On the 24th of June, a Roundtable on work-based adult education methodologies was held at the Rediscovery Center in Dublin, Ireland, within the framework of the Net-Works project. A round table was hosted by ISEN (Irish network of social enterprises) as one of the project partners and the first round of discussion was led by Chris Gordon from this network who facilitated the discussion between three guest speakers who helped us shed a light on the topic from three specific angles.
Mr. Richard Gavin, from the Department of Rural and Community Development of the City of Dublin, approached the issues from the institutional perspective and pointed out that the main goals that the department is pursuing are: (i) raising awareness, (ii) support social enterprises, and (iii) policy alignment. He explained how one of the big weaknesses that affect the development of the Social Economy in Ireland is the lack of data, there are serious difficulties in tracking the exact number of social enterprises and in which field they are involved. The other two guests approached the topic of the roundtable from the perspective of the social entrepreneurs. Mrs. Maggie Clune represented the work methodology of social enterprise PACE, and that works on the social integration of ex-convicts for more than 50 years. Mrs. Claire Downey represented the Rediscovery Centre, National Centre for the Circular Economy in Ireland where the roundtable physically took place. They briefly talked about main activities, target groups, challenges, and working methodologies and reflected on the need for policy influencing and creating a more enabling environment for the development of the social economy. All speakers pointed out the benefits of representing the needs of social enterprises in form of a network.
During the Q&A session, the project partners compared the experiences of their countries in terms of methodologies, policies, activities, obstacles, networking capacities, and other relevant issues represented by the speakers.
The second part of the round table event was dedicated to the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and practices within the project consortium. The participants were divided into groups and each group had a guided discussion on each of the following three topics: cooperation between public and private sectors in the social economy ecosystem, training provided to workers in work integration, and the involvement of workers in the social economy. As the groups were rotating between these three small-scale round tables each group added on top of what the previous one had identified and discussed on each of these topics.
The main findings from the second session are the following:
When it comes to the involvement of workers the project partners highlighted that the private sector needs to understand the advantages of hiring disadvantaged people, and this objective requires an incredible effort in raising awareness, but also support from the governmental sector through fiscal benefits, and other measures, and that this involvement starts from early-stage during VET.
In terms of the training of workers, three main conclusions are that vocational skills and formal recognition still play a significant role in providing re/integration support to vulnerable groups. On top of these soft skills and psycho-social support, the play represents an increasingly important role in securing long-term and sustainable re/integration into society. Ultimately, It is significant also that the WISEs continue to support the beneficiaries even after they entered the labor market, continuing to follow up.
Finally, when it comes to cooperation between the public and private sectors the project partners recognized this cooperation as a model for improvement of efficiency and sustainability of the social economy sector. Examples of good practice of public-private partnerships were found in initiatives related to outsourcing the services to social enterprises by the institutional sector, the role of social enterprises as providers of social services, reserved public procurements, etc. The conclusion was that awareness-raising and advocacy on the need of enhancing such partnership and promoting its mutual benefits have to be carried out by representative networks.
The round table event was concluded with a guided tour of the Rediscovery center whose functioning has incorporated practical examples of all that is mentioned above within both sessions. Project partners had a chance to get familiar with the functioning of the center in daily activities, on the level of the center as a concept of circular economy and as an example of community initiative provided with support by local authorities.
The round table event was held within the Net -Works project, co-funded by Erasmus+ and implemented by ENSIE Network in partnership with with Ateliere fara frontiere from Romania, ISEN form Ireland, Galileo Progetti Nonprofil Kft. from Hungary, CDI from North Macedonia, Associacao A3S from Portugal, ASSE from Slovakia and IDC from Serbia.