The Net-Works project was born on the observation, from ENSIE and its members that a few issues were common in many countries regarding work-based adult education providers especially work integration social enterprises among them.
Three main issues have been identified:
- Insufficient connection and networking between the different subjects involved in social inclusion and adult education within the work place;
- Lack of awareness around the work based adult education model among public decision makers as well as a need to reinforce the dialogue between public and private structures about how work-based education providers and WISEs can support the persons the furthest from the labour market;
- Need for establishing a conducive environment for work-based adult education.
Following these findings, the Net-Works project was born, with the overall objective to help establishing new national and/or regional networks of work-based adult education providers. To support this creation, three key areas to work on have been determined:
- Networks capacity building: mapping activity for networks contextual analysis (country reports of work-based adult education providers), mutual learning with peer to peer training/mentoring between networks and development of a curriculum for networks, with a MOOC.
- Pedagogical approach promotion: sharing of adult education through employment methodologies, external communication capacity buildings.
- Cooperation and financial sustainability: creation of a repertory of good practices and setting up a sustainability roadmap with policy recommendations on fostering conducive environment for work-based adult education providers as well as a long-term action plan.
In the partnership, some networks are already created, others are still under creation or at various level of development. If all the partners need capacity building and to be reinforced, the goal of the project is to create work-based adult education networks in five countries: Portugal, North-Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia and Hungary.
Developing such networks is fundamental, as work-based adult education providers are crucial to help Europe facing basic skills challenges, reduce the number of people far from the labor market and help to ensure that everyone has the basic competences to be on the labour market and be active in society.
On top of its general goal, each partner of the project faces its own challenges at the national and regional level and will bring something into the project.
ENSIE, the European network of work integration sociale enterprises (WISEs), a subset of work-based adult education providers, will bring in a unique European perspective and the expertise of some of its partners. Indeed, since its creation, ENSIE has always supported the creation and strengthening of WISEs networks.
ISEN is a relatively new network, as it was registered in 2013. It faced the first networks challenges, and still needs to secure regular funding, but is working on developing a new income-generation strategy. Especially because in Ireland, there is no central government financial support for creating a network and very little support for the social enterprises sector. Membership is also an issue for ISEN, as they are balancing between a network with paid membership and an open network. They need to work on identifying what differentiate a member and an organisation that are just interested in following their work and the one that can financially support them. Despite the difficulties, ISEN has already delivered significant support to the Irish social enterprise sector while operating on a voluntary basis. ISEN brings its experience on influencing policies into the project but will also participate to all project activities and will strive to strengthen and develop its relatively new network.
Ateliere Fara Frontiere possesses a valuable experience of work-based adult education providers and is the main actor and contributor within the RISE network, recently established in Romania. RISE Romania is a small network in a phase or expansion. Created in 2013, RISE Romania has more than 7 years of experience of working as a network which includes one organisation certified vocational training provided and several NGOs carrying regular adult education activities. Initially formed by 8 NGOs, the network counts now 11 members and is still expanding. During the project, AFF will share its experience of first stages network development.
Galileo Progetti has been a strong advocate for the establishment of a work-based adult education network in Hungary, promoting the added value of their pedagogical approaches, including, but not limited to the WISE model. Galileo Progetti has already worked to establish contacts with other organisations in the country and decided to create a network to promote and develop the social economy and the integration of disadvantaged people in the workplace, hoping this can lead to the birth of the first social integration enterprise in Hungary or pilot projects.
In Macedonia, VET is becoming the primary focus of the government considering the demands of the business sector, the lack of possibilities for VET for interested citizens and the lack of capacities among educational providers and CSOs as well as the lack of operative measures for work integration of disadvantaged group. CDI Macedonia is dedicated to provide training opportunities especially for people in need. It is recognised by the Ministry of Education and Public Institution Centre for adult education. As VET is still developing in Macedonia, CDI wants to establish a national network in order to put forward all the needs of the target groups, to articulate their needs and to address the problem at policy and operational level.
In Portugal, a law for Social Integration enterprises existed but has been cancelled in 2015. Therefore organisations created in the framework of this law disappeared and the network that was created to support such organisations, RESIT has been dissolved in 2020. A3S wishes to develop a new network of work-based adult education providers in Portugal that focused on the vulnerable groups (the long-term unemployed, people with low formal qualifications, and people with disabilities).
ASSE, is an umbrella for social enterprises in Slovakia, it was created to represent social enterprises, provides help and training. Its first mission is in supporting the creation of a national legislation but it needs to be strengthen, this is why they joined the Net-Works project.
In 2011, IDC established SENS (national network of social enterprises in Serbia), which is the only network gathering enterprises active in the field of social economy in the country. This network represents valuable asset when it comes to building the capacities of WISEs and social enterprises in terms of creating a knowledge and experience-sharing hub, promotion of the work of enterprises and concept of WISEs and social economy and joint advocacy campaign. If this network exists, it still needs to be reinforced in order to empower social enterprises so they are recognised as an asset in combating social inequalities, unemployment and other social issues.