Managing the Network
Collection and dissemination of project examples
In accordance with Article 54(3) of the Rural Development Regulation (RDR) No 1305/2013 NRNs [PDF ] are expected to include ‘activities regarding the collection of examples of projects covering all priorities of the Rural Development Programmes’ in their 2014-2020 Action Plans. The collection and dissemination of project examples by NRNs is expected to particularly contribute to the NRN objectives on ‘improving the implementation of Rural Development Programme (RDP)’ and ‘informing the broader public and potential beneficiaries’ (as per Article 54(2) of the RDR No 1305/2013).
The collection of project examples is not a new task for NRNs and NSUs and considerable experience has already been accumulated in this field. During the 2007-2013 programming period “the identification and analysis of good transferable practices and the provision of information about them” was one of the main tasks assigned to NRNs, as well as to the ENRD (Reg. (EC) 1698/2005, art. 67).
One of the main purposes of the collection and dissemination of project examples is the provision of information about projects financed under the Member States’ RDP measures. Project examples provide the possibility for rural actors, as well as for any interested stakeholders, to learn more about the content of publicly funded rural development projects and it is a means to communicate to the wider public information about the actions that the RDPs are supporting. Project information, furthermore, improves the knowledge and the understanding of potential beneficiaries about funding opportunities. Project examples also demonstrate how public money is spent, and thus help contribute to transparent use of EU funds.
Understanding what constitutes good practice is an emerging requirement among people working in the field of rural development. This issue became particularly pertinent, when sufficient experience was accumulated and a critical mass of projects was supported and could be assessed and disseminated. Possibly one of the most relevant questions raised during these debates has been: whether it is possible to create a common set of criteria on what a good practice is. For instance, in October 2013 the Finnish NRN organised a workshop called ‘Towards Best Practices 2.0’ aiming at creating a shared vision on how future good practices on rural development can be collected, analysed, disseminated and transferred.
The collection of examples requires strong cooperation among different stakeholders, including beneficiaries, managing authorities and European-level stakeholders. This kind of coordination, as well as the development of project examples in a meaningful and structured way, requires time and human resources. Besides the more traditional forms of good practice collection and dissemination, NRNs also developed innovative ways with regard to project example collection and sharing. ‘Awards’ and ‘good project competitions’ provided incentives for stakeholders to provide information about ‘good practice’ project examples. Examples include the ‘Agricultural Innovation Award’ in Austria [PDF ], the ‘Notice Innovative Agriculture’ competition in Estonia [PDF ] and the ‘Friendly village competition’ in Poland [PDF ]. In addition to innovative ways of collection of project examples, NRNs also applied new creative forms of spreading and disseminating the case studies collected. Examples include the interactive project database developed by the Italian NRN and the database on videos on projects in the Czech Republic [PDF ].
The collection of ‘relevant experiences’ may go beyond the collection of project examples. Useful experiences can not only be demonstrated through project examples, but also through presenting relevant (over-arching/ cross-cutting) rural development methods, processes, and practices. For instance, the ENRD prepared a series of informative fiches aiming to present, examples of not only projects, but also useful practices and approaches that Member States and regions have put in place and implemented within their RDPs.
The collection and dissemination of examples of RDP-funded projects from all EU member States was one of the key tasks for the ENRD Contact Point (CP) in 2007-2013. The main tool used to support this task was a web-based RDP Projects Database, which now contains over 600 project examples. Development of this database was a ‘step-by-step’ process. In the first year, discussions focused on finding an appropriate approach for collecting project examples with a particular emphasis on identifying ‘good practice’. In the second year, the emphasis shifted to a consideration of ‘relevant experience’, thereby avoiding the need to make value judgments about individual projects. This simplified the process and a pilot database and project collection phase was started involving a core group of NRNs. Finally, a full database and enhanced data collection template was designed, which was rolled out in all EU-27 Member States during subsequent years.
The ENRD’s RDP Projects Database now provides a critical mass of project examples, which can help many stakeholders to better understand and appreciate how EAFRD and co-finance has been spent across the Member States and within the four Axes of the EAFRD during 2007-2013. This database has been an important resource for supporting other ENRD activities and a range of more elaborated case studies have been disseminated in the EAFRD Project Brochures, ENRD Magazine, the EU Rural Review, ENRD video library, and ENRD social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) as well as feeding into various seminars and workshops.