SkillSafari is a Finnish organisation dedicated to creating successful careers through recognition and validation of skills with their Open Badges solution. Their approach is built on years of working with skills development. The badges they create and issue are based on international expertise like UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, Finnish education system, high level research and practical needs of employees.
SkillSafari is offering their services in the continent of Africa at the moment. One of the key challenges in Africa is the quality of education, which also stems from the fact that while there is more education available, it’s not always meeting the bar in terms of quality. Education is often provided in an out-dated fashion and although new ideologies and technologies are valued, they have not yet resulted in bringing a larger impact in the quality of education.
One crucial priority and one of the key themes of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is making sure that all children receive quality education. “Technology can bring great improvements to education accessibility, relevance and inclusiveness. However, those goals can only be met when education is integrated with a clear strategy and new type of understanding of what it can do,” Satu Järvinen, founder and CEO of SkillSafari, explains. Africa with its young population provides a unique opportunity to innovate and find globally significant solutions that will pave the way to education’s next era.
Satu says that they believe they can support the working age population to become recognised as professionals by shifting the focus from providing learning to recognising skills in a scalable way.
“Our aim is to support employment and entrepreneurship in emerging countries. Open Badges is the first digital concept that allows us to recognise skills digitally and that is why they are the core of our business.”
SkillSafari is a badging company and at the moment their core business is to create and issue badges. The first idea of the service dates back a few years and took more shape in the following years as they found like-minded innovators and joined forces in developing the initial concept of the service. SkillSafari was then launched in December 2017, so the company is still fairly new.
There are two main sectors that SkillSafari is focusing on in their projects; they work on badges related to capacity building of teachers and small-scale entrepreneurship. They are hoping to expand their work towards vocational skills that the employers need and appreciate. “Badge applicants are mostly people interested in advancing their careers and gaining more skills to do so,” Satu mentions.
Since Satu was familiar with Open Badge Factory and had worked with Discendum in prior projects, it was logical to choose the platform as their badge platform. The badge application feature was also one of the key features for SkillSafari and not all other Open Badge platforms provide the same feature. “We also appreciate the open communication with Discendum (company behind OBF and OBP). They’re always open to hear about new development ideas and any findings we make in working with our customers. That is extremely important to us because as the badging scene develops globally, we need a partner who is flexible and adapts to the changing world we live in and we can better serve our customers.”
The main challenges they’ve had are related to accreditation and trust. As badges in their case stem from informal areas, it takes a bit more time for the education sector to get used to. Satu points out that working in Africa however gives more space to innovate and develop new approaches compared to many European countries.
“It’s important that people who are seeing badges can trust them, the issuer of the badge and everything in it. That is why we work towards creating trust around SkillSafari as an organisation. Technologies develop and I believe this issue will resolve with time,” Satu ponders.
Present and Future
SkillSafari has received encouraging comments from African education developers and industry leaders, with most of them coming back with the same initial response: “This makes sense”. The badge recipients have been overwhelmed with the new approach to gaining validation for skills: “This is really very useful, I am very happy“. Reactions have been good although the transparency of badging sometimes creates a bit of confusion. “The badging approach derives from new 21st century paradigms where openness and collaboration are more important than ownership and protection,” Satu explains.
The future is looking nice and bright for SkillSafari. There’s a clear interest to start issuing badges among customers across Africa. “We are still small but growing bigger at a nice pace. Right now the future is looking very good and full of badges,” Satu ends happily.