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Action plans/ Pilot actions

What is an action plan?

An action plan is a document providing details on how the lessons learnt from the cooperation will be implemented in order to improve the policy instrument tackled within a given region. The document specifies the nature of the actions to be implemented, their timeframe, the players involved, the costs (if any) and funding sources (if any). An action plan template is in an annex to the programme manual.

Action plans are prepared during phase 1 of the project, based on the experiences shared among partners. They are then implemented mainly during phase 2.

Should the action plan be written in English?

The action plan can be drafted in your own language. If this is the case, you will need to provide a summary in English highlighting the main features of the actions, for example, the nature of the actions, link with the project, and the policy relevance of the actions.

When should we start elaborating the action plan?

The elaboration of the action plans is an on-going process within phase 1. Experience shows that it is useful to start talking and thinking about the action plans as soon as possible, for example during the kick-off meeting or during another partner meeting in the first or second semester of project implementation.

Is there a minimum number of actions to be defined in an action plan?

There is no minimum or maximum number of actions to be included in an action plan. An action plan can be validated with only one action, as long as that action is relevant.

Should action plans use only the good practices in the Platform’s Good practice database?

No. The action plan is a project output, not a Policy Learning Platform-related output. Therefore, all actions included in an action plan should, in principle, be clearly linked to the exchange of experience carried out in the project, that is to the good practices identified within the project or any other source of inspiration gained from phase 1 activities.

Can we collect actions that have contributed to improving the policy instrument during phase 1 in the action plan, even if these actions are not inspired by the interregional project learning?

The actions should be primarily inspired by the interregional learning process since this is the whole aim of a project. However, in exceptional cases and if justified, some inspiration can also come from outside the partnership.

Is it possible to produce a joint action plan?

The partners should develop one action plan for each policy instrument addressed. This means that if two partners address the same policy instrument, they will produce jointly one action plan. But the action plans can also include actions which are jointly developed with other regions (when relevant). This means that some actions would be designed and implemented to improve several policy instruments.

If partners from the same region work in several Interreg Europe projects on a common theme, should they develop a single regional action plan, or should there be one action plan per project?

The action plan is a core output of a project. Moreover, even if similar topics can be addressed by different projects, each project remains specific due to its characteristics: for example, need and policy instruments addressed, involved regions and source of inspiration, implemented activities and duration.  Therefore, a joint action plan between different projects within the same region is not possible.

Does the action plan have to be formally voted, endorsed or signed by the organisation responsible for the policy instrument(s) addressed?

Since an action plan addresses a specific policy instrument, it should ideally be endorsed by the organisation responsible for this policy instrument. This is naturally the case when this organisation is a partner in the project and produces itself the document. More than 40% of the partners involved in Interreg Europe projects are policy responsible organisations. When this is not the case, the way to ensure this endorsement, for example by a vote, is specific to each region. In any case, the joint secretariat does not require evidence of this endorsement to validate the action plan.

When should the action plans be submitted?

Action plans should be submitted as early as possible to the joint secretariat. A draft version of these plans will be requested to prepare the mid-term review meeting, usually 2-3 months before the end of phase 1.

Who is responsible for the action plan implementation?

Depending on the actions envisaged, some may be carried out by the partner, others by the stakeholders. Ideally, the tasks/ responsibilities are laid out clearly in the action plan.

Are action plans limited to a two-year time frame?

Since one of the objectives of phase 2 is to monitor to which extent the action plan is implemented, the actions described in the action plan should not in principle go beyond the time frame of phase 2.

Regarding the self-defined performance indicators set in the application form, should we verify their fulfilment in the action plans? Can we change these indicators?

The self-defined performance indicators introduced in the application form remain rarely relevant to monitor the success of the action plan implementation. Although these initial indicators cannot be changed, new relevant self-defined indicators can be added later on directly in the progress report once the partner reports a policy change, which is when the partner succeeds in influencing the policy instrument addressed. There is no obligation to include such indicators in the action plan.

Is it possible to change the targeted policy instrument? In particular, is it possible to change from structural funds to a non-structural funds policy in the action plan?

Yes, it is possible to address a different policy instrument instead. In this case, the reason(s) why the initial policy instrument addressed could finally not be improved should be provided. It is also possible to change from a structural funds programme to another type of policy instrument addressed. The eligibility rule that 50% of the policy instruments addressed by EU partners should be structural funds is applied only at the application stage.

What happens if the action plan is not validated?

The action plans must be validated by the programme’s joint secretariat so that partners can be involved in phase 2. In case an action plan cannot be validated by the end of phase 1, the situation will be analysed together with the lead partner and the policy officer of the joint secretariat. In duly justified cases, appropriate measures can be put in place, for example an extension of deadline for submitting the action plan. Otherwise, the partner concerned may have to withdraw from the partnership.

What happens if the region cannot implement the action plan in phase 2?

We understand that plans do not always work out in reality. In the progress report, you will need to explain why the action(s) could not be implemented as foreseen. You will have to explain whether other action(s) are envisaged to ensure that the lessons learned from the project are not lost. You will not need to revise the action plan if it is already validated.

How can we prove the impact of our action plan if the policy instrument we address in the region is formulated in a very generic way and so it is difficult to measure the real impact?

Generic strategic-level policy instruments are often supported by more operational policies or plans dedicated to their implementation. Your action plan could potentially target those. Such an approach might allow you to measure the impact of a policy change more easily.

Where can I find examples for (good) action plans?

All approved action plans are published on the related project website, usually in a dedicated folder in the project library ( acronym/library). You can also ask the policy officer monitoring your project in case you need examples of action plans on a specific topic.  Please also check the suggestions provided in the action plans article.

For more help on action plans, watch our webinar.

Is it possible to update information on the policy instruments displayed on the project website?

It is possible to edit the description of the policy instruments displayed on your project website. Your project web administrator(s) has access to the editing tool. However, you cannot change the titles of the policy instruments. They are synchronised with the information in your application form.

Are pilot actions possible in Interreg Europe?

Yes, they are possible as long as certain criteria are met (interregionality, additionality and policy relevance). Pilot actions may be implemented during phase 1 (4th call projects) or phase 2 (1st - 3rd call projects). More information is available in this article.