Lessons from the NRNs
Building common understanding of common policies
NRNs are ideally placed to develop a shared understanding between a range of different stakeholders. In some cases, the NRNs provide the only platform through which particular stakeholder groups can communicate. This enables the NRNs to work with different groups involved with similar areas of policy to develop a shared understanding, not only of the policy itself but also of its effective delivery. Methods for building this understanding vary widely across Member States.
The English NRN organised a conference to encourage all stakeholders to work together to understand the changes in the delivery of Axis 4 that occurred at a national level after a change in administrative structures during the programme period. This facilitated working enabled the managing authority to identify and manage potential delivery issues from the beginning of the process.
The Flemish Rural Network delivered ‘experience platforms’ prior to meetings with the Monitoring Committee of the RDP to explain the measures to all interested members. Although the topic was different each time, these platforms focused on the exchange of knowledge and experience.
Many of these activities also focus on a single policy theme. To improve the implementation of the agri-environment measure relating to biodiversity, the Austrian NRN organised workshops involving all relevant stakeholders. This enabled them to work together on the existing concept of biodiversity areas, to develop new ideas for the coming period, and to raise awareness of the importance of these areas for the environment.
For more examples of the range of methods and techniques used by NRNs to bringing groups, organisations and individuals together to develop a shared understanding of policy, both vertically and horizontally across stakeholder groups, see the case studies below and the relevant experiences here.
Case Study: Building a shared understanding of rural environmental issues - Finland
The aim of the environment themed year in 2010 was to draw attention to rural environmental issues and to improve the environment through the diverse measures available under the Mainland Finland and Åland Islands Rural Development Programmes. A number of events were organised during the year for the general public, farmers and rural communities, to build a common understanding around the efforts made to care for the environment and to encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities available.
A nationwide educational tour comprising 26 events focused on solving local and regional environmental challenges was attended by 852 people. The theme was also promoted through exhibitions and events organised by various stakeholder groups. Almost 400 people convened in national seminars to hear about the latest scientific findings associated with agri-environmental efforts and to discuss new ways of improving the state of the environment.
The networking approach taken to deliver the initiative also encouraged other network stakeholders to develop and implement complimentary activities, and therefore added significant value to the programme of events. For example, the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Finnish 4H Federation (4H - Head, Hands, Heart and Health) organised an environmental campaign aimed at schoolchildren.
The Finnish 4H Federation is the largest youth organisation in Finland, with 75,000 young people as members. It works with 6-to-28 year olds on a range of long-term goals, which combine entrepreneurship, education, workplace skills and active citizenship. A teacher’s handbook, which includes both classroom-based and outdoor activities, was also designed, to acquaint pupils with environmental conservation efforts in rural areas, biodiversity, and water system management. The campaign also featured at an agricultural exhibition aimed at children, which had approximately 4,000 visitors.
During the year, the general public received information on topics that are usually considered difficult to understand and real life examples were presented in a way that made them easy to discuss. These activities encouraged people to take action on the environment, resulting, for example, in the establishment of several new wetland areas.