Similarly to the other initiatives developed within the LSW (Local Systems of Support) framework, the project aims at improving the ‘educational performance of children and their social competences’, while at the same time its organisational goal is to ‘create a new quality of cooperation based on the principle of complementarity of work’, exchange of experience and mutual assistance of institutions involved. Major activities of the BASE project take place in the local schools and include education and socio-therapeutic activities. Analogous to the other five projects carried out in the districts situated on the right-bank of the Vistula river, the initiative aims at fighting social exclusion of young people, supporting their social reintegration, enhancing their prospective social mobility and fostering local social cohesion.
The organisations involved in the project have experience in collaborating with the city of Warsaw. The new quality, however, that LSW as a programme carries is the far-reaching cooperation between organisations and institutions and the creation of a set of integrated social policy tools. The project has a strict organisational structure. Apart from regular meetings of the consortium, the partners meet at least once a month with the general coordinator, the Director of the Office of Support and Social Projects, in order to report on the realisation of the project, discuss arising problems, needs and gaps in social assistance schemes for children.
The main target audience of the project are children aged 7-18 years, resident in Praga Północ, nevertheless part of the BASE project action is focused also on parents and school teachers with the aim to increase their knowledge, as well social and educational skills. The BASE project lifetime is 2013-2015 and the financial resources (approx. € 400,000) are based on an agreement signed with the Office of Support and Social Projects of the City of Warsaw. Nevertheless, the main capital of the project is considered as the experience and engagement of involved teams representing individual BASE member organisations. According to the Director of the Office of Support and Social Projects, City of Warsaw:
“the uniqueness of this project lies in the fact that for the first time a consortium of nine non-governmental organisations will jointly carry out the task assigned and co-financed by the Capital City of Warsaw. The offer is comprehensive, integrates the local environment and utilises the existing infrastructure – schools, a local sports centre and a community.”
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
The ‘BASE’ governmental arrangement explicitly addresses socio-economic and socio-educational diversity. The arena of intervention (Praga Północ district) is a particular concentration of poor families and an accumulation of social problems reflected by poor school performance of children. The activities within the project are designed to tackle the negative effects of diversity, i.e. problems of social exclusion, as well as education and behavioural problems. The scope of the project concentrates on activities aimed at an improvement of school performance but focuses also on the development of personal interests and hobbies. As a representative of the BASE project claims:
“in the district of Praga Północ we are dealing with a very large social diversity in terms of social and economic aspects – a lot of poverty and pathology. Without adequate support, there is a danger that the level of teaching in local schools considerably drops. As a result of this, parents who care about the future of their children will send them to schools situated in other districts. There will be a negative selection of kids in the schools of Praga Północ, with dramatic consequences.”
Main factors influencing success or failure
The interviewees representing the NGOs involved in the project emphasised a very positive preliminary evaluation. This refers mainly to the cooperation within the consortium and to the relations with the coordinating city authorities – the Office for Support and Social Projects. The main success factor is the organisational structure and the operational system introduced within the LSW programme. The system includes the engagement of public and social actors. The city authorities secure their role as the main coordinator but leave open space for ideas, methods and tools, which are introduced by experienced non-public organisations. Such an arrangement allows for an effective use of the capacity of social actors involved.
A specific success of the BASE project is a positive reception by and close cooperation with local schools, which in many cases constitutes a distinct barrier. It should be assumed that its factor is the involvement of the public actor – the city authorities. As expressed by a representative of the project, its value also results from:
– the exchange of knowhow, networking and mutual support among NGOs;
– more comprehensive and coordinated actions and tools of social support;
– more effective identification of needs and the reduction of the risk of omitting children in need.
The potential failure factors of this and other projects implemented within the framework of the Local Systems of Support are:
– the risk of their termination;
– the disruption of activities which might impair the preliminary success of the initiative. As the project involves children functioning in difficult milieus, only a long-term support can secure the path leading to the improvement of their life quality through social mobility.
BASE is a public-non-profit area- and group-based initiative aiming at enhancing social mobility and fostering social-cohesion in the district of Praga Północ which is characterised by a considerable level of socio-economic diversity. The project constitutes an example of successful cooperation between all actors involved, within which the positive relation between the public local schools and the non-governmental organisations should be especially emphasised. The project within the LSW governance arrangement can be considered as an example which merges the engagement of non-governmental organisations and the role of the local government in providing institutional schemes and innovative tools for more effective social support of children. At the same time, the project illustrates the key role of the local government in the establishment of cooperation between public and non-public actors. Its continuation is dependent on the availability of financing and the positive external evaluation of the activities carried out by the consortium.