Date: 25-01-2019

NEWS - ‘In Kristiansand (Norway) we lift up Individuals, but also the Community as a Whole.’

Blessed with the opportunity to speak face to face with so many people from our member organizations at the Annual Council meeting, we took the opportunity to sit down and ask how things are truly going. In the professional atmosphere and on a bigger scale. City level in this instance, as we speak with Erling Valvik, CEO of Cultiva, and Nina Skjeseth who is program leader. Cultiva is a new ISSA member that works on community building. They also aim for the improvement of early years services in the municipality of Kristiansand in Norway.

Q: ‘Can you tell us and our members how Norway is faring with regards to Early Childhood Development. What issues need to be addressed?’

A: ‘In Norway we invest a lot of money in childcare, from pre-natal to the first three years. But we wonder: do we do it right? This question came up when my daughter gave birth to her first child in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She was given only three months of maternity leave, which would have been one year if she were in Norway. But there was such high quality maternity care given in the home environment: two weeks of daily afterbirth care by an Amsterdam home nurse, and frequent visits from the general practitioner. In Norway, we only have school nurses. If something happens in between birth and school readiness, parents are left to their own devices.’

‘So there is much to learn from the Dutch system. Although in Norway, we are not keen to invite practitioners into our home. So it is not just a matter of changing services, but also of changing our perception of what good care is and how to receive it. We (Cultiva) really do see the benefit of re-evaluating the Norwegian system, and also to perhaps set new standards on behalf of the municipality of Kristiansand.’

Q: ‘What is your organizations biggest achievement?’

A: ‘Cultiva as an organization is not run by itself. We are part of a bigger milieu if you like, a community that works together and strengthens each other. We get requests for assignments by the municipality. Sometimes we ask the university to help us achieve our aims. We have made some good progress, for example on the part of inclusion. Cultural schools for dance and music (after school, resp.) are visited mainly by middle class people. People with financial or other life challenges cannot participate, even though the system is subsidized.’

‘We sought the help of the Blue Cross, the sister organization of the famous Red Cross. Blue Cross extends help to people whom are receptive and exposed to drug and alcohol abuse. We know for a fact that financial, mental and drug/alcohol abuse often strengthen each other. Either as a cause or as a symptom. Whichever way, the municipality of Kristiansand, Cultiva and the Blue Cross worked together to set up a cultural school in an area deeply affected by poverty. Because the Blue Cross has established relationships of trust within the community, the children living there were able to join the school and enjoy cultural development as any other child would. This is one example of how we lift up individuals, and at the same time, the entire community.’

‘Another project was one that involved thousands of school children. We let them write down their life dreams on about six thousand mirrors. Artists then carved the wishes so they would sit there for a long time. All the mirrors where placed on a very dark and unsafe place underneath a bridge in Kristiansand. Lights were placed to reflect the transformation. And it was amazing, it deeply changed the entire area. People now go there for a walk, to look up their dream or other people’s dreams. This is such a wonderful example of how you can lift up the sense of safety and wellbeing for an entire city.’

Q: ‘We have talked about the European Quality Framework during one of our meetings. Would this be something that Norway could benefit from?’

A: For us it is so much easier to implement this thinking if the European Union supports it, rather than to do it as a country on our own. You won’t have to use all that much energy to implement it when the Quality Framework is brought to us top down. And yes, I think it will do us much good.’

Q: Is there a specific take away from community building that you’d like to share with other ISSA members?

A: After reading about the works of Professor Heckman, we got connected with the Tryg Foundation in Copenhagen. They do the same as we, but they’re so much bigger. They focus on safety and child development. And a lot of their investments comprise studies on programs after Heckman. They wish to know if what works in the US, works for Scandinavia as well.’

‘They evaluate all their programs along a long time span, and they use the same, if not higher quality standards to replicate the scientific outcomes of the Heckman study. We have learned a great deal by visiting the Tryg research center. We want to grab those activities, especially those who have shown to have big impact in Scandinavian countries. It’s such a privilege to make use of their findings.’

Q: ‘Cultiva is a new ISSA member. Can you please share how your organization expects to benefit from being a member of ISSA’s international learning community?’

A: ‘To pick up new methods and learn from failures and successes. We come into a network of people whom are more competent and who have more experience than we do. We are only starting up with improvement on early year’s services, so we are keen take up their experience. We look forward to connecting further with other organizations, to get their input on the processes we are going through and the projects we are starting up.’

Photo: children at recreational area Baneheia in Kristiansand. Credits: Landskapsfotografene