The Olomouc region has a number of social problems that have been increasing and accumulating in the recent years, especially in the northern peripheral localities: population ageing, high unemployment and poverty rates, socially excluded localities (ghettos). The need for social services, including fieldwork, has consequently increased in the region. Palacký University in Olomouc (PU) saturates high demand for professional social and health workers thanks to its study programs at the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Pedagogy and Faculty of St. Cyril and Methodius; and also thanks to the network of key actors in the region involved in the social care programs.
The study program of Christian Social Care that is accredited by the Theological Faculty is performed in close collaboration with local Church Vocational College CARITAS that provides some of the courses. Both cooperating educational institutions and the Charity evaluate the progress and benefits of mutual cooperation in all activities during regular joint workshops where they discuss and seek new ways to improve further education and work of tutors and mentors.
The key point of mutual cooperation is the practical training of students in the following study programs: Social Care, Special Education, Psychology and Adult Education. Faculty of Education, Faculty of Arts and Theological Faculty of St. Cyril and Methodius work closely with Charity and vocational college CARITAS (established by the archbishopric) to organize together training programs for students. The concept and design of this training are unique in the Czech Republic. Practices are rigorously organized and managed by the sending college and university while Charity provides places for trainees and receives feedback as a basis for self-improvement.
The process works as follows: a student together with a tutor at the university develops a plan for three-month trainee-ship charitable work. In Charity s/he is guided by a mentor, who advises the student during training, giving him/her feedback and also evaluates their stay. The mission of mentoring is to direct the personal development of the student, to reflect whether the student is trained enough to work with these target groups, such as people with mental illness, homeless, Roma, drug users and others. But there is also a feedback for specific Charity’s unit (its’ centers) because students-trainees also give evaluation on the basis of their experience in the organisation. Student works as a member of the Charity team and participates in virtually all activities. He or she takes notes of his/her observations of the work and the working environment and at the end of the trainee-ship s/he is given a feedback from their mentor in the Charity and their tutor at the university.
What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?
There is a high demand for social care in the region of Olomouc and it has met the tradition of Christian charity in the city. The university succeeded in aligning this potential and developed practically oriented study programme in this field.
What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?
Existing infrastructure in social care (mostly NGOs) provides enough trainee-ship capacity for the students and the knowledge basis in Christian scholarship links the study programmes to the charity work.
What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?
The trainee-ship programme is not specifically supported by the university and by the national regulations, so it needs special attention on the departmental level. In general departments are funded according to the student numbers and research output, so the links to the regional actors have to be particularly protected, maintained and developed.
Feasibility & Sustainability
What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?
There must be willingness to learn from all of the partners of the study programmes. Of course students are expected to learn to work with socially excluded persons. However, Higher Education Institution (HEI) gains experience from the practice thanks to the contact with local charities. At the same time, the charity can profit from the feedback that is provided by students and academics on everyday activities of the charity.
Replicability & Upscaling
What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?
This case would be applicable above all in the regions with significant social problems that need highly qualified staff for dealing with these problems. However, also in the HEIs that focus on social care can take advantage of existing and functioning networks between academics, NGOs and regional authorities.
What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?
According to the management of the Charity, students' assessment works as “the fresh air” and valuable mirror for their activities. This reflection helps the organisation to avoid routine and professional blindness and develop new approaches in the field. Students reflect in particular how the Charity's values and mission are implemented within the organization and criticize the trend towards formalism and bureaucracy.
The Charity uses the trainee-ship programme for its' human resources plan and offers jobs for successful trainees to work with particular social target groups.