Immerge yourself in a foreign language

This september ABF-Åland (Workers’ Education Organisation) arranged a ‘language-bath’ in connection with their Finnish sister-organisation TSL.

Seven Finnish-speaking professionals were chosen out of around 40 for five days of practising their Swedish and learning about the Åland Islands through different informative events, language lessons and ‘work shadowing placements’ – a concept in which you go to a work environment similar to your own and try work tasks to practice your Swedish learning in your own profession.

In Finland there are many who have basic knowledge of Swedish but still need to overcome the speaking barrier. Åland is a good place for this, says Mia Hanström, who is responsible for the project. ABF-Åland ran a pilot project for this 7 years ago, they then found funding through TSL from the Swedish Culture Fund. In 2019 they had the first formal ‘language-bath’ with 6 participants, it then had to stop due to Covid-19, but now it is up and running again.

The requirements for the participants were some prior Swedish knowledge and a will to improve it. This years’ participants were between 30 and 55 years old and worked as care-workers, hotel staff, day-care workers, and also with trade unions and politics. In the evenings the participants took part in different free-time programs, where they also got to learn about the Åland Islands autonomy, history and Åland 100 with Barbro Sundback; and spoke about LGBTQIA and Pride with Regnbågsfyren.

“My vision is that they would be able to learn about the Åland Islands and will function as spokespersons for the Åland Islands in Finland. We want people to know about the possibility to come here and practise their Swedish” – Mia Hanström.

“It was good to come here where you have to speak Swedish. Even the Swedish-speaking Finns don’t speak Swedish at home, so you can’t train your language skills.”, said language-bath participant Petri Partanen.

“It was so good to be able to speak Swedish so that you can then use it in when you are working together with Swedish-speaking people. We are a bilingual country, but English has easily taken over. The language-bath is a quick way to learn and develop your Swedish”, said Janne Laulumaa

“There is a slightly different culture on the Åland Islands to how I expected it. Åland is a friendly and open society to visit and I experienced that people are friendly and when they hear that you aren’t from here they ask how you are finding it and how you are doing”, said Riitta Mikola

Everyones right to culture – the theme for 17 seminars at the Göteborg Book fair 2020

This year you don’t have to travel to Gothenburg to take part in the Book fair 2020. It will be a digital event and the swedish ABF takes part with a series of 17 seminars on the theme “Everyones right to culture”. Take part on facebook or on Youtube from September 24th to the 26th. (The seminars are held in swedish.)

ABFs Michael Jonsson says: -“In an uncertain time where we can’t all come together like we’re used to, the discussions, ideas and personal experiences must still be had. ABF facilitates a wide-ranging seminar-series on the topic of everyones right to culture and expression, no matter where you live or what your background is. All you need to experience the series is an internet connection.”

Which of these seminars do you not want to miss?

– “Climate, power, gender and class – how is it all connected?”

– “Security of elders on the digital world”

– “Man and feminist – only for white middle class men?”

– “Art as an act of resistance”


Link to facebookevent with the full program.

Link to Youtube channel.

What the coronavirus taught me about planning an online course

Katri Söder from TSL shares her thoughts and experiences on how you as an educator can tackle the challenge of transforming a course into an online version.

The course I was working on was called the Future of Global Interdependence and it was scheduled for the end of April. However, just before the last meeting, the Corona Pandemic forced to move the course online on a fast schedule. At first, I was horrified and thought that by no means I dare, and maybe not even want to build or run any online course. Then I decided to take courage, however, and now I’m glad about this decision. I learned a lot, and now I want to share the lessons I learned.

The technichal aspect
I noticed that building the course online wasn’t just a technical accomplishment. Technology actually played a rather small role alongside the fact that interaction, implementation methods, and also course evaluation had to be redesigned as the learning environment changed. After all, this should have been anticipated, because as educators we know that the objectives, the evaluation, the methods and the organization of the training, as well as the subject areas, are all related. However, building the online course was still so new to me that this came as a surprise.
Transferring a course online is not difficult on the Howspace platform used by TSL, but the planning should be done well. First, the goals pursued by the teaching have to be defined; what students should know after the course. This point in the plan remained the same even though the course was moved online. The other points had to be redefined, i.e. what learning experiences are needed to achieve the objectives, how these learning entities can be organized effectively, and how it can be concluded that these goals are achieved; these all had to be done a little differently online than we would have done face to face.

The interaction and working in groups
I was quite nervous in advance about how to create genuine interaction within the online course, as my own experiences of online learning have been quite bad in this regard. We took plenty of time for the joint kick-off meeting so that we had time to go through the rules of the course and familiarize the students with the learning environment and its activities. We divided the students into smaller learning groups and together we went through the learning objectives.
Part of the course work took place in small groups. The group must have a common task and enough time to get to know each other, so that the random group develops into a goal-oriented group. In our course, groups had their own workspaces and a shared goal as well as a positive dependence on what other group members did. The debate-part of the course in particular seemed to create a positive spirit of competition, and it seemed like the groups wanted to put a lot of effort into preparation. I organized a mentoring meeting for each group, in preparation for both group assignments. Students said that the meetings were very useful for learning. I highly recommend such tutoring meetings for online courses, even though they are quite time-consuming.

Lessons learnt
When planning an online course, the same things should be considered as when planning training in general. A clear structuring of the teaching event, clearly stated expectations and a planned learning environment are also important goals online. Maximizing the time spent on actual teaching and individual support works best, if you also use small group work, book tutoring meetings for the groups, and give feedback on students’ written assignments.
In this course, the diversity of methods was successful. The course used debate, preparation of a campaign plan in small groups, small group steering meetings, group-wide discussion and individual assignments, in which the answer was given together as a written essay and as a voice-essay. The orientation task used a puzzle-technique in which students taught each other the content they had learned. In the feedback from the students, many praised the diversity of the assignments

The online course should also take into account that the learning environment is built in such a way that students know where the documents can be found and where their assignments were to be placed. The course schedule and deadlines must be available to students online. Online materials must be technically functional and easily accessible. The division of labor between teachers should be clear, and in case of technical problems, it would always be good to have another teacher or online tutor involved. If possible, the learning environment should be chosen on the basis of your goals.

Katri Söder
Työväen Sivistysliitto TSL ry.

Adapting, but focused on our proven methods – ABF Sweden

Swedish ABF carry out more than 85 000 study circles every year. We are present all over the country, in all main cities, in small towns and rural areas.  When Corona hit us, we quickly had to find ways to stick to our method and digitize at the same time.

Supporting and transforming during corona

To meet, to talk, reflect together, discuss and share knowledge in a study circle has always been our method. When physical meetings are out of the question, we must actively counteract isolation and contribute to creating digital communities that support liberal adult education (folkbildning in Swedish). In doing so we manage to stick to the core of our method and assist those who need it the most.

“Folkbildning is the self-defence of democracy!

In the last few months ABF has modified numerous of study circles to make them digital, without losing the very important element of interactivity, which is essential to our method. In order to support the regional branches in the national organisation and education facilitators quickly, we produced a website with guidelines, checklists, tips and tricks for the digital meeting. We also provided digital classrooms, online education, as well as a national helpline “The Meeting Emergency Room” for customized support for our local branches and all our affiliates in their work to adjust and switch to digital.

The initiatives quickly started to pay off and we have seen numerous digital activities within the ABF organization nationwide, adapting the slogan: ABF don’t cancel – we digitize!

Study circles in choir singing, gardening and weaving have all been able to continue their activities as digital meetings. ABF in Gävle transformed their office into a studio to stream everything from dance classes to live debates from the local area, online.

An early example of how we digitized is the 84-year-old author Hervor Sjödin. She regularly does readings at her local café in a small town in the northern part of Sweden. The corona pandemic made it impossible for Hervor and ABF to follow through with these readings. Instead of cancelling, Hervor did her reading on Facebook- with some duct tape, a smartphone and a flowerpot as a camera stand. Instead of the usual 10 people Hervor reached at a regular reading, the audience grew to one of 9 000 people overnight. That’s digitizing!  

Hervor Sjödins success on Facebook was also recognized in national media.

 Folkbildning works in Sweden

Folkbildning isn’t just essential to support society and its citizens in times of crisis. The annual report from Folkbildningsrådet investigating the role of folkbildning in 2019, showed that the method reaches over 1,2 million of Sweden’s population of 10,3 million.[1]  As the largest study association in Sweden, ABF, together with the other national study association, fulfil our mission to strengthen and develop democracy, increase participation in societal development, even out educational gaps and increase participation in culture.

In areas and situation where the formal education and support system faulters folkbildning has become a reliable tool to fill in the gaps and to service those who need the support and information the most. Folkbildning doesn’t come with a diploma. It’s a method for learning, together with others without a formal teacher of a formal curriculum. Scientists from International School of Economics in Jönköping, Sweden, found an obvious correlation between participation in study circles and the chances of getting a job.[2] The link is particularly clear when it comes to citizens born abroad with little formal education.

ABF Restad Gård Värnesborg Foto: Emelie Asplund

This pandemic situation has forced us to act fast and determined to prioritize our previously quite slow digitization. We must find new ways to do things and at the same time keep focus on our prioritized audiences and main goals. We must learn to reach out even more to the most vulnerable people in the society. We are learning how to cooperate even more within our own organization, but also with affiliates and the study circle facilitators. We learn to not give up, to listen and improve. ABF will come out even stronger when we are finally back to a new normal. 

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Learning disabilities in the work place – how do we include everyone in the rapid change of work?

Due to the changing world of work, almost every work assignment and task requires the mastering of basic skills. In production of goods the process may change weekly according to customer sales orders. This requires amendments in working methods, devices, customer service etc.  Digitalisation, robotization, and the constant amendments in production require basic skills, constant learning and the adaptation of new skills every day.

Basic skills are the core in all learning. There is no longer a workplace or assignment where you could manage without reading an instruction or manual, writing a report or filling in a document, using digital technology and information. In the changing world of work we need to understand better how to make learning both efficient and desirable for everybody at work, also for those, who lack in basic skills and feel fear and shame in opening up about their learning disabilities. 

Työ sujuvaksi! was a finnish ESF project by TSL in cooperation with trade unions, work organisations and business managers, supervisors and employees’ representatives. The project for instance used web-based material and tried different assistive technologies to help the employees perform their tasks more proficiently. One sample is to make learning the tasks easier by creating interactive images, videos and 360° media with ThingLink.

Read the full article at the EPALE website. Do you want to know more about the project and its results? Contact the TSL project coordinator Mervi Ylitalo.

How jobskills can be matched with specific job criteria – an Icelandic pilot project

As the working life changes the need to match the competences of employees with criteria for specific jobs also increases. Enabling lifelong learning is a must and a current icelandic pilot project focuses on validation of skills against specific job criteria. The Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ), through its educational department, are members of ABF Norden and they are also one of the partners in the project.

The project aims at developing methods and tools for validation in working life through field trials in five jobs in close cooperation with stakeholders. The purpose of the validation process is to make competences visible, recognized and certified. On-the-job training, following the results of validation, will be a part of the system.

The assessment criteria used in the validation process will be based on competency analysis of jobs and the implementation of the process will be based on the needs of individuals and companies.

The project aims at being beneficiary to both employees and employers;

  • Visibility of knowledge and competences
  • Visibility of areas for improvement
  • Increased opportunities for job development
  • Recognized competences can be taken into account when wages are decided


  • Competence utalization is optimized, leading to increased competetiveness
  • Increased focus on competence development
  • Clearer competence requirements for job development and recruitment
  • Respect for the company/industry

The results of the project will be used to build a foundation for a sustainable system of validation in working life.

reykjavik-1988082_1920 Pixabay

About FA


Fræðslumiðstöð atvinnulífsins (FA) (e.The Education and Training Service Centre (ETSC)) is owned by the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ), the Confederation of Icelandic Employers (SA), the Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB), the Ministry of Finance and the Association of Local Authorities in Iceland. In connection with the collective agreement between ASI and SA in 2002, the Icelandic government issued a statement of intent which led to the establishment of FA. Operation began in 2003.

We don’t cancel our activities – we adapt and go digital!

The last couple of weeks has been very hectic for the people working in the ABF Norden national member organisations. The social distancing needed to control the Corona outbreak has resulted in the need to very quickly transform many activites in to digital form. The need and the right for every individual to learn and be inspired is constant and when the pre-requisites changes so does the study organisations! 

Here a some examples of the work that has been done so far:

In Sweden the ABF has set up the “Meeting emergency” help line where any NGO-organisation can get help to go digital with annual meetings, study circles or cultural events. A guide for Digital non-formal adult education with tips on pedagogics, digital tools aso. will help organisations and individuals through the process in detail.

In Finland TSL has transformed for instance their work with immigrant groups  to digital form and video conference is an important tool in this. TSL is also offering help to record and share videos as well as assisting in holding interactive webinars. A lot of focus is also on changing the courses held for their national member organisations in to  digital form.

In Denmark the AOF has offered online courses to those in the work force who has been laid off. It is a way of buildning competence and keeping active during this very uncertain period. Another innovation is “30 minutes of Folkbildning” where a guest holds a short lecture on a relevant and current subject live on Facebook.

In Norway the AOF transformed 150 courses to digital form in one week. A huge task that was made possible thanks to the AOF staff and the students themselves. AOF also encourages people to take this chance to build and strengthen their competence and offers a wide range of courses online for those interested.


Climate- and coronacrisis; How can the Nordic Model meet these challenges? Time to apply for Nordenskolan 6!

Nordenskolan (The Nordic School) is a course about the possibilities and challenges of the Nordic model. It is a joint project for ABF Norden and the Nordic labour movements collaborational organisation SAMAK.

  • Read the invitation for Nordenskolan 6 (in swedish) here.
  • Read more about Nordenskolan 5 here.
  • Visit the Nordenskolan website here.
  • Let us know you are interested via the link here. (By June 5th at the latest.)

Working to complete the group assignment in Copenhagen.

” To have strong networks is one of the most important tools to have to be able to influence and affect society in the direction you want it to go. In the Nordic countries and in the workers’ movement we have a strong tradition of co-operation and this grows even stronger when we see what a difference we can make together in the world.

The Nordic School is a direct example of how we can build networks in practise – where driven individuals from the workers’ movement in the Nordic countries collectively educate themselves.

The Alumni Network ties the classes of The Nordic School together and gives added value both for new and old participants.

Emilia Työrä

Participant in the Nordic school in 2015, Chair of the Nordic School Alumni board and a member of parliament for the Social Democrats in Sweden. 

Don’t hoard food – hoard neighbours

In Sweden the ABF is supporting Beredsam – a podcast on readiness for crisis and “prepping”. Today they have released an extra podcast (in swedish) because of the Corona virus outbreak.

They have five tips on what to do in this situation, as an individual:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Stay at home if you are having symptoms – if possible work from home even if you are not having any symptoms.
  3. Have a little extra of the food you normally eat at home (but don’t over do it).
  4. Don’t spread rumours.
  5. Be solidaric!

You can also read this interview with Herman Geijer in Dagens Nyheter where his best advice for handling a big crisis is to get to know your neighbours. Our ability to co-operate is essential and a collective crisis is best handled as a collective.

What do you learn from representing your co-workers as a shop steward? The Balance model can be a way of documenting it.

As a shop steward (def. a union member elected to represent coworkers in dealings with management) you build new competences through your work representing your fellow co-workers. The Norwegian Federation of Labour Unions (LO) has together with AOF Norway tried to map out which these competences are and find a model for how they can be documented. The project has been a part of the “Year of elected representatives 2019” and the final report has just been presented.

The so called “Balance model”, taken from the retail and health sectors, has been tried and the results are positive. The model can be used to build a common “LO-qualification” that can describe the informal competences built up over a few years. This would not only benefit todays shop stewards but It could also strengthen recruitment.

Read more about it (in norwegian) here.