Adult learning is a vital component of EU education policies, as it is essential to competitiveness and employability, social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development across Europe. The challenge is to provide opportunities for all, especially for the most disadvantaged groups who need support with learning opportunities the most.

Adults who have low confidence, low self esteem and poor social skills often have the lowest educational achievements, and find it hardest to re-engage with education, work or further training. 

Merely inviting (and in some cases forcing) them into work or further formal or non-formal training settings without a preparation on their self-confidence based on social, vital, metacognitive (learning to learn) and initiative skills will often be unproductive, because they simply do not have the belief in themselves to even try to achieve and thus quickly become disillusioned. 

People with low social competence are usually those most at the risk of social isolation – becoming more lonely and depressed, and in most cases developing from mild to severe on-going mental health related problems.  

Recent statistics from the UK indicate figures of a mental health crisis in the country. One in four adults over the age 16 is reported to be affected by some kind of mental illness, according to the Office of National Statistics (2004), and suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35 (ONS, 2000). Mental illness costs the UK economy £77 billion per year (Department of Health, 2009), and the problem is only getting worse, as stress and depression are set to double in a generation (Young Foundation, 2009.) Nine out of ten prisoners has a mental health disorder (The Mental Health Foundation, 2000). 
Health and education outcomes are clearly linked. Without the core skills of confidence, resilience and basic social and communication competences, it is almost impossible for anyone to embrace education in any meaningful way.  A detailed report on mental health by the UK Government, called “New Horizons–Towards a Shared Vision for Mental Health,” 2009, showed that the challenge imposed by mental health can best be overcome by:
  • Early intervention: identifying problems early on and addressing them using appropriate therapies;
  • Focusing on overall emotional wellbeing, rather than just addressing the symptoms of mental illness, and
  • Improving resiliency by enabling people to cope with life’s problems.
WAVES Grundtvig Learning Partnership project is initially based on the statistical findings and positive outcomes of The Wave Project's work in Cornwall (the UK) July 2010- November 2012, which adopted the use of indoor preparation/post reflection sessions and outdoor challenge activities as a method of social competence restoration through working on personal, interpersonal, cultural and vitality skills for disadvantaged groups.

WAVES (2013-2015) at macro level, aims to improve and expand outdoor challenge adult training methods by implementing them at different environments of Europe and share best practices, to develop further and more comprehensive adult training models to increase social competences(focusing on self-confidence, communication, life- long learning, vitality, cross-cultural understanding, learning to learn and active citizenship).

In accordance with the defined macro goal, WAVES has brought together the organisations that have used similar techniques for helping people overcome barriers to learning by building confidence and social skills through outdoor activities and challenges. 

Another main motivation for WAVES is to share and compare models of good practice of adult training that promote improved confidence, wellbeing and social inclusion for the disadvantaged people over the age of 16 with social and/or learning difficulties stemming from special needs, disability, age, gender, race, ethnic and religion differences. 

Therefore, WAVES aims to become a collaboration and communication network system among partner organisations who are committed to exploring the impact of environmental learning activities (such as surfing, snowboarding, water-gym, cycling, nature exploration, hiking and trekking) on the development of social skills and competences in disadvantaged people. 

It is principally planned that each partner focuses on one different comparative skill-enabling environmental activity, therefore the results of the effects from different environmental activities in Europe can be contrasted and evaluated, whereas at the same time, conducting equal implementation methods of indoor preparation and post reflection sessions and other shared public and media events to create a comparative platform among partners.

WAVES, on the other side, will increase awareness levels among local people of aspects of the environment in terms of ecology and its protection; the social inclusion of disadvantaged people in communities; and the profusion of cooperation and communication frameworks at European and international levels.