One year ago, RIO/FOLAC, the interest-organisation and international unit for the 150 Swedish Folk High Schools, started to send newsletters by mail to more than 2000 selected national and local politicians in order to continuously inform people of the work that Folk High Schools are doing. The newsletters are sent four times a year and focus on the activities of the 150 Swedish Folk High Schools. The newsletters contain a mix of different news. Along with statistic information on the work of the folk high schools, the newsletter might narrate personal stories from folk high schools´ participants or focus on social issues and on how folk high schools can be part of political solutions. For example, a reflective article about the riots in the Stockholm suburb of Husby was published just after they happened; it underlined how folk high schools can be part of the solution. In this way, RIO/FOLAC tries to address issues that are part of the current political agenda – and to detail how folk high shools relate to them and how they can help. News from the organisation itself might also be included, for instance a portrait of the Swedish candidate for the EAEA Board or a document on what FHS want for the future, with the presentation of 700 summer courses.
The author of the newsletter is a journalist that has been working for many years in adult education.
The newsletter is sent to all members of the national parliament as well as to the representatives of the European Parliament. It is also sent to people working with the national administration on adult education, and to local politicians that relate to adult education.
Which are the results of the campaign?
It is hard to say precisely what the impact really is. Analyses show that half of the receivers open the newsletter. There is a feeling that it has an impact. Indeed, politicians refer to it when they meet RIO/FOLAC. They get a better understanding of the potential of the Folk High Schools when it comes to addressing social problems and needs.
“It´s a good thing to have when you´re contacting politicians: You can refer to the newsletter. Thanks to the campaign, they already know something about adult education and the organisation – and it allows them to prepare themselves for the meeting.” says Mats Ehn, secretary at FOLAC. “It has a long-term effect. Non-formal education always runs the risk of not being considered. When you talk about education, you talk about formal education, so we have to remind the politicians that non-formal education also exist and that it is valuable – otherwise they forget it.”
Key elements of success were identifying the relevant politicians and facilitating high quality information.