Developing and sustaining partnerships and networks
Developing partnerships and networks: programme aims
The main objective of the GOAL project in relation to partnership and networks was the establishment of two regional partnerships that would operate alongside both guidance providers within the region (ISIO and secondary education centres). The following concrete objectives were defined:
- to establish two new networks for the GOAL project;
- to include new institutions in the network with which the four GOAL sites had not previously collaborated;
- to exchange information about what can be offered in terms of adult education for selected GOAL target groups;
- to improve attitudes towards selected target groups (migrants, older persons, the unemployed, low-skilled adults, adults with special needs, disabled adults), and be aware of the possibilities.
Existence and scope of partnerships and networks
Both regional partner networks were established at the beginning of 2016. Partnership was formalised with the signing of a joint agreement by all participants. The networks operated until the end of April 2017. One provider at the regional level (in Ljubljana region) held five meetings and the other partner (in Velenje region) held six meetings with partners. Both networks contained representatives of partners involved in education and social fields (migrants, social work centres, organisations dealing with adults with special needs) and different partners from the field of employment (occupational rehabilitation centre, employment services, enterprises). The network also contained a library and an organisation engaged in researching issues surrounding older adults.
There were no regional-level policy actors among the network partners. Guidance providers in both regions decided on expert partners, as the objectives of both networks were the comparison of professional experiences, cooperation, referral and other specialist activities. This was also the direction taken by the national project group, as we decided to include policy actors in partnership at the national level.
The Minister of Education, Science and Sport established a GOAL project sub-group at the national level within the National Lifelong Career Guidance Group operating at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. It was appointed in February 2017 and staffed by representatives of all national organisations involved in education and guidance (ministries, public education institutes, social partners, faculties). The group’s basic purpose is to address the project’s target groups and seek appropriate pathways and measures to enable the proper development and implementation of adult education guidance activities. According to the plan, the sub-group will operate until the end of January 2018 and will meet four times. The first meeting was held in April 2017.
Challenges and barriers
The main challenges to the operation of both regional networks can be summarised in the following points:
- the inactivity of some partners in both regional networks, which resulted in their non-participation in meetings of the regional partner networks; The reason was partly the time pressure on partners, which meant that they opted not to attend meetings on topics that did not directly affect the target groups with which they were dealing. On the other hand, some partners did not recognise the regional network as an opportunity for further development: the expectations of companies were focused narrowly on the range of education and training options and not on the development of their employees.
- The rigidity of the system in some organisations and the bureaucratisation of work, as highlighted by the fact that these organisations did not have that many opportunities to involve themselves in projects and activities at their own discretion because of their clearly defined rules of operation and cooperation in relation to their specific target groups. With other partners, bureaucratisation takes time away from other possible tasks and forms of cooperation within the partner network – client referral in the case of the GOAL project.
- A lack of substantive integration and joint campaigns: although the comparison of experience and examples of good practice was deemed to be beneficial, there should have been more substantive collaboration and more joint campaigns for certain target groups.
- The non-referral of clients by some organisations within the network, whether because of fewer activities by partners or the characteristics of the approach taken to some clients when organisations only cover specific forms of guidance (e.g. for migrants).
The fact that there are quite a few national bodies addressing similar issues can also be highlighted as a challenge to the national operations of the national strategic body. The question then arose, as the body was being set up, of how it might gain traction in the adult education field in Slovenia. For this reason, the Minister of Education, Science and Sport appointed a sub-group at the existing National Lifelong Career Guidance Group.
Strengths and achievements
The main achievements of both regional networks can be summarised in the following points:
- referring clients to all organisations providing guidance;
- forging connections and cooperation with different educational organisations; increasing familiarity with other partners; exchanging experiences;
- forming a solid partnership within which they were able to realise their programmes;
- obtaining information and details of experiences from other partners that enabled organisations to provide more comprehensive guidance to their own clients;
- acquiring new experiences, knowledge and information that they were able to incorporate into their own programmes;
- increasing their familiarity with and exchanging different guidance and evaluation tools used by partners in their professional work;
- being therefore able to integrate clients into education and training programmes in the local environment.
As an added value of regional partnership, we should highlight the Savinjska regional partner network, where, in the course of Wave 1 evaluation, partners identified as an advantage the fact that quite a few of them had a strong array of tools that they were able to present to other partners, which they also did at subsequent meetings of the network. Therefore, the network was able to bring about a positive effect from the exchange of different tools – an effect that had not been envisaged in the network’s operating plan.
All participants in the project and the evaluation process have proposed that the local guidance networks continue with formalised modes of operation, clear objectives and an approach that attempts to reach different target groups within the local environment.