PERCEIVE's workshop with Calabria Region: a good practice for Cohesion Policy communication
What Local Managing Authorities and regional stakeholders had to say about our project findings in Calabria Region? We had our second workshop in Italy. Read further to find out more!
Administrative capacity and Cohesion Policy
The first factor that emerged in the Cohesion Policy governance was that Calabria Region saw political and administrative instability in the past years (three changes of majority in the regional government, two major changes in the Directorate of the LMA). How did this affect the policy implementation? The result has been a poor performance of the programmes during the 2007-2013 framework.
According to participants, it was affected not only by the changes within the leading Department for Planning but also by changes in other departments, which slowed down the expenditure within single axes of intervention. In this regard, the introduction of the PRA, Piano per il Rafforzamento Amministrativo (Plan for Strengthening the Administration, funded by the ESF) in 2015 was certainly useful, and in the 2014-2020 programming period, the fundings for the institutional capacity axis have been increased.
During this session, we also discussed the link between the LMA's administrative capacity and the policy's legal framework. The process of adaptation to the European rules was slow, at both regional and country level, and this made things more difficult for the LMA.
Survey: some expected results
Regarding our survey’s results, the participants were not surprised by the data, which highlighted how support for the EU in Italy and in Calabria is lower than other EU countries and regions of the sample. Data also showed low levels of trust towards institutions, a result that participants found to be in line with the public's sentiment and opinion.
It was stressed that, while the results show a good awareness of Cohesion Policy of the Calabria citizens, the perception of the benefits generated by EU-funded projects is very low. The communication staff of the Managing Authority thinks that this could signal a distortion between the quantity and the quality of the message, in the sense that communication efforts cannot make up for the lack of effectiveness in policy interventions.
As is often the case, the link between perception of European funds and their communication emerged. Being aware of the public opinion sentiments, in the new framework, the LMA put more effort into developing a structured communication strategy and team.
Great attention to communication
Among experts and practitioners of Cohesion Policy, Calabria Region is considered a good practice in the communication, why? First of all, the authority launched in 2016 a dedicated website to European funds from which it has been providing potential beneficiaries and citizens with all the information and support they need. The portal is constantly updated with news and funding opportunities, which are also shared on social media. There is also a section dedicated to communication to test the customer satisfaction regarding the clarity of information and the transparency of the processes.
The success of the communication is also related to a series of activities that the region is undertaking, which contributes to the creation of an informal network and exchange of good practices on how to increase citizens’ awareness of European funded projects. The involvement of younger generations has increased when Calabria joined the Italian initiative “OpenCoesione School”, an educational challenge and a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course), designed for Italian high-school students.
In a detailed position paper on the future of Cohesion Policy, “Strengthening communication on structural funds in the post-2020”, the authority calls for a change and suggest several ways to improve the role of communication in Cohesion Policy. Among other suggestions, they mention a much-needed professionalization of the communicators, an improved access to information and clearer guidelines from the European Commission - you can read the full version of the paper here).
In conclusion, the workshop with Calabria Region was very fruitful for better understanding what kind of vision drove some structural changes in the LMA itself. The idea of reaching out more effectively to citizens with different communication tools and actions, especially through monitoring and evaluation activities, led to greater engagement and awareness of potential beneficiaries.
Are you interested in future updates on our workshops? Go to the dedicated page here.
Are you a Local Managing Authority? Visit the page we created for you here.
This contribute gives highlights on what is the work in progress of PERCEIVE Project research. By the end of the project, in August 2019, policy implementation and communication guidelines will be finalized as recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners.
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