Mid-Term and Final Evaluation of the INTERREG IIIC project Industrial Change Network / ICN
Background: ICN - Industrial Change Network
The main objective of the ICN project, an Interreg IIIC project, was the lasting improvement of regional development and social cohesion within a region and between European regions in an enlarged Europe. Accrued from the EIRA-network, a platform for cooperation between European industrial regions, the ICN project stared with the objective of deepening these cooperations, transferring the results and implementing new projects. Therefore 22 partners from 12 regions in Europe got together to create synergies in order to learn from each other's experience and improve effectiveness in solving the challenges of the future. The main goal was therefore to develop reliable and sustainable partnerships, to implement policies and tools for regional development and to approach cohesion. The ICN network was organised in five working groups represent the major problems of the industrial regions. The approach of this network was to exchange existing and invent new strategies, tools and instruments. The partners of this project, intermediaries, work at the local or regional administration, regional man-agement agencies, universities or private companies dealing with the regional development – involved in the operational work.
The main emphasis of this evaluation lied on the mid-term evaluation to optimise working processes and therefore final results. There were several questions that arose on different lev-els like the project level, the workshop level or the management level. The main questions were:
- How are the perception and the acceptance of the project (results) inside the regions – and outside the regions? Is there any media feedback or request from the outside? How about publications and public relations? In which local/regional/national committees are the partner of the project involved? Are they transferring the findings of the meetings into these committees?
- Are the groups working efficient – does it look like they will achieve their goals? Which results did they reach already? Do the working groups use different methods of learning/exchanging knowledge – are there any references for especially “effective” methods used in any working group?
- Due to the framework of this evaluation, the reference to the programme takes only a small part. However, the question what contribution ICN makes to the Interreg IIIC Programme should be addressed.
- Are there any obvious bottlenecks of the project? How can these be overridden?
- What are the challenges of the project? How can processes and working methods be optimised to achieve the aimed results?
- What are the overall conclusions of the project – what can be learned from the final results?
To evaluate the previous work, the process and the results of this project, a triage and an analysis of the different project packages were made. The focus lied on the mid-term evaluation, especially on the active work, the results and the diffusion of these, less on the management. To evaluate the processes, a written questionnaire and face-to-face-interviews were conducted. For the final evaluation, the results achieved were updated and interviews with the working group leaders were conducted.
The project turned out to be a great opportunity for regions to build up co-operations to exchange knowledge and experience on problems occurring within structural change. On the one hand, there are some good results of this project: toolkits that have been compiled, compilations of good practice examples or joint projects that had been implemented during the project term. Furthermore, policy approaches had been transferred from one region to another. Especially the Eastern European regions benefited a lot from this project since there were a lot of twinnings (meetings between a limited number of regions to discuss a specific problem) in their regions and on their problems.
Apart from the positive results, there were some bottlenecks the project had to deal with: because of the great number of partners from a range of different regions the expectations differed a lot. Some participants expected discussions on a general level and wanted to work on joint standpoints; others had a very practical point of view. Furthermore, the participants did not always have a very good support from their regions, this has also to do with the missing results in the first part of the project – it took too much time get started with the real work.
However, the project was a success and all participants did profit somehow. Finally, some recommendations can be made for future networking projects like this:
- Network projects should focus on a concrete topic; if there is more than one topic to discuss, there should be high connectivity and integration between the topics.
- A short but more intense project period would be better to achieve sustainable and effective results than a long one (3 years). By having long periods in-between the project meetings, the participants forget about the project very easily because it is only a tiny bit of their work. By tighten the project time the project would probably get a higher priority.
- This would probably also help to avoid problems in the project management. For future projects it has to be followed that the project management is not involved too much into the project work, but focus on the project management – the formal one and the strategic one.