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Reaching across organisational, sectoral and geographical boundaries: exploring the learning potential of an EU cross-border project

By Elizabeth West, Anneyce Knight and Susie Page


Research\ud This paper outlines some of the key findings from an evaluation of the project and demonstrates that EC funded projects such as this, which seek to promote cross border collaboration and understanding (i.e. across organisational, sectoral and geographical boundaries) offer considerable learning potential – not least about variances in health politics across different communities. However, for this learning to be realised a comprehensive system of knowledge management needs to be an integral part of project planning alongside a system for sustaining embryonic professional networks. The concept of managing relationships was also a key part of the projects success. Executing a project funded by the EU demands the development of complex organisational skills to negotiate all the administrative challenges en route to successful completion and this project in particular relied for its success on the development of social relationships of trust and mutual respect across national, professional and social boundaries.\ud Context\ud A three–year European Commission funded project designed to exchange a wide range of staff (professional semiprofessional and voluntary staff in health and social care) project led by the University of Greenwich (UK) and the Université Catholique de Lille, France was completed this year (February 2008). The project was complex because it involved working in different national contexts, was multi-disciplinary, and demanded the negotiation of multiple boundaries.\ud Theories\ud A mixed method evaluation including written reports gathered immediately after each exchange visit and a post hoc series of individual interviews and focus groups was conducted in order to gain qualitative information (from the participants\ud perspective) on their experiences and to identify any learning gained.\ud Results\ud Analysis of the data provided evidence of learning on a number of levels; personally, inter and intra professionally and organisationally as well as across sectors and also from a project management perspective. The learning crystallised around the extent of the differences noted by the participants between the UK and the French health and social care systems despite geographical proximity, common membership of the EU and many shared challenges in health and social care. The extent of these differences, noted at every level from policy to practice proved a rich source for reflection on organisational philosophies, ways of working, distribution of resources, professional roles and autonomy and professional registration and mobility - in short on health politics at ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ levels

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