Short history of the European Talent Support Network (2011-2016)
The idea of the European Talent Support Network (the Network) emerged at the Hungarian EU Presidential Conference on Talent Support and it was articulated in the Final Declaration of the Conference in 2011, in Budapest. The plenary opening presentation of Professor Péter Csermely introduced the achievements of the Hungarian talent support network, looking back on a past of only 4 years at the time, and the prospective long-term benefits of collaboration between the civil and the public sector and of linking formal and informal education. The Final Declaration of the Conference adopted by the almost 300 attending experts stressed that it would be worthwhile to align and organise into a network the relevant European efforts and aspirations.
Professor Csermely’s election as President of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) in 2012 represented a major step forward in the organisation of the future Network. The same year, European Talent Centre – Budapest was formed, inter alia to foster networking of European talent support activities in cooperation with ECHA. The first document presenting the linkages of the European Talent Centres and European Talent Points, the nodes of the Network, was prepared jointly by several European professionals under the coordination of Professor Csermely, and it was released in Autumn 2014. The document was adopted almost unanimously by the General Assembly of ECHA at its 2014 Ljubljana Conference, and a so-called Qualification Committee led by Lianne Hoogeveen was also elected there. After another six months of consultations, the Qualification Committee announced the first “Call to Be a European Talent Centre” on the ECHA website in February 2015. Twenty-eight quality applications were received from 19 countries – a clear sign of the increasingly widespread demand for networking in Europe and its topicality in the talent support field. The Committee selected the first 14 European Talent Centres in the summer 2015. The European Talent Support Network was officially founded on 29 September 2015, in the Brussels European Parliament building, in the presence of senior EU officials and MEPs.
Several joint activities, programmes and tenders have been launched since the first meeting in Brussels, including the call for setting up European Talent Points announced on the website of ECHA and of several centres in November 2015. In 2016, the “Call to Be a European Talent Centre” was announced again, and the second round opened the way also for including so-called “associated” Talent Centres from outside Europe. As a result, by September 2016 the Network already comprised 19 centres, including 17 in European countries (Austria (2), Belgium, Czech republic, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Germany (2), Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey) and two in non-European ones (India, Peru). Thanks to the European Talent Point applications, the Network has been enriched by around 300 Talent Points of 38 countries. The Network envisages the further growth of the number of Talent Centres and Talent Points in 2017. Given its sudden expansion, a five-strong Network Council had to be set up to take care of strategic management. At the election having an active participation of the whole Network, Prof. Albert Ziegler was appointed Chairman of the Council set up in October 2016.
The European Talent Support Network is a continuously transforming and developing system, with the European Talent Centres that are its hubs and the co-called European Talent Points being nodes acting as equal members. The criteria of becoming a European Talent Centre are defined jointly by the ECHA Qualification Committee, and those of becoming a European Talent Point – meaning first of all registration as Talent Point – jointly by the Talent Centres. Registration, however, needs to be approved by the European Talent Centre concerned.
All European Talent Centres do excellent professional work in several talent support fields, but they are quite different in many respects. Some are non-profit, others for-profit organisations; some are public entities or even background institutions of the national ministries, others are NGOs. The set of activities of individual European Talent Points may also be different: some tend to focus more on teacher training, others on working directly with young talents. This diversity is crucial to the strength of the emerging European Talent Support Network. The main tasks of the Centres include, in addition to their own quality work, network-building and the supply of relevant professional information to the Network members. That is, within the Network, the European Talent Centres assume more responsibility for coordination and information supply at regional, national or all-European level. Participation in the European Talent Support Network requires community thinking, with each country contributing to articulating and achieving the common goals from its own perspective. The Network is actually more than the sum total of the joint activities of its members. In practice, this means the realisation of joint applications, networking or a youth programme (Youth Platform). The lead role is played alternately by the European Talent Centres, depending on the content of the actual project.
At first, Network members must invest voluntary work in network-building for the members to experience the benefits of network-based activities later on, instead of considering the Network no more than an administrative framework. In the longer run, however networking offers many potential advantages to all concerned. It can accelerate the substantive exchange of best practices in talent support, increase the number of international research projects, ensure more efficient intra-regional resources utilisation and promote creative productivity through the cooperation of talented young persons. Throughout Europe, a growing number of young talents will be provided attention and support through the European Talent Support Network.
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