October 2018

Gamification and Foresight: EDU days conference hears about ways of changing the present and preparing for the future

The need to prepare for a world of change and uncertainty was a key theme of the ETUI’s ‘EDU days 2018’ conference for trade union trainers held in Vilnius on 17-19 October. Over 70 participants from across Europe were briefed on future scenarios for the world of work from the ETUI’s Foresight Unit. They were also introduced to the concept of ‘gamification’ – using games as part of training courses to develop collaborative and strategic ways of working.

EDU days is the annual gathering for trade union trainers organised by the ETUI and is an important venue for exchanging knowledge and ideas about trade union education. Vera dos Santos Costa, the director of the ETUI’s training department, said: ‘ETUI’s ambition is that the trade unionists we train will have increased their competencies to act, and therefore to contribute to a better future.’

Conference attendees, who were mostly officials in national unions responsible for training in their organisations, were eager to hear about the wave of change engulfing economies and societies and its possible impact on jobs and trade union organisation. Philippe Pochet, the ETUI’s General Director, said there were four ‘megatrends’ affecting societies: climate change, the demographic transition, digitalisation and globalisation. He warned trade unionists that ageing populations meant they were losing members. But he added that climate change, while arguably the most serious of the megatrends and something which would wreak havoc on societies if left unchecked, also offered a window of opportunity to reform capitalism to secure fairer workplaces.

Foresight training offers may offer a pedagogical route to getting to grips with these changes, delegates heard. Tom Wambeke, a Foresight trainer with the ILO, explained that Foresight is about innovating solutions arising from an uncertain future. ‘Stepping outside the box is the first step in Foresight training’, said Wambeke. Other presentations from the ETUI’s Foresight experts, Christophe Degryse and Aida Ponce del Castillo, introduced delegates to the methodology and applications of Foresight techniques, including the use of scenarios. Degryse explained that Foresight was simply thinking about the way organisations and people do things in an anticipatory way. ‘Foresight is about getting ready for the future’, he said. Ponce del Castillo added that realistic scenario planning required incorporating ‘Black Swans’ and ‘Wicked Problems’ – high-impact, low probability events, and complex and often intractable challenges respectively – into scenario planning.

New training techniques were also explained and demonstrated at the conference. One of these was using video games in education. Matthew Barr of the University of Glasgow said his research on student learning showed use of games had a measurable impact on learning outcomes. Students playing competitive and non-competitive games as part of their courses picked up useful skills in collaboration, planning and communication. Barr gave examples of games about climate change negotiations and suggested that trade union trainers could design their own games tailored to the workplace experiences of their students.  Carina Assunção, another academic involved in gamification, then held a practical workshop giving delegates some experience of the practical use of games.

Other workshops at the conference were also held on the future of trade unions and working together for the future. Summing up the three days of discussion and activity, Vera Dos Santos Costa said: ‘It has been a great learning experience and a chance to discuss how we can advance the cause of European trade unions through learning and education. We will continue the discussion next year in Vienna.’ 

Replay of the live broadcast of the first day of the conference is available on ETUI Facebook page

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