Case Study Report VHS Chance
Development of case study
In this case study report we present the results of desk-research about the institution in general and the results of interviews carried out with employees working on different stages. In consequence to the results of these steps we analyse the situation in the institution under the focus how far it is in implementing diversity management and on its way to an open and intercultural provider of training and education. In the last step we conclude some recommendations for improvement.
For the desk research we used the website, the mission statement, the printed program, leaflets and additional information from an administrative employee.
The 4 interviews have been carried out in June / July 2019 in the institution in Hannover. The selection of interviewed people has been:
- The headmaster of VHS Chance (HM)
- Two teachers out of different areas: T1 Teacher for German as Foreign Language in integration courses T2: Teacher for accountancy in the sector commercial retraining
- An office clerk in the front office of “Job and Career”, one part of VHS Chance: C
In this way, we got different impressions about VHS Chance. The teachers are busy in different areas with different target groups. In addition we chose people who have been employed for a long timeperiod in the institution and those who have been working there only for a couple of years. We had two interviewees who are migrants and two Germans.
Description of the organisation
VHS Chance is part of the “Fachbereich Volkshochschule”, a department of the municipality of Hannover. Thus, for VHS Chance the legal frameworks of “Fachbereich Volkshochschule” and the municipality of Hannover are compulsory. An advisory board facilitates the communication between city council and institution. The institution is financed by public subsidies from the municipality, the Ministry for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony, third party funds (e.g. employment agency, social assurance, European Social Fund, European Commission) and the fees of participants.
The institution is located in the City Centre of Hannover, the capital of Lower Saxony with 558.799 inhabitants. 30.8% of the total population has migration background, what means that they have a foreign nationality including those who have both: the German and the foreign one. 61% of these people are in the working age between 18 and 60.
VHS Chance carries out its program mainly in three different buildings and a couple of rented rooms in many parts of the city.
There exist two mission statements, one general and one specific for the educational counselling service. Both contain formulations showing openness. There is one for the counselling service: “It is accessible for all people and does not cost any fees …”and a general one: “We are orientated on the needs of all inhabitants of Hannover and take especially into account the needs of deprived people and of the ones who have become unused for learning…”).
VHS Chance works under the leadership of a headmaster (Dr. Susanne Kannenberg) and is divided in three sectors, each under a head of department:
- Integration: Centre for Basic education, Program for migrants (German as foreign language, integration courses, courses for special target groups, integration guides), and educational counselling.
- School of second chance: Courses for people without school-leaving certificate.
- Job and Career: Courses in IT, soft skills and accountancy for everybody, certification system (IT and accountancy), training for employees in enterprises and for the municipality of Hannover, retraining for unemployed people, European projects.
A huge part of the provided training is a kind of formal education: school-leaving certificates, integration certificates, languages certificates “German as foreign language”, accountancy certificates and last but not least the formal exams for completed apprenticeships are aims of the course. Only a couple of further education in the area of IT and partly German as foreign language are non-formal ones. The aim of VHS Chance is to provide education especially for marginalized people and to foster their integration and their welfare in a holistic approach. That means in an idealized model:
- Imagine, there is someone who is not able to write and read and his German is basic.
- So he starts in the Centre for basic education and learns reading, writing and improves his German. Then she/he continues in special language courses. In the next step she/he enters the school of second chance, gets his school leaving certificate and starts a retraining in Job and Career (“Chain of education”). The whole process is accompanied and supported by one of the counsellors.
- In European projects, new methods were experienced and innovative approaches may be implemented.
Institutional in the migrant society
VHS Chance tries to facilitate the access to the building using a close guidance systems in the floors with pictograms instead of language for people who are not able to read and write in a certain way. Partly, some staff, some teachers are speaking other languages because of their individual history. For reaching less mobile people we offer courses in certain parts of the town. At the moment, some projects are going on reaching those groups using their networks, their clubs. Exhibitions and events have been set up under topics related strongly to those target groups, involving network partners. Nevertheless, communication channels should be improved.
Specific support for migrants is provided: Educational counselling for migrants, some staff speaking foreign languages (mostly English).
In the public, the institution presents itself as an open one, which invites all people to come. For example, the leaflet for retraining shows people with different cultural background, on the general printed program the cover shows pictures from people in different combinations (e.g. man and man, one dark, one pale), but on the other hand the institution publishes everything only in German.
Human Resource Management
VHS Chance employ 69 contracted employees and more or less than 55 free-lancers. Furthermore there is an administration for the whole Fachbereich (accountancy, IT, service and organisation, technical support, caretaker) employing 21 people.
The contracted employees are divers in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, cultural background. 10 of the 69 have migration background. For the free-lancer exact figures are not available. They are divers in terms of age and gender, but there are only very few migrant trainers.
Migrants are working in VHS Chance on several levels: One is head of a department, three are clerks and the others are teachers.
In the job-advertisement “male, female and divers” are invited and people with migration background and disabled people are asked especially to apply. It is pointed out that a photo is not wanted attached to the application documents.
The institution offers flexible working conditions in the meaning that the start and end of daily work is flexible. In addition, someone can apply for a mobile working place for enabling someone to work partly at home. However, halal food or a prayer room are not provided (but for instance vegetarian food is provided every day and that meets the requirements of most religions). The VHS Chance is a secular institution and any kind of religion must be left out of the institution.
In the process of job-advertisement:
Everybody in the institution needs intercultural competence, because everybody gets in contact to clients. Thus the institution is checking the CV to verify if the person has professional experience with intercultural challenges and/or appropriate further training, that is compulsory. Indicators for this professional experience could be e.g. working with intercultural groups, in an intercultural organisation, with refugees. The indicators are not clearly defined.
Roleplays in the assessment interview with intercultural content are obligatory.
It is compulsory to follow the interview-guide strictly. The expected answers are described as well. That guarantees comparability and provide a base for decision independent of the person.
On the level of leadership:
The internal agreement about development of leadership qualification including “leading in dialogue” incorporates that further training of intercultural competences for leadership is compulsory.
One module in the leadership qualification comprises the critical analysis of own communication and the confrontation with unusual communication behaviour.
The legal frameworks of collective wage agreement (Tarifvertrag) and those of municipality of Hannover do not allow employing somebody without recognized qualification, this is why comparable abilities, qualifications and professional experience are not acknowledged.
VHS Chance is networking with a wide range of organiszations and bodies, busy in different areas. Among them are migrant organisations. VHS Chance is responsible for the “Hannover Diversity Network” in cooperation with another institution. This network includes NGOs, adult education centres, public bodies and a few enterprises. Concretely VHS Chance cooperates with a refugee organisation (“Unter einem Dach”) for organizing common events, and it is part of the network “ALBuM”, which in origin has aimed to foster the entrepreneurship and the employability of migrants and follows cultural approach. Nowadays ALBuM includes Adult Education Centers and Turkish and Iranian organisations. In addition, cooperation with a Bulgarian association works very productive. Especially for the training and education of migrants, VHS Chance cooperates with other AE institutions in the way that participants will be forwarded to them if VHS Chance does not provide the right offer at right time. In this way we avoid that participants have to wait for their (language-) training.
Network partners are invited to all events frequently.
However, the migrant organisations are not involved in recruitment campaigns. Nowadays, there is a high demand for courses and so VHS Chance does not organize any recruitment except publishing the program in printed and online version.
The educational staff is divers, because, some of the teachers have migration background (not a lot), different sexual orientation, mostly are female but there are some men as well. However, no disabled people are teaching
Special support for participants with difficulties in some specific subject is provided: additional lessons are provided; migrants are allowed to use a dictionary, peer-to-peer learning, tailor-made courses for different stages of knowledge and learning ability.
VHS Chance provides support to teachers for handling intercultural conflicts. Training sessions for intercultural competences are organized for all the staff including the teachers. Furthermore, teachers are educated for carrying out intercultural social training with their students.
The methodologies in the courses promote integration, for example in the long-term trainings the welcoming sessions are orientated on getting to know each other and coming together for establishing a collaborative learning environment. Learning sessions are organised in small heterogeneous groups; the participants are obliged to speak German in school for avoiding separated mother tongue related groups.
Personal Impressions of interviewed people
|Positive||Negative / Challenges|
|“Diversity” in the institution
VHS Chance is great! Its work is very important for the society. The VHS Chance gets on very responsible with the people and overtakes its social responsibility.
There is a high identification with the subject “Diversity” in the institution.
Diversity in the institution is visible:
Interest in “Diversity”
Benefit from the advantages of diversity:
Arrival courses for refugees: starting with a training in their area the participants get a smooth transfer into further education in VHS Chance. The formal certificate presentation shows them how they can proceed further.
The complimentary German lessons in the retraining enable migrants to succeed in job qualification.
The basic education provided in cooperation with a Bulgarian club reach a part of the society which usually do not participate in further education.
The diversity of human resources, the openness towards all kind of colleagues.
The bureaucracy is overwhelming. Things should be organized in an easier way. The collaboration in the team should be on eye-level, hierarchy should not play such a role.
Decreasing the bureaucratic barriers under the aim to realise our successful work in a better way. That would be a benefit for all the clients.
Other important diversity categories
The category “Gender” is important for the VHS as well. Mainly women are working in VHS Chance. Attracting different target groups mean to offer different types of staff for identification. Different gender in the human resources fosters a cooperative and balanced teamwork.
The Educational Process
|Diversity in the educational process
||The most relevant obstacles to attend courses successfully:
Challenges for trainer
Commitment with mission statement and diversity policy
“I agree totally, it is our main focus and important for the identification” has been one answer. It expresses that we are not a “school” but an adult education institution with an appropriate learning environment. It expresses our aim to be an institution for everybody in the region: everybody is welcome; nobody should be discriminated and excluded from education. A special diversity policy does not exist.
What should be changed?
Three of the four interviewed persons did not know the mission statement. The mission statement should be discussed on all levels and probably revised. A diversity policy could be added.
Decreasing the bureaucratic barriers under the aim to realise the successful work in a better way. That would be a benefit for all the clients. Unfortunately, it would not be possible, because of the obligatory legal framework.
Better information about the offer and the processes for this target group. E.g. about opening hours. Basic information in English on the website (contact persons, opening hours) should be provided. Diverse, intercultural learning groups face teachers with new and great challenges. To the question: “What problems are relevant in the everyday life of teachers, what can be done to better support teachers?” the answer was “ An exchange should be initiated and a guideline for dealing with these problems should be developed or training should be offered”.
What should not be changed?
The openness, tolerance and the communication on eye-level with each other, dealing with all in a fair way are a benefit for the institution and the people who work and learn there. The supporting atmosphere is very helpful for the trainers, but for the participants as well.
The openness, tolerance and the communication on eye-level with each other, dealing with all in a fair way need to be continued.
The language regarding diversity within the organisation
The institution has a self-perception of openness for everybody. But it is only partly realised, e.g. no information in other language than German are provided, second language is not compulsory for staff in a higher position (e.g. department heads).
So the language skills of staff are not sufficient and need to be improved. The offer to learn a second language for free in the working time is not demanded as expected.
Related to the dimension “Gender” the institution uses a neutral language (female, male and third gender are included using a star: e.g. Lehrer*in).
Significant differences in the way people are looking at and thinking about the diversity in the organisation
The head-master described everything very positive; she has detailed knowledge about the formal frame-work.
The teacher in the integration courses claimed about bureaucratic barriers but has a total comprehension for her students. “The different experiences people are bringing with them make us rich. The key is the general love to each human being and overcoming prejudices – then diversity will be very positive for all”. And: “The VHS Chance gets on very responsible with the people and overtakes its social responsibility”. All the stuff about networks, mission statement, human resources are not her business – she likes to teach divers groups – that’s it.
The teacher in the retraining is more critical with the students and describes a lot of challenges. Understandable regarding the situation: the retraining is financed by the employment agency and the participants have to pass an external exam at the end.
It is remarkable that beside of the headmaster nobody knows the mission statement!
For a clerk in the front office the situation is completely different. She faces the challenge to deal with migrants day-by-day. For her these challenges are practical experiences and not theory. So, she described them very concrete, but she concludes with her positive view:
“We need patience, openness, empathy, mutual comprehension and the willing to accept the differences. … The participants are very divers. We have to advise them and they talk about themselves. In this way, we get to know a lot about each other.”
Arrangements and power relations
The institution is integrated in the municipality of Hannover and obliged to follow their rules. For example: There exists a binding policy for gender equality and a gender commissioner. Some interviewees requested to change it into a diversity policy. But that’s a task for the city council and not the institution. If the institution decides to carry out further training in diversity awareness, the budget for this training has to be confirmed by the city council. So, the scope of action is limited and the first and important step should be: what can be done within the limits?
The power to start implementation procedures is in the hands of the headmaster in collaboration with the department heads and their teams. The administrative sector has to be involved.
Motives and motivations to work on diversity policy in the organisation
The motives are different. One is to follow the general idea of Volkshochschule: “It is a duty of VHS Chance with its social responsibility to support migrants in their process of integration. We have to empower them to step into the job-market. For this reason, we have to educate and train them with subject matters and with the knowledge about “Does” and “Don’t” in the German working environment. However, we have to integrate them in our institution for doing so” (Teacher). Another one is visible in the view of the teachers who work practically with the different groups: they face the challenge to teach divers groups in their daily work. So for them it is more the requirement to get a supporting environment for their work. Partly they are migrants their selves and know the problems and challenges to be integrated and want to support their participants. For the clerk it is nearly similar.
The view of a headmaster is also that migrants are part of the society and thus should be participants in the courses. The figures (number of participants) play a role in this thinking, for sure. Inviting migrants in the institution needs an institution which reflects their diversity management.
Possible benefits for the learners
- Getting information about education in an adequate way (language).
- To attend courses which match their specific situation and getting support if needed.
- Feeling welcomed in the institution.
- Finding people from similar culture in the institution makes them more familiar with it.
Stage of the organisation
|7. intercultural organisation|
|6. intercultural diversity management|
|5. cross-cultural HRM policy|
|4. inflow of migrant workers|
|3. intercultural service management|
|2. service to migrants|
|1. monocultural organization|
Scroll over then names of the stages to get a definition of them
- My organisation has migrants among its clients.
- In my organization an intercultural training has been done aimed at improving sales to migrants.
- My organisation has a policy aimed at improving sales or services to migrants.
- My organisation employs (a) migrant worker(s).
- My organisation has a policy aimed at the influx of migrant workers.
- In my organisation there has been an intercultural training on how to improve intercultural cooperation or leadership.
- My organisation has an intercultural personnel policy.
- In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of diversity policy.
- In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of general quality policy with regard to sales/service provision and personnel.
It is visible, that the institution is on an advanced level in their intercultural and diversity management. The outcome of the test for VHS Chance is stage 7: specific intercultural policies and training are an integral part of the organisation’s quality policy. Cultural diversity has become an added value. The benefits for the organisation are clear and everyone experiences them as such, although there exist different views on how diversity is practised. The long democratic tradition of the institution and the situation in a multi-cultural city are main reasons for this positive result for sure. Nevertheless, there is some improvement necessary. So on the next pages we will identify at first what “change” would be expect and what would be the benefit for different stages of the institution. At the end we will formulate some recommendations how to proceed with the improvement of diversity management in the institution.
Change and consequences
What is change here actually?
The vision of implementing a real change management is for the institution unrealisable (it is part of the municipality). We may improve things but not totally change them. Improvements could be:
- Sensitising staff for cultural awareness through additional training and coaching
- Improving the information for participants (multilingual, adapted to the needs of target group)
- Discussion and revision of mission statement through a reflection day or by external guidance
What does it mean for the education process?
- Better access to the courses
- More comfortable communication with the institution, feeling more familiar
- Getting to know in an easier way what the aims of the institutions are
What does it mean for the management?
- Looking for resources to support the process (human, financial, intellectual resources, time)
- Persuasive efforts
- Reflecting their own competences
Regarding these requirements, it is obvious that the human resources department must be involved.
What does it mean for the staff?
- New challenges and development of competences!
- Accepting that they are not perfect, they have to learn
- Spending time for other things than business as usual
- Being better prepared for dealing with the diverse trainers and participants
What does it mean for the learners?
See educational process.
What does it means for the organisation?
- Staff need time for training and discussions
- Reflection about the aims of the institution
- Spending time and money for the measures
- Getting better qualified staff and better performance in the public
- Probably more participants/trainers/staff with migration background
The VHS Chance is definitely on an advanced level of intercultural organisation. But nevertheless some lacks and subjects of improvement could be identified:
- Only one of the interviewed employees knew the mission statement. Moreover the mission statement includes general openness as an aim; a concrete diversity policy is missing. Our recommendation: Discussion about the mission statement and its revision e.g. through a reflection day and/or by external guidance. Probably the mission statement could be more compact for facilitating the reading and understanding. An explicit diversity policy should be included.
- The institution has a self-perception of openness for everybody. But it realizes it only partly, e.g. no information in other language than German are provided, second language is not compulsory for staff, not even for the leaders). So the language skills of staff are not sufficient and need to be improved through additional training. The offer to learn a second language for free in the working time is not demanded as expected. Our recommendation: motivating employees to learn a second language in the provided programme.
- As mentioned above all information about the programme, the organisation, opening hours and so on are only provided in German. Our recommendation: the long-term objective should be a bilingual website (German, English), in short-term perspective the basic information (e.g. opening hours, enrolment, counselling, contact for different languages) should be organized.
- Diverse intercultural learning groups face teachers with new and great challenges. What problems are relevant in the everyday life of teachers, what can be done to better support teachers? An exchange should be initiated and a guideline for dealing with these problems should be developed or training should be offered.
Summarizing in the “small picture” (the short term perspective) the VHS Chance should disseminate a readable and well-known mission statement, providing bilingual (or trilingual including French) information on the website, improving the language skills of staff and developing supporting structures for teachers. On the long-term perspective (the “big picture”) the VHS Chance needs to develop and implement a continuous reflecting and monitoring system for diversity policy to assure that it is alive (maybe implementing a yearly reflection).
The institution is organized in a hierarchic way but interaction and communication, the work in teams, play a huge role. Thus an approach is important which integrates the people and avoid top down processes. An open exchange about the reception of the diversity in the institution could be the starting point for an interactive bottom up process.
What is the right approach for this way of changing?
There are different views on the stage of diversity in the institution, but nevertheless some lacks have been pointed out of all interviews. Thus an open exchange about the reception of the situation, the gap between theory and practical work, and the organisational requirements should be the right way. In some dimensions the organisation is definitely advanced in dealing with diversity, other need improvement. The institution is organized in a hierarchic way but interaction and communication, the work in teams, play a huge role. Thus an approach is important which integrate the people and avoid top down processes.
Based on the colour model of De Caluwe & Vermaak, which demonstrates colour thinking as an accessible expression of different change management traditions, we advise in this case the following “greenprint” approach for change. This brings people together in learning situations, in a learning process, to solutions that people find together. Interventions such as training, coaching and open systems planning must be followed by a supervisor, who supports people and targets setting and communication, could be very helpful. The result is outlined, but not absolutely guaranteed: the pitfall lies in excluding people who definitely needs to be involved and it could be a lack of action, when discussion is not transformed in decisions.
Commitment with Management and Staff
Summarizing, I can consider that planning and organizing a whole change process is too huge for this institution and its situation. The institution is integrated in the municipality of Hannover and that is why it is obliged to follow their rules. For example: There exists a binding policy for gender equality and a gender commissioner. Some interviewees requested to change it into a diversity policy. But that’s a task for the city council and not the institution. If the institution decides to carry out further training in diversity awareness, the budget for this training has to be confirmed by the city council. So, the scope of action is limited and the first and important step should be: what can be done within the limits?
The organisation is a huge one with different departments. So what we can do is identifying the lacks and the gaps in their dealing with diversity and supporting them to solve the gaps and to improve their work. The management is requested to operate and act as problem owner!