The Hessen Campus is a social innovation process, with process being the operative word – as the project is still developing. It all started in 2006, with the idea of installing new structures for lifelong learning at a regional level. Seven initiatives and regions were part of the project, at the start. Nowadays, 21 of the 23 regional authorities of Hessen are part of the project.
The project is about creating partnerships between political institutions, such as the ministry of culture and education in the state of Hessen, the local authorities (municipalities), rural districts (counties), and schools, such as VET(vocational education and training). An agreement between the state of Hessen and municipalities was signed, in which they agreed to build new structures for lifelong learning for adults.
It all started from the analysis of education laws in Hessen and from the observation that schools were not adapting their learning content and methods to the learner´s needs – and to the concept of lifelong learning. Thus recommendations for this area, to look at new structures for LLL, were written: A common framework or orientation focusing on the main aspects of lifelong learning was developed – learning has to be given at a low threshold, with access to education from a geographical perspective as well as from the content aspect (it should be easy to get started, for instance). The concept declares that classes be given from a learner´s “biography perspectives” – which means that the learning content is adapted to him or her and to the kind of learning content that will help him or her to develop his or her competences in the right direction. The project was not set in stone at the beginning; as a social innovation project, only these general lines were given. From region to region, the project had to be adapted depending on the local situation.
The project started with public funding. During the first year, each region got 200 000 euros from the ministry of the land Hessen. Within the six years long pilot project, 40 million euros were put into the development of the project. It was said from the beginning that the funding would decrease and that there was a limit. The network looked into the sustainability aspect immediately, and all of them continue to exist today.
Our role was to give input and to mediate throughout the project. Management committees across the different institutions, working together, were created to identify specific projects or offers – and to manage the developments. In the first two to three years, we were present at every coordination meeting. Step by step, they got their own procedures in place and asked for our help only in specific cases.
We look at educational gaps, at possible synergies; we look for new structures that would help the transition from school to work, for example. We have consultancy groups working in that direction, across the region, currently with 70 different offers available. We also have a coordination group set up that consist of different employees from the institution, available to help on a project or a task. There is also one elected person from every region that coordinates on the level of the Land.
Here is an example of what the project has allowed us to achieve: In one town, two schools were separated only by 200 meters: a VET school and a school for the chamber of commerce. Both schools offered the same course with the same machine – a machine that costs 300 000 euros, but not used all the time. So the two schools decided to get their infrastructures together and to mutually own only one of these machines. Both students and teachers can use it. The same principle was used for lecture halls; The VET school only uses the rooms in the morning, whereas adult schools only use it from 4pm and into the evening.
Also, we realised that there is a lack of courses for immigrants. They do not succeed in their exams because their German is not good enough. Some institutions offer these classes. We created a connection – so that students at the VET schools can use this opportunity.
What is the result?
The result is cooperation and a coordination platform across different educational sectors (vocational education, training and adult education).
Background information on key elements of success
Before the project started, a VET school director in Hessen had an idea – to create a house for lifelong learning. He had been inspired by a visit to such a centre in the USA. It was a great success, with the centre receiving an Award for being the “best place for innovation” in Germany. We built on this example and started a call for proposals, for regions that were interested in creating similar centres for LLL, with different educational areas.
Another key element of success is the fact that the ministry-president of Hessen took this project on as his own responsibility. He helped us a lot in making it happen.
A further element of success was the fact that we got the stakeholders together, to rethink structures from a learner´s perspective – as well as overcoming the institutional perspective and rationality.