The transformative possibilities of formal and non-formal education sector partnership: a case study of the global connections program
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AbstractThis thesis addresses ways that formal and non-formal education providers can form effective partnerships in order to construct school-based educational interventions. Formal education systems are increasingly challenged to provide innovative educational responses in a context of limited resources and a rapidly changing and complex world. It would seem that working with outside organisations which are alternatively resourced and alternatively experienced offers a way of extending schoolsâ€™ capability. However, partnerships between fundamentally different organisations with different mandates and rationales for educational activity are inherently problematic. The empirical work that supports this thesis involved investigating one set of such partnerships. State secondary schools in Melbourne, Australia and the child-centred development organisation Plan Australia combined to implement an innovative program called Global Connections which challenged young people from two countries to mutually explore and act on social issues of concern to them. Qualitative case studies which focussed on the partnersâ€™ activity were developed for each of the school sites where Global Connections was implemented in 2008 and 2009. The empirical data generated were characterised by evidence that the existing structures, roles and processes of each partner remained essentially unchanged and were utilised separately to implement Global Connections. Further to this, each organisation utilised different interpretive frameworks to understand and evaluate the educational purpose, content and pedagogies of Global Connections. The research problem of constructing effective partnerships was identified as being about ways of bridging the different educational sectors additional to the operational problem of coordinating the work of individuals within separate organisational structures. An interpretive framework was developed by adapting and inter-relating three distinct theoretical approaches. Firstly, Global Connections was considered with regard to being complicated (many interwoven parts) and complex (uncertain outcomes) (Rogers, 2008). The partners were then positioned with regard to how they interacted with the programâ€™s complexity and complicatedness, and with each other. To this end, an engagement continuum which looked at the extent to which each partner contributed to the processes of implementing Global Connections was combined with qualitative dimensions of partnership related to the commitment each partner brought to partnership and the value that they assigned to working together. A model of cross-sectoral educational partnership is offered which describes a â€˜collaborative partnership spaceâ€™ within which explicit understanding is developed. The space is theorised as acting in a governance-type role and involves actively addressing critical partnership factors of trust, mutuality and reciprocity so that they are understood and reinforced by both partners. The collaborative partnership space is envisaged as being distinct from the program management space but would give authority to and support program management. The model that is offered is structured to ensure that program activity, which is the focus of the partnership, is jointly evaluated, understood and acknowledged while retaining the possibility of contributing separately and perhaps in different ways to each organisationâ€™s goals. The thesis confirms that the promise of well constructed sustainable partnerships is educational opportunity beyond what either organisation could accomplish individually.