International experience exchange – education for peer support

Over the past 10 years, various training concepts have been developed for Peer Supporters (and similar) in several countries in Europe. Although there are different concepts and cultures, the core competence is built on experience. EX-IN in Germany has a training program for what they call experts through experience. 

In March 2022, we met the boardmembers of EX-IN and we talked about their work, how the training they provide works and what kind of role and position peer support has in both Norway and Germany. In November KBT Vocational school went on a study tour to experience EX-IN’s teaching in practice. 

Peer Supporters in Norway and Germany 

The profession of Peer Support workers is fairly new in Europe, and still under development. There are different terms, as for example Peer support worker, peer supporter or expert through experience.

Although many have an idea of ​​what the profession entails, there is still a long way to go before we have a common understanding throughout society. Everyone knows what a teacher or an engineer is, even though within the title they can have many different tasks, fields and ways of working. And the understanding of this is relatively similar almost wherever you are in the world. 

Peer Support work becoming recognized as professional

In Germany it seems that Peer Support work is regarded as assistance, but not yet qualified as professional. With their training programme, EX-IN want to facilitate people to do their jobs as well as possible. 

In Germany, there are strict rules for who can work in psychiatry, and it has only been a couple of years since Peer Support workers were recognized as a professional group that can work in the field. 

In Norway, we know that Peer Support workers and Peer Supporters have a variation of different tasks, and that some almost have to create their own job description. Nevertheless, in Norway we have a lot of good things going on in the work to get the profession more established. 

Pioneering work in both countries 

Both EX-IN and the Norwegian training for Peer Supportare quite new and it needs a forward thinking and continous developing. An exchange of experience helps a lot in this work.

We discovered that EX-IN and KBT have many similarities in our training programme. For example that the students/course participants use their experiences actively during the training, through dialogue and group tasks. And that we believe that experience and profession must be in equal dialogue to get better services. Though we have different types of training programs.

May learn from each other even if we have different approaches 

EX-IN’s courses consist of a lot of self-development, coping with life and learning how to use your experiences to help and support others with similiar experience. EX-IN don’t call it a Peer Support worker, but an «expert through experience». In that sense, they equate them with professionals. They are experts through their experience, while the skilled worker is an expert through his professional competence. 

When first consultant Anne and headmaster Karl Johan were on a study tour this autumn, they were able to take part in one of 12 training modules. In this way, they gained first-hand knowledge of how EX-IN’s teaching program works. 

What did we learn from the experience exchange? What insights did we get? 

Compared to the teaching at KBT Vocational School there seems to be a bit mote focus on diagnosis at EX-IN. That approach is different from the study program in the vocational school. Basic knowledge of diagnoses is one thing, but there’s a balance how to use it. Also timing for this is relevant. We want the resources found in each individual to be the focus, and not the labels. A trained Peer Support worker from KBT will not be a therapist in the clinical and traditional sense. 

But there are of course lessons for us to learn from how course participants at EX-IN experience the training. The participants became much involved in the course and somehow forced them to get in touch with their story and to learn how to share it.

Also the personal presentation of their story and the background of diagnosis made it more believable and real. What we may learn from this is to gain inspiration for how to activate and involve our students personal experience in the lectures.

Similarities to our education was the use of activating the participants in groupwork and tasks. High focus on reflection based training and dialogue. 

Why is international collaboration important to KBT Vocational School? 

KBT Vocational school still has a distinctive education compared to what we know of other education and training programs. The higher vocational education for Peer Support Workers is not a life management course, though students do report on growth and selv-development. It seems to be meaningful.

There is a need to develop more pedagogy in the area of ​​educating and training Peer Support workers. It is therefore essential to exchange experiences and knowledge across the field.

After 2 and a half years of teaching, KBT is og course still developing. By collaborating with others who offer various forms of training for experience consultants, we can exchange experiences to mutual benefit – not least for future students, and for Peer Support as a profession.

PIA project attending Alzheimer Europe Conference – A paradigm shift on its way?  

In October, 9 representatives of the Erasmus+ PIA project went to Romania and the Alzheimer Europe Conference. There they got to present the project on a poster and were met with a lot of curiosity and interest. Especially persons with dementia and their relatives wanted to know more about our approach to dementia care. The fact that you can be a resource based solely on your personal experience with dementia seemed to be appealing to this group.  

Logo Pia Project

Peer Support Workers as an Innovative force in Advocacy in dementia care (PIA) is an Erasmus+ project with partners from Greece, Italy, Romania and Norway.

This project aims to make sustainable and competence enhancing services for persons with dementia. We want to find new ways to involve users and relatives in the development of services.

Project goals

  • Developing learning material and methods training peer supporters in dementia care
  • To develop strategies for policy. In PIA, they will find out how they can start national strategies for dementia, and open up the opportunity to use peer supporters
  • To develop a digital collaboration platform
  • Dissemination of knowledge of the results

Building networks and bridges 

Attending a European Conference of this scale, gives good opportunities to building networks at an international level. In the long run we can hopefully get fruitful cooperations around developing a new and supplementary role in European dementia care. This year, for example, we got in touch with the Swedish and the Danish dementia associations. And we got to tell them about our project about Peer Support Workers in the dementia care.  

Health services in Europe – differences and equalities  

In many countries outside of Scandinavia, the health services are built up on different ways than we are used to in Norway. While we have statutory services in Norway, other countries health services are more based on private initiatives and voluntary work. Not all countries have the same degree of public services to take care of the needs of its residents.  

At the Conference, we met organizations from countries like England and Scotland, that we might collaborate with in the future. They have many of the same basic mindset as we have, but are more based on voluntary work. Peer Support, but not necessarily Peer Support Workers.  

Bilde fra konferansesal
People from all over Europe getting an update on the dementia field at the Alzheimer Europe Conference 2022

To work as a Peer Supporter = being a resource 

It’s important to most people being viewed as a resource. It does something with you, knowing someone needs us for something. Perhaps, especially if we have felt like a burden to someone earlier in life. To utilize the resources of people with dementia and their relatives, is also important in the PIA project.  

Maybe that was the reason persons diagnosed with dementia and next of kin to persons with dementia showed the most interest and curiosity about the PIA project. Roger Santokhie from KBT remembered one in particular that came to talk to him at the Conference.  

“We met a guy called Nathan at the Conference. He and his father are taking care of his grandmother, who have dementia. British Nathan thought it was convenient for the government, calling it “informal care giver”. So that they don’t have to pay them. But it IS a full-time job. So he thought it was nice to have a formal title on it: Peer Support Worker.”  

Sense a change in how people look at persons with dementia 

Karl Johan Johansen from KBT, states that he could sense a change of attitudes among the participants at the Alzheimer Europe Conference.  People now increasingly see the need of user involvement from persons with dementia and their relatives. Also, there have been a development around how we relate to the diagnose. There’s new medications on the market, and studies imply that lifestyle can have an impact on the development of dementia.  

Persons with dementia as active attendants at the Alzheimer Europe Conference 

The conference in itself also gave the impression of taking user involvement seriously. Several of the attendants of the conference actually are diagnosed with dementia,  and some of them was even listed as speakers in the programme. This contributed a lot to raise the user perspective. We can also see the tendence of strengthening user organizations. An example at the conference, is Deepnes dementia.   

Santokhie also sensed a higher focus on user involvement in the dementia field. At the conference they were speaking about challenges far ahead in time. Even if there is nothing new about that, the focus of how people with dementia can be a more active part of solving the challenges were higher. In what way can persons with dementia and their relatives be a part of the solution?  

Lifestyle and the society’s impact on persons with dementia 

A central topic at the conference, were research on the possibilities of reducing the risk of getting dementia through changing lifestyle. Another topic was: What happens to persons with dementia in the Ukrainian war?  

Next year: Hope to get more attention around the PIA project 

The Alzheimer Europe Conference are arranged different places every year. Next year, it will be in Helsinki. There the project partners in PIA hope to have a parallel session about Peer Support Workers in dementia care. It’s a field with a lot of potential, and hopefully there will be a lot of development in the years to come.  

Bilde av Roger Santokhie
Building bridges was the main headline of the 2022 conference

First report from SMAB project out

During the spring of 2022, the Erasmus+ project Smart Business for All have conducted case studies in Norway, Germany, Poland and Greece. They have interviewed both immigrants and people who seeks to support migrant entrepreneurs in the countries. Some of the findings in the report, is that there is potential for migrant entrepreneurs in the contries.

«The main challenges are discrimination, lack of language skills, bureaucracy, knowledge about
the local market, basic knowledge about starting a business, and support in form of funding and mentorship. SMAB will be able to tackle some of these issues in the next part of our project.», the conclusion says.

Read the full report

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The Class of 2022 has graduated!

It’s been 2 years of educating Peer Support Workers here at KBT Vocational School. Two years with a higher vocational education for peer supporters in Norway. We are so proud of the achievements of our students. And to be able to welcome new students in a couple of months!

Another milestone for KBT Vocational School

The second graduation ceremony at KBT Vocational School, is another milestone for us. A lot has happened the last year. We have moved. Not far, but to a floor with more space. We have started working with 2 Erasmus + projects. And we’ve been lucky enough to get to travel to both Germany and Denmark to meet others who have different kinds of education programmes for peer supporters.


International cooperate – finding new solutions in dementia care

The Erasmus+ project PIA (Peer Support Workers as an Innovative force in Advocacy in dementia care) seeks to make sustainable and competence enhancing services for persons with dementia. Peer Support Workers have become more common in health and welfare services in recent years. They are a resource to promote the user perspective, which contribute to better tailored services. Peer Support Workers may also strengthen the recovery orientation in the services.

In dementia care, however, Peer Support Workers are quite new. It has been tried, but until now not very successfully. The nature of dementia makes it difficult to use people with the diagnose as Peer Support Workers. In the PIA project, we therefore want to introduce former informal carers of people with dementia as Peer Support Workers. A pilot project in Trøndelag, Norway, shows promising preliminary results.

Photo of peer support worker Randi
Peer support worker Randi, holding a presentation. She is working at a pilot project in the municipalities Frøya and Indre Fosen. They are helping elders with dementia in theire every day life.

Differences between European countries

The PIA project comprises of participants from Italy, Romania, Greece and Norway. This gives us a good opportunity to compare the health care systems in these countries, in regard to how Peer Support Workers can fit in dementia care. Which possibilities exists in each country, and what can we learn from each other?

There are sosio-economic differences in the partner countries, also in systems and culture regarding taking care of our elders. Some are a result of economy. Norway for example, is a wealthy country compared to many others. That gives economical room to have a large public health care system. Even if more private services have emerged in the last decades, the public system is still robust. That helps to reducing social inequality.

In contradiction, countries like Greece have had economic difficulties in the last decades. So, how can we introduce Peer Support Workers in dementia care with these differences? Well, we have to start with dialogue and research, to identify both possibilities and challenges.

Photo of Ida Myran
Ida from Norway are presenting the web page for the PIA project.

Fruitful meeting in Trondheim

In May, the project partners in PIA gathered in Trondheim to kick-off the activities.  During the project period, the project group will have meetings in every participating country. The Trondheim meeting was the first, and the project group got to know each other a little better.

At the meeting, the project web page and management plan were presented. In addition, important question about the project were discussed. Because, as mentioned: we do have different starting points on the road to better health care for persons with dementia.

Photo of a woman at PIA meeting
We had a lot of interesting discussions at the PIA gathering
Women at PIA meeting (photo)
At the PIA meeting, we had participants from Greece, Italy, Romania and Norway
Photo of PIA meeting
Project members at the Trondheim meeting

Project partners

Project goals

  • Developing learning material and methods training peer supporters in dementia care
  • To develop strategies for policy. In PIA, they will find out how they can start national strategies for dementia, and open up the opportunity to use peer supporters
  • To develop a digital collaboration platform
  • Dissemination of knowledge of the results
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Happy people (photo)
I between the serious discussions, the project group also can have some fun
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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

How can we support migrant entrepreneurs in Norway? 

There is war in Europe, and Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to nearby European countries. Norway will be taking in new refugees. Hence, it is relevant to uncover how Norway is supporting migrant entrepreneurs. High employment is imperative for the Norwegian system to function. At the same time, there is good reason to believe that the newly arrived migrants want to work. Therefore, it is essential to provide people with relevant information about Norway, like information about start-ups.

Start-up facilitation and support exists in Norway, however, the support for non-Norwegian speakers differs based location. In other words, your experience in Trondheim and Kongsberg may differ.

Start-up courses in English  

In March 2022, Startup Migrant UG had a Preschool for entrepreneurs in Norway. Some of the Preschools in Norway are in Norwegian, others are in English, and last 3 days. The English intensive courses are the most popular according to the Co-founder Nicolai Strøm-Olsen. Why are entrepreneurs interested in these courses? Well, as a participant you will learn how to develop your ideas to a business idea, and how to succeed. 

KBT and KBT Vocational School are striving for social innovation and to empower marginalized groups. Therefore, KBT Vocational School became interested in the Preschool in Kongsberg. Another reason for the visit was the connection between the Preschools and the Erasmus + project Smart Business for All. In other words, we were there to learn how Startup Migrant work, and the entrepreneur situation in Norway.


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The new logo for the Erasmus + project Smart Business for All. Please check out our Facebook-page

Erasmus + Project Smart Business for All – SMAB 

KBT Vocational School is currently mapping out the situation for migrant entrepreneurs in Norway through the project SMAB. Additionally, to the vital information entrepreneurship in Norway, we also had the pleasure of building a better relationship with our project partner Startup Migrants, who has offices in both Berlin and Oslo. Even though KBT Vocational School came as observants, we also created connections with the participants.  

Principle Karl Johan Johansen and Educational Consultant Preben Hegland represented KBT Vocational School in Kongsberg. We had the privilege to experience an intensive course, which is targeting migrant entrepreneurs. Startup Migrant has a network in migrant European entrepreneurship, and hold similar intensive courses also in Germany, and Poland. During the visit we also had time to become better acquainted with SMAB partner Nicolai Strøm-Olsen and Startup Migrant’s Pira Thiru. 

KBT Vocational School’s representatives Karl Johan Johansen and Preben Hegland had the pleasure of meeting Nicolai Strøm-Olsen and Norway’s new entreprenuers.
(Foto: Pira Thiru)

Preschool – Connects entrepreneurs with different backgrounds 

Startup Migrants’ Preschools have become a meeting point for entrepreneurs with different passports and mother tongues. This is the result of the Preschool’s vision of a place for all who want to become an entrepreneur.    

As a participant in the Preschool, you gain access to real stories and advice from successful entrepreneurs with a Q & A afterwards. Further, the participants can connect with the said entrepreneurs and start networking in the field of entrepreneurship through Startup Migrant.  

Participants with different backgrounds 

The participants on this course came from countries around the world like Spain, India, Iran, and Afghanistan. Some had lived in Norway for about 15 years, while others had only been in Norway for a couple of months. Even though the knowledge of the Norwegian lifestyle varied, all the participants were eager to create a start-up in Norway.   

We at KBT Vocational School would like to thank Startup Migrant for inviting us to visit, and we are looking forward to future collaborations.  

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Social Justice for immigrants

KBT Vocational School wants to simplify the start-up process for immigrants

To celebrate the World Day of Social Justice on the 20th of February, KBT Vocational School has decided to share news of our European project named Smart Business for All.

Entrepreneurship demands idees and hard work, however, entrepreneurs also need knowledge of the country’s language and legal framework. In other words, starting a business is even more difficult for migrant entrepreneurs. However, how can we at KBT Vocational School be of an assistance in the European landscape of migrant start-ups?  Well, through the Erasmus + project Smart Business for All, this project aims to find new solutions for migrant entrepreneurs.

Smart Business for All’s goals:

  • Case studies about immigrants` need for training and facilitation
  • Development of an e-learning program which focus on immigrant entrepreneurs
  • Development of a web-based resource bank for said entrepreneurs
  • Facilitate immigrant start-ups for the green/ecological sector
  • Quality management and evaluation of activities and results (outcomes and impacts)

Case study about entrepreneurship

In the spring of 2022, KBT Vocational School with our European partners will create a case study, on the subject of migrant experience with start-ups. The goal is to develop a framework with vital information about migrants’ access to assistance and support in the start-phase of the start-up.  

This data will contain information about the partners country on national, regional and local level. KBT Vocational School will for example, use public data from SSB to identify the current situation in Norway.  

The project also entails focus groups with migrants’ entrepreneurs and migrant businesses. It is through focus groups that we will gain crucial information about the migrant entrepreneurs’ experience in Norway, Poland Germany, Spain, and Greece. The end result will be a report with information about what works and what needs to improve.  

KBT Vocational School is represented by Principal Karl Johan Johansen, and Preben Hegland.

KBT Vocational School’s partners:

KBT Vocational School’s aim with this project

KBT Vocational School wants to do its part in the inclusion of marginalized groups in society. The goal is to make it easier to create a business, even if you are living in a foreign country. The untapped knowledge and experience from migrants should be a resource for the community, which will also create a better connection between the local community and the migrants. The creation of a bond between the local society and its citizens is imperative for KBT Vocational School. In other words, the end goal is a good match with KBT Vocational School’s core values, which are based on Recovery, and the CHIME-model.

KBT Vocational School’s role

KBT Vocational School is responsible for this part of the project. This means that the end report will be delivered by KBT Vocational School. As the nucleus of the case studies assignment, KBT Vocational School will also provide our partners with templates and collecting data.  

The project has monthly meetings on Zoom with KBT Vocational School as the chairman of the meetings. In these online meetings, partners are given a space for questions and discussions. Additionally, to meetings, weekly communications also happen through the EU-platform ADINPROJECT.

Additionally, the project will have yearly physical meetings between the partners. The first meeting place for this European collaboration is Trondheim. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first meeting has been postponed, however, the lates news is that it may happen March.


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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

KBT Vocational School in Erasmus+ Project – Smart Business for all

This fall we got the message that KBT Vocational School and our partners got financial funding for our Erasmus+ project Smart Business For All. This project aims to give migrants tools to start their own businesses in their new country. In addition, we hope this could be a useful tool for other marginalized groups, such as persons with mental health and/or addiction problems. We will achieve our goals, by:  

  • Executing case studies of immigrants needs for training and facilitation 
  • Developing an e-learning program for immigrant entrepreneurs 
  • Developing a web-based resource bank 
  • Creating a Career KIT to facilitate immigrant start-ups  
  • Quality management and evaluation of activities and results 

Partners in the project 

The team in this project consists of organizations from Central Greece, Spain, Germany, Poland and Norway:  

Already we have had two project meetings, and are now working with the formalities and main frames for the project. 

As a part of the project, we will conduct case studies from each country that are representet in the project. We’re curious to find out what similarities and differences there can be around what kind of needs marginalized groups in different countries have. This work begins early in 2022.  

Each partner in the project have different main tasks, and we are exited to see what we can achieve together by the end of the project in 2023.  

Empowerment of the vulnerable 

With this project we want to create tools that can empower humans in a vulnerable situation. KBT Vocational School builds on a Recovery oriented mindset. According to the CHIME model, Empowerment is a factor in what gives people a meaningful life. Therefore this project is right in our alley.  

We also want to promote the entrepreneurial spirit, social inclusion, opportunity for profit and better living standards and more. We know that many migrants and other in marginalized groups have enormous resources, that may in some way be hard  to see for their (new) neighbours. Language, culture and social stigma may be factors that make it difficult to discover. With this project we hope we can break down some of this barriers.  

Background of the project 

The initiator of this project, is the Center for Education and Innovation in Greece. They’ve had an leading role in creating the application for this project. Now that we got the financial fundings for the project, KBT Vocational School will be the leading partner during the project.  

The project started as an initiative from InnoveED in Greece. Greece is the country in Europe that has the greatest challenges with immigrants and refugees. We have gradually been building up a partnership, and after a while we decided to apply for this project together.  

We are a strong team, and we aim to find some exciting and innovative solutions together.  

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.