On 22 September 2020, we held a webinar on how to design action plans. It was an opportunity for partners in Interreg Europe projects to learn more about and discuss how to design their action plans. They also discussed the challenges to the action plan development, presented by the COVID-19 crisis. 

You can watch the full recorded webinar. See below links to specific sections of the webinar. You can also find the questions and answers provided in writing during the webinar.

Indicative timing of the content discussed during the webinar:

  • 00:04:55 Nicolas Singer from Interreg Europe presents how to design action plans
  • 00:37:00 Q: Should the action plan contain only good practices from other partners or can it also focus on improving own good practices?
  • 00:38:40 Q: Could the action plan contain private initiatives, supported by the region, and focusing on public policy?
  • 00:40:10 Lorenzo Sabatini representing several Interreg Europe projects shares his experience
  • 01:01:45 Question and Answer session starts
  • 01:03:00 Q: What are some good indicators to measure the outputs of action plans?
  • 01:05:25 Q: Who should implement the action plan, the project partner or the responsible public authority, which endorsed the plan?
  • 01:07:07 Q: What are the steps to design a realistic action plan and ensure good participation of stakeholders?
  • 01:09:40 Q: What about actions which do not come from good practices of our project or come from outside the project?
  • 01:13:25 Q: Do the policy instruments we want to address in the action plan have to be financed by ERDF or can they be other regional policies?
  • 01:15:30 Q: Can our focus on ERDF programmes go beyond the current period and focus on the future programmes?
  • 01:16:55 Q: How much time does the elaboration of an action plan take?
  • 01:19:55 Q: In the present COVID-19 context with no face-to-face meetings, how to go forward with the elaboration of the action plans?
  • 01:22:00 Q: What about pilot actions?
  • 01:23:50 Q: What is the desirable size of the action plan? And what happens if we need to change the policy instrument we'd like to influence?
  • 01:26:00 Q: How to get the stakeholders engaged and involved in the action plan development?
  • 01:30:20 Q: What would be an example of an easy action and of a more complex action for the action plan?
  • 01:35:00 Verena Priem closes with useful links and info


Questions and answers from the chat

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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 (www.interregeurope.eu/project 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

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. 

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. 

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.

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 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 editor tool. However, you cannot change the titles of the policy instruments. They are synchronised with the information in your application form.

Is there a programme recommendation about digital and collaborative tools to manage Interreg Europe projects? 

The programme does not endorse any specific online project management or collaboration tools.  However, in spring 2020, we organised a webinar sharing project experiences organising online meetings, and some tools were mentioned there. The replay of this webinar is available here.

You can also check out this list of collaborative tools from our projects.

We also set up a file where projects can share their templates, management tools, practices and methodologies.

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