Prepared by Vicky Cotterill (DANCOP Data and Research Officer), Anna Davey (Data and Research Manager) and Ellie Rowley (DANCOP Partnerships Manager) for NEON.
DANCOP (Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Programme) is the Uni Connect Partnership between three universities (HEIs) and five further education colleges (FECs) with higher education provision, working in 63 wards across the two counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. DANCOP’s offer is delivered by:
- Four core DANCOP delivery teams based at three of the partner institutions
- 11 partner delivery teams based within six of the partner institutions
- 15 funded school roles based in 16 target schools
- A variety of third party providers.
Within DANCOP’s partner further education colleges, there are 24 members of fully funded delivery and support staff, including 3 staff members who form one of the core DANCOP delivery teams. The provision at each FEC varies to form a bespoke programme of activity available to each institution’s local need. This provision includes in-reach teams, outreach teams, study support coaches and mentors. To date, in phase two of Uni Connect, DANCOP delivery teams based at the FEC partners have delivered 2,653 activities with 48,999 learner engagements in 43 schools and colleges in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Each delivery team is embedded within the FECs, sitting within departments where existing networks can be utilised to ensure success for the project. The staffing structure varies between the FECs to ensure the project is adapted for the individual college needs. Dotted line support is provided to each FEC team from the core DANCOP team; the Partnerships Manager role supports the FECs from contract initiation to setting clear roles and responsibilities. The Partnerships Manager role enables collaboration between the FEC and HEI partners to provide a comprehensive offer of successful outreach to local schools and the FECs within DANCOP target wards.
Alongside the local offer and all FEC and HEI teams working towards a shared objective, it is critical to DANCOP’s success to ensure collaborative working across teams. Monthly team meetings, for FEC and HEI delivery teams, provide a platform to share best practice, explore research and developments from training or papers released in the sector and collaboratively tackle challenges. The FEC teams utilise Microsoft Teams to hold a repository of resources and activities to be delivered to learners, evaluation reports and useful documents to upskill one another and share information. All DANCOP delivery teams within HEIs and FECs also collaborate directly within delivery. This network minimises competition and encourages collaboration, driving success within DANCOP.
A key element of the success of embedding the FEC partners into the DANCOP programme, has been the buy in from the FEC partners across different levels within the institution. Each partner is invited to have executive level representation on the Governance Board, contributing to the strategic long-term direction of the partnership and enabling clear feedback loops from DANCOP to the partner teams. At the senior management level, each FEC partner has representation and voting rights on the operational Steering Group. The Steering Group ensures equal partnership across the DANCOP HEI and FEC partners and the group leads on the operational direction of the programme, allowing the strategic vision to be met.
Within DANCOP, an additional collaborative network has been established, which is instrumental in the successful partnership; the ‘Innovations and Partners Group’ (IPG) facilitates collaboration on a team manager level across FEC and HEI partners. The aims of the IPG are to monitor and review the FEC and HEI teams’ performance against targets, review expenditure on projects, utilise experience and networks to suggest ideas for the programme and generate innovative project ideas. The IPG is able to share individual institution drivers, but with the focus on collaboration and meeting the shared objectives. The DANCOP Partnerships Manager works closely with the IPG to ensure consistent support of the FEC delivery teams. As the DANCOP dotted line support for all FEC teams, the Partnerships Manager role is to engineer collaboration between teams, share best practice and ensure consistent feedback loops between all DANCOP team members, regardless of the institution they are based within.
In line with DANCOP hub teams and third parties, DANCOP FEC teams have responsibility for providing monitoring data and for evidencing the impact of their activities to the Data and Research team for centralised analysis and reporting. Monitoring and evaluation training, including training on how to enter data on EMWPREP (DANCOP’s tracking provider), is delivered on an annual basis. Training on evaluation requirements is delivered in a workshop style with individual teams or groups with similar activity, which enables constructive discussion around potential sources of evidence and means of collecting evaluation data. To ensure delivery teams are supported following these workshops, procedures and recordings have been developed and shared, and teams are encouraged to contact the Data and Research team for further guidance throughout the year.
As part of the procedural agreements, all delivery teams are required to submit evaluation reports on a regular basis, which encourages a reflective approach to practice. This has been a developmental process with support provided by the Data and Research team, including constructive feedback and optional meetings. With greater emphasis on evidencing “what works”, the DANCOP evaluation strategy for phase two widened the responsibility of evaluation to include all team members and activity providers. During phase two, 61 reports have been completed by the FEC teams, and we are proud that a number of these have been included in our submissions for the national meta-review, contributing to evidencing the impact of our work.
A vital factor in the successful implementation of the evaluation approach was the development of a network of peer support. Our partner team members are included in our regular Data and Research Afternoon meetings, affording the opportunity for skills development and collaborative working. Everyone’s voice and experiences are valued, and teams are invited to present their work and share their expertise. This peer network, across our FEC and HEI partners, has promoted and facilitated a collaborative approach to knowledge sharing across DANCOP to avoid silo working. As a fixed-term project, it has been rewarding to be able to equip the wider team with skills and understanding of concepts which will be highly sought after in the education sector after the conclusion of the programme.
Across DANCOP, the policies and best practice embedded within the DANCOP FEC and HEI partnership, have enabled autonomy in the team’s delivery whilst meeting the expected outcomes of Uni Connect. The variety of collaborative networks and peer support which has been encouraged and facilitated through the project will feed into the legacy of DANCOP beyond the Uni Connect funding. With greater emphasis on evidencing “what works”, the DANCOP FEC and HEI teams have been empowered and upskilled to contribute best practice to the sector and truly embed successful collaboration into the partnership.