Sustainability has been identified as a key challenge in this project from the start. We start at the end with our ideas for a development roadmap and that is followed by our draft market / situational analysis
An ideal Roadmap
We are considering something similar to the USA experience (see below), after discussions with various stakeholders have revealed options for a ‘market intervention’ that also avoid the common commercial ‘Innovation Valley of Death’. Our intervention would potentially take the following form – to obtain funding / resources to do the following (in stages):
The Citizen Literacy ‘vision’:
- Create and publish learning resources to help tutors teach Entry Level 1, 2, & 3 using Phonics methods. (Entry Level 1 has been completed – but is not openly available)
- We would also like to create an App that would support learners as they work their way through the F2F courses at Entry Levels 1, 2, & 3 – to keep them motivated and progressing between classes.
- We would also like to create a version of the App that teachers can use in Class on Smartboards etc as a teaching aid with enhancements for teachers
- We would like to create tutor training resources to help community education tutors gain the skills and confidence to use phonics methods and our teaching and learning resources (if they choose)
- Have all the teaching and learning resources openly and freely available under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence – so that commercial providers can use them if they choose to – so that maximum use is made of the resources and maximum impact achieved
Market Analysis / Situational Analysis
As our stakeholder engagement and mapping exercise has progressed through workshops, twitter, attending meetings and conferences, etc. We have begun to get an idea of what might be viable and sustainable into the future both for the UK adult literacy sector and the project partners. This analysis has recently been catalysed by discussions within the team, funding applications we have been engaged in and contacts with English UnionLearn and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
The general background, especially in England, is one of budget cuts and fragmentation in services and a reliance on a ‘market-based’ provision driven by policy decisions at national level across a range of government bodies. The House of Commons Committee on Literacy and Numeracy has largely come to the same conclusions and added there is a lack of information and direction for adults to find local learning providers. There are some striking similarities to the situation in the USA, from where we have had some enquiries.
We would describe the current situation as a classic example of a ‘market failure’. We decided early on that we would aim to collaborate with others to be part of a solution rather than trying to be the solution. In other words, we did not see a viable traditional commercial model as a path to sustainability – for the kind of systemic reasons we have identified. For the City of Glasgow College to take on any long term responsibility is also considered unrealistic due to the continuing funding pressures on colleges and managerial ‘churn’ which makes realistic long-term planning of this kind impossible
Looking back to the USA, we have seen how the Open Textbook and Open Education movements have responded to similar challenges. Here in the UK the influential US charity the Hewlett Foundation has funded the Open University to explore how initiatives like this might work. In some USA states the state legislatures for education have funded the creation of open education resources and textbooks for community college courses and mandated the colleges (who they control) to use them. This has saved college students large amount of money as the textbooks are free digital or pay to print.
The Creative Commons Licence Scheme is well established and legally recognised – you can find out more here https://creativecommons.org/about/. This approach also ensure the products are not legally hindered from being used in the future if the partners close or disband.
The current Citizen Literacy project partners all have viable existing business activities that are not dependant on commercialising the above open products. The literacy practitioners would certainly use them. Supporting the above products would not be too onerous in terms of internet hosting and maintenance etc. In addition, there are a number of related commercial products and opportunities that, as a partnership of literacy experts and software developers, we have started to identify that could make the partnership a continuing commercial entity. The reputational benefit to each partner in their sector could be significant and lead to further commercial opportunities for each individual partner as a business. So, this has led to us to consider if we should seek a legal entity to carry such a partnership forwards. There are a number of legal formation we could consider. One that we are looking at closely is that of a charitable incorporated organisation, this has a number of benefits:
- It is a ‘proper’ charity regulated by the Charity Commission
- Charitable status can make it easier to obtain further funding and enter into collaborations (Trust)
- Less bureaucratic than a traditional charity
- It is a legal person – able to enter into contracts
- Has limited liability
- Has a better reputation than various forms of ‘social enterprise’
- Can be composed of limited companies that are working together for charitable purposes