24 months, starting 1 December 2011 until 30 November 2013.

Why was the project initiated / what triggered the start of the project?
OBSERVAL-NET is the follow-up project resulting from the OBSERVAL project which created a rich repository of peer-reviewed case studies on VNIL (Validation of Non formal and Informal Learning) in 25 European countries.
The final event showed that it would be highly beneficial to further analyse the selected case studies and VNIL materials collected in the project’s repository (The Observatory) and to further strengthen the expert network and peer-learning partnerships started under OBSERVAL. Furthermore, the networks online and offline interactivity should be fostered by fully exploiting the opportunities offered by the Observatory.

Following the results of that project, OBSERVAL-NET has been conceived based upon the following assumptions:
• For countries without the enabling policies and structures in the adult education or VET sector, the sharing of best practice and the coordination of policies is of the utmost importance
• The lack of confidence in VNIL procedures, especially from institutions with rigid accreditation and assessment procedures, can be diminished by increasing their confidence in the personnel administering VNIL. Thus, a professionalisation of the post of ‘VNIL Practitioners’ – as happened throughout much of Europe in the last decade with the post of ‘Quality Assurance Officer’ – would increase trust in the system
• Local-level initiatives have been shown to be effective in promoting and implementing VNIL. However, for them to be efficient, they need to be better connected with regional and national policy processes to maximise impact
• Multi-stakeholder partnerships, particularly when they bring together the public sector, enterprise and educational institutions, are major enablers of VNIL

What was the intention of the project / what did it want to achieve and for whom?
OBSERVAL-Net seeks to analyse the rich data brought together in the project repository, the Observatory, and seeks to maintain and intensify the expert network consisting in national working groups and transversal expert and peer-learning groups.
OBSERVAL-Net as a follow-up project of the OBSERVAL project seeks to analyse the rich data brought together in the project repository, the Observatory, and seeks to maintain and intensify the expert network consisting in national working groups and transversal expert and peer-learning groups. The core element of the network is creating VNIL policy priorities through joint action and agreement by stakeholders and policy-makers, embodied by the stakeholder fora, with policy conclusions and best practice being shared at European level. Thus, OBSERVAL-Net intends to promote policy actions which have a high multiplier effect throughout the lifelong learning community – specifically in the fields of professionalisation of VNIL practitioners, mainstreaming of grassroots initiatives and the promotion of work-based competence development and recognition.
In order to guarantee the sustainability of the project, it is planned to institutionalised the created network officially at the end of the project.

Aims and objectives
Overall, the project will seek to:
1. Create transversal networks capable of developing national and trans-national evidence-based models of best practices in VNIL
2. Develop coherent, comprehensive and flexible models for VNIL practices and recommendations, drawn from a comparative analysis of examples of best practices across European countries 
3. Mainstream these practices through strategic development and policy making at national- regional level

More specifically, the OBSERVAL-NET will work:
1. To create transversal thematic groups for the first year across the partnership to carry out collaborative comparative analysis of partners’ own case studies
2. To produce comprehensive reports across the thematic groups in relation to the examples of best practices
3. To develop comprehensive and flexible models and recommendations based on the principles emerging from examples of best practice and implementation identified by the thematic groups
4. To involve key policy makers in each national-regional context to ensure strategic mainstreaming

This will lead to the creation of:
1. A formal European stakeholder network on VNIL, bringing together stakeholders and policy-makers in an articulated network replicated in at least 8 EU countries, and coordinated through a trans-national expert-sharing group.
2. A series of tools supporting VNIL implementation at various levels, including:
a. A competence-profile for VNIL Practitioners
b. A menu of success factors for work-place competence development and recognition,
c. An implementation guide for supporting grass-root activities
d. A European policy-manifesto for VNIL

Target groups
The target groups are first of all national VNIL stakeholders, including employers, institutions of lifelong learning, civil society organisations, students, social partners etc who will be reached in through the national working groups (stakeholders fora) in the project partner countries. Policy-makers will be especially involved in the project through the national working groups on the one hand and the transversal peer-learning groups on the other hand.
Furthermore, the project results will be of great interest to:
- VNIL practitioners – the project will develop a competence profile for the profession, giving better career progression opportunities for current VNIL practitioners, and better clarity on the job for people considering profession
- Employers will be specifically targeted both for involvement in the national working group, as well as through a specific trans-national working group for discussing success factors in VNIL implementation at this level.
- Other European VNIL initiatives and associate partners will be included within the project processes in the peer-learning group and the final event.
- VNIL Professionals and Researchers – are targeted by the Observatory which, as a high quality information resource on VNIL created and maintained by the project consortium, will be promoted amongst this target group.

What are the achievements / results so far? What are the main learning points of the project?
The new project has just started and there has not been time to do more than setting up the sub-contracting agreements, the partner agreements and organizing the kick-off meeting (Barcelona, 19-20 December 2011).

What experience could be transferable? How could the project experience inspire other organizations / countries?
The analysed best practices are expected to deliver transferable results for a variety of stakeholder organizations. Thus, the envisaged competence profile for VNIL practitioners, the success factors for applying VNIL procedures in working life and the implementation guide for strengthening VNIL through grass-root initiatives will be valuable for organizations with various backgrounds. Moreover, the planned Advocacy Pack intends to provide useful advice on how to involve public institutions in the further development of VNIL procedures.
The extended Observatory aims to go beyond the mere function of a repository by developing into an interactive networking site which does not only provide high quality information resource on VNIL, but which also supports the effective networking and exchange VNIL practitioners and stakeholders.

Information about the coordinator:
Carme ROYO carme.royo(ät)eucen.org
Executive Secretary of EUCEN and Project Coordinator
EUCEN – European University Continuing Education Network
The project will develop the current OBSERVAL observatory. The link to the website to be developed is: www.observal.org/observal


Presentation Toril Eikaas Eide: PDF