The project "Regional Network for Social Cohesion"

Project partners:
Free Youth Centre – Vidin, Bulgaria (leading partner)
Vasiliada association – Craiova, Romania

Main objective:
Through cross-border consolidation of resources, capacity building and public-private partnership to achieve provision of more effective social services for people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Romanian-Bulgarian border area.

Target groups:

  • Experts from Social services’ providers from whole Romania-Bulgaria cross-border area – both public (state, municipal) and private non-profits (NGOs delivering social services and organizations of beneficiaries of social services) – 220;
  • Experts and administrators from Public institutions with decision making, methodical and/or control functions in social field from the same area, operating on local and regional level, such as local and district public administrations, deconcentrated bodies of ministries and state agencies for child protection, etc. - 80.

ACTIVITIES

Mapping of social resources in border area (June – August 2017)
The activity aims:

  • To identify and describe the available resources for social work in whole Bulgarian-Romanian border area  - local and regional administrative structures and stakeholders, methodical support resources (e.g. social work faculties and qualification centres), public and private providers of social services for children and adults;
  • To promote the project idea and to attract target institutions, organizations and experts for participation;
  • To research of best practices and needs.

The mapping will be done by research of available official information (e.g. for existing social service providers) and by visiting on place of a representative part of mentioned above structures. It will cover area of 13 administrative units - Vratsa, Pleven, Veliko-Tarnovo, Ruse, Silistra and Dobrich districts in Bulgaria (we already have information from Vidin and Montana districts); Mehedinti, Dolj, Olt, Teleorman, Giurgiu, Călărași and Constanta counties in Romania. Every project partner will use own experts, who will implement the mapping in collaboration and using of common methodology. As result of this activity a data-base (min.200 records) will be created with basic information about every structure and social service – e.g. name, contact details, scope of work, target groups, capacity, best practices, needs, etc. This information will be translated and available in Bulgarian, Romanian and English languages. It will be used for analyses and decision making, but also will be disseminated to the target groups. For project promotion, posters and leaflets will be produced and distributed by mapping experts during site visits and meetings.    

Comparative research of social systems (July – September 2017)
The reasons for implementation of this activity are:

  • the project team and other project’s experts to be familiar with social systems, social policy and current situation in participating countries in field of social work and provision of social services;
  • to make needs assessment for improvement of capacity in border region to meet better the European and national policies’ requirements for development of effective social services (also in cross-border context).

The product of the research will be a consolidated report about mentioned above targets – current situation of social systems and needs assessment in participating regions for capacity building in provision of social services. It will include also translation of all important national documents in social sphere, such as policy papers, laws, strategies, presentation of topology of power – subordination, control systems, civil participation in decision making, public-private partnerships, etc.

The research will be done in each participating country by own researcher, but under supervision of an experienced research leader. It will combine desk research (of laws, strategies and other documents), overview of publications and statistics, case studies, and summarizing and analyzing of results of previous activity - mapping. Each part will produce country information set, which translated in English will be consolidated and analyzed by the research leader in a final report. The conclusions and recommendations of this report will be taken into consideration for design and concrete content of capacity building project’s activities.

The whole process of research will require on-line collaboration and cooperative work. The final report will be translated in Bulgarian and Romanian.

Creation of Virtual Community of Practice (September – October 2017)
The project web-site will be a virtual network tool which targets are:

  • To provide access to whole important information about national social systems, their topology and structures, social legislation, specific requirements, etc. in language of neighboring country;
  • To provide access to database creating during mapping activity – also in form of an interactive map of whole cross-border region, where can easy to find any “social resource” (social services providers, administrative structures, methodical units, etc.) with basic description on both languages;
  • To offer a place for experts and organizations/institutions, nationally and internationally, to share experience and expertise during the project implementation and after it;
  • To disseminate project results and to support its multiplication.

During the project implementation, the site will be also used for project management purposes - to support communication between partners, between experts, to keep "memory" of the project progress, to offer access to important documentary forms, to provide necessary level of transparency and to promote the project, etc. In this way the web-site will practically incorporate a Community of Practice (CoP) to increase collaborative work, to share members’ experience. The CoP platform must be interactive, it will not only offer access to information, but also will support users to upload and share such – e.g. methodical materials, invitations for events, to discuss important topics, etc.

The concrete content and design of the site will be elaborated during project implementation. The site will be created it English, Romanian and Bulgarian languages. All project products will be available for free downloading.

For design and programming (technical) work for creation of the site will be responsible LP, but Vasiliada association and its experts will participate in whole process, including testing and evaluation.

International experts’ meeting (October 2017)
The first international experts’ meeting will aims to:

  • Consolidate the decision making level and social stakeholders from both countries and target regions and to provide them with general information about neighboring social system, available resources, needs, etc.;
  • Comment results of mapping and research activities in a wider experts community in order to edit, improve and complement, if necessary;
  • Include them in decision making process regarding capacity building activities planned under the project.

The participants in the meeting will be 20 key experts and stakeholders in social field (10 per country), such as for example local or district authorities, officers from public institutions with key competencies in social policy and their regional bodies, big social services’ providers, methodical experts. The methods of work can combine presentations, panel discussions, work in small groups with presentation in plenum, etc. The presentation of the CoP web-site and its functionality as a networking tool also will be done.

The meeting will take 2 days and will be located in Ruse district, Bulgaria. The main result will be final acceptance of elaborated report and other materials, as well as a decision about concrete content and design of training and exchange of experience activities, which are foreseen under the project. It will be also one opportunity for experts to share experience and good practices, to discuss common problems and solutions. 

Thematic exchange of experience forums (November 2017 – June 2018)
This activity will give opportunity of providers of social services from both countries:

  • To present the services they provided for specific target groups – the methodology, achievements and best practices in their work;
  • To meet their colleagues from other side of the border, to learn about  services they provided – the methodology, achievements and best practices;
  • To discuss common problems and to find common solutions in order to reach European standards and to offer more effective social services for vulnerable groups;
  • To see the social services also in an cross-border context and to establish channels of communication, to plan joint projects, etc.

There are 10 such international exchange of experience meetings planned under the project – 5 in Bulgaria and 5 in Romania. The events will be thematic, which means that in every one of them will be specialized. The concrete topics will be selected on the base of research and with help of participants of international experts’ meeting (see previous activity), just for example we can mention: “street children”, “services for elderly people”, “foster care”, „social services in rural communities”, “services for people with disabilities”, etc. Selection of participants will be on the base of their motivation, achievements (e.g. best practices identified during the mapping activity), recommendations of stakeholders, but and territorial balance also will be observed. Every meeting will take 2 days and will be facilitated. The methods of work can combine presentations, panel discussions, work in small groups with presentation in plenum, etc. The presentation of the CoP web-site and its functionality as a networking tool also will be done. There will participate 20 experts in every meeting (10 per country). We plan to organize them in different places of the border area (e.g. Vidin, Veliko-Tarnovo, Silistra, and Dobrich districts in Bulgaria; Mehedinti, Dolj, Teleorman, and Constanta counties in Romania).

Joint training sessions (July – December 2018)
In difference with previous, this activity will be more focused on further development of social services. The participants will be experts in social work from both countries and they will have opportunity:

  • To learn about new European and world trends, new methodologies of social work and even for new services, including such with cross-border character or effect;
  • to meet their colleagues from other side of the border, to discuss common problems and to find common solutions in order to reach European standards;
  • to see the social services also in an cross-border context and to establish channels of communication, etc.

There are 10 such international training planned under the project – 5 in Bulgaria and 5 in Romania. The concrete topics will be selected on the base of research and with help of participants of international experts’ meeting, just for example we can mention: “Public-private partnership in social services”, “New trends in social services for children”, “Social services cross the borders”, “How EU funds can support social services”, etc. Selection of participants will be on the base of their profile, motivation and achievements, but and territorial balance also will be observed. Every training will take 3 days and will be implement by experienced trainers – our idea is to share best methodologists from both countries. The methods of work can combine presentations, panel discussions, work in small groups, practical exercises, etc. The CoP web-site will be presented shortly after the end of every training. There will participate 20 experts in every event (10 per country). We plan to organize them in different places of the border area (e.g. Montana, Pleven, and Ruse districts in Bulgaria; Olt, Dolj, and Constanta counties in Romania).

Exchange visits (January – February 2019)
Exchange visits aims to support sharing of experience in an active and practical way, as well as to encourage development of cross-border and/or joint initiatives in social field between Bulgarian and Romanian organizations/institutions (both public and private providers of services).

There will be 6 such visits implemented (3 in Bulgaria and 3 in Romania) with participation of 12 organizations/institutions selected on a competitive basis. This selection will be made by an extended commission, which will include as representatives of the partners, as well as stakeholders and experts from both countries (from the participants in the international meeting). In an open competition will be chosen 6 pair of partners – e.g. one hosting organization from Romania and one sending organization from Bulgaria or vice versa. In every exchange visit will participate 3 representatives of sending organization and their travel and subsistence expenditures will be covered by the project during 3 days visit. Selection will be done on the base of written application, the criteria will include motivation, experience, potential for sustainability of cooperation, etc. The exchange partners have to offer an agenda of the event and expected results as a part of the application. After visit they will report results achieved. No funds will be transferred to participating organizations or individuals.

Closing conference (March – April 2019)
The reasons to include the activity in the project and its role in this context are:

  • To create officially and affirmate Bulgarian-Romanian Social Network;
  • To evaluate the project results, including here used methodologies and approaches, to measure the indicators, etc.;
  • To report and inform the experts’ community and general public about project achievements and lessons learned;
  • To disseminate the achievements in order to multiplicity the project idea and to expand the network in the future;
  • To make conclusions and, if necessary, recommendations to responsible institution in field of social work and social policy, as well as for creation of mechanisms for regional cooperation and sharing of resources;
  • To discuss a strategy for sustainability, etc.

The Conclusion forum will take two days in Romania and will collect 40 participants (20 from Romania and 20 from Bulgaria) – as participants in the project (from direct beneficiaries, but also methodical experts, trainers, etc.), as well as guests from public institutions responsible for social policy, other relevant stakeholders and experts, etc. Local, regional and national media will be also invited to popularize the event. The main result of the closing forum will be establishment of the network, which means development and adoption of a Statute of this structure and/or a strategy for its development.

Publications (March – April 2019)
The activity aims to disseminate project achievements and result to specialized expert community, as well as to report them to the whole society in the both countries. For these purposes two publications will be prepared and distributed:

  • A Collection with materials from the project – presentation of Bulgarian and Romanian social systems (results of research activity), data-base of organizations and institutions active in social field in border region (basic information and contacts), examples of good practices, etc.;
  • A brochure ("layman’s report") – popular explanation about project’s achievements with text and photos for general public.

Both publications will be issued in Romanian and Bulgarian languages. They will be available for free download from project web site as well (the Collection also in a e-book version).

Publicity (March 2017 – April 2019)
This constant activity will ensure necessary level of publicity and transparency of the project. It will be permanent and will cover whole project duration. The activity will include:

  • Informing the mass media about all important public events (press releases, invitations, interviews);
  • Two press conferences in every country (in the beginning and in the end of the project) the idea and to report the project results;
  • Design, print and distribution of promotion materials, such as folders, leaflets, posters, roll-ups, as already described under activates “Mapping”, “International meeting of experts”, “Training sessions”, etc. for direct project beneficiaries and target communities;
  • Design, print and distribution of project products, such as a Collection with materials and a brochure for general public, as already described under activity “Publications”;
  • Design, publication and maintenance of a network web-site in English, Bulgarian and Romanian language for project participants and other interested worldwide with project description, news section, free access to project products, etc.;
  • An activity in the beginning of the project to attract participation in target area – “Mapping”, which will inform local stakeholders and target organizations/institutions.

The roll-up banner will be used in every public event – training, international meetings, closing forum, etc. to inform the participants and media about project and the Interreg V-A programme, etc.

Project management (May 2017 – April 2019)
The organization of project implementation of leading organization and the partners will include: Detailed plan of activities, Project procurement plan for each partner (if applicable); Project visualization and a plan for publicity and transparency; Monitoring procedures; Scheme for payments and cash flow; Risk management plan; Dissemination plan; Sustainability strategy; Key experts profiles/job descriptions, procedures for nomination and selection of participants, etc. The application of adopted documents will be controlled by: three months written reports system - each partner will report its activities, results, spent funds, problems faced, etc.; On-line meetings - for discussion of problems and planning; Management meetings – min. 8 times during the project; Other ways in emergency cases - by phone, e-mail, etc.

The project activities will be organized by project management teams of Free Youth Centre and Vasiliada association. The activities and results will be monitored through: Monitoring of the all project events by country coordinators and project manager (leading partner); Monitoring of development of all intellectual products (e.g. research report); Intermediate and final evaluation of the project implementation and result on the base of indicators - during project reporting.

The project staff will participate in all important events under the project (international meetings, training, etc.) in order to secure organization and monitoring. During the project implementation 8 management meeting will be organized – 4 in Bulgaria and 4 in Romania, approximately once every 3 months.

Expected results:

  • A joint evaluation of current situation of social systems and needs assessment in Bg-Ro border region implemented;
  • A virtual Community of Practice created as networking tool for sharing of methodical resources and communication;
  • A data-base of 200 records about Bg and Ro social legislation, policy, profiles of social providers in border area created;
  • 300 experts in social field from public and NGO sector enhanced their qualification by participation in exchange of experience forums and joint training;
  • 12 social public and non-governmental organizations shared practical experience and/or developed joint initiatives as result of exchange visits;
  • A Bg-Ro cross-border network of providers of social services created.

Project duration:

26 April 2017 – 25 April 2019 (24 months)

Budget of operation:

Total of 353 286,71 euro (of which: 300 293,71 euro ERDF, 24 084,78 euro Romanian state budget, 21 842,50 Bulgarian state budget, 7 065,73 euro own contribution)