Developing and sustaining partnerships and networks
Developing partnerships and networks: programme aims
The aim of strengthening local partnerships in Flanders was to more firmly embed the GOAL-service within the existing services and to show the usefulness of GOAL to these other services, by further developing GOAL’s complementarity with these existing services. Furthermore, the project aimed to create stronger recognition of the GOAL-service as added value to the other services at all levels of the local partner organisations in order to increase referrals and to build a basis for further structural development of the collaboration.
Different types of activities have been carried out to reach these aims such as meetings with and presentations to staff members of the partner organisations at different level to raise awareness about the GOAL-service and to create more structural collaboration. Also an online appointment system has been implemented and the use of it promoted to the partners organisations for making appointments with a GOAL-counsellor.
Existence and scope of partnerships and networks
Partnerships and networks of De Stap and De Leerwinkel are situated in five domains:
Migration and Civic Integration
Partnerships are essential to the Flemish GOAL services. These partnerships are necessary for financial support, the referral of clients, and the exchange of knowledge and knowhow. Stakeholders all agree that GOAL should be structurally embedded in the policy domain of Education, on a supra-local level, if the GOAL service wants to be acknowledged as a relevant partner. However it’s noted that there should be collaborations with other policy domains such as Employment, Welfare and Migration.
Challenges and barriers
There’s no overall consensus between potential organisations about the relevance, quality and added value of the GOAL service: some organisations seem to doubt whether guidance to training and education is necessary, while others believe that they can provide GOAL-type services as well.
Up till now, there is no collaboration between GOAL services and trade unions or employer organisations. It would be an interesting opportunity to explore collaboration in this area. The scope of the GOAL project however did not have the capacity to start-up these kind of collaboration structures from scratch.
Reciprocal partnerships are essential for ‘warm transfers’. Such partnerships reduce the likelihood that clients have to explain their situation completely again, by facilitating the sharing of crucial information such as the client’s employment or social support status. Intensive collaborations should make this happen, while embedding different services at one location could also potentially promote warm transfer.
When referring clients to one another, exchange of client information would be useful. However, this requires:
A shared client registration system that could be accessed by different counsellors from different organisations
Approval by clients to share this kind of personal information.
The biggest challenge and threat for the GOAL project is the lack of structural embedment. This absence hinders a long term perspective and makes it difficult for organisations to establish themselves as sustainable partners. Moreover, lack of structural embedment hampers GOAL services in gaining funding, in providing sustainable guidance, and in maintaining and developing partnerships.
Although one department (Education) will have to carry final responsibility, other departments (Welfare, Migration, Work) do have to share the mission and vision of a GOAL service and are jointly responsible for the promotion and effectiveness of the service.
GOAL is a shared supra-local and local responsibility. Only in this way can GOAL services be available to all adult learners (and not only to those who live in the city of Ghent or the province of West Flanders). However, this requires a political commitment at the level of the Flemish government. Up to now, this commitment appears to be lacking.
Strengths and achievements
Partnerships and an elaborated professional network are elementary to GOAL service providers, for:
interaction with organisations in the field of welfare, education, employment and migration for referring clients, and for exchanging knowhow and knowledge.
growing awareness within the partner organisations of the importance of GOAL at local and at Flemish level and increase of referrals (especially PES).
During the GOAL project term, both de Stap and de Leerwinkel succeeded in strengthening their partnerships further. This resulted in increased referrals.
More and more partner organisations seem to be convinced of the complementarity and uniqueness of the service provided by GOAL.
Although during the term of the GOAL project, there has been no evolution in the political commitment towards GOAL-services, the project gave an impulse to develop a policy paper that lays down a blueprint for the implementation of GOAL services in Flanders. This policy paper is being discussed with all members of the GOAL advisory committee (with the involvement of representatives of different policy domains at Flemish level) and an endorsement of these members will be sought in order to stimulate political support.