Föräldramötet, The Parent - Teacher Meeting Point (ECHOES)

Published on: 03/05/2007

The Parent-Teacher Meeting Point is an e-serivce that offers an every-day contact between the school, teachers and parents on easy terms. It was developed as part of the project “Everyday Communication Home and School”, ECHOES, a “triple helix” project with Åkroken Science Park, the Municipality of Sundsvall, CITIZYS Research Group at Mid Sweden University and the IT-consultant company WM-Data as members of the consortium. The development process has been citizen-driven, with the active involvement of potential users. A recently carried out evaluation indicates our success: 87% of the respondents state that it is now easier to get information from the school.

Policy Context

As an effect of the raised interest in the society for e-democracy and electronic administration, many actors, both from the public and the private sphere, are looking for new ways to use information technology, IT, in the contact with the citizens. Today, all Swedish municipalities have their own web site, through which they provide a various offer of services, from information spreading to possibilities to take part in the local democratic process. While the compulsory school is a part of the municipal responsibility, it seems natural to try to include services concerning the school at the municipality’s web site. The municipality of Sundsvall passed in the beginning of year 2004 a communication policy that states that ICT is “the leading tool for spreading of information and communication” and that “all parents who want to communicate with the school via electronic communication channels should have the possibility to do that”. (Sundsvalls kommun, 2004) The Cirruculum for the compulsory school in Sweden states that “the school’s main task is to mediate knowledge and in co-operation with the homes promote the pupils’ development to individuals and members of the society conscious of their responsibility.”(Swedish National Agency for Education, 1994)

Description of target users and groups

The service is limited to parents with children in the compulsory school and the staff at these schools in the municipality of Sundsvall. Due to the Open Source solution, any interested school or municipality can take part of the system and adapt it to their own context and environment.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The project was managed by a steering board with representatives from all participating partners. The whole process is characterized by an active and tight cooperation between the academia, the authorities and the private economical life. The project was lead by Ã…kroken Science Park. The pre-study was made by PhD candidates from Mid Sweden University. During this phase five private and public employers were involved by providing groups of employees for focus group interviews. During the prototyping, two students from the University were involved together with teachers and parents from the municipality of Sundsvall. When the prototypes were accepted, a private IT company in Sundsvall engaged the two students to build the e-service. The introduction, information and implementation was made in cooperation between the Child Service and Education Office and one member from the consultant company. The evaluation after a year in use was made by a researcher from the University.

Technology solution

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The impact on the home-school communication of this service is defenite sustainable. The results from a recently carried out evaluation indicates that Föräldramötet has become a success. Our e-service is unique for serveral reasons: - The deep involvment of the users from Day 1 in the development process - The fruitful cooperation between academia, public sector and private sector - The simplicity in design and use - The low-cost development - The Open Source solution

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

Due to the success of Föräldramötet, the Government Department in Sundsvall has initiated a new public e-service project: Pensiostorm, a web portal for elderly. We use the same method with an active user-participation during the whole process. Discussions have also started to develop a "portal for integration of immigrants in the municipality of Sundsvall and in the Information Society for All".

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - The importance of an active user involvment from "start to goal" to reach acceptance and use Lesson 2 - The importance of focusing on the specific context and the potential users needs and demands, rather than on the technology Lesson 3 -. The win-win effects of the cooperation between the academia, the authorities and the private economical life. "We are all the winners!"

Scope: Local (city or municipality)