Developing and sustaining partnerships and networks
Developing partnerships and networks: programme aims
An important focal point in addressing low basic skill levels in the Netherlands is the establishment and strengthening of regional networks. A condition for addressing low basic skills is ensuring that the offer of local literacy training meets the needs of potential participants. In order to ensure better cooperation between the organisations in which service users with low literacy are identified and the organisations in which literacy lessons are offered, regional ‘literacy teams’ are deployed. Other parties, such as employers and care organisations will also be involved by the literacy teams.
Existence and scope of partnerships and networks
The basic infrastructure of a network is threefold: a Literacy Point, which acts as local or regional contact point for the literacy network, use of the Literacy Screener to ensure that service users with low literacy are recognised and referred to an appropriate training provider, and a range of training to increase the skills of literacy volunteers. These are factors that have proven to be successful in various regions.
Two of the four GOAL pilot organisations form part of a local network that is set up according to the structure of the Count on Skills programme. As an alliance partner, Aksept is peripherally involved in the network in the municipality of Hengelo. Aksept does not have intensive collaboration with the network around their clients because they offer their own language lessons within their organisation.
The municipality of Emmen is the client (subsidy provider) of the network in Emmen. The core partners that work together in the network to identify more adults with low literacy and to get them into a language process, are the training and diagnostic centre, library, social work and the regional community college. In the municipality of Emmen, the language point coordinator is appointed from the library; in the municipality of Hengelo from a welfare organisation.
Because of their closed nature, PI Lelystad and PI Achterhoek are not part of a local or regional network. There is an internal network within the penitentiary institutions that consists of the reintegration centre and the education department. The penitentiary institutions currently do not work with external local networks yet. This is however crucial to continue support in the area of language when detainees are released (early).
Challenges and barriers
The bottlenecks and challenges identified primarily concern cooperation between different parties:
- Insufficient dedication of the network partners: not all partners are willing to invest money, time and energy into the network.
- Insufficient cooperation between volunteers and formal language providers (ROC)
- Limited number of network partners
- Pressure from the financing structure: if a network is only financed with education funds from the municipality, a ‘settlement regime’ (performing a substantial number of language processes to avoid letting the price per process run too high) arises that can stand in the way of productive cooperation.
Several bottlenecks were also identified with regard to performing tasks:
- Excessive workload of language point coordinator, which then hinders rapid follow-up for clients and further development of the network.
- Change of functions within participating organisations.
Strengths and achievements
The success factors identified can be divided into factors concerning the structure of networks and factors concerning community support.
- A language point as a central basis of the network (strengthening the coherence); the organisations around it each add something to the network from their own strengths;
- Because a network does not have a formal decision maker, there is room to respond to innovations and to form new alliances with each other;
- Clear agreements are made;
- Enough language volunteers, who work side by side with formal language providers;
- The support of the Reading and Writing Foundation in setting up the local infrastructure.
- An influential and enthusiastic driving force (an individual or organisation);
- The urgency of the low literacy problem is recognised by all parties;
- Commitment of all parties involved at the strategic, tactical and operational levels.