Civil Society Educational Network
Duration of the Project: 1/10/2008- 30/09/2011
Funded by: European Commission Agency for Education Audiovisual and Culture and Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC)
Advanced undergraduate and graduate level students from a variety of disciplines (political science, public administration, urban studies, business administration) will be recruited to participate in the transatlantic exchanges, including those seeking careers as practitioners and leaders of civil society organizations and social enterprises, policy analysts and program officers in government, community investment managers in corporations, grant officers in goundations; and, fund developers and consultants in the community. The objectives of the Civil Society Educational Network are to enhance the educational experiences and skills of these Canadian and European students seeking a variety of careers related to civil society organizations and social enterprises; to support the development of new curricula to teach civil society in a range of disciplines; to facilitate the collaboration between Canadian and European universities to expand their programs in civil society studies; and, to provide a forum for the exchange of educational materials, resources, and tools for Canadian and European faculty, students, and researchers in civil society studies
Summary of Study Programme and Activities:
Year one will focus on setting up the infrastructure and technology (teleconferencing, video-conferencing, a web-portal with collaborative software) necessary to facilitate the communication of consortium members. Existing courses, programs, and research initiatives related to civil society, in each of the consortium member institutions will be reviewed and strengths and gaps will be identified.
In year two, leadership for the development of specific resources will be allocated across the consortium members. Resources will have three components: Conceptual Framework and Theory (Common Content), Jurisdiction-Specific Content, and Comparative Analysis (Canadian-European). Student and Faculty Exchanges and Co-curricular activities (internships, organizational visits, and other forms of community involvement) will be arranged for both faculty and students. Faculty exchanges will be based on the interests and needs of both the sending and hosting academic institutions.
In year three, student and faculty exchanges and co-curricular activities will continue. An evaluation framework will be collaboratively developed by consortium partners at the beginning of the project and performance indicators will be identified. In addition to participant feedback, other stakeholders (host organizations of co-curricular activities and employer groups (civil society organizations, government departments, and private sector)) will be asked for comment. Educational Resources will be disseminated through the network and through publications, conferences, and web-sites.
Number of Canadian and EU mobility students: 25 from Canada, 25 from the EU for one semester-equivalent each (four months).
Number of Faculty Exchanges: 10 (5 from EU, 5 from US) for approximately 4 weeks per faculty/staff
The Civil Society Educational Network is expected to have multiple benefits at the individual, institutional, and community level. The broad anticipated outcomes and results are:
Students enhance their skills and experience in the area of civil society social enterprises and increase their opportunity to pursue careers and higher education in the field
Educational institutions are better equipped to respond to the growing demand by professionals working in and with civil society organizations
Civil society organizations and social enterprises are more effective because of enhanced core competencies of their employees
Transatlantic co-operation is increased through the linkages between students, faculty, institutions, and civil society organizations participating in the project
Students will gain an appreciation for the opportunities and challenges faced by civil society groups in different cultural and political contexts
Networks will be established among future civil society leaders across the Atlantic
Students will gain an understanding of the role of civil society not only in their own relatively wealthy societies, but also in societies in transition, and those still suffering from extreme poverty
Students and faculty will have a basis for developing joint research projects related to the study of civil society across the Atlantic
The collective strengths, experiences, and assets of the faculty and institutions within the Civil Society Educational Network will be mobilized so that individual consortium members increase their capacity to address the range of themes within their programs. For example, some institutions have more advanced technological capacity while others have more experience with alternate educational formats such as distance learning. Some have more public policy expertise while others have stronger connections to civil society organizations. Many have had experiences developing community-university relationships. During the first phase of the project and throughout, course materials, reading lists, tools, and resources will be shared through the portal so that consortium members can adapt these to their own jurisdictions. The long-term goal of the project will be to make resources available on the internet so that others will also be able to benefit from them. Additionally, faculty exchanges can directly facilitate the knowledge transfer between the academic institutions. Civil society studies courses are found in a range of programs including schools and centres of Public Policy and Administration, Environmental Studies, International Development, Social Work, Business and Management, Political Science, and Journalism and Communications. This multi-disciplinary and multi-lateral collaboration will produce a very rich collection of curricula and learning materials as well as a very diverse network of faculty, students, and researchers.
While local context has a tremendous impact on the social structures that underpin civil society in various regions in Canada and across Europe, it is quite astounding the degree of commonality in the key competencies being sought by professionals working in and with civil society organizations. Additionally, there have been some significant parallels and synergies that have occurred over the past decade in terms of the relationship between civil society and governments in Europe and Canada. For example, the compacts, accords, social concepts, and other policy framework agreements that have been signed by civil society (voluntary sector) and governments have shared some common elements. They affirm the value of civil society in building healthy communities, articulate the complementary roles between government and civil society, and commit to respectful collaboration.