The validation of non-formal and informal learning (VNFIL) offers great potential for making competences visible. For example, the participation of disadvantaged persons in the labor market can be facilitated through validation and the acquisition of (partial) qualifications (Cedefop 2015, 19). Non-formally or informally acquired competences are also becoming increasingly important in the context of lifelong learning. Thus, the importance of validating informally and non-formally acquired learning outcomes is also growing in this area, which means that it is receiving increasing attention in theory and practice of adult education. Despite the growing relevance, the field of validation in Europe is characterized by a high heterogeneity in terms of validation systems and procedures. At the same time, a Cedefop study (2015, 32f.) shows that confidence in validation depends primarily on the validation personnel, and therefore on the work done by people directly involved in validation and accompanying candidates: “Trust in validation largely depends on the work carried out by ‘frontline’ practitioners and professionals directly involved with validation candidates at different stages of the process” (Cedefop 2015, 32f.). Nevertheless, there is no consensus within the European Union on basic competence standards or the professionalization of validation personnel. Rather, there are very different approaches and practices of recognition and validation of informally and non-formally acquired competences, as well as training and professionalization of validation personnel in the EU.

This is where the transnational project PROVE (Professionalization of Validation Experts) steps in. Its goal is to support the professionalization of validation experts and thus to strengthen European validation systems. With funding provided by the European Union’s Erasmus+ program, ten project partner organizations from six European countries collaborated under this aim between 2019 and 2022. These were both research institutes and organizations specialized in validation practice, so the project was able to profit from scientific knowledge and a rich practical experience.

In the first phase of the partnership, a Competence Model was developed based on Eulers (2014) process model of Design-Based Research, which contains the central competences of validation personnel. In a next step, a Self-Evaluation Tool was designed, which validation professionals can use to reflect systematically their individual skills and find potential for development. Finally, within the PROVE project, a Learning Tool Kit was developed as a set of learning resources. Using the resources from the Tool Kit, validation experts can improve their competences in the field of validation. All our products are designed to be adaptable to different practices and contexts. Therefore, they are provided with a CC license, so that changes can be made, and practitioners can work with the material, even in an adapted form, as long as the authors are cited.