Looking for a breakthrough in the approach to functional illiteracy

Scott Douglas
Dr. Scott Douglas

NWO awarded Scott Douglas of the Utrecht University School of Governance (USG) with on of the 40 ‘Ideeëngenerator’ grants for the research proposal ‘The local network evaluation field kit’. In collaboration with fellow researchers Sandra Schruijer and Erna Ruijer he will develop a 'toolbox' with which local networks can quickly gain insight into how they can strengthen their efforts to reduce functional illiteracy.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), NWO has been funding research within the framework of the National Science Agenda (NWA) since 2018. With the Ideeën generator, the NWA wants to promote research with a potentially high societal impact and offer space for small-scale, exciting research projects. In this context, the research proposal ‘The local network evaluation field kit’ by Scott Douglas was awarded a grant. Douglas and fellow researchers Sandra Schruijer and Erna Ruijer can start from 1 January 2021.

Two million Dutch people lack the language, numeracy or digital skills to fully participate in society. Local networks of public, private and civil society organisations are tackling this problem, but lack instruments to evaluate their approach. Together with social partners such as the stichting Lezen en Schrijven and the municipalities of Gouda and Dordrecht, the researchers want to develop a toolkit with which networks can quickly find out whether they are working well and effectively. This will involve both insight into (organisational) psychology and better use of the available data.

We are looking for a breakthrough in the cooperation on functional illiteracy," says Scott Douglas. Good language policy, for example, combines a good education from the ROC with a language buddy from the library. Money that is made available is often labelled awkwardly at the moment, but if we can bring this together, you turn 2 euro into 3.

Those involved often have different questions than the government

If you bring the municipalities, ROCs, and library together with the volunteers and client councils, you discover what people really need. The government is often focused on obtaining language certificates, while those involved themselves have very different questions: 'I want to be able to read to my grandchildren'; 'I want to be able to have a conversation about my child at school'; 'I want to be able to do a new course as a nurse'. These are all very legitimate questions, which may not fit in the government's box, but they add a lot of value for those people and for society.

That's why all these parties need to talk to each other and make visible to the city councils and the ministry in other ways (through stories, quotes) that they really get 'value for money'.

More information

Would you like to know more about this project? Please contact dr Scott Douglas.