An article from the book ‘Managing Authentic Relationships’
By Boukje de Haan, former Head of Communication and Fundraising Foundation for Refugee Students UAF
The Foundation for Refugees Students UAF maintains relationships with all parties that can play a role in the development of the talent of the refugee. UAF knows what a refugee needs in order to attain a viable position on the Dutch labor market, what facilities are available to refugees, and what steps a refugee has to take in order to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Various organizations play a crucial role along the road to economic self-sufficiency, such as educational institutions, language institutes, local councils, employers, and other refugee organizations. UAF has a detailed knowledge of the fundraising market and knows where to get financial support. UAF is the spider at the center of the web, developing and strengthening relationships, and creating links between all the different parties. A plan-based approach to Relationship Management is crucial in order to support refugees achieve their full potential.
Why did we initiate a Relationship Management professionalization program?
Society is changing all the time: the Netherlands is increasingly becoming a networking and participation society, and a growing number of tasks and authorities are being decentralized. More and more refugees are turning to the UAF, and we have therefore set ourselves an ambiguous goal: to support as many refugees as possible in our target group to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Until recently, the UAF mainly focused on optimizing the support given to refugees while they were studying in order to maximize their chances of success. Over the coming years, we will be intensifying our contact with employers and looking for alternative routes to support refugees find paid employment even faster. The facilitating role of UAF will be scaled down over the coming years and UAF will develop to become a Network Organization. This means we need to have a clear strategic vision on Relationship Management. The role of the student counsellors and job consultants will also change: the counsellors will become more of a connector (networker) between the organizations that are involved in the integration of refugees. UAF will be transforming their way of working into a regional approach which is centered around the creation of connections and partnerships. The UAF staff will be working partly in the various regions in order to set up regional networks which refugees can turn to.
How did the Institute of Strategic Relationship Management (ISRM) and their vision help us?
Because most of our employees are not familiar with Strategic Relationship Management, we asked ISRM to organize an in-company training course for a core team of relationship managers. Step-by-step, in a number of sessions, all the different aspects of Strategic Relationship Management were studied, and then we translated the theory into practice. We developed our own vision on Relationship Management, formulated our Relationship Management ambitions and goals, appointed an order winner for each Relationship Management value center, and carried out an internal and external stakeholder analysis. In this way, our staff were introduced to Strategic Relationship Management in an organic way, which convinced them of the importance of a systematic and proactive approach to Relationship Management. In addition to the core team, in connection with certain subjects, internal experts were also involved, such as the HR consultant and the Functional Application Manager. At the end of the training course, we had developed a clear and comprehensive overview of the contact persons, the relationship goals, and the contact intensity for the relationships in each external relationship segment.
What steps have already been taken?
Because the training sessions were combined with homework assignments, we already had all the documents we needed for Strategic Relationship Management by the end of the course. The first version of the vision and strategy on Relationship Management was discussed by the management team and will be ratified soon. The communication of the vision and strategy to the staff started with a presentation to the regional coordinators. A schedule of needs and requirements has been drawn up for the CRM system.
What difficulties were encountered, and what are the challenges?
Relationship Management doesn’t happen all by itself. The relationship managers who followed the training course will play an important role in the implementation and embedding of the strategy. Most of the staff are not used to working on Relationship Management in a systematic way. They mainly focus on providing guidance to refugees, and they don’t feel like they have enough time to proactively initiate and develop relationships. Creating an awareness about the importance of Relationship Management takes time and effort. Time is a major challenge anyway: not only for the networkers, but also for the Managers of the Network. Another challenge is the creation of the necessary support structure (system, human resources, coordination) in order to collect, manage, and analyze the relationship data. Dealing with overlapping contacts and segments is also a big challenge. For example, some educational institutions have contact with more than one relationship manager within the UAF. These relationships can cover multiple segments and exist at different levels within these segments. It is essential to know who is responsible for which relationship, and where the different relationship managers and their strategies overlap each other.
What new understanding and insights were gained?
Thanks to the training course, we are now aware of the necessity of having both a strategic, structured, and methodical approach and regular monitoring in order to achieve successful Relationship Management. It was also surprising to find out how many staff play a role in Relationship Management, and that therefore we have to make sure, for example, that the receptionist is also aware of its importance.
What have the benefits been so far?
The networkers who attended the training course now look at Relationship Management in a completely different way and realize how much time and effort you need to put into it. Because the training course was followed by a multidisciplinary team, the connection between the various disciplines was established right away and this highlighted the interrelationships between the disciplines. Thanks to the training course, staff in different disciplines now have tactical meetings to discuss the best way to manage relationships.
The oldest refugee organization in the Netherlands
The UAF was founded in 1948 in response to the brutal suppression of the student uprising in Prague. A group of fifty Czech students fled to the Netherlands. The Dutch universities decided to set up an organization to help these students continue their studies in the Netherlands. This organization was originally called the University Asylum Fund, the UAF. Today it is known as the Foundation for Refugee Students UAF.
Each year, the Foundation for Refugee Students UAF supports 2,500 refugees in the Netherlands with (the preparation for) their educational studies and in finding suitable employment on the labor market.
The UAF is an independent foundation that is able to do its work thanks to grants from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, an annual contribution from the Nationale Postcode Loterij (Dutch Lottery), and the voluntary donations and support of the public.
This post is also available in: Dutch