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Found in translation 8 April 2016

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Every Christmas my cousins ask me what it is I actually do in Brussels and every year they claim they still don’t understand. Waiting to board a plane for Manchester at Charleroi on Tuesday to go to Keith Richardson‘s funeral, I piloted the following non-technocratic response: “We help European governments to improve their employment, inclusion and training policies by learning from each other” – and it worked brilliantly. The young woman who’d asked said she’d started to turn off when she heard the word ‘government’ but it sounded really interesting. I’m glad to say: it is.

It reminds me of the dictum attributed to Einstein that if you can’t explain something to your grandma then you don’t understand it. Here’s the more technical version.

Social innovation is more than start-up support 8 March 2016

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The BENISI project aimed to identify 300 social innovations and help them to scale up. But faced with the enormity of this task it seems to have fallen back on promoting start-ups, without assessing whether they are either social or innovative.

I’ve just come back from the BENISI final conference and I have to say I am disappointed. I encountered at least two circular arguments, and ended up quite unsure whether the project was promoting social innovation, social enterprises or just start-ups.

A circular notion of growth

Firstly, the presentation of the project’s outcomes was couched in purely economic terms. It measured whether a business had scaled up by whether its revenue hadP1000111 BENISI grown – and then reported that one of the requirements for growth was financial investment. An unsurprising deduction. Even less surprising is that innovations that generate revenue are easier to scale. The only social outcome reported was employment growth, which is a by-product of revenue growth rather than a social outcome in itself. Social impact can grow even without revenue growth – for instance if a better method of delivering social services was replicated. If it was more efficient, revenue might even fall. In fact many ‘social innovations’ rely on using IT to cut the cost of service provision, and along with it cut the jobs they provide.

A circular notion of impact

Then there was the workshop on impact measurement, in which I was astounded to be told that the three factors making for impact are the values of its workers, the corporate culture and the management methods. That’s all very well, but these are not indicators of impact. They are drivers of impact, or as another participant contributed, indicators of a capacity to achieve impact. Impact is what happens in the outside world, and is about improved quality of life for the enterprise’s intended beneficiaries. Intention should not be confused with success.
Regrettably values, culture and management are not enough – witness how many social enterprises run by the best-intentioned value-led people you could possibly imagine nevertheless go bust and fail to achieve any impact.

Where’s the evidence?

Maybe BENISI could not have been expected to prove scaling in a 3-year timeframe. Maybe the project has served its purpose in making social innovation visible to a larger number of people – reportedly 14,000 have been reached.
But there is deep confusion over what the object of the exercise was. The discourse was about social enterprise, but no one is measuring these enterprises’ social impact – or at least the summary report did not attempt to make any sense of what social impacts the 300 projects did report. Surely one must at least one of them must have got some clients into jobs, or taken x tons of poisonous heavy metals out the waste stream, or housed some poor people, or cut its energy consumption, or even just got some letters of appreciation from its clients?
Unless an enterprise has a notion of what it is trying to change, and measures and reports on whether it is achieving that, then it is not a social enterprise. Having an explicit social goal is one of the principles of social enterprise the European Commission set out in the Social Business Initiative.
Social enterprises reportedly measure impact mostly as an internal management tool (“you can’t manage what you can’t measure”), but it’s also useful in building customer loyalty and essential in getting impact investors on board. Also see EVPA guide.
Public funders like the ESF are also keen to fund social innovation – but taxpayers’ money has to been seen to be benefitting somebody. Otherwise the fascination will fade.

Social what?

It seems to me that the Impact Hubs are hard at work promoting start-ups, and that many of these will be innovative in some way, but that doesn’t make it social innovation and it doesn’t make the start-ups social enterprises.
I also missed any explanation of what the different methods for scaling are – are they social franchising or organic growth or new products or new markets or acquisition or what? And then I’d like to have known which of them were tried, and which worked best in the sample of 300 enterprises. I was left wondering whether scaling is any different from good old growth. Maybe it is just that ‘growth’ is a taboo word which is too reminiscent of capitalist economics.
I left when a speaker pronounced that it was a problem that no social enterprise had yet done an IPO. That’s a key feature of a social enterprise – it can’t be floated on the stock market as a financial investment!
So that’s the trouble: social innovation is everything to everybody, and the name of social enterprise is being taken in vain.
To protect the guilty, this report is made under Chatham House rules.

3 factors in mainstreaming social innovations: needs, social policy-makers and financers 24 February 2016

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I’ve just been at the kick-off meeting of the Social Innovation Community (SIC) project, which involves many of the big names in social innovation and is co-ordinated by AEIDL. Its job is to establish a Europe-wide community of social innovators, comprised of 8 or more networks on issues such as public sector innovation, corporate innovation, digital innovation and the social economy.
I was struck by the debate on which part of the phrase ‘social innovation’ is more important. For ZSI in Vienna, the more important point is that innovation policy should become more social. For me, the point is that social policy-makers should become more innovative.
It seems to me to be misleading to model social innovation too closely on the model of technological innovation. New products are often invented out of love for the product itself – a desire to improve the way something works. Inventions become innovations once they have successfully made it to the market – i.e. they are economically successful. The main beneficiaries are the producer and the purveyors of the new thing.
Social innovation on the other hand has to start with the apprehension of a human need, and the people who benefit will typically not be the inventor or the purveyor, but the clients. Ideally, as in the case of a co-operative, both producers and customers will benefit, and altruism and self-interest will both be satisfied.
In mainstreaming social innovations, it seems vital that the theoreticians of innovation as a process take a back seat and prioritise three things:
– the identification of need, through stakeholder participation and mapping
– the engagement of social policy-makers who are the people who can close the implementation gap
– the bringing on board of the institutions which can provide finance for social innovations – including public authorities, funds likes the European Social Fund and corporate philanthropists as well as crowdfunding platforms.

How to use CLLD 21 February 2016

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LEADER in peopleCommunity-led local development means delegating development decisions to multistakeholder Local Action Groups. There’s a goldmine of info on how to implement CLLD from the FARNET transnational conference in Edinburgh on 8-10 Dec 15.

Well-proven through LEADER, CLLD is now taking off more broadly with €9.3 bn of ESIF funds allocated across 28 Member States and an expected 2,500 rural areas and 300 fisheries areas setting up LAGs and FLAGs. CLLD is also possible in urban areas in 11 MSs.
One key tip is how Poland uses 3 simplified cost options (SCOs), for:
– a lump sum for preparatory support (rather like the €15,000 preparatory grant in Flanders’s ESF transationality call in Jan 16 [link]
– a flat rate for running costs and animation
– a lump sum for business start-up

Another is how Sweden is using CLLD to integate migrants

How to support innovation using the ESF 11 November 2015

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Social innovation is one of the buzziest words of the last few years – but once it is mentioned the almost inevitable follow-up is – “whatever it means…” Everyone knows that social innovation is a good thing, and they want more of it, from more people. But how do they know whether they have it or not? Even more problematically, how can they encourage its emergence?
In some senses this dilemma is a long-standing one: the European Commission has habitually refused to answer the question “what is innovation?”, retorting that “if we knew what it was, it wouldn’t be innovation”. Sometimes I have suspected that European programmes place such a premium on innovation purely because that is the institutional space left for them – the day-to-day stuff is left to the Member State level.
The popularisation of the social innovation meme by President Barroso and others has raised the stakes. In transnational work in the ESF, for example, social innovation is supposed to be mainstreamed. And innovation has to be more than creativity – it implies rigorous management in making change happen.

Flanders institutionalises innovation

Flanders is a region that has got ahead through innovation, and the Flemish ESF Agency is one of the few to take a serious and structured approach to encouraging innovation. It devotes 8.5% of its ESF budget – €32m – to innovation and transnationality. On 26-27 October it held a seminar in Brussels to selflessly transfer to other ESF managers the results of an 18-month project to improve the way the ESF supports innovation: Meer werk maken van innovatie voor werkgelegenheid en arbeidsmarkt. The project involved partners from the Czech Republic, Sweden and Poland. 70 people from the ESF all over the EU community attended the event.
Project activities included a literature review, study visits and exchange events, and its results are presented in a comprehensive 396-page toolkit. This focuses on service development but also says something about systems innovation.

Theoretical framework

The first thing to say is that the seminar was hard work – and I mean that in a good way. The content was challenging – even the bits when the participants were supposed to have the luxury of sitting back and absorbing presentations. When it came to doing exercises the effort demanded was even more. But it was well worth the effort, and Benedict Wauters is to be thanked and congratulated for sharing his results.
The content was unique in my experience in that it combined the most abstruse of theory with the most hands-on of practice – and took in some illuminating practical examples along the way.
The theoretical framework Flanders has adopted is based on Theory U which emphasises interactions between people, works upwards to transition theory and has the final goal of improving human welfare and development.
The theoretical underpinning came in the form of presentations from two EU-funded research projects on what social innovation is.

• Theory 1: A multilevel theory of transition

The first is TRANSIT (Transformative Social Innovation Theory), presented by Flor Avelino from Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
In her vocabulary, a transition is the sort of high-level innovation that takes between 20 and 50 years to occur, and is further-reaching than the three lower levels, a systems innovation, a process innovation or a product or service innovation. Transitions evolve over time: the challenge of peak oil became that of climate change and is now all about the economic crisis.
She defined 3 levels of socio-economic processes:
• The highest level is the landscape or underlying process such as climate change and population ageing
• In the middle comes the socio-economic regime, or set of dominant practices – such as an oil-based economy
• At the lowest level come niches – spaces for innovation that are opened up by technological developments – such as wind power or car-sharing
The theory holds that the regime will defend the status quo, so one of these transitions will happen only when it gets caught in a pincer movement from both sides at once: caught between a shock in the landscape – such as climate change – and the opening up of a technological niche like a new form of energy generation. To my simple mind this is a more developed way of saying there has to be both a supply and a demand for innovations, and no barriers in the process of matching them. But the theory puts it in dialectical rather than market terms.
Flanders SI -  the bigger picture of innovation.
A multilevel strategy for transition management therefore involves playing into landscape developments, challenging regimes and empowering niches to scale up.
Social innovation involves a change in the social relations through which we know, frame, organise and do things. This brings to the fore the concept of agency – what can people do? It is expressed in a set of new social movements which challenge the status quo. The project is studying 20 of these, focusing on Europe and Latin America, and including Impact Hubs, Ecovillages, Fab Labs and RIPESS.
The project is looking at how different narratives of change interact, including, in the field of ‘new economy’, the green economy, the collaborative economy, social entrepreneurship and the social economy, and the solidarity economy – i.e. changing the whole economic system including the private and public sectors. What they have in common is that they are hybrid – they challenge the boundaries between public and private, formal and informal, and for- profit and non-profit. Above all, they involve a shift in power relations. However it is unclear how power is shifting – in the case, for example of Airbnb. What seems like a transformation may in fact be a capture by the existing regime.

• Theory 2: Capability theory

The second research project, CRESSI – Creating Economic Space for Social Innovation, was presented by Nadia von Jacobi of Pavia University. It is applying Amartya Sen’s Capability Theory to social innovation. Basically this holds that social progress is about expanding people’s opportunities; it is not only about the resources people have, but the choices they can make. From a given set of resources (or endowments) – which include the physical environment, institutions, social networks and cognitive frames – people are subject to a set of ‘conversion factors’ – such as their individual traits and the context they find themselves in – which determine the ‘capability set’ of choices they have open to them. Social innovation occurs when the functionings people achieve feeds back and influences the resources available.
If people are to have greater agency, they need to be empowered. They need to have various sorts of power:
• power over – you can resist manipulation by others
• power with – you can act in groups
• power to – you can create new possibilities
• power from within – you can change yourself
Social innovation involves people forming networks and exerting power on three forces in society: institutions, social networks and cognitive frames. This bottom-up approach overcomes the pitfalls of the top-down logic, which treats people, as target groups – patients rather than agents, underestimates complexity and assumes it is neutral with regard to the existing asymmetry of power.

An example of service design

As regards practical tool for social innovation, seminar participants had a choice of two, and I chose service design, presented by Kelly Pollard and Laure Monbrun of PearsonLloyd, a London-based designers. In the A Better A&E project the consultants worked with the UK Department of Health and the Design Council to improve the quality of the waiting experience in accident and emergency depart¬ments of hospitals. The objective was to reduce aggression and violence against A&E staff, of which there are 55,000 cases each year in the UK, which cost the NHS €95m.
Flanders A better A&E resultsThe process they undertook was a little counterintuitive. Instead of tackling head-on the relatively small number of case of direct physical violence, they decided to reduce the frustration patients felt all the way through their visit to A&E, thus improving the quality of life for a great many more people.
The process they went through is known as the ‘double diamond’ (not the beer I used to avoid in the 70s) and comprises 4 stages: discover -> define -> develop -> deliver. It involved talking to the stakeholders to learn about their behaviour and needs, mapping the patient experience, and developing a clear set of charts and signs which would make sure that patients knew what was happening to them at any given moment. They also produced guidance for staff and are developing a mobile phone application. Equipping a hospital costs about €80,000 and typically shows a return on investment of 3:1.

Designing ESF calls for innovation

The seminar’s third section showed us how Flanders organises ESF calls for innovative projects. It holds separate calls for two types of innovation:
• innovation via exploration – for people with a challenge they need to meet
• innovation via adaptation – for people with a service that works well and deserves scaling up

It gives each project a 100% grant of €50,000 for a first phase lasting 6 months, and if the result is validated (by external experts) then it gets a follow-up grant of up to €150,000.
Flanders SI double diamondThe process is rigorous: in the first 6 months, projects have to produce a concept description, an experience map, a high-level business model, a concept test, a report on field results – and plan for phase 2. It is estimated that about half the applicants will go through to phase 2, which lasts 18 months. Nevertheless Flanders has received about 30 applications under each heading, with a lot of universities figuring among the applicants, but also some NGOs.

Further information

Check out the toolkit and a series of presentations!

Social economy a top theme for ESF 2014-2020 3 November 2014

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The social economy seems assured of integrated support in the ESF over the coming six years. At least 12 EU Member States seem likely to take part in a European Thematic Network, which would provide them with a very useful co-ordinating structure.

Stru Funds 2014-20 eligibility mapIt is encouraging to see that at the last ESF Committee meeting in Athens on 18-20 June 2014, EU member states chose social economy as one of the top 5 common themes for the ESF in the 2014-2020 programming period. The ESF Committee is tripartite, meaning it is composed of representatives of the governments, employers and trade unions – but it has no representation from civil society or NGOs. This is increasingly anachronistic as the ESF is just as much concerned with social inclusion as with the labour market specifically.
A presentation by Sónia de Melo Xavier from DG EMPL/E1 shows that the top themes chosen are:

    • inclusion – 16 MS
    • employment – 13 MS
    • youth employment – 13 MS
    • social economy – 12 MS
    • learning and skills – 12 MS

Being chosen as one of the ‘common themes’ is important as it means that an official Thematic Network would be set up, enabling all the stakeholders (including NGOs), to develop a strategic overview.

A structure for voluntary collaboration

Transnationality is obligatory for all EU countries in this new programming period, and there is a widespread feeling that the lack of any co-ordination structures in the 2007-13 period, since the abolition of the community initiative EQUAL, has not been to anyone’s advantage. How member states manage transnationality is now up to them. At the minimal level it could be just through bilateral or multilateral deals. But to make it work properly, and make it easy to transfer learning, it is obvious that some common agreements are needed, along with some structures to support these. During 2012-13 the Transnational Co-operation (TNC) learning network discussed how a renewed ‘common framework’ might operate. At the June 1014 ESF Committee meeting, it emerged that 13 member states are interested in being part of this framework: BEnl (Flanders), CZ, FI, HR, IR, IT, LT, LU, MT, NL, PL, SE & UK. This is a strangely heterogeneous mixture, including some countries that are not famed for their propensity to collaborate (NL, UK) and, more worryingly omitting some large countries with much to share (DE, ES, FR). Germany, however, indicates that it intends to adopt the ‘combined approach’, i.e. part of its transnational work will be within the common framework and part outside it. Spain says it intends to implement all common themes at once. Cyprus on the other hand is likely to opt out. The mainstays of mutual learning in EQUAL are there though: BEnl, FI, IT and PL.
As regards setting up the shared structures, the Commission indicated that it intended to set about appointing a technical assistance team during 2014 – but this has so far not materialised. As the idea is that everyone would publish co-ordinated calls for projects in 2015 and 2018, there is going to be a rush to establish the necessary administrative structures such as a database.

5,000 jobs in Romania

As a footnote, the good record of the social economy as a job-creation tool figures in the evaluation of the achievements of the ESF during the 2007-13 period. In Romania, 4,684 jobs were created in the social economy (Final Synthesis Report: Main ESF achievements, 2007-2013 – ESF Expert Evaluation Network (26 Mar 14).

SEN has its say in Strasbourg 3 February 2014

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My review of the Social Entrepreneurs – Have Your Say event in Strasbourg on 16-17 January, on the Social Entrepreneurship Network website.
Strasbourg conference
Key recommendation: “The European Economic and Social Committee, the next European Commission (with a dedicated inter-service structure) and the next European Parliament must take full ownership and deliver on the actions suggested in Strasbourg.”

Don’t forget to sign the Strasbourg Declaration!

Social Impulse – a brand for urban and social CLLD? 12 December 2013

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Event flowAt the Telling the Story conference yesterday, the Commission took the offensive to stem the tide of negative feelings about the EU. It assembled 800 communications professionals to help them to ‘tell the story’ about the good work the EU does with its various funds. According to Pascal Chelala of Eurobarometer, the public image of the EU has been in steady decline since 2007. But the trend is the opposite among people who have heard of the EU’s funds – here the approval rating is on the rise. Awareness of the ESF has risen by 4% in the last few years – to 44%. However the proportion of people who actually have heard of the EU funds varies widely – from 80% in Poland to only 10% in the UK. That explains a lot.
The event was both innovative and nostalgic for me. The pleasant nostalgia came from the fact that it was held in the Square, the conference centre that commands the Mont des Arts, with a panoramic view of Brussels. When it housed the Economic and Social Committee it was the first official building I came to in Brussels, for a CECOP general meeting in 1985. We used to meet in the Salle Europe (now the Arc), and I remember being amazed at the institutional welfare state which sold me coffee at only 10 francs (24 cents nowadays).

A new style of conference

The innovation was the open and participative style, aided by a comedy duet and graphic visualisation – i.e. cartoons.
Commissioner Johannes Hahn made the plea that regional policy should be seen as an investment policy with a return in terms of solidarity and welfare, and hence must apply across the whole EU and not be limited to the least developed parts. His colleague Dacian Cioloş pointed out that nowadays the CAP has territorial and social dimensions, and supports the production of social good such as biodiversity. It was good that Zoltán Kazatsay, deputy head of the Employment DG, chose to preface his speech with a testimony from an actual ESF beneficiary, Brigitte Debey. Lowri Evans, head of the Fisheries DG, was impressively to-the-point: the fisheries reform will mean more fish and more jobs – perhaps 7 million of them in coastal areas. She instanced Northern Irish fisherman Sam Cully, whose life was saved by an EU-supplied lifejacket. Nevertheless, journalists complained that the sort of firm information on real projects that they need to ‘tell the story’ is infuriatingly hard to obtain.
The high point was a masterclass in storytelling from Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans and a controversial biography of Mao Zedong. She told us how it as to live through the cultural revolution, and signed copies of her new book on Empress Dowager Cixi – the woman who abolished the torture known as foot binding

Gamification is the way to go

I learnt a lot about using social media from two expert contributors. Sean MacNiven, Head of Communications Innovation at SAP, talked about the trend to ‘gamification’. People like playing computer games because they have are clear goals and rules, they give constant feedback, you are allowed to fail, and you are promoted on merit. So a game like Farmville could be used to promote agricultural policy. This is not such a silly idea – look at what Sim City has done for town planning. His main reference is Gabe Zichermann, who says what motivates learning is the ‘3 Fs’: feedback, friends and fun.
Aurélie Valtat, the Council’s Digital Communications Manager, was also impressive. She encouraged communicators to think in terms of messages not ‘lines to take’ (rebuttals). Using social media is a matter of starting with an existing community and turning it into an audience: for instance the Employment DG started Social Europe after consulting the relevant NGOs. She advised communicators to be prepared for adverse reactions – which, where government is concerned, there will always be. “If you offend no one, it’s a sure way to be forgettable.”

Telling the story about CLLD

I contributed to the workshop on ‘communicating CLLD’ by presenting the case of Portugal’s Programa Escolhas (‘Choices’), a national ESF programme that has trained 220,000 young people, mostly of migrant origin. It operates in 110 places across the country, with an €8m annual budget. It is successful, having reintegrated 10,000 people into education or work, and given 14,000 of them IT qualifications – at a cost per participant day of just 42 cents. It undertakes two distinct communication operations:
• to partners and potential clients, via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ning etc. It has produced 365 ‘life stories’ and has a weekly slot on national television.
• to institutions. It has maintained unwavering political support for 12 years by providing robust evidence of its effectiveness, through 20 impact indicators, calculations of social return, and thorough external evaluation.
Everyone in the workshop knew and approved of CLLD, and we saw some excellent examples of communicating it – see the video by Dreckly Fish in Cornwall, which was produced for €600! Thomas Müller of the LEADER group in Sauwald, Austria, gave us an excellent 8-point plan for putting CLLD over to local people.
The conclusions were that we are strong at putting out success stories of changed lives and livelihoods, but how do you explain the processes that produced them? The building of alliances and the negotiation of funding streams are riveting to very few. And the concept of CLLD is complex. Maybe LEADER has been over-codified, suggested our chair, Paul Soto. Its seven principles were developed in response to a Court of Auditors report, but in adapting the method to tackle urban and social problems, we may need to slim them down to the essentials: delegation of power and user participation. In towns, there is often no clearly delimited geographical area, there is a multitude of interested parties, and there are overlapping communities.
CLLD is a funding mechanism not a brand. Rural policy has the LEADER brand, and coastal policy the FARNET brand. So what is needed is a brand for urban and social CLLD – ‘Social Impulse’ was suggested.

Global grant in Puglia 29 November 2013

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During the 3rd Poverty Convention in Brussels this week, I speed-dated Antonio Spera of Confcooperative Puglia, who had come from Bari to explain how they use the ESF’s global grant mechanism to promote co-operatives. It is a pioneering example of how to improve the management of the ESF through partnership. 280 enterprises have benefitted so far.

Confcooperative PugliaPuglia’s Piccoli Sussidi (Small Grants) scheme aims to support “social, infrastructure and economic revitalisation actions which support the development of the third sector and contribute to integrated and sustainable growth and a better quality of life”. It does this by making grants of up to €35,000 and by investing in the capital of enterprises.
The first such scheme, worth €8.2m, was financed under measure 5.3 of the 2000-2006 ESF operational programme for Puglia. It was agreed just before the programme ended, and ran until 2008. To manage it, two co-operative funds – Fondosviluppo and APE (Agenzia per la Promozione della Cooperazione Sociale) – set up a ‘temporary group’ (Raggruppamento Temporaneo di Scopo – RTS).
The ESF provided €7.55m of the fund, which has financed the full cost of 3 actions:
1. consolidation of organisations working in work and social integration, promoting technological innovation and quality improvement (187 grants)
2. services to create new social inclusion enterprises, including consortia, and opportunities for self-employment by disadvantaged people (21 grants)
3. support and services to create permanent jobs for non-autonomous people (52 grants)
A 4th action, worth €650,000, has made 20 investments in the risk capital of third sector organisations. This money was provided by Fondosviluppo and APE, the members of which are Banca Etica, DROM (Lega’s national consortium of social co-operatives), Coopfond (a Lega fund) and SEFEA, the European ethical banking consortium. These are in turn fed by a 3% profit levy on members of Confcooperative and the Lega respectively. It is thus a solidarity-based mechanism through which co-operatives invest according to their means in the development of the sector.
The results are that 1,350 people have been trained, 150 have undertaken work experience, 48 people have received help to find employment, and 21 new enterprises have been founded. The main challenge, Spera says, is that co-operatives are not used to writing bids and business plans. A notable innovation is that the scheme has supported a co-operative which provides work for Roma in activities such as transport, logistics and cleaning.
A new agreement worth €6m was signed in March 2012 to run until the end of 2014. Demand has been unprecedented, and there were 700 responses to the call for proposals. Most applications have come from ‘type A’ (social services) co-ops.

Contact:
Antonio Spera
Leader Soc. Coop. Cons.
Viale L Einaudi, 15
I – 70125 Bari
+39 080 501 1001
spera.a@confcooperative.it

CLLD versus CDD 8 November 2013

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LEADER's 7 principlesI’ve just been to a seminar at the Fisheries DG (MARE) which compared notes between the EU’s concept and practice of community-led local development (CLLD) and the World Bank’s corresponding ‘community driven development’ (CDD).

The two organisations have some degree of overlap: the WB has large programmes in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary, as well as advisory programmes in other EU member and candidate countries. And the LEADER method has been very successfully exported to countries such as Mozambique, where ELARD is supporting 36 projects worth €40 million in the Alto Ligonha province.

The differences are:

  • The WB devotes much more money to CDD – $-4 billion per year or 15% of all its lending. Its portfolio currently comprises 800 projects worth $40 billion;
  • The WB’s main aim is to reduce poverty through participation, whereas the EU aims to engender a much more nebulous transformation of social relations to achieve economic development;
  • The EU has codified CLLD much more finely: first through the 7 LEADER principles and now through the rule that no single stakeholder group may control the local partnership (the 49% rule);
  • The definition of ‘community’ is more radical in the EU version – the local partnership must involve economic actors and civil society. In contrast many WB CDD projects the ’community’ means the local authority;
  • The WB also works with ‘communities of interest’ whereas in the EU case CLLD is definitely a territorial tool.
  • The WB has a simpler chain of accountability, often dealing direct with local groups to avoid inefficiencies due to corruption.

Obstacles: delegation, audit and impact assessment

Policy-makers and practitioners at the seminar came up with three main obstacles to the widespread adoption of the CLLD method:

  1. Reluctance to relinquish control to the local level seems more like a ‘complication’ than an opportunity. In the view of some evaluators present, there is a ‘silo’ problem both vertically and horizontally;
  2. Impact assessment is thorny: there is always the pressure to count the number of jobs created, while the underlying social capital that enables the jobs to be created is hard to measure, and therefore discounted. The WB’s report on impact evaluation reports that although CDD produces good results on economic development, service use and targeting, the evidence on social capital building is mixed. There are reasons to doubt this conclusion, which may be based on inadequate ways of trying to measure it. Measuring it well, as the WB now does using control groups, costs a lot of money as well as raising ethical issues.
  3. Audit: particularly in ‘net contributor’ countries, the adding of another layer into the chain of accountability is an unnecessary expense; they may as well simply fund it from national resources.

I wondered aloud whether the mechanism of Joint Action Plans could be an answer to this. These involve the beneficiary agreeing a set of results indicators with the Commission at the start. Payment is then made if the results are achieved – and it was confirmed at the seminar that the inputs will not be audited as well. So if the right indicators are agreed, it should be possible to fund those intangible processes of building stakeholder capacity and social capital which ‘dumb’ indicators rule out.

This is backed up by published Commission guidance: “The financial management of the JAP is exclusively based on outputs and results, reimbursed via standard scales of unit costs or lump sums applicable to all types of projects. The audits by the Commission and the audit authorities of the JAP will therefore exclusively aim at verifying that the conditions for reimbursement have been fulfilled, e.g. the achievement of agreed outputs and results. When a JAP is used, the Member State may apply its usual financial rules to reimburse the projects. These rules shall not be subject to audit by the audit authority or the Commission.” (Simplifying Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020, page 11)

However article 93.2 of the Common Provisions Regulation COM(2011) 615 lays down that “The public support allocated to a joint action plan shall be a minimum of EUR 10 000 000 or 20 % of the public support of the operational programme or programmes, whichever is lower.

See: How to use CLLD on the AEIDL website

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