Lessons from the ENRD
Establishment of knowledge exchange mechanisms
ENRD knowledge exchange mechanisms were initially dominated by Thematic Working Groups. These were established and chaired by DG AGRI, and included a small number of nominated members from Member States. Each Group was guided by a pre-defined set of objectives and expected outcomes. A work plan was developed for each group and analytical activities were undertaken, coordinated by the ENRD Contact Point. Findings and recommendations were prepared in reports and summarised in presentations to the ENRD Coordination Committee.
The Thematic Working Groups proved to be somewhat rigid, and although the outcomes were often interesting, the levels of participation, engagement and/or ownership of the outcomes were often below expectations. Consequently, the dissemination and impact of the work was viewed by many as being somewhat limited. Subsequently, a less rigid approach was introduced for LEADER-related activities, which led to the birth of what have become known as ‘LEADER Focus Groups’ (FGs).
Initially these FGs included Member State LEADER experts and representatives from Local Action Groups (LAGs). Important features were that the individual FG members were responsible for nominating the Chairperson(s), the FG collectively developed its own work plan, actively engaged in collecting and collating data, and in developing summary reports and presenting its findings. This represented a milestone for the ENRD, helping to make ENRD analytical activities more pro-active.
Moving from a more top-down to a more bottom-up approach created a higher level of engagement and ownership over both objectives and outcomes. It also instilled a greater level of commitment and interest among participants in getting involved in subsequent network initiatives at Member State and European level. The Focus Group model has evolved over time, using a variety of participatory leadership techniques, to become the preferred structure for coordination of network policy analytical activities, with increasing numbers of participants willing to become involved in the groups and act as active disseminators of findings and recommendations.
More recent Focus Groups include the ‘Delivery of Environmental Services’ and 'Knowledge transfer and innovation' and the final report (including a description of the methodology) can be viewed here [PDF].