The OU is one of a number of organisations that form the Social Partnerships Network (SPN). All the partners have a firm commitment to widening access and social inclusion and the combined potential to reach over seven million people.
SPN members share common values related to lifelong learning and social mobility and a commitment to creating strategies and activities that contribute to a more diverse higher education system. Together, they show that collaboration with like-minded organisations is an effective way to reach new learners who might think that university-level study is not for them. What drives the SPN is to create low-cost sustainable solutions that are not dependent on a particular place or institution but that are shared and targeted and one of the key strengths of the network is to offer pathways that meet the particular needs of individuals in specific sectors of activity.
The work of the SPN has enabled the OU as lead organisation to attract additional funding from HEFCE to develop a national, online and sustainable approach to outreach. The National Network for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) project has produced some exciting new resources including the PEARL website, which stands for part-time education for adults returning to learn and six free online courses.