Top tips

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During the course of any project participants come up with ideas and actions that have been strikingly successful. Sometimes these are about working in partnership – particularly European partnerships – but mostly they arise from the work of the project. MATURE team members will log their top tips here as the project unfolds and we invite you to contribute too by going to the ‘Have your say’ page and using the ‘Leave a Reply’ box.

Top tips

Working in a European partnership: When people are required to operate in languages that are not their own it’s important to establish early on a shared understanding of key project terminology. Discussion and agreement about what key words and phrases mean (‘disadvantage’; ‘later life learning’) will save time and effort in the longer term. A project glossary is a good idea.

Working in a European partnership: don’t forget that even partners who work in their own language (English, French or German) in a project will find things hard going. Time must be factored into meetings to allow for the fact that communication is slower in a multi-lingual environment.

Planning a European project: it’s very easy to promise more than you can achieve! Ambitious plans for outputs and activities can fall foul of a number of  factors affecting European partnerships, particularly those that relate to adult education. The instability of the sector where changes in national funding patterns can cause havoc within partner organisations and among their personnel; the numbers of partners within a consortium; the variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds; the experience of national and European partnership working among team members; the variation in levels of commitment that can be expected across the partnership must all be taken into consideration.  The burning ambitions of one partner cannot be achieved unless all the others have understood what is involved and agreed to play their part in making a reality out of an aspiration.

Collaboration in the field of adult learning: There are many reasons why working in partnership is a good idea. It may provide unforeseen sources of funding; it will stimulate innovation in the conception and delivery of learning; it has the potential to widen participation in learning from hitherto unengaged audiences; it furnishes information to underpin relevant learning. Consistency in partnership practice is not the norm. Creating and sustaining collaborative action takes time and effort and, sometimes, money. Care must be taken to ensure that all partners understand what is to be gained; what their organisation is in a position to provide; what their responsibilities are in relation to the partnership and its activities. Above all a commitment to the outcomes of the partnership should prevail over the individual concerns and agendas of its members. Impartial leadership helps to assure equity and successful outcomes.

Later-life learning: Does later-life learning merit individual consideration? The highlighting of a particular target group or issue  suggests that there is a ‘problem’. In the case of later life the ‘problem’ is the growing number of older adults in European states and the anxiety that this causes for economies, societies, communities and families. There is an imperative to seek solutions that stave off dependency and ensure that seniors remain engaged, active and able to give as well as receive benefits. Learning underpins many of the actions we need to take to achieve and sustain autonomy but the learning we need is not necessarily that which is delivered by adult education providers. Innovation in the field of later-life learning is overdue so a focus upon it is timely. A close look at the kind of learning that works for older people will have ramifications for the way in which we address the learning needs of all adults. Making learning more relevant, more attractive for those who have not found it so in a previous existence should be a general aspiration for providers; transferable solutions may be found in concentrating on one particular target group.