Project: Opportunity of Change For Small Regional Schools
Category: PUBLIC SECTOR COMMUNICATION
To save small schools across the country Soros Foundation Latvia provided financial
support for 53 of them to run change management programs turning schools in multi
functional community centers. The conducted research helped to identify key
stakeholder groups – other supported schools (project owners), local governments,
other schools, educational specialists, educational and regional policy makers – as
well as revealed that project managers don’t have enough capacity to manage a
communication centrally for 53 schools while school representatives don’t have the
right skills to communicate directly with local stakeholders. For the solution a blog
parmainuskolas.lv was established, representatives from all schools were trained for
blogging and dealing with traditional media as well as mentored to start their
communication with external stakeholders. It resulted in a successful platform,
serving both for internal and external project communication, having 337 posts and
more then 10 000 readers over a year as well as rising media interest for 421 printed
media clips. Recognition from UNESCO and Ministry of Welfare was received while
Latvia is mentioned globally as the best practice in assessing Soros Emergency Fund
According to research in 2009 Ministry of Welfare announced that schools with little
number of pupils might be closed down – 241 schools in regions could be facing a
close down in a near future. Soros Foundation Latvia decided to grant financial
support to such schools in order to develop them in multi functional community
centers. 53 schools received grants to implement a year long program of change
management. Schools in partnership with local governments came up with different
solutions to open their doors to all members of local society and returning life and
usefulness to their empty premises. However, their skills of communication were
rather poor and there was no centralized point of communication to share the
methods and results with other schools, policy makers and local community.
- Stakeholder analysis and mapping; key stakeholders defined: other project
owners, local governments, other schools, educational specialists, educational and
regional policy makers.
- Research on best solution for creating a platform for communication and
sharing of best practice.
- Poll of project owners to benchmark their knowledge and skills on
Objectives set according to the research:
- Create a platform, where content (textual + visual) could be shared among
project owners and with other stakeholders; also allowing to communicate the best
- Educate 53 project owners to become successful bloggers
- Educate and motivate project owners to build relationship with local media to
explain the project through regional publicity
- Stimulate Public-private partnership
- Receiving acknowledgment from policy makers, local governments
The core of the strategy was to decentralize the communication and instead of 1
communication center, activate 53 “loudspeakers”, i.e., educate and motivate the
project owners (mostly headmasters of schools or people from local government) to
carry out the communication themselves. That included actively building
relationship with the local media, while the national media communication was
carried out centrally.
Meanwhile, a platform – project blog – was created so that project owners could
themselves document events, share methods and best practice
After evaluating the level of skills and knowledge on communication of the project
owners, it was suggested to organize a tailor-made education and mentoring
program to increase the skills and motivation of the project owners.
In 2009, when schools were granted financial support, Consultancy carried out the
research and assessment. Educational and mentoring activities were carried out in
winter 2010, blog platform launched in April, 2010. Afterwards active communication
was carried out both on the blog and with local media. The project continued till the
end of 2010.
Educational and mentoring phase was divided in one-on-one and group activities. For
project owners there was tailor-made educational seminar organized that included
training on how to document an event, how to use social media for communicating
and how to become a successful blogger. Afterwards a tailor-made manual was
prepared with detailed advices on how to use Wordpress-based blog editing system,
uploading videos and photos etc. Additionally another manual was prepared that
provided basics of press statement preparation and work with media. For project
manager one-on-one mentoring was carried out, including individual seminars on blog
usage, message development and similar.
The whole communication ran for a year, however, the blog is still functioning and
schools continue reporting on their success and events. The blog platform is used to
share this project in various events and conferences by the project manager Aija
Blog www.parmainuskolas.lv functioning for more than a year with 337 blog posts by
project owners and project manager, on average >3 min spent on the site, >10 000
unique visits yearly. The blog is still alive!
421 print publications in 2010 (+ TV and radio, as well as online coverage)
Representatives of 53 projects (on average 2 people per project) educated in PR and
blogging basics. A proof of this knowledge and inspiration is that some schools have
created their own blogs after the seminar.
Project has received acknowledgement from UNESCO and Ministry of Welfare.
Praising results of the project, Soros Foundation global headquarters have granted
financial support for further side projects related to School project, i.e., documentation
and evaluation projects. Latvia is mentioned globally as the best practice in assessing
Emergency Fund assets.
Locally Soros Foundation has been inspired by the success of blog and initiated using
similar tools for other projects. School Project manager Aija Tūna noted that during
project implementation blog was a great internal communication tool, creating a tight
network among schools participating in the project, however, now the blog has
became a collection of best practice and is easily shared in different events and
conferences on education.
Name of the link
“Parmainu iespeja skolam” blog http://parmainuskolas.lv/