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‘Dual track’ - combining ‘inclusive’ education for individuals with ‘bottom-up’ community regeneration initiatives intended to combat social exclusion.

Jane Watts, University of Nottingham, UK

Paper presented at SCUTREA, 30th Annual Conference, 3-5 July 2000, University of Nottingham

In policy terms, the main response of the previous and current governments and of the European Union (EU) to long term unemployment has been to focus on unemployed individuals as lacking in skill and capacity and to make the assumption that this ‘deficit’ can be remedied through vocational training and job search support. European funds targeted at long term unemployed people from so-called ‘hard to reach’ groups have had this same focus of an implied or stated deficit model. The recently published Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal (SEU 2000) and Policy Action Team (PAT) Reports, PAT 1 on Jobs for All, and 2 on Skills (DfEE 2000a & b), indicate a change of tone, but I suspect only partially a change of substance. This paper examines a project which started well in advance of these developments and in which the underlying assumptions of policy-makers were not shared by some community and education practitioners who developed an approach called dual track, which suggests that meeting the learning and vocational training needs of adults can be combined successfully with work which benefits and regenerates the communities in which they live and addresses social exclusion.

The purpose of this paper is to examine projects, part-funded through European Social Fund (ESF) - Integra, based on the ‘dual track’ concept. While ‘regeneration’ and ‘social inclusion’ are not unproblematic (Furbey 1999), local practitioners felt that practical action needed to be taken in ways which could be resourced and in which local people could have a voice.

I suggest that the strategy, at EU and national levels of funding initiatives to combat social exclusion with remits connected exclusively to employability and the labour market, is unlikely to result in genuine ‘inclusion’, as exclusion operates on a number of levels (Bur 1999). This in no way denies that unemployed people also need jobs.

I was a participant action researcher within the project and combined this with my previous experience as a community based practitioner to evaluate the project. Here, I use a case study to discuss the possibilities of the dual track model and explore some evaluation results, using indicators developed during the projects.

The project studied is a partnership of ten local actions working with 600 people from ‘excluded’ communities over 2 years. All use aspects of the dual track concept. The partnership comprises a local authority’s community education service combined with its area co-ordination teams, voluntary and community organisations, a private organisation and a university. The Integra programme is intended primarily to increase the ability of individuals to gain paid employment by increasing their ‘employability’. Though the importance of regeneration is acknowledged, little reference is made to the lack of available jobs. The projects were designed to include adult education and community development but also aimed to enable people to influence service delivery and to work locally to bring about change.

Community development is a ‘systematic approach’ to the development of activities within ‘communities’, either of experience or neighbourhoods, whether organised by community workers or others’ (Watts 1997). It is based on clear values and principles; it is about people working together to create a fairer and improved society and may include: anti-poverty; active citizenship; anti-discriminatory practice; community-led, democratic practice; participation in public affairs and access to power; prevention of problems; encouragement of people to use the skills, knowledge and experiences they have and to learn more so that they can take action for change. (Voluntary Activity Unit, 1996)

Capacity building in this context means:

Development work that strengthens the ability of community organisations and groups to build their structures, systems, people and skills so that they are better able to define and achieve their objectives and engage in consultation and planning, manage community projects and take part in partnerships and community enterprises. It includes various aspects of training, organisational and personal development and resource building, [...] reflecting the principles of empowerment and equality.
(Skinner, 1997)

The term is also used to refer to increasing the capacity of a range of service providers to act appropriately within disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Dual track was developed during a preceding ESF project and, having proved successful, was adapted to meet the needs of the new project. Dual track was introduced for a number of reasons. Firstly, some project managers recognised the incompatibility of the funding agenda with their own primary purpose which was a combination of access to learning for adults and ‘empowerment’ education for social inclusion and lifelong learning. They also recognised that they were able to use these innovative funds to develop work with certain target groups which they could not otherwise afford. However these managers had fundamental difficulties, which I shared, with the framework of the funding, which apparently suggested that long term unemployment can be solved solely by increasing the employability of individuals. A number of issues were recognised: economic improvement for individuals and communities does not come solely from training individuals in vocational areas; economic regeneration requires a combination of activities; community based economic and social activity will contribute to regeneration; there are few jobs available locally; there are paid and unpaid opportunities which could be created or maintained locally; awareness of the long haul needed by many to enter or re-enter the labour market; many people have or could develop skills which communities need; these skills are often under-utilised or under-valued; awareness that local people are able to voice their needs and take steps to address them if support and opportunities are available.

At the end of the first project I wrote:

The most innovative aspect of the project was to attempt to combine a community development and capacity building approach with individual progression in vocational or basic training/education and employability. The ‘shorthand’ term used for convenience for this concept was Dual Track and, though the term has limitations, it has now become readily understood by partners. A new term which more effectively describes the process may yet be found: in particular we need to reflect the way in which the ‘tracks’ are not two separate and parallel lines but, rather, are interwoven, interdependent strands of activity, each contributing to a greater understanding and development of the other.
(Watts, 1997)

Initial conclusions

Dual track offered a contrast to vocational training and education which may have an incidental impact on communities and groups and explored ways in which this process can become intentional. (Watts and Farnell, 1998)

My conclusions were that the dual track model was worth pursuing, but requires adequate staff training as otherwise success will be limited and participants and practitioners may become frustrated. The approach needs to be cross-sector and interdisciplinary from the outset. Shared values need to be explored by all partners. Planning should include both practitioners and participants. Had more time been devoted to staff development then it is likely that practitioners would have gained a deeper understanding of the model and there would have been the opportunity for more thorough testing of the approach. Where projects did not develop dual track as fully as they might, I believe this was largely due to lack of capacity amongst staff or management. (Watts, 1997)

The context for the second project was a change of government and the setting up of the Social Exclusion Unit, though the project had been designed before either of these occurred. Dual track was applied in the second project, though only as one optional tool, as the pressure for innovation in each new round of funding prevents the continuous development of one idea.

Case study

I aim to show the simultaneous progression of an individual and community development. I have chosen to highlight work which closely fits the dual track concept to provide a clear example. Other actions, which did not have community work as their central theme, also revealed dual track outcomes.

The ‘local action’

The Community Regeneration project at the Bangladesh Centre involved a ‘sandwich’ of activities; community networking and outreach, a training programme and an employment liaison programme to help people into work or training. The aim was to combine capacity building in the community with support for individuals. The Centre’s project is open to all sections of the community (currently attracting more than 20 different nationalities) and has a particular focus on the needs of the Bangladeshi Community.

Sibia was already an active volunteer at a Bangladeshi community centre and applied for a traineeship with a community development agency which offered a paid placement in the centre. Both the development agency and the centre were members of the Integra project partnership. The agency recruited six people from different communities for placements in community settings which included training and working towards the NVQ in Community Work.

Sibia was appointed as a trainee development worker to work with young Bangladeshi women. The Centre had identified that numbers of post-school young women were not taking up jobs or education and were at home. I conducted a series of interviews with the trainee during her 18-month training period. This is her story.

Making contacts

Sibia’s main role was to work with young Bangladeshi women, encourage them to come into the Centre, identify their needs and participate in relevant courses or activities. In fact, she worked with Asian women - and

well, women in general.

I went out establishing links with the community and [...] because I’ve been living in the area for a long time I knew some of them personally too.
(Interview SK4)

Sibia drew up a database of known contacts and talked to them. She used these to contact women she did not yet know. She established links with a range of local organisations such as advice centres with which the Centre often already had links but they were not aware that the Centre had opportunities for younger women. These links helped her to become more aware of the other available opportunities.

It was difficult at first because I was really quite scared. I didn’t know what all these organisations and people would think of me and I might say something wrong because I didn’t have much experience.
(Interview SK4)

The worker also had to speak to young women’s parents to assure them of the safety of the Centre. Sometimes a barrier was that the worker was young and there was doubt about her ability or right to be doing the work. However, once the young women came to the centre, fears were mainly allayed.

It was very hard to get young women motivated and interested. Face to face individual encouragement was crucial. ‘It’s all about building confidence.’ Usually organisations would not have this level of time available and yet it is the only way to reach the most disadvantaged or excluded groups.

Who the women were

The women were mainly aged 16 - 19. Sibia also supported older women on, for example, health awareness. Most women in this project had been in Britain all or most of their lives. Mainly Asian women attended, but there were some Arabic and some white women. The majority were Muslim.

Identifying needs

Having made contact with a number of young women Sibia asked them all to come into the Centre to an initial meeting. 22 women and girls attended. Sibia facilitated with the help of a more experienced colleague. During discussion they listed everything they wanted to do. This included a range of social and leisure activities and courses, ranging from self-defence to IT. The Centre put most of the suggestions into action since it operates as a neighbourhood learning centre (DfEE 2000b).

What women did

Some women enrolled on existing courses such as IT and Sewing. Other programmes were developed especially; first aid courses, health awareness, sports and social events. It was important to maintain a range of activities as then young women were likely to remain involved and perhaps to move into other programmes.

Some women also progressed to a local authority scheme, involving a 2 year placement in primary schools working towards the NVQ in Early Years Education and Childcare with the potential to progress to further or higher education or stay in a job as an Educational Assistant.

Barriers to successful work with young women

Most of the young women concerned got married early and have had children early and they are scared of getting out of the home and lack confidence. They have lost self-confidence and are worried that they won’t get things right. There are also cultural barriers in that they think maybe they won’t be allowed to come and do this. They think that perhaps men will be involved so they would not be allowed. Their partners or parents may not permit them to do something they want to do. They think there will be religious or other cultural barriers. It depends on who they are. Actually we did manage to encourage most of them - because most of them that were staying at home, we were able to show them that it was all right to come to the Centre for family events first. Many then came to other activities. Now [most] parents realise how important it is to join in with community activities [...] It’s about showing people what the Centre is really about and changing their perceptions. This is a safe place.
(Interview SK4)

Another barrier is the cost of activities. The Centre, despite strong requests, could not and cannot provide everything free. After the project many activities can be continued but some are ineligible for funding and must be partly paid for by participants. People are also ‘held back when they think they can’t speak English’. In fact they often know more than they think but need the opportunity to use their English.

The results

Sibia felt that the project had made a difference to the perception of the Centre. The outreach resulted in the Centre increasing its activity and inclusiveness. There are still fragile aspects; if the community outreach post did not exist, some groups would perhaps not continue. Young women now drop into the Centre.

Sibia also referred women to the Employment Liaison worker and to Advice Centres. Some gained jobs, and a smaller number progressed to training. Those who were not successful in getting jobs still gained confidence. Few young women were interested in volunteering at the Centre - and yet those who did were more successful in getting paid work.

The dual track achievements

Dual track can be evaluated at four levels: - the capacity of the individual, the capacity of an individual group or organisation, the capacity of a community and the capacity of service providers within that community. Should we have been talking about quadruple track all along?

I’m really a lot more confident too. To begin with I couldn’t see what I was going to achieve but then when the traineeship ended and I was about to get married I could see that I had done lots of positive things in 18 months.
(Interview SK 4)

The following summaries illustrate the dual track achievements at all levels of this project. Sibia’s achievements at the individual level included: completing an 18 month training programme and gaining confidence; NVQ Level 3 in Community Work; becoming an increasingly reflective practitioner; hoping to progress into Higher Education when her personal circumstances permit; recently gained a more senior job in the same community centre.

At the organisational (Centre) level the achievements were an increased capacity to provide appropriate services for young women and girls and to enable them to take part and an increased understanding of a structured approach to outreach and community work, as well as a better understanding of the importance of providing a range of opportunities both in the centre and externally.

Within the community they were challenging and changing attitudes around the aspirations and achievements of girls and young women.

The community development agency providing the training gained a closer insight into the needs of the Bangladeshi community and the opportunity to provide work there in future.

There are equally stories from all ten actions which would show different aspects of dual track.

Researching dual track

In the first project research into dual track took place at a number of levels. Firstly my role was to help practitioners define what dual track really meant, both in principle and practice. Secondly it meant working with them, discussing and observing practice, to refine that definition through which indicators would be developed. These were then used to help categorise project outcomes, evaluate the work done and to develop the next project.

Through building case studies to illustrate the process, more reflective discussions were held with practitioners on the implications of dual track and the selected indicators. The term dual track has not become widely used, nor should it, but is used by project members to describe complex aspects of their work. Discussions of a rather different nature were held with project participants. They were not aware on the whole that dual track existed and nor did I ask them about it. I discussed with them their experience of being involved in the programme and ensured that I covered what they felt they had achieved individually as well as any action they had taken within their community or family. From this I confirmed the indicators used as well as assessing to what extent they had been achieved.

Conclusions

In the second project, because of the ESF’s demands for innovation, dual track was mentioned only as an influencing factor, though in fact projects frequently used the concept, as the underlying concern about employability and employment outcomes had not and has not changed. There was a requirement (set by the partnership) for local actions to include a community development approach and dual track materials were provided for all new partners. As before, it was clear that managers understood and agreed with the concept. The second project involved a greater number of community and voluntary organisations with approaches consistent with dual track. It is clear from interviews that managers again did not always succeed in conveying the rationale to workers carrying out the project. Indeed some tutors felt that they had been insufficiently consulted and informed. Closer questioning sometimes revealed a flawed understanding of the concept, again not clarified by the relevant manager. The skills, awareness and training (ranging from listening skills to project management) practitioners need for this work may form the basis of a future project.

The conclusions reached by PAT 9 on Community Self Help (ACU 1999) are consistent with some of the project’s findings. These include the skills and knowledge needed by adult educators and other ‘inclusion’ professionals which were found, by the project, both locally and transnationally, to be a crucial aspect of working with people facing disadvantage.

The case study conclusions confirm that it is not necessary to be restricted by funding methodologies, as the project was able to provide a vehicle for multi-level development while still fulfilling the ‘employability’ criterion. It is however more difficult to achieve this using mainstream funding.

The data from the dual track projects is very rich. Future work will look in more detail at: soft outcomes revealed through dual track evaluation; the ‘soft’ skills practitioners need to deliver these programmes; the skills needed by practitioners from, for example, other local authority departments who to fulfil joined up working and Best Value need to engage effectively in communities; and a closer critique of the links between employment, employability and social exclusion.

References

ACU (Active Communities Unit) (1999) Report on the Policy Action Team on Community Self-Help, London, Home Office, HMSO

Bur A, Stevens A & Young L, 1999, Include us in: participation for social exclusion in Europe, University of Kent, European Institute of Social Services

DfEE (Department for Employment and Education (2000a) Policy Action Team 1 Report - Jobs for All, London, HMSO

DfEE (Department for Employment and Education (2000b) Policy Action Team 2 Report on Skills, London, HMSO

Furbey R (1999) ‘Urban regeneration: reflections on a metaphor’ Critical Social Policy 61, 19/4 pp 419 - 445, London, Sage Publications

Interview SK 4 (2000), conducted on 3rd Feb. 2000

SEU (Social Exclusion Unit) (2000) National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal: a framework for consultation, London, Cabinet Office HM Government

Skinner S (1997) Building Community Strengths, London, Community Development Foundation

Voluntary Activity Unit, 1996, Monitoring and Evaluation of Community Development in Northern Ireland, Belfast, Department of Health and Social Security

Watts, J (1997) ‘Partnership Action and Change Through Training - Coventry’ in Benqué N, Timsit I, Conboy P and Watts J (1997) Changing the future / Changer d’avenir, Coventry, Coventry City Council Community Education Service

Watts J and Farnell R (1999) ‘Sent to Coventry?: challenging exclusion through training and capacity building initiatives' Local Economy 14/2 pp 133 - 143

Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to Sibia Khanum, whose identity is used with permission, Coventry Bangladesh Centre, Adept Community Development Agency and members of Coventry Integra Projects.

This document was added to the Education-line database on 27 June 2000