Second project meeting in Leiden

Category: eu eaer news

Scottish Drugs Forum is lead partner in the exciting new European Action for Employment in Recovery (EAER) project – a partnership of four European organisations who, through European Union funding, are working collectively to promote best practice guidance for supporting people with a history of problematic substance use into employment.

SDF’s Emma Hamilton, Head of Engagement and Peer Inclusion, and Chris Messenger, Senior Officer for the Addiction Worker Training Project (AWTP) recently attended a meeting of the partnership in Leiden in the Netherlands and Emma has shared a few of her thoughts below. There were a number of reasons to look forward to Leiden; for one, the efficiency of Dutch public transport is always something to admire! But more importantly, I was looking forward to catching up with my European colleagues.


Our last meeting in October 2018 in Glasgow seemed like a long time ago - it had been our first project meeting and felt like an introduction. In Leiden we would begin to get a feel for how the project would progress.

European Action for Employment in Recovery (EAER) aims to gather and share best practice in terms of supporting people in recovery to enter into and engage with employment and employability. The project will develop two guides; one accounting the best practice related to employment in recovery and the other describing emerging practices, a website giving details of all of the project activities and products, and an e-learning platform for people in recovery which will help prepare people to create a strong digital identity! All very exciting! 

As the Chair, I sit outside the real work of the group which takes place between the meetings. I have no contact with our European partners in that time. My colleague, Chris, as EAER project manager, keeps me informed about intellectual outputs.


The lovely Leiden 

I arrived on Sunday afternoon before my colleagues. Chris was to arrive later that evening and Pieter from our hosts, the Dutch Foundation, had arranged that all of the partners would meet for dinner.

It was a lovely sunny day, so there was only one thing for it… a run around the outer canal in Leiden! It was a great way to see the perimeter of the town, known locally as little Amsterdam - canals weave through the streets, cyclists reign - dominant over all other traffic, stunning architecture unique to the Netherlands (and the odd windmill!) provide an impressive backdrop to a relaxed setting.

Dinner was a laid back affair and a good opportunity to catch up with project partners who had by now arrived. As well as me, Chris and Pieter, our party for the evening included Enrico and Jonathon (La Tenda, Italy) and Vania (APDES, Portugal).  We indulged in 'typical' Dutch food.... most of us had ‘Dutch steak’ – which tasted oddly similar to Scottish steak! We discussed work, politics, Brexit (of course!) and, inevitably, football. The meal set the tone for the next two working days -  relaxed, friendly, productive engagement punctuated by the odd joke! 


EAER Day One

We walked to what was to be our venue for the next two days, the sports area of Leiden University.  Pieter and Carla of the Dutch Foundation provided coffee, tea, stroopwaffles and eyecookies (difficult to spell and pronounce, yet far too easy to eat!).

As Chair, I was aware we had a full day ahead - a packed agenda and the added pressure relying on technology to support a virtual meeting with colleagues from our respective countries. I'm happy to report that the technology worked seamlessly – we’re getting good at this!

We received updates on all of the intellectual outputs: the existing good practice guide, the emerging good practice guide, the website and learning platform and the digital professional identity training.

We also had the opportunity to discuss the ‘blended mobility’ event that will take place in Portugal in 2020 which will allow people in recovery to engage in work experience with peers and the ‘multiplier’ event in Italy, which will be a conference showcasing the work of the partnership for interested stakeholders. 

A steering group meeting finished the formal part of the day and gave an opportunity to discuss project management, financial reporting and quality control measures! 

Once the hard thinking was out the way, Pieter led us on a tour of the historical areas and buildings of Leiden, including ‘De Burcht’, ‘Hooglandse Kerk’ (a church) and City Hall. Following our tour we went for dinner in Shabu Shabu – a local Japanese restaurant – which was a new dining experience for us all! 


EAER Day Two

Tuesday was a half day to allow people to catch their flights home. it was all go right from the start!  We had a review of day one and confirmed the actions and respective deadlines.  Pieter gave a full account of the role, expectations and documentation associated with EAER days. In our case, these will be local events hosted by SDF, to support engagement of local and national stakeholders in all of the intellectual outputs.

We also had a full discussion on quality assurance measures and nominated persons in each organisation to ensure this. The main bulk of the discussion was on the dissemination strategy for the work of the partnership. A dissemination plan is being developed and in the meantime we will publish our first EAER ebulletin!  I believe this page turner of a blog will also feature! ;-) Exciting stuff!


Culture exchange

A bonus of the transnational project meetings is the opportunity to explore and learn about new cultures, indulging in the history, the language and the atmosphere. Leiden is a beautiful, laid back and historic town. The people are friendly and their spoken English is exceptional! I was also lucky enough to have time before my flight home to explore The Hague, taking a free walking tour to the majority of the sites including the Peace Palace. Overall, a fantastic experience!


Looking forward

I am delighted with how the meeting went over the two days. The project has moved from concept to the tangible and there are exciting times ahead. I look forward to the next transnational project meeting in Porto, and hearing the progress of the partnership - including how stakeholder engagement is growing in our home countries.

I am mindful of the task ahead and hopeful that stakeholders in the UK understand our goal and how they can get involved to learn from and support the project. Mostly however, I am excited about the planning of the blended mobility aspect and being able to offer this opportunity to some of our new addiction worker trainees! 

Before I finish, I must say Thank you! To Pieter and Carla for hosting a wonderful two days in Leiden; to Chris for coordinating the project and pulling everything together to ensure its smooth running, and to all who attended (including our digital colleagues on video conference) for your active participation, continued motivation towards the aims of the project and finally your good humour!