Co-Searching

Co-Searching: A peer-to-peer community for job seekers

Leuven, BelgiumGhent, Belgium
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Co-Searching is a new form of social, personal and bottom-up job counselling. The platform enables job seekers to organize meetings with their peers and share tips and experience on searching for a job through group discussion. It is more flexible, client friendly and cost-efficient for society.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the unemployed take job counselling in their own hands?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

230.079 unemployed in Flanders typically have a poor quality of life as job seeker. Social isolation is a major issue, especially in case of long term unemployment. And they indicate a lack of qualitative support: it takes 3-6 months until the first job counselling by the public employment agency and it is mostly a top-down process, obligatory, impersonal, short, not empathic and does not fit their actual needs in support.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Co-Searching organizes voluntary and local meetings between job seekers. Through peer-to-peer learning we value the job seekers themselves as experts. We do not "give class" but provide interesting questions for discussion, stimulating participants to share their knowledge and experience on how to look for jobs. Everyone is teacher as well as student! This gives a social dimension to job hunting, and a bottom-up form of job counselling. Anyone can join, diversity in the group even leads to better learnings. Every meeting has a theme (CV, pitch yourself, reading vacancies) and takes 2 hours. The first 1,5 hours we get to know each other and discuss on the theme. The last 30 minutes is open for any questions from participants.

Awards

Winner of We For Work 2014-2015: co-creation for solutions to youth unemployment
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Liesbeth was a student at the University of Leuven, she proactively started looking for a job before her graduation. But she could not yet receive guidance at the public employment agency as she was still studying. She did go to workshops, but even when she asked personal questions the information provided did not fit her specific situation. When she came to her first Co-Searching meeting she asked one question after another, 40 minutes in a row. And the whole group of 6 job seekers thought about answers. It gave rise to interesting discussions within the group and personal guidance for Liesbeth. Later she mailed us she had found a job and to thank us, the Co-Searching meetings were the best counselling she had got.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In March 2015 we started in Ghent and Leuven and since October 2015 we are active in Antwerp. In total we have organized 25 sessions with 96 participants. Co-Searching's impact, as evaluated by participants, is: (1) Social: meeting peers, not being alone, helping other job seekers, sharing stories, networking. (2) Learning: personal and relevant answers, practical tips, gaining deeper insight in tips through group discussion, personal development, early access to support. (3) Exploring: new websites and channels for solliciting, new career opportunities. Currently the founders guide the sessions, but we wish job seekers themselves to organize and guide the meetings. We aim for a local volunteer team of 4-5 job seekers in every city to organize meetings. Co-Searching provides support through an online platform to facilitate and disseminate the meetings.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our online platform lies at the core of our future scaling. This platform will enable anyone to organize a local meeting for job seekers. But we also want to collect other services for job seekers on this platform. Many job market stakeholders have difficulty spreading their services (workshops, coaching, apps) to job seekers. By creating a cooperative platform (multiple stakeholders have confirmed their interest) where they too can offer their services to the unemployed, it collects the target group on a central portal.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

(1) Community management, organizing meetings, volunteer management: Contracts with local governments and public employment agencies. As Co-Searching will become a volunteer organization, it only needs 4-5 full time employees to cover the whole nation. (we have proof of this model with a Dutch Non-Profit) (2) Online platform: National subsidies / sponsorship for investments. And a cooperative advertising model for the operations and maintenance.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

De Broekriem: we wish to take over their organization and growth model, as it is proven to be cost-efficient. However, they use volunteers to organize info sessions and workshops for job seekers. In Belgium, this is less relevant as we have a strong midfield doing this already. We organize peer-learning sessions and want to create an online platform to enable the midfield to better spread their expertise. Duo For a Job: matches retired employees with immigrants for long term and personal job coaching. Co-Vibes: selects young potentials for consulting projects at major companies. ...
Team

Founding Story

In March 2014 Bram heard about the concept of Co-Working. At the time Bram was looking for a job and and Co-Working fell together with his need for social support: Co-Searching! He loved to study with friends during exams and sported with friends. So why not look for a job with friends? He piloted the concept unsuccessfully during August 2014, not being able to attract participants. But, he did not let go of the idea. In October he pitched his idea at the We For Work co-creation competition. Here he gather his fellow team members: Marlies, Thomas, Jan, Wim and Jeroen. They gained media coverage in March 2015, right before the start of the renewed Co-Searching and won the competition in June.

Team

(1) Bram (full-time, voluntary): project leader. Master in Business, expertise in social entrepreurship and experience in informal learning. His current primary task is finding financing. (2) Jan (part-time, paid): local community developer. Work experience as diversity-on-the-workfloor consultant for social profit organizations. Part-time employed through subsidies of the City of Ghent. His task is developing the Co-Searching community in Ghent and creating partnerships. (3) Marlies (part-time, voluntary): freelance service designer, with +4 years experience. She does the graphic design, leads the community in Antwerp and is our expert in user research and interface for the platform. (4) Thomas (part-time, voluntary): web developer. Self-learned developer, and currently employed as developer at another company. His efforts for Co-Searching have diminished since he found a job, but will develop the website once the design is decided upon. (5) Wim (part-time, voluntary): web designer. Is currently following a bachelor in web and user interface design. (6) Jeroen (part-time, voluntary): user expert. Of all of us, Jeroen is most experienced as job seeker (he was 2.5 years unemployed) and has a huge network with other unemployed. He is currently involved in communication for Co-Searching. In the future we wish to have the following roles in 4-5 FTE: (a) Volunteer manager (b) Network manager (c) Coordination (d) Web developer and web designer (e) Communication manager
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Browsing through the Ashoka website

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-Founder, project coordinator

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

My basic learning grounds were youth work, my education, and an internship at Oksigen Lab for social entrepreneurship. Here I gained leadership skills, insights in business concepts and language, and learned about the landscape and application of social entrepreneurship.
My previous entrepreneurial experience lies with rePlay and its follow-up project Spinaap. rePlay was a subsidized project aiming to organize "big games", as often organized in Belgian youth work, for adults. Now, 3 years after the project, I started Spinaap with the same team. The aim is the same, organizing "big games", but we wish to do it in an entrepreunial way, selling our games at cost price. Our clients will mainly consist of large public organizations and companies.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

The City of Ghent has approved a project subsidy for one year to develop Co-Searching. They will aid in communication, networking and logistical support.
The public employment service of Flanders, VDAB, also cooperates for communication on local and regional level.
We have a strong partnership with the Jobbar, a small initiative of VDAB Antwerp. We use their location and we share target groups with each other.
We have small ad hoc partnerships with other stakeholders, to organize specific Co-Searching meetings relevant for their services and target groups.