The Educational Association and Citizens’ Forum SKAF’s two main strategic functions are to offer education and training, as well as to act as a think tank for civil society.
The Citizens’ Forum’s mission is to build civil society through culture and civic education offered by organisations.
The Citizens’ Forum’s vision has been established as follows: By 2013 The Citizens’ Forum SKAF is a competent and recognised player in the field of culture and civic education, that through the training provided by organisations show up in people's quality of life, in an enhanced communality as well as in cultural development.
Central concepts guiding this work are learning, human growth and development.
The Citizens’ Forum’s actors and target groups are
- people interested in learning, particularly in member organisations
- organisers of clubs and courses
- tutors /coaches
- member organisations’ elected representatives
- external users of educational services
- people interested in developing civic and organisational work
- developers of civil society
The Citizens’ Forum SKAF is one of eleven actors in the field of liberal, that is, non-formal education provided by organisations in Finland. For its educational work the study centre receives financial support from the Ministry of Education, based on the Act on Liberal Education.
Education and training
The Study Centre Citizen’s Forum SKAF is an educational institution for non-formal education. Its purpose is to offer a place of learning to its members and others interested in non-formal education, in cooperation with its member organisations. Studies are carried out in courses of varying duration, totalling some 22 500 hours a year, and in study circles with a yearly volume of some 40 000 hours.
The Citizen’s Forum also serves as a study centre for its member organisations with the task of supporting them in the development of their organisational work, as well as the training of their key players (tutors, elected representatives etc.).
The Citizen’s Forum’s study and educational activities are based on the pedagogy of free education. Emphasis is placed on dialogue on equal terms among the students, whereby each participant’s view is given equal weight. The goal of learning is to accrue, share and produce knowledge, and in this process no formal goals can be established in advance.
In its approach the Citizen’s Forum is inspired by elements of the pedagogical frameworks of critical education, socio-cultural inspiration and community art education. These approaches have turned out to be closely related to the original pedagogical ideals of the youth movement, thus a return to the own pedagogical roots.
In the Citizen’s Forum’s educational task emphasis is placed on personal growth (to be a good person), by assisting people to assess the ethical and moral consequences of their choices. A self-instructing person is seen as an active, spontaneous and capable subject, who learns and grows through his or her own active endeavours. The greatest value in self-perception grows and originates in the community, in meeting other people on equal terms, as well as in growing through the understanding of others.
Community training also forms part of the activities (to be a good citizen), involving, at its centre, a new understanding of socialisation based on a belief in people’s abilities to be open, to communicate, to relate to others and to engage in dialogue.
Also communitarian learning by doing is emphasised in the organisational liberal education. The aims of learning grow out of the interests of the participants themselves, in which the basic values of their community are reflected.
The aim of the learning process is to give students and groups possibilities for:
- critical amazement
- reflective experiences
- kindling hope
The Citizens’ Forum SKAF acts as a think tank in civil society. It promotes active citizenship, acts as a developer of civic and organisational work, as well as an innovator of civil society. Our work as a think tank involves a) producing knowledge about civic and organisational work, about civil society as well as about citizens’ participation and means of exercising influence, b) planning and implementing organisational training (for elected representatives, associations and district organisations, among others), c) the publication of a net journal for civil society and also small scale publishing activities, d) organising nationwide meetings for organisational activists, e) maintaining a website for civil society, and, f) participating in development projects concerning organisational work and civil society nationally as well as internationally.
On the Citizens’ Forum SKAF's website there is a data bank available to anyone interested, containing information about different topics relating to civil society. Such topics are, among others, civic activities, organisational work, participation, means of exercising influence and voluntary work.
The organisational training is primarily intended for member organisations’ personnel and elected representatives.
The Citizens’ Forum’s net journal is published 10 times a year containing articles covering fields such as civic and organisational work, civil society, citizen’s participation, democracy and life-long learning. Among SKAF's latest publictions may be mentioned Kansalaistoimintaan kätketty aarre, (the hidden treasure of civic action), Järjestötoiminnan kehittäminen, (the development of organisational work), Osallistuva teatteri, Devising ja muita merkillisyyksiä (participatory theatre), Prosessidraama ja tutkiva teatterityö, (process drama and investigative theatre work).
The civil society site contains extensive information about Finnish organisations and sources of funding for them. Among international projects may be mentioned co-organising meetings for the European Citizens Consultation, as well as the project Going local, carried out within the EU project Europe for citizens: Promotion of Active European Citizenship.
In its activities, the Citizens’ Forum SKAF makes increasing use of social media and also of Internet-based learning platforms. Important tools in this regard are the virtual world Second Life, Wikis and the Moodle platform for virtual learning. The Citizens’ Forum has trained actors from other educational institutions and organisations in the use of Second Life. We participate in national development projects and networks for social media.
The think tank works on a network basis. The think tank’s personnel participate in nationwide bodies for cooperation on civil society issues, such as the Advisory Board on Civil Society Policy (Democracy Unit, Ministry of Justice), the Finnish Adult Education Association, as well as different working groups established by the Ministry of Education. In the filed of social media, The Citizens’ Forum cooperates with the leading players in the field.
The Citizens’ Forum SKAF supports the cultural work of its affiliated organisations by means of training and the production of material. A central part of member organisations' activities are made up of courses and clubs where emphasis is placed on culture and art. Produced material and publications support the cultural work of the affiliates.
The Citizens’ Forum participates in organising nationwide and regional cultural happenings in cooperation with its affiliates.
The Citizens’ Forum has a yearly cultural exchange with some international group in cooperation with one of its affiliated federations or a member association of a federation.