Sosped Foundation: Wellbeing trough peer-to-peer action
Sosped Foundation (Sosped) is a non-governmental welfare organization operating in the social and health sector. Our mission is to support and enhance wellbeing and recovery through social interactions, peer support and peer-to-peer action. The framework of all our activities stems from social pedagogy and the holistic and relationship-centered approach to support, care and wellbeing.
In the field of social welfare in Finland, Sosped stands out as a proactive and rapidly developing organization. Our programs and projects are directed to people with added barriers to participate in society. These barriers include mental health problems, disabilities, social exclusion, and behavioural addictions (i.e., gambling disorder, gaming disorder, and compulsive use of social media). Our programs aim to improve the quality of life of the participants and their close ones. The programs also raise awareness and break taboos about the above-mentioned barriers. During 2021 our programs and projects had over 6100 participants in total. All of our activities are completely free of charge to the participants.
Sosped employs around 40 professionals and 400 volunteer workers, providing services in over 20 cities across Finland. We are also an active partner in many Erasmus projects and seek to collaborate with similar organizations nationally and internationally. All of our programs and most of our projects are financed by the the Funding Centre of Social Welfare and Health Organizations (STEA) which operates in connection with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland.
Amplifying the voice of Experts by Experience
One of the key elements of Sosped is to enable social inclusion by amplifying the voice of Experts by Experience – We aim to include experience-based knowledge in everything we do.
An expert by experience is someone who has acquired knowledge through their own personal experiences. Through training and peer-led activities, these experts learn to structure and deepen this experience-based knowledge and put it to use for helping others.
Our experts by experience:
- know what it is like to go trough challenging life situations and overcome problems or what it is like to be close to someone who does
- understand the causes, consequences and solutions of their personal experiences
- know what it is like to recover and what things can affect the recovery process
- have learnt to turn their own experiences into resources that can also benefit others
- are ready to share about their own experiences with others.
Our experts by experience have received training and many of them have also accumulated experience by providing peer support.
Peer support and peer-to-peer action appears in different forms within our projects and activities, but the idea remains the same:
- mutually offered and reciprocal help among people with similar experiences
- built on shared personal experience and empathy
- focuses on an individual’s strengths not weaknesses, and works towards the individual’s wellbeing and recovery
Peers benefit from support whether they are giving or receiving it.
We offer many different forms of low-threshold peer support and peer-to-peer action lead by our volunteer Peer Advisors, Mentors and Experts by Experience. These volunteers provide help based on their own personal experience and the abilities they have gained through training. Our trained volunteers work in various volunteer positions such as
- organizing and leading peer support groups
- providing peer support online and/or on the phone
- raising awareness by telling about their experiences in the media
- collaborating with professionals to create better services
All of our volunteers have gained special understanding through personal experiences. A peer adviser training is offered free of charge to new volunteers. The activities of peer advisers are based on the idea that every person has within themselves resources and abilities for helping others in life’s difficulties. The help provided is thus non-professional support, offered by volunteer advisers, based on their own experience, and the skills obtained from the peer adviser training.
Operating principles for peer-led activities
Ethically-sound peer support is based on the following principles:
- Respect and equality. We treat people with respect and tolerance regardless of our differences.
- Trust and a safe environment. In our activities, we respect confidentiality and agree on shared rules.
- Valuing volunteers. All the activities are voluntary and nobody is forced to do anything. Our activities do not constitute professional work, care work, therapy or rehabilitation.
- Engagement and constructive interaction. We engage with people in an affirming and positive way, without criticism. We pay attention and actively listen, giving space for interaction and different opinions.
- Trust in the power of peer support and shared responsibility for the success of joint activities. Knowledge gained through experience is personal, valuable, and fit for use. Peer activities make it possible to openly engage with the other person. We learn together from different experiences.
Our framework stems from social pedagogy
Social pedagogy is based on humanistic values stressing mutual respect, trust, unconditional appreciation, and equality (to mention but a few). It’s a holistic and relationship-centered approach to care and wellbeing. Our social pedagogy “in a nutshell” is about social interaction, experience-based knowledge and sense of community. We believe that people learn and evolve together.
Limitless Gambling Program: Peer support and information for problem gambling
Limitless Gambling Program (Pelirajaton in Finnish) offers a wide range of peer support for those with a gambling problem and their close friends and family. The goal is to improve the quality-of-life of problem gamblers and those close to them, increase awareness among social welfare and healthcare professionals about gambling problems and how to identify them, and develop the related services that are on offer.
The nationwide program offers gamblers and those close to them peer support groups, online peer support and a peer support helpline, support persons, empowerment courses, holidays, discussion events and peer adviser training. In addition to all this, the program also trains and coordinates experts by experience.
The gambling problem in Finland
Finnish people gamble a lot, and the level of problem gambling in the country is among the highest in Europe.
It is difficult to draw a clear line between recreational gambling, at-risk gambling, problem gambling and gambling addiction. It is estimated that as much as 18.3% of Finns aged between 15 and 75 engage in at-risk gambling, and for 3.3% this has already turned into problem gambling. If we assume that a person’s problem gambling also affects the well-being of 5–10 people close to them, the total number of Finns whose lives are negatively affected by gambling comes to around 900,000 (18%). It is estimated that around 40,000 Finns (1.3%) are diagnosed as having a gambling addiction.
According to a general population survey carried out in 2017, only around 2.2% of gamblers spend as much as half of the total money spent on gambling in Finland. The current trend is that the most active gamblers account for an increasing large proportion of the total money spent on gambling.
The gambling problem in general
What makes people susceptible to problem gambling?
- Starting young and social learning
- Interplay between genetics and environment
- Nature of games and game availability (speed, stimulating sounds, graphics and colours, bonus rounds, stimulants, flow of action, ‘near miss’ situations, internet)
- Erroneous beliefs about chance, probability and happiness
- Big winnings in the beginning
- Personality traits (thrill-seeking, unsocial, impulsive)
- Financial difficulties
- Loneliness, life crises and losses (divorce, unemployment)
- Sense of meaninglessness and lack of meaningful activities and pastimes
- Mental health problems and traumatic experiences (depression, anxiety, school bullying)
- Other addictions
Negative consequences of gambling for the gambler
- EMOTIONAL: Anxiety, lack of control, shame, regret, sense of failure, insecurity and vulnerability, sense of worthlessness, hopelessness, exhaustion, desire to escape
- HEALTH: Stress, insomnia, depression, changes in appetite, headaches, use of intoxicants, decrease in movement and exercise, self-destructiveness
- RELATIONSHIPS: Less time with close friends and family, withdrawing and exclusion, neglecting one’s responsibilities, lying and covering up, conflicts and arguments, threat of divorce or actual divorce
- FINANCIAL: Less available money, need to cut down expenses, use of savings and sale of possessions, overdue bills, loaning from others, instant cash loans and credit, debt problems and debt spiral
- WORK AND STUDY: Decreased performance, use of time for gambling, absences, arriving late, loss of job or study place
➡️A spiral of gambling ensues, with the person trying to solve the problems by gambling even more.
Negative consequences of gambling for close friends and family
- Emotional strain, including stress, restlessness, anxiety, depression, hopelessness and guilt.
- Negative health effects, such as sleeping problems, headaches, and back and stomach pains
- Relationship problems, including arguments, lack of trust, separation or divorce
- Financial problems, such as payment difficulties, gambling loans, or loss of creditworthiness
- Loss of home or apartment, or threat of such
- Concern about the health and well-being of the family member or close friend
- Emotional abuse and observed emotional abuse, or the threat of such
- Becoming a victim of crime (e.g. stealing)
- Negative impacts on work or study
How to talk about problem gambling
- Check your own attitude and try to remain neutral
- Show interest and ask open-ended questions
- Say why you are asking and wanting to discuss the topic
- Try to summarize the discussion at the end
- Give feedback and ask for the other’s opinion
- Keep in your back-pocket information about support and help services
Services for gamblers and those close to them
Peer support groups for gamblers and those close to them
“In the group I felt that I wasn’t alone with my problem and that I had a chance to move forward. What was best was the feeling that others truly knew and understood.”Peer support group participant
Pelirajaton groups offer an opportunity to ease the burden of a life weighed down by excessive gambling. The peer support groups are led by trained peer advisers. The groups meet once a week for a total of 12 weeks and contain a maximum of 10 participants. The gambling peer support groups are intended for people who want to either stop or significantly reduce their gambling. In the support groups, the participants’ gambling situation is handled confidentially together with people who have similar experiences. Participants can receive advice on dealing with the issue and getting free of gambling.
“One at a time, people began to introduce themselves, and I found as I listened that I could relate to almost everything they said. Gradually the tension and fear began to fade away, and the room was filled with a warm, empowering sense of belonging.”Peer support group participant
Gambling problems always also affect the gambler’s close friends and family. In the peer support group for close friends and family, participants can gain understanding from those in similar situations and advice on coping in daily life and dealing with the situation.
The participants set their own goals and get to have a say on what topics and issues are discussed. The programmes for the groups involved peer discussion on different topics, working through different exercises and making use of different tools.
“The group’s peer adviser welcomed us all to the group and began to explain in more detail how the group works. They said that each person could say something about themselves and about their gambling background. No one has to tell about anything they don’t want to talk about. They were then the first to share, and the moment I heard their story I was entranced. How was it possible that they had thought just the same things as I had!”Peer support group participant
The purpose of a peer support group is to harness peer support in order to strengthen people`s resources and well-being, support them in achieving their own goals, seek out new activities to engage in, and generate hope.
Participants set their own goals and assess how much they have benefited from the group. In groups for gamblers, the goals normally relate to reducing gambling or stopping it completely, while in groups for close friends and family they normally relate to coping with a difficult life situation.
The purpose of a peer support group
Participants in the groups can confidentially discuss together with their peers the life challenges brought by excessive gambling. Participants can experience feeling understood by those struggling with the same issue and can receive advice for dealing with the situation, coping in daily life, and looking towards the future.
For all of us, it is important to feel heard, seen and accepted as we are. It often brings a sense of relief to get to know people who feel similarly oppressed by things left unspoken and feelings of guilt. These peers have experienced the same kind of things and therefore often understand better than others the nature of problem gambling or living close to someone with such a problem. The experiences, thoughts and feelings shared are familiar and understandable.
In Pelirajaton, we believe that no-one has to suffer from problem gambling for the rest of their life. All are able to learn and change and to redirect their life`s course. What is needed for this is support, guidance and encouragement. Experiences of failure at giving up gambling or living as a gambler’s close friend or family member can drain one’s strength and belief in oneself. In such a situation, experiencing the encouragement of others and their belief in you can really help, as can being able to explore the situation in a peaceful, accepting environment.
Peer support by phone and internet
Pelirajaton offers the opportunity to talk with peers either by phone or online.
Through the peer helpline, you can talk confidentially about the challenges brought by excessive gambling. You can book online a time to talk, and we then choose a suitable peer adviser for you.
“It was easier to talk about my difficult situation when it was anonymous and I was in a familiar and peaceful location. The person I was talking with really seemed to understand my situation, and that brought a sense of relief.”
The Pelirajaton chat service is run by both former gamblers and gamblers’ close friends and family. The service offers an anonymous and easily accessible channel for talking about things.
Peer advisers participate in online discussions also through the OmaPeluuri service. In OmaPeluuri, you can talk with a peer adviser or professional and also participate in guided groups.
“When in the chat service, I have the sense that it’s a place where you can talk person to person. Anyone can come and join the conversation.”Pelirajaton chat volunteer
Support persons offer one-to-one peer support for those in difficult life situations. The support persons are former gamblers or close friends and family of gamblers who have significant experience of Pelirajaton’s peer support work.
The support person listens, supports, encourages and discusses. The support relationship brings hope and helps with clarifying the person’s life situation and finding opportunities for moving forward. The relationship is shaped by an agreement in which the objectives and methods for the support relationship are defined.
The empowerment courses are designed for those currently struggling with a gambling problem, those who have already brought the problem under control but are seeking further strengthening and support for staying gambling-free, and also close friends and family of gamblers. It is possible to apply for the course together with one’s close friend or family member.
“On the empowerment course I was able for the first time to express the thoughts that I have feared and been ashamed of so much that I wasn’t able to tell them to anyone.”Participant of the Empowerment course
The week-long course looks at the nature of problem gambling, gambling addiction and recovery, the role of close relationships and family relationships, the change process and one’s own well-being. Both the gambler and the close friend or family member obtain from the course new resources and tools for dealing with the situation. The course is carried out by Pelirajaton employees and experts by experience as well as professionals from different fields.
“We came to the course as a couple. We both got a lot from it and, above all, we got a lot of shared tools which we can put to use. And we also got time together as a couple without the pressures of home life, with people who have the same problems and same kinds of day-to-day challenges. We can believe for a better tomorrow, and believe in ourselves.”Participant of the Empowerment course
The Pelirajaton holidays, which are run twice a year, emphasise relaxation, exercise, and learning about health. The holidays are aimed at gamblers and those close to them who are seeking help and support for recovering from a gambling problem.
The diverse programme also includes an opportunity to participate in a daily peer group meeting that deals with problem gambling. The goal of the holiday is to strengthen understanding and recovery through discussing the issue. Throughout the whole holiday week, both a Pelirajaton employee and a trained expert by experience are present at all times.
Pelirajaton organises free discussion events in different locations around Finland. These events involve discussion of gambling and peer support and include a talk given by an expert by experience. The events are open to gamblers, their close friends and family, and professionals that deal with gambling in their work.
Pelirajaton has already trained over 100 peer advisers in different parts of Finland, and these people are at the heart of our activities. Peer advisers have their own experience of problem gambling and recovering from it, or of living as a close friend or family member of someone with a gambling problem. As a result, they have valuable knowledge gained through experience and are thus able to support those in similar situations.
“Supporting and helping people facing the same situation through one’s own experience is really rewarding. There is always a really welcoming atmosphere in the trainings and joint meetings.”Peer adviser
New peer advisers are given a free training in which they learn about the Pelirajaton operating model, the basic skills of a peer adviser, and the nature of problem gambling or living as a close friend or family member of a problem gambler. These advisers are all volunteers. After the training, the volunteers’ initial work as peer advisers is supported through regular work supervision and being assigned a experienced peer adviser as a mentor.
Those that have done the basic training are welcome to join the adviser community with its recreational events and further trainings which are held twice a year. Peer advisers have the opportunity to receive further training later on in order to become, for example, an expert by experience or mentor.
The peer adviser’s role
The task of the peer adviser is to use their own experience to help the group to support its members. The adviser seeks to bring to the discussion a positive perspective centred around solutions and resources. They help the group, the group members help each other, and everyone helps themselves.
The peer advisers always first receive training. They do not receive any payment, but rather offer their help as volunteers.
“Pelirajaton supported my work as a peer adviser the whole time, walking alongside me and asking how it felt and what thoughts the experiences stirred in me. So I wasn’t left alone in my role as a group leader.”Peer adviser, mother of a gambler
Pelirajaton regularly trains new peer advisers. Peer advisers are sought from among those who have their own experience of problem gambling or being close to someone who does. Candidates should also be of adult age, have a balanced life situation that enables them to support others, show desire and enthusiasm for participating in the training and leading their own group, and be able to commit to leading at least one group and receiving the related work supervision. Those leading peer support groups for gamblers are required to not have gambled for at least the previous six months.
Each person interested in being a peer adviser is invited to discuss beforehand the training, peer adviser role and their life situation. The decision about whether to participate is made together.
The peer adviser basic training provides the skills and capacities for being a peer adviser and leading a group in one’s own locality. After the basic training, there is also the opportunity to train to be an adviser working with the peer helpline or online chat service or to become an expert by experience or mentor.
Volunteer work and peer support activities are a rewarding experience in many different ways. Through your own experience and the example of your recovery, you can offer what every person in the world needs in order to keep going forward – hope for something better, hope that change is possible.
What can a peer adviser do?
- Serve as the group host, keep the discussion on topic, and remind participants about the core purpose of the group meetings.
- Encourage, support and walk alongside the group members, making use of one’s own experiences and acquired training and tools.
- Offer perspectives, questions, exercises and knowledge.
- Offer space and one’s own time for the duration of the group.
- Take care of practical matters relating to the meetings.
What can’t a peer adviser do?
- Take responsibility for whether people come to the group.
- Cure a group member’s gambling addiction, get them to stop completely, or solve the problems of a gambler’s close friend or family member.
- Bring about the learning, realisations, commitment or other changes on a group member’s behalf.
- Change a group member’s state of mind, feelings or experience of their life.
- Meet all the group members’ needs.
- Function as a group member’s therapist, doctor or sole source of support.
Experts by experience
We train and coordinate experts by experience, former gamblers and their close friends and family. Using expertise and knowledge learnt from experience, we seek to influence attitudes, increase awareness about gambling problems, and develop the services which are an offer.
An expert by experience is someone who has acquired knowledge through their own personal experiences. Through trainings and peer-led activities, these experts learn to structure and deepen this knowledge and put it to use for helping others.
“This year has been interesting. In total, I have spoken at around ten different events. Of these, the smallest audience was with a peer support group for gamblers and those close to them, which contained just a few people. The largest event was for social welfare and healthcare professionals, with an audience of over a hundred.”Pelirajaton Expert by experience
Our experts by experience:
- know what it is like to have a gambling problem or what it is like to be close to someone who does
- understand the causes, consequences and solutions
- know what it is like to recover from such a problem and what things have affected the recovery process
- have learnt to turn their own experiences into resources that can also benefit others
- are ready to share about their own experiences with others.
Pelirajaton experts by experience have completed the experts by experience training and have accumulated experience of providing peer support and advice.
Limitless Gaming Program: Tackling problematic gaming by peer-to-peer action
Raising awareness about problematic gaming and tackling gaming-related problems by providing information and low-threshold support in peer groups:
- We raise awareness about gaming and gaming-related problems
- We develop low-threshold interventions for excessive gamers (18-29-year-olds)
- We provide online support for gamers concerned about their own gaming behaviour
- We train professionals to become aware of problematic gaming behaviour
Low-threshold interventions for excessive gamers
Limitless Gaming Program (Digipelirajaton in Finnish) provides group interventions for intense gamers (18 to 29 years of age) who seek to reduce the effects of gaming in their everyday lives. Limitless Gaming Program is based on peer support, group activities and psychoeducation.
The services are currently only available in Finnish. Limitless Gaming Program provides three group-based interventions.
DPR Bootcamp. Action-based peer support group
- For intense gamers who do not consider themselves problem gamers
- Focus on promoting the gamer’s overall well-being (e.g. social skills, physical activity, time management skills)
- Social gaming (e.g. video games, board games), group discussions and assigments
- Aims to raise awareness of the links between excessive gaming and overall well-being
- Instructed by a health care professional who works as a pair with ”a peer coach” (trained volunteer with a history of problematic gaming)
- Fixed program with 10 specified themes
- 10 weekly meetings, 3 hours at a time
DPR Ctrl. Discussion-based peer support group
- For excessive gamers who seek to reduce or quit gaming
- Focus on controlling one’s gaming behavior
- Sharing of experiences, discussions, assignments, homework, practical tools and tips
- Guided by peer coaches (trained volunteers with a history of problematic gaming)
- Fixed program with 10 specified themes
- 10 weekly meetins, 2 hours at a time
DPR Online. Online support
- For everyone concerned about their own gaming behavior
- Open Discord-server for online discussion on problematic gaming
- Peer coaches (trained volunteers with a history of problematic gaming) participate in and moderate discussions
- Self-help material on the website
Raising awareness about gaming and gaming-related problems
We produce, summarize and publish information concerning problematic gaming as well as other gaming-related topics. In October 2017, we published a two-part literature review that summarizes over 300 international research articles and forms a basis for our ongoing project work.
Part 1. ”Gaming and gaming disorder. A review on dimensions of gaming.” [Kuuluvainen, S. & Mustonen, T. (2017). Digitaalinen viihdepelaaminen ja digipeliriippuvuus. Katsaus pelaamisen eri ulottuvuuksiin. Helsinki: Sosped Foundation.]
Part 2. ”Peer support as a means to overcome problematic gaming?” [Niemi, T. (2017). Vertaistuestako apu ongelmalliseen digipelaamiseen? Helsinki: Sosped Foundation.]
We continue sharing research-based and experience-based information on gaming-related topics in written materials, seminars and public events.
Training and support for professionals working with gamers and young adults
We provide information and materials for professionals who face gaming and gaming-related problems in their daily work (e.g., in health and social care, youth work, and other related fields). We also give lectures and organize tailored trainings for professionals and communities who wish to learn more about problematic and excessive gaming.
Materials, such as guidelines for detecting symptoms of problematic gaming behaviors and links to other service providers’ websites, are also available for gamers, as well as the parents, spouses and concerned others of those affected by problematic gaming.
Our work is based on raising awareness, developing group-based interventions and providing support for professionals working with young adults.
Limitless Social Media Program: Information and support for excessive use of social media
The program offers information about excessive, obsessive, compulsive or problematic use of social media – often referred as ‘social media addiction’. Limitless Social Media Program provides support for excessive social media use, information to people affected by heavy use of social media and professionals working together with young adults, who are often the most vulnerable when it comes to negative effects of social media. The program coordinates low-threshold offline activities for young adults who are concerned about their online behaviour, provides an online self-help program, and organises a four-day digital detox retreat annually – all free-of-charge to the participants. Also, research-based and experience-based information about problematic social media use are provided by means of articles and reviews (i.e., scientific articles, stories by experts-by-experience) and training. Trained peer instructors are strongly involved in all program activities.
Our support and information to young adults and professionals is available nationwide – online and offline. We produce information about the problematic use of social media, both ourselves and in cooperation with other non-profits, universities and organizations.
Most of our activities are led by trained peer advisors. They work as volunteers, using their own experience of social media to support and help their peers. Our trained peer advisers and experts by experience organize different kind of volunteer activities for young adults that consider themselves heavy users of social media.
We organize lectures about excessive use of social media for professionals working with young adults. The tools we offer are meant for examining the use of social media, and help to identify challenges and find solutions. We also produce support materials for professionals working to address excessive use of social media. Our materials contain both practical tools and research-based information.
We have published a literature review “Social Media, Problematic Use of Social Media and Social Media Addiction”. The review discusses controlled and problematic use of social media and possible forms of treatment and support for social media addiction based on the international research literature. In addition, the review examines the causes and consequences of excessive social media use.
Excessive use of social media
Excessive, obsessive, compulsive or problematic use of social media is often referred as ‘social media addiction’. In academic publications social media addiction is defined as severe and excessive use of social media. Social media addiction is a behavioural addiction and in recent years it has been the subject of growing interest within the research community. It has been suggested that severe and excessive use of social media will create a new and independent category among behavioural addictions. Different forms of care and support will be needed In the future to help people identifying as social media addicts.
The use of social media can be viewed as a continuum: controlled use at one end and severely excessive use at the other, i.e., social media addiction. It is difficult to draw a clear line between controlled use, excessive use and addiction. Out of all social media users, it is estimated that
- less than 80% (77-79%) use social media in a controlled manner
- 17-22% use social media excessively
- 2-5% could be considered to be addicted to social media.
Excessive use of social media is a widespread phenomenon that can appear and affect everyday situations in different ways as smartphone applications capture our attention. Excessive use of social media can cause
- interruptions or delays in studies
- loneliness and problems in relationships
- sleep problems or poor quality of sleep
- neck, shoulder or back problems
- depression or anxiety
- distorted body image
- low self-esteem,
and/or other problems that occur when one’s identity building takes place only online.
Culture Houses: Art and other activities in peer groups
Culture House is a low-treshold and free of charge day center for young adults (between 18- to 35-year-old) with mental health problems. It is a place that offers a safe place to explore a wide array of culture-related activities in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere.The focus is on creative and functional group activities through which the participants develop social skills, build self-esteem, learn new skills, get support, and find tools for life management. The groups are planned and led by trained peer instructors. The main emphasis at all Culture Houses is an open and safe atmosphere that supports creativity.
The focus is in doing something culture-related, interesting and fun, together with a peer group that consists of other young adults in a similar life situation. Many different groups take place at Culture Hiuses every week, and the participants can take part in one or more groups that they’re interested in. Each group is led by a peer leader, a participant that has taken part to the peer leader training organized by the staff members. All the groups are functional and based on structured peer support. The staff members work as back-up for the groups.
Functional peer support means that the focus is on doing or creating something together in a peer group, rather than focusing to discuss about the problems the participants are experiencing in their private lives. This enables participants to get empowered and discover new strengths and interests.
Get to know our 5 Culture Houses around Finland
Culture House Marilyn in Kajaani
Culture House Kajo in Mikkeli
Culture House Virta in Tampere
Culture House Hiisi in Lohja
Culture House Kupla in Helsinki
Epic Light Program: Creating media content in peer groups
The program aims to strengthen the media skills and the voice of young adults that face challenges in their lives due to disabilities, mental health problems, social exclusion and/or unemployment. All participants are interested in learning more about media and media content creation and share a hope to study and get employed within that field. Together, and with the help of staff members and other professionals, participants build their media skills, find channels to express themselves, and create content that mediates their personal experiences in a powerful way. All participants take part in an initial Peer Producer Training that provides them with basic knowledge regarding the different forms of media and content creation. The program publishes a magazine (Valoa!), makes frequent radio shows, videos, blog and social media posts, and plans and organizes cultural events.
”We want to show that the society will be a little more fun and diverse when everyone’s potential is used. Even though concepts such as peer support and rehabilitation are part of our program, our most important aim is to create quality content.”
Feeniks Project: Support for work communities trough peer-led mentoring
Feeniks Project (2019-2021) focused on enhancing the wellbeing and learning capabilities of different work communities trough peer-led mentoring. The project also provided support and coaching for middle-aged men who were left unemployed because of digitalization and transformation of work.
The project trained 125 volunteer ’learning mentors’ to work in state organizations and libraries. Due to pandemic, trainings were held 100% online and volunteer mentors operated mostly through digital channels. The goal of mentor-lead activities was to support and create wellbeing in work communities through interaction and modification of existing structures. The project also developed and tested a new kind of peer-led working model with CGI and Visma Solutions. The goal was to bring together small enterprises, open-source courses and people interested in ICT.
Vigor Project: Sexual health education trough peer-led mentoring
VIGOR Project (2018–2021) promoted sexual health (reproductive health included) among people in Finland who speak Arabic, Somali, Persian, Dari, and Kurdish. The project was launched in 2018 and operated in the Helsinki Metropolitan area, Turku and Kajaani until the end of 2021.
The main goal of VIGOR was to train people from the target language groups to become mentors in sexual health and sexual rights. The training took 27 hours, and included information about (e.g.) sexual violence, contraception, female genital mutilation (FGM), and menopause. All of the trained mentors had some prior experience in working with (sexual) health issues. After completing the training, the mentors arranged events within their communities to discuss issues related to sexuality and sexual health in their own languages. The mentors also worked together with Finnish healthcare professionals to create better understanding about cultural differences in (sexual) health care.
Based on a questionnaire conducted by Vigor Project, 93 % of respondents thought that persons with foreign background in Finland need better information about sexual health. 94 % thought that health care professionals need more knowledge and tools for dealing with sexuality in multicultural encounters. Most of the respondents were health care professionals or worked with topics related to sexual health. Training mentors in sexual health who understand minority languages and cultures is a necessary approach in Finland.
Challenging conventional sexual education
Traditional Finnish ways of lecturing about sexual health are not effective, as target groups are multicultural and have distinct values. Sexual education at home might differ dramatically from sexual education at school, which can leave teenagers with controversial feelings. Young people should not carry the weight of controversial information on their shoulders alone. It is the duty of the authorities – teachers, health care professionals, and parents – to understand and respect each other’s views. This understanding can only be achieved trough sharing experience-based (informal) and formal information.
The project also aimed to create safe spaces for people from different backgrounds and values to discuss intimate issues. VIGOR-mentors possess factual knowledge about sexual health, and they are committed to sexual rights and the Finnish law. They also know the socio-cultural realities and the language of the target groups. The mentors’ task was thus to facilitate respectful dialogue, and sensitively challenge harmful views. Cultural sensitivity is needed when discussing intimate issues. Customs such as female genital mutilation (FGM) can be incomprehensive to a Finnish nurse, which might affect how (s)he relates to a person who perceives FGM beneficial.
The strength of volunteer-lead mentoring is the capability to understand and translate two realities. Cultural sensitivity is especially important with intimate issues. VIGOR-mentors used their knowledge to pass on knowledge to their diasporic communities, and to Finnish health care professionals.
TEx Project: Trust the experience, not the dealer
The three-year TEx project (2020-2023) will build a new training package aimed to broaden experience-based expertise. The project is funded by Erasmus+ and carried out in cooperation with three countries: Finland (Sosped Foundation), Ireland (Extern Ireland) and Norway (Spillavgighet).
Although the project is executed with a focus on gambling addiction and gambling addiction experts by experience, the intention is that produced material is useful for other topics as well. During the project, a pilot group of experience-based experts will be trained.
Developing an international model of experts by experience
The purpose of the three organizations working with the disadvantages of gambling is to share knowledge and practices during the project and to develop an international and advanced model of experts by experience. In all of these three countries, there is a need for experiential knowledge, new approaches, effective models and concrete tools. These aim to support social welfare and healthcare professionals, to develop treatments and to have a precautionary impact in society.
TEx – An innovative project
TEx is in many ways an innovative project: the idea is originated and the issue is identified by experts by experience. Because the projects is international it’s offering an understanding of gambling addiction, gambling disadvantages and the aspect of prevention in different environments, different countries. Gambling is organized differently in each project country – still, the disadvantages of gambling are similar. The project provides an opportunity to study gambling addiction and its laws without being restricted by a specific system.
During the project, Sosped Foundation, Extern Ireland and Spillavgighet will produce material on self-care of experts by experience, public speaking and social influencing. The material is compiled into one training package and translated to English. In the future, collected material is available for trainings of experts by experience. The project itself discusses about gambling addiction and gambling addiction experts by experience, but the intention of the project is to produce material that can be used to other topics as well.
Social Empowering Radio: Enabling co-learning trough job shadowing
The aim of the project is to share best practices on empowering radio work with young adults who are marginalized and in vulnerable position. The goals of the project are:
- strengthening employees’ skills with job shadowing to support young adults in challenging life situations. Job shadowing is a procedure which enables learning by observing working methods of other operators and organisations.
- to encourage new people to participate in working with community radio and media.
Working with radio strengthens the participation of those in challenging positions in society.
The stigmatization of young people who are marginalized can be reduced by working in community radio where young people make their voices heard. Participating in radio work empowers by sharing stories and making other media content to dispel prejudices and diversify social debates. Project-like work strengthens working life skills and participants begin to see opportunities where they could head in the future.
The project involves three organizations, all with experience of radio work with young people: Finland: Epic Light (Sosped Foundation), Italy: Radio Stella 180 Young (Associazione 180 Amici L’Aquila), Germany: Radio Corax (Corax ev initiative fur Freies radio). The project is EU-funded and is independently responsible for its content.
MINDtheYOUTH: Wellbeing trough mindfulness
This two-year project (2021 – 2023) aims to promote the wellbeing through mindfulness. The project is an effort to support youth workers in acquiring and developing mindfulness skills and key competencies so that they can utilise mindfulness as a technique in their work. The project is funded by Erasmus+ and will be carried out in cooperation with four countries: Finland (Sosped Foundation), Lithuania (Education, Research & Consultancy Center ERCC), Cyprus (STANDO LT) and Denmark (Aalborg University).
During the project, the participating countries will join in developing a mindfulness training package. The training package will include a comprehensive mindfulness curriculum and an application that utilises VR-technology. The VR application will be planned, developed and published during the implementation of the project. In addition to the curriculum and the VR application, the training package will include a handbook that assists youth workers in the practical application of the curriculum and the VR application. The project is funded by the European Union and is responsible for its content independently.
Recognising and supporting the potential of youth work
MINDtheYOUTH aims to help youth workers find new, innovative working methods, but also to recognize and promote the importance of good quality youth work. Mindfulness has many scientifically proven benefits but is still not widely used in youth work. This is because youth workers feel they lack the relevant knowledge and experience in mindfulness to teach the skills and techniques to others.
During the project, youth workers and young people will be an active part of the project through different international and national interviews, workshops and retreats. First-hand knowledge from each of the participating countries will help create a training package that is specifically designed for its target group, and thus ensures the training package will be used even after the project has ended. International cooperation is key to creating a training package that can be distributed throughout Europe and internationally, regardless of nationality, race or geographical location. The training package will be translated into multiple languages and uploaded on the project website where it can be downloaded free of charge. It will remain available beyond the end of the project.
MINDtheYOUTH – promoting innovation and well-being
VR (virtual reality) is a rapidly growing form of technology that has massive potential within the Social Services and Health Care sectors. MINDtheYOUTH involves people who specialise in VR technology and have prior experience in combining VR and mindfulness practices. The VR application will act as the virtual learning environment for mindfulness, and the application’s user interface and usability will be influenced by the very people who are going to use the application in the future: youth workers and young people.
For the participating countries Finland, Lithuania, Cyprus and Denmark the project is a valuable opportunity to learn from one another and promote international cooperation.