Building Interreg programmes together with citizens

By Eva Martínez

In the ever-evolving landscape of European territorial cooperation, citizens are essential players. But how can we use their involvement to improve the success of Interreg programmes and projects?

Photo by Antonio Janeski
Photo by Antonio Janeski

Enter Interact’s latest study, titled ‘Civil and Civic Society Engagement in Interreg‘, and delve into this very question. The study presents invaluable insights aimed at boosting programme effectiveness and inclusivity. Drawing from a wealth of actionable tips and real-life examples across various programmes, this study is a comprehensive guide for maximising engagement and effectiveness within Interreg initiatives.

Here are some key take-aways from the study:

  • Enriched programmes through diverse perspectives

Citizen engagement injects fresh perspectives into programme development, tapping into collective intelligence and novel ideas. By embracing a diverse range of voices, programmes become more inclusive, reflecting the true tapestry of the communities they serve. This approach not only enhances legitimacy and transparency of programmes and projects but also fosters better results tailored to local needs.

  • Empowerment and skill enhancement for participants

Active participation empowers individuals, encouraging skill development and learning opportunities. Through engagement, networks are strengthened, resilience is built, and outcomes are finely tuned to address specific challenges. This is a symbiotic relationship where both programmes and participants thrive.

  • Shifting towards proactive engagement

While the 2014-2020 period saw interactions with civil society organisations (CSOs) primarily through consultations, the 2021-2027 phase embraces more proactive approaches. There’s a clear commitment to maximizing the benefits of citizen engagement, with three quarters of programme respondents planning to boost civil society engagement.

  • Recognising different engagement dynamics

Engaging civil society organisations and citizens requires tailored approaches. Civil society organisations offer expert input and clear priorities, while citizens bring diverse perspectives and representation. Understanding these dynamics is crucial in planning effective participation and engagement processes.

  • Addressing challenges through innovative measures

Despite challenges like budget constraints and bureaucratic hurdles, programmes are deploying various strategies to increase citizen engagement. These include simplification measures, digital platforms for accessibility, and support for small-scale projects.

  • Looking ahead: Opportunities and challenges

As we look to the future, we see a need to sustain and increase the successes of current engagement practices. Key considerations include strengthening CSO involvement in both programme management and project activities, prioritizing simplification, and encouraging cross-border collaboration among them.

  • Policy support and commitment

Achieving greater CSO and civic engagement requires robust policy support and a genuine commitment from public authorities. This means not only raising awareness but also conveying a clear message of value and trust to stakeholders.

Interreg programmes stand at the forefront of inclusive territorial development, leveraging the power of civic and civil society engagement. By embracing diverse perspectives, empowering participants and navigating challenges using innovative solutions, they pave the way for a more equitable and sustainable future.

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