Vulnerable target groups sometimes actively evade the reach of government policy, even if they stand to benefit from public services being offered. Embarrassment about their situation, self-consciousness about personal shortcomings and lack of familiarity with opportunities for self-improvement keep these people out of the government’s vision, and therefore isolated. “Embedded education” leverages existing infrastructures of organizations with “touch points,” or points of contact, with hard-to-reach target groups.
This paper analyzes the characteristics of embedded education as a policy approach, based on a case study involving a program to combat functional illiteracy in the Netherlands. We look at how this approach differs from traditional implementation practices of government, and then sketch some of the strategic challenges involved in applying “embedded education.” We conclude with a discussion of the assumption of problem ownership. How can intermediary organizations be mobilized not only to cooperate, but also to themselves take responsibility for addressing a social problem?