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Project: Opportunity of Change For Small Regional SchoolsCategory: PUBLIC SECTOR COMMUNICATIONSummaryTo save small schools across the country Soros Foundation Latvia provided financialsupport for 53 of them to run change management programs turning schools in multifunctional community centers. The conducted research helped to identify keystakeholder groups – other supported schools (project owners), local governments,other schools, educational specialists, educational and regional policy makers – aswell as revealed that project managers don’t have enough capacity to manage acommunication centrally for 53 schools while school representatives don’t have theright skills to communicate directly with local stakeholders. For the solution a blogparmainuskolas.lv was established, representatives from all schools were trained forblogging and dealing with traditional media as well as mentored to start theircommunication with external stakeholders. It resulted in a successful platform,serving both for internal and external project communication, having 337 posts andmore then 10 000 readers over a year as well as rising media interest for 421 printedmedia clips. Recognition from UNESCO and Ministry of Welfare was received whileLatvia is mentioned globally as the best practice in assessing Soros Emergency Fundassets.SituationAccording to research in 2009 Ministry of Welfare announced that schools with littlenumber of pupils might be closed down – 241 schools in regions could be facing aclose down in a near future. Soros Foundation Latvia decided to grant financialsupport to such schools in order to develop them in multi functional communitycenters. 53 schools received grants to implement a year long program of changemanagement. Schools in partnership with local governments came up with differentsolutions to open their doors to all members of local society and returning life andusefulness to their empty premises. However, their skills of communication wererather poor and there was no centralized point of communication to share themethods and results with other schools, policy makers and local community.
ObjectivesResearch:- Stakeholder analysis and mapping; key stakeholders defined: other projectowners, local governments, other schools, educational specialists, educational andregional policy makers.- Research on best solution for creating a platform for communication andsharing of best practice.- Poll of project owners to benchmark their knowledge and skills oncommunicationObjectives set according to the research:- Create a platform, where content (textual + visual) could be shared amongproject owners and with other stakeholders; also allowing to communicate the bestpractice- Educate 53 project owners to become successful bloggers- Educate and motivate project owners to build relationship with local media toexplain the project through regional publicity- Stimulate Public-private partnership- Receiving acknowledgment from policy makers, local governmentsStrategyThe core of the strategy was to decentralize the communication and instead of 1communication center, activate 53 “loudspeakers”, i.e., educate and motivate theproject owners (mostly headmasters of schools or people from local government) tocarry out the communication themselves. That included actively buildingrelationship with the local media, while the national media communication wascarried out centrally.Meanwhile, a platform – project blog – was created so that project owners couldthemselves document events, share methods and best practiceAfter evaluating the level of skills and knowledge on communication of the projectowners, it was suggested to organize a tailor-made education and mentoringprogram to increase the skills and motivation of the project owners.
ExecutionIn 2009, when schools were granted financial support, Consultancy carried out theresearch and assessment. Educational and mentoring activities were carried out inwinter 2010, blog platform launched in April, 2010. Afterwards active communicationwas carried out both on the blog and with local media. The project continued till theend of 2010.Educational and mentoring phase was divided in one-on-one and group activities. Forproject owners there was tailor-made educational seminar organized that includedtraining on how to document an event, how to use social media for communicatingand how to become a successful blogger. Afterwards a tailor-made manual wasprepared with detailed advices on how to use Wordpress-based blog editing system,uploading videos and photos etc. Additionally another manual was prepared thatprovided basics of press statement preparation and work with media. For projectmanager one-on-one mentoring was carried out, including individual seminars on blogusage, message development and similar.The whole communication ran for a year, however, the blog is still functioning andschools continue reporting on their success and events. The blog platform is used toshare this project in various events and conferences by the project manager AijaTūna.Documented ResultsBlog www.parmainuskolas.lv functioning for more than a year with 337 blog posts byproject owners and project manager, on average >3 min spent on the site, >10 000unique visits yearly. The blog is still alive!421 print publications in 2010 (+ TV and radio, as well as online coverage)Representatives of 53 projects (on average 2 people per project) educated in PR andblogging basics. A proof of this knowledge and inspiration is that some schools havecreated their own blogs after the seminar.Project has received acknowledgement from UNESCO and Ministry of Welfare.
Praising results of the project, Soros Foundation global headquarters have granted financial support for further side projects related to School project, i.e., documentation and evaluation projects. Latvia is mentioned globally as the best practice in assessing Emergency Fund assets. Locally Soros Foundation has been inspired by the success of blog and initiated using similar tools for other projects. School Project manager Aija Tūna noted that during project implementation blog was a great internal communication tool, creating a tight network among schools participating in the project, however, now the blog has became a collection of best practice and is easily shared in different events and conferences on education. URLName of the link“Parmainu iespeja skolam” blog http://parmainuskolas.lv/