Employment programmes and
networking for development
How does the restructuring of
the 'world of work' within a region relate to the region's unemployment? Today we are
experiencing a fundamental change in the world of employment. Unemployment, interrupted
employment and discontinued careers used to be the exception, affecting only fringe
groups, or were caused by isolated breakdowns in localised economic structures. Now they
are the norm, affecting the majority. Today, in regions far-removed from urban centres,
large numbers of people are permanently out of work with no further hope of setting foot
in the 'primary' labour market. These situations receive little public attention.
The facts behind them tend be
suppressed. Fear of becoming unemployed oneself reinforces this tendency. Employment
programmes have a negative image, which goes hand in hand with an outdated prejudice
against social work. This stems from the idea that the unemployed are to blame for their
unemployment. As such, employment programmes are viewed as help for 'failures'.
Organisations offering employment programmes are perceived as owing their existence to
unemployment, so that they, too, are subject to regional attitudes and thought-processes.
Within such organisations, the employees themselves often adopt this attitude.
For the sake of
regional development, employment programmes need to be 'marketed'.
A central task for organisations which have employment programmes is the development of
their approach to this situation. They have to raise public consciousness that
unemployment is not an individual but a social problem. For these organisations to be
respected, they have to bring to the public's attention an analysis of new developments in
the employment market (not just unemployment rates). They should also make sure that their
findings concerning 'the future of employment' in their region are put into practice and
publicly discussed. Only if these things are achieved will it be possible to develop
strategies that will be broadly supported in the region. Since this issue affects every
region, fact sheets and speakers on the topic 'the future of employment' should be
provided cross-regionally. The search for others with an interest in public debate can
lead to partnerships which wouldn't ordinarily occur through day-to-day contacts. Both
trade unions and political parties discuss 'the future of employment', but in business
circles too, new employment structures are under discussion.
need regional networking
Organisations with employment programmes are often seen as 'helpers' kept on a short lead
by state programmes, rather than as independent, equal partners. They are given tasks as
necessary but there is no fundamental recognition of their independent function. Many
regional activists therefore don't believe such organisations have the legitimacy to
initiate their own contribution to a regional network, though without such networking, it
is hard to imagine any future for employment programmes.
networks rather than supporting individual employment programmes
Employment programmes need networks to make the co-ordination of tasks with regional
partners possible and hence promote regional development. Only then will it become
possible, over time, to develop task-sharing within the regional network. Their interests
in organising themselves correspond to the necessity to strengthen the regional network.
neither to bureaucracy nor to nationalisation
Networking is in danger of being misunderstood as a bureaucratic integration of employment
programmes into local authority plans; that is, as a decentralisation of governmental
activity. A perception of 'regionalising' as being governmental regulation on a regional
level would raise fears of an end to any further innovations in the regional employment
'Regional networking' needs to be perceived as having a social, not governmental, basis. I
recommend borrowing ideas from neighbouring countries such as Denmark and Holland, where
regional social action plays a much greater role than in Germany. It is therefore an
important task to promote and develop the activities of the SME1, and of Germany's
regional associations and organisations.
The aim of networking should
be to get rid of bloated institutions and instead create smaller units which can
co-operate with one another within the regional network. Progressive and active forces
should be encouraged, and dynamism fed into the network.
In its aims and rules, our
definition of 'network' signifies the creation and functioning of democratic development
'Network' has become a
buzzword. Generally, some closely-knit inter-relationships do exist within regions but
they don't always promote development. Therefore, any assessment has to focus on the
question: how do these existing networks, which promote the status quo, differ from
'development networks' in which activists are striving to adapt the region to future
As a backdrop to the character of 'development networks', I'd like to point to the
Internet. Without its possibilities for communication and access to information, the
following characteristics might seem idealistic and fanciful. Networks are
Open: external partners are
valued, and open discussion is especially promoted, even if not everyone can participate
at all times.
Transparent: what happens
within the network is known by all interested parties.
Permeable: discussion points
and communications issues are not mutually exclusive.
Polycentric: there are
several concurrent centres, according to the abilities of respective partners to carry out
there are power-relationships within the network, they should not become
Dynamic: changes are normal.
Power-relationships, partners, and connections within the network can change.
Environments for creative
development, which promote the building of project-orientated co-operatives. Networks are
not business relationships.
Networks need management as
they develop and also when they are up and running. Network management can only be carried
out by a person or an institution agreed by all partners involved.
How can existing
regional 'status quo networks' be transformed into 'development networks'?
In answer to this question, initiatives which prompt shifts in regional relationships seem
to play an important role. Internal initiatives are often connected with new ideas arising
from unusual partnerships. External initiatives are often related to new external
relationships, in other words, new partnerships. 'Development networks' need to make such
initiatives possible, and then support them, activating external regional relationships
and facilitating communication between regional partners who don't normally work together,
but whose co-operation opens up new possibilities.
are vehicles for passing on initiatives, opportunities, and the management of emergent
should exist to initiate and build new partnerships, thereby giving rise to new ideas and
encouraging external and internal initiatives.
New opportunities should be
created for the evolution of new relationships. This can be achieved by modern
conferencing models such as 'The Future Search Conference' or 'The Open Space Conference',
whose concept is to offer a space and make it possible for all partners who need to find a
solution to a specific problem to have contact with one another. It is also recommended
that such a group should then invite external partners who have different skills and
expertise to join them. Bringing people together, away from their official function and
their daily routine, can itself create opportunities. They are able to sit beside an open
fire with a glass of red wine to discuss the issue in hand. With the availability of
contemporary communications technology, 'virtual' spaces also become possible,
guaranteeing the accessibility of partners.
the management of new ideas, should be subjects of brainstorming sessions. Nationwide
support is also possible, in terms of supplementary advice from experts who work on a
Networks are 'spaces'
for regional partnerships
Work programmes should develop so that there are ever closer interconnections with the
so-called 'primary' labour market. ABS organisations2 should become the partners - not the
competitors! - of small and medium-sized regional businesses if they want to survive. Very
often, ABS organisations are the biggest employers in a region; therefore a partnership
relationship stands to reason.
'community-orientated' also covers small and medium-sized businesses in a community,
mainly smaller businesses which depend on the region for co-operation, potential
customers, and distributors. These businesses have a key role to play in the regional
labour-market, if interconnections between the labour market and the economy are seriously
pursued. 'Experts' in the employment programmes can make themselves useful to the SMEs by
helping them to get grants, which are difficult or impossible to obtain single-handedly.
ABS organisations could be of interest to both employers and trade unions, extending their
spheres of influence within organisations whilst making changes in the labour market.
should become partners of the regional SMEs to develop the region's economy
In order to pursue all possibilities of feeding the unemployed back into the 'primary'
labour market, close co-operation with regional businesses is vital.
The setting-up and
implementation of grant aid for employment programmes in tandem with local authority
investment opens the door to co-operation with SMEs almost automatically.
Existing co-operation models
between SMEs and employment programme providers could also initiate, promote and support
co-operation between individual SMEs.
providers can serve the SMEs by informing them about available grants and to offer help
how to obtain grants in co-operation with employment programmes, institutions business
associations and trade unions
ABS organisations could also
play a role in development strategies if they are accepted by SMEs as regional partners.
ABS organisations could make
it easier for employers' associations and trade unions to put innovatory strategies into
practice regionally if they contribute their specific skills.
Genuine education and
training programmes always attempt to match training to employment either in companies or
publicly-supported employment programmes. In the context of employment in companies
regionally, employment programmes, and education and training, new strategies could
perhaps come together to increase the potential for employment. This area hasn't yet been
explored by employment programmes. The co-operation of companies (e.g. in the form of job
rotation) with training and education providers is a field which could be greatly
developed in the regions.
How to build and
The greatest obstacle to the creation of networking structures is not a lack of
co-operation. The main difficulty is in the fact that new working methods need to be
developed in order to mobilise the potential intrinsic in regional co-operation. Because
they don't know a better way of doing things, old methods are stuck to. This is true both
within companies and institutions, and in external relationships, and leads to the
reinforcement of outdated forms of management. Networking structures are so new that
hardly anyone knows what the term means when it is used. There isn't a general
understanding of the term. Hardly anybody has any experience of the creation or management
of networking structures or how to function within a network. IT sector experience cannot
easily be transferred to regional employment programmes.
Because a general knowledge of
this sector is not yet very widespread, all those who become involved in networking should
participate in the development of the methodology. This should become a stated
work-objective within projects. Existing knowledge of networking should be centralised,
formalised and systematically distributed.
1. SME: small and medium-sized
2. ABS-Gesellschaften (Arbeitsfoerderungs-, Beschaeftigungs- und
Structuranpassungs-gesellschaften): employment programmes and organisations which promote
employment and adaptation to economic situations.