National authorities and other institutions in Europe at large and in the rest of developed world are urgently faced with the need to define a set of achievable priorities for reform of their education (learning) systems, together with their health and pension and other social inclusion (welfare) systems, while being currently under severe economic conditions, in the context of the Eurozone and international financial instability. The case of Greece, with its imminent needs to undertake well-documented, focused and relevant human and social capital building actions, eloquently linked to – hopefully – integrated employment and growth supporting policies, corresponds to an emergency situation, asking for immediate and collective EU – as well as international – action.
The much needed human and social capital development policies and corresponding integrated actions, aiming at boosting the capacity of the systems in order to offer reliable lifelong learning and professional development as well as other social inclusion solutions, in a society acutely hit by recession and austerity, comprise the structural reforms of the welfare systems.
It is in such a crisis context, where the European learning innovation legacy is becoming much relevant and where education and social inclusion experts, active at the European level, need to bring up a “Learning and Innovation Task Force” – with long-standing and broad-range experience concerning the evolution of the learning systems in Europe and the evidence-based policy making -, in order to get engaged in this demanding effort.While moving into uncharted waters, one could say that the immediate outcome of this problem setting exercise should be a focused and integrated set of actions aiming (a) at a capacity building, while (b) delivering concrete, short- to mid-term results, in terms of structural reforms, boosting growth, supporting employment and facilitating social inclusion. This set of actions should correspond to increased sophistication and adopt an inter-governance pespective, in order to build and effectively implement highly demanding policy reforms, and to deliver both on a short-term and a long-term basis.
Based on our experience and understanding, as it regards the prevailing conditions in the European welfare system(s), attention should be drawn to the following areas of support to evidence-based policy-making, in terms of their potential social and economic impact, for initiating change with much anticipated results:
- Enhance the capacity for formative evaluation and re-organization of the ESIF Programmes, in order to serve as the reliable policy reforming (& implementation) framework and the one to strengthen governance practice and the institutions;
- Introduce sophisticated formative evaluation and impact assessment activities in all the reforming actions, thus boosting the implementation capacity of all stakeholders involved, including state and non-government institutions. Certain programmes should better be undertaken with the form of Public-Private partnerships and try to engage European stakeholders, in order to make best use of “good practice, “bench-learning” and consolidate sustainability.
- Engage stakeholders in fast-track validation of quality assurance, qualifications and other quality certification schemes; this needs sophistication and open-minded collaborative approaches, with short time schedules. It has to be coupled with well organised and scalable decentralization of decision making processes.
- Make all policy reforms (a) relevant to the social inclusion, employability building and growth mandates, and (b) sustainable to deliver on a long-term basis.
- Reorientate integrated actions, where appropriate, towards demand maturing and demand-driven initiatives, supporting regional, grass-roots actions, in a broad, pre-defined framework of policy objectives (as in following point).
- To this end, maximise engagement of the non-government, private stakeholders, in order to (a) increase relevance of learning across the board towards the social and economic developments and evolutions, (b) facilitate the openness and accountability of all engaged institutions, (c) enhance the innovation and change management capacity and the sustainability of these actors, and (d) introduce co-funding schemes, in the form of PPIs, in order to speed up implementation and performance and provide for long term sustainability and competitiveness of the outcomes.
The above mentioned “territories” of capacity building actions are largely identifying the terms of reference for implementation in certain “Domains of Change/Innovation“.