Get to know Maks vzw!

Maks  is composed of three services: Maks Digital encourages children, youth, adults and the elderly; to improve their digital skills. Maks Work coaches job seekers in their search for a job through individual counseling, group sessions, digital- and language courses. Maks Graphic provides training for long term unemployed in graphic design and generates qualitative graphic design services to clients from the (non)profit sector.

We are also training low educated job seekers on the work floor. This way, we are empowering them globally to promote a “wellbeing”, which will also enhance their chances on the labor market. Maks annually reaches about 2500 users, the vast majority from disadvantaged groups, including some 500 job seekers in counseling. Annually, about fifty people take their first steps with the computer. Maks also organizes fun and educational digital activities in schools to encourage children and youth to become producers of ICT rather than only consumers. We train youngsters on steam skills.

Maks recognizes the power of stories. Job seekers and other vulnerable target groups learn to make their own videos about their life story. We call this “digital storytelling”, an impact full process in which people learn to process and express a part of their story or a point of view on a significant experience. In the same way, we make video CVs with jobseekers, in which we teach job seekers how to convert their CV into a small movie. Through these various projects, young and old are confirmed in their self-esteem and learning capacities, which helps them to find their way in modern society and in the labor market.

What is the background of Maks vzw in open and free technologies?

Maks work culture and action strategies have always been in line with the values of the FLOSS culture: we favor the exchange of knowledge, collaboration and mutual support; based on the resources and motivations of its active members. MAKS already uses FLOSS tools (for example: Arduino, Scratch, WordPress,…) but this is not yet a conscious and assumed choice by the whole organization. We are taking advantage of the OPEN AE project to create internally a shared, motivated and justified position for the promotion of FLOSS tools in our digital inclusion activities.

 We have two Digital Public Spaces. DPS is a non-profit public space that offers a public access too initiation and support for information and communication technologies. This space is equipped with computers connected to the Internet. Such a space offers its users a variety of supervised, collective or individual activities in the form of reception, assistance, training or information. The methods are inclusive, and attempt to meet the demands and needs of the user.

MAKS has two DPS (1080PC in Molenbeek and OPEN ATELIER 110 in Kuregem) in two vulnerable districts near the Brussels Canal. In concrete terms, the digital public space is an open door to the needs of the neighborhood. Above all, it is an inclusive place of welcome, it must be pleasant, open, available and visible. Anyone can come (children, teenagers, adults, seniors, job seekers, people from the neighborhood, migrants, the poor, the disabled, others…).

In each of our two Open Spaces, there are about fifteen computers in working order with a good internet connection and courses and activities; including the necessary human support. Our facilitators help technically and humanely. The objective is never to do it in the person’s place, the objective is to give the person the opportunity to learn to “get by” with digital, with our help if necessary. We aim to develop user autonomy.

The Brussels DPSs are doing a fundamental job in the face of the rapid development of digital technology (dematerialization of paper media and online access without human mediation). DPSs want to reduce implicit exclusion from 15% to 20% of the most vulnerable citizens, who no longer have access to their fundamental rights (health, housing, administration, education, employment, social assistance, culture…).

 OPEN AE aims to “promote open technologies in non-formal adult education; to support digital inclusion and the improvement of digital skills of multimedia animators and their learners”. For Maks Digital it is an opportunity to train our staff on FLOSS culture and technologies. We are taking advantage of the dynamics of the OPEN AE project to move forward on the creation of professional training for multimedia animators involved in digital inclusion.

The objective is no longer to learn a specific “digital skill”, but overall to develop a new “meta-skill” allowing the person to achieve a certain “intuitive digital fluency” (an ability to manage), allowing the person to benefit from a service that meets their needs. It is a global empowerment process for active citizenship.

In this perspective we believe that FLOSS technologies represent an educational opportunity:

-to facilitate free access to useful tools

-to protect our uses from advertising exploitation

-to invest public money in tools with a public code

-to encourage active and responsible citizenship

-to empower the user globally as an actor and not only a client

Thanks to the dynamics of the project we hope to internally:

-train our facilitators and better professionalize their functions.

-try to migrate our two digital public spaces to FLOSS.

-allow a conscious choice of collaborative peer-to-peer sharing tools.

In the longer term, the objective is to federate the OPEN AE training offer with the network of other Digital Public Spaces in Brussels. Have been created since July 2019 a federation to better share resources (subsidies, training, visibility, knowledge exchange…). MAKS is one of the founding members (and in the Board) of CABAN-DIBAC (Collective of Brussels Actors for Digital Accessibility). We involve several resource persons of the CABAN-DIBAC network in the creation of the “Pilot Open-AE blended course”” so that they can take ownership of the project in order to better adapt it to field needs, to later offer the training modules and the toolbox via CABAN-DIBAC to all multimedia animators of the other Digital Public Spaces in Brussels.