Where to base the advisers to maximise outreach?
The advisers’ physical placement
The physical location of the adviser’s office is also important for which methods they utilize.
Attempts have been made with local ‘anchoring’ by placing the outreach advisers in those parts of the city having a concentration of shops owned by people of minority backgrounds. The advisers have been placed in relation to the Neighbourhood Renewal program. Placements have been most successful where a adviser was formerly employed as a shop consultant and had already built up his network and client base prior to his employment in this EQUAL-funded project.
There have been both good and bad experiences with the local stationing of advisers. It is important that the location in which the advisers have their base be easily accessible to the target groups, who to an increasing degree will seek out the advisers. There is discussion among the advisers as to what is most important: the physical placement or the ethnic network. The term ‘ethnic network’ is used loosely, inasmuch as the Iraqi advisers attract a larger group of Arabic-speaking clients and the Chinese adviser deals with Southeast Asian clients. The ethnic network does not limit itself to a single neighbourhood or city.
The advantage of being locally based is that it is easier for the adviser to become a familiar face among the target group and to rapidly reach the client’s shop. Significant for the advisers’ local knowledge and contact network is also the local network, e.g., the local trade association, colleagues, integration projects, local newspapers, etc. The geographical delimitation can be an advantage because it is easier to identify visible results of the outreach advisory service. It can also be politically opportune to be associated with specific neighbourhoods so as to gain access to funding possibilities because there is often a political focus on community development and milieu of specific neighbourhoods.
Among the disadvantages of being stationed in the field are that it can be difficult to become a part of the main office’s professional and collegial environment, and the advisers can easily come to feel isolated and marginalized. This demand much outreach energy and regular meetings in order to get maximum benefit from the collegial group, just as it can be difficult to obtain the necessary sparring and support from colleagues when making the daily rounds at the same workplace.
Important, too, is that the location in which one is stationed is suited to the purpose, that there is clear signing and that there is a clear allocation of responsibilities in relation to ensuring access to the Internet, telephone, orderly working conditions, and the like.
The advantage of a central location is that one is part of a larger professional environment. This makes it easier to share knowledge with the other advisers and thereby mainstream the methods from the outreach work with the ethnic minorities. This also makes it easier to take advantage of the existing facilities. The institution endows the business advice with a degree of authority which would be more difficult to rely on without the physical proximity. The disadvantage is much related to the location of the main office on the outskirts of Copenhagen, and viewed as difficult to reach for the target groups.
Among other possibilities could be at the Business Centre obtained a more central location from which one could move out, or that there be several entrepreneur centres, as is the case in Amsterdam, which is divided into four zones. One could also imagine that the stationary advisers in the Knowledge Centre could be periodically stationed in the satellite areas. In this way their skills could be enhanced in relation to new target groups, and they could benefit from the synergy their experiences could contribute to the outreach advisory team. More could also be done to meet the needs of the target group. Perhaps it could be an idea to have a business advice office in a wholesaling firm where the shopkeepers purchase goods. In Århus, the EQUAL-advisory service to ethnic minorities is situated next to Bazaar West, a commercial centre with many ethnic shops.
In London, business advice for ethnic minorities under EQUAL is located in relation to the ethnic communities, who have their own business advisers. The well-established ethnic communities often have their own community centres, which also contain activities of cultural nature, teaching and a genuine integration counselling. The advantage here is that there already exists a close connection to the ethnic networks. The disadvantage can be that there is a lack of professional-level sparring with other advisers in the daily work. The advisers for the various ethnic groups in London are trained on the basis of a common accreditation system and are linked together in a common organisational network.