Context and aims
In Iceland, GOAL was focused on reaching out and bringing outreach to adults who have not previously engaged in educational-, training and employment guidance. Although contact routes existed, there was a need to improve these and to improve visibility and accessibility, so that the service would not be lost and would be understood by clients and partners alike. There have been various collaborations among different partners in the past, that has promoted the adult guidance services and increased demand. The guidance has been offered both within companies and the LLL-centres around the country. But collaboration has been fragmented in a sense, that it has been informal and depending on different seasons, various agents and different parts of the country. There is a need for formalised cooperation, especially since outreach to the most vulnerable groups, those that have the least amount of formal education, has been unsuccessful.
The outreach strategy in GOAL was very different from traditional means of outreach at the programme sites, where clients usually come on their own accord. Outreach took time and was not always successful since the service users readiness and perseverance was often lacking. There were a lot of no-shows and dropouts during the GOAL project in Iceland. The attempts that were made to reach out to companies and trade unions, were unsuccessful. The most efficient way to reach out to clients was via referrals from program partners and other stakeholders; the cooperative institutions that service the target group already and have a connection in place. Attempts were also made to reach former dropout students at the LLL-centres. Many of them account for the no-shows and dropouts in the GOAL project.
Strengths and achievements
The ‘reaching into organisations’ proved to be the most effective way to recruit participants. Outreach was at a very slow pace in the beginning. Therefore, the definition of the target group was expanded after the second wave of the project, but in the end there were very few (20%) participants that belonged to the ‘expanded’ target group. The counsellors felt it was easier to mobilise established referral routes than to create new ones. This could imply that as time passes, trust is built and the cooperation becomes more effective. So, even though it took time, forming a referral system based on collaboration with relevant partner organisations worked well and proved to be the most effective way to reach the GOAL target group. This referral system was informal, but the counsellors and other stakeholders have expressed interest and willingness to create a formal collaboration and referral system between relevant partners. Informal collaborations/referral systems are often based on the counsellors having certain contacts within different organisations. Informal relationships can be lost due to structural changes within the organisation or job changes by the counsellors. A formalised referral system is more likely to maintain referral routes and enhance their effectiveness. Establishing such a system would demand a comprehensive policy approach within the field.
The advice and assistance provided by the steering group were highly beneficial. All parties involved, program staff, program partners and policymakers, have expressed their interest in continuing the cooperation. The close collaboration during the project has led to more knowledge about the activities and services provided by the LLL-centres among the partner organisations. Also, cooperation had the benefit of reducing the risk of overstepping professional- and organisational boundaries. Increased collaboration between relevant institutions is likely to improve the service and promote a more holistic approach to the target group.
Challenges and barriers
The individuals in the GOAL target group had a number of complex, inter-related issues that made it difficult for the programme staff to motivate them to participate in the project. Issues such as various learning difficulties and disabilities (e.g. ADHD, dyslexia), financial troubles, drug addiction and other social, physical and/or psychological problems. These affected their commitment, perseverance, readiness and posed an enormous outreach challenge. During the project the counsellors spent a lot of time “chasing” after clients with the intent of maintaining them within the project. No-shows and dropouts, without any explanation, were frequent.
The criteria for the target group was, in the beginning, unclear according to the programme partners and that made referrals confusing to start with. The initially narrow definition of the target group also contributed to the difficulties in recruiting participants. Reaching out to the hard to reach proved very time consuming.
In the beginning of the project, the aim was to cooperate with companies in Iceland and deliver guidance to low-qualified workers that were employed by them. The HR departments were usually interested, but often there was not enough interest when the idea reached executives higher in the hierarchy. In the end companies found the process to excessive and were reluctant to take part, also due to the research element of the project from the viewpoint of the individuals. Since cooperation with companies was not established, the solution was to focus on collaboration with partner organisations, PES, Social Services and Rehabilitation Centres. That resulted in an effective referral process, but at the same time the service users became a ‘heavier’ group, with more personal issues, than was anticipated in the beginning.
Maybe the clients didn’t realise the benefits of counselling. The most vulnerable groups may be too low in readiness and need softer measures in order to get closer to thinking about education. Setting up a clear process between stakeholders regarding referrals is important, creating an agreement and clear roles. Different ways to approach companies/workers need to be identified.