Rising to the Covid-19 challenge: How the Scale Up consortium is redefining Study Visits

Study visits are a crucial part of the learning process for any Interreg project. After all, the Interreg programme was created to facilitate the discovery of solutions to common problems shared by regions across Europe. This is done through the sharing and learning of the good practices implemented in various regions that is part of a project consortium. The Scale Up project is no different as the consortium aims to improve policy instruments supporting SMEs’ capacity to growth in national and international markets. For this reason, the first year of the project heavily revolved around the learning process provided by first-hand information from the study visits. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic affected this aspect of the project due to the restrictions and prohibitions when it comes to travelling. After a few months of conceptualization, the project consortium created its Online Study Visit methodology. This methodology drew the attention of the Interreg Europe Programme and was later recognized as a best practice which other projects can mirror in adapting to the new normal brought about by the pandemic.  

Necessity is the mother of invention

The consortium was faced with a quandary— how are we going to evaluate the potential for learning and transfer of a good practice if we can’t conduct a physical study visit to the region implementing it? This question was discussed among the consortium and in the end, a solution was decided upon. Since the current world situation has required most, if not all work to be done online, why not implement online study visits? With the acknowledgement that online study visits will not be able to replace the project’s original workplan, they were envisioned to be an alternative method to acquire additional information from the hosting partner (project partner who is presenting the good practices of their region) and the good practice owners. Five out of six project partners were yet to host a study visit.

Learning from home

The project’s online study visit methodology was recognized by the Interreg Europe programme as a good practice which involves 5 steps. The first step required hosting partners to compile additional information about each of the 3 good practices presented within the project. The information can be presented in any type of material ranging from reports, videos, or recorded interviews with the good practice owner and beneficiary. The criteria to select information would be to identify materials needed as qualitative data that could be considered as relevant if other project partners were to implement the good practice themselves from scratch.

Once the additional information and materials are received, the rest of project partners will revise, share, and analyse in-depth the information together with their stakeholders’ action group (SAG). The main idea is to check the potential transferability of the good practice in their regions. Further questions may arise in this stage of the process which will be directed to the hosting partner and good practice owners. This leads to the third stage of the process where clarifications to the questions will be provided by the hosting partner after consulting with the good practice owners. These answers will be analysed and evaluated by the rest of the consortium together with their respective SAGs.

After the completion of the previous phases and when the project partners have enough information about the best practices from the hosting partners, the hosting partner will now organise an online meeting, as a study visit where all partners will be present. At this stage of the methodology, the good practices are further expounded on by the good practice owners themselves. This is envisioned to be an interactive session with a maximum duration of 2 hours. The online meeting is followed by the final phase of the methodology which requires the partners to present their SWOT analysis and final review of all the good practices presented. This is the starting point to reach the selection of good practices to be included in the Action Plans of each partner in order to improve their policy instrument.

The project’s original study visit methodology required host partners to follow 4 steps which focused on the topic of replicability which aims to explain and pinpoint what kind of actors are involved in the good practice. The relationship between actors of the good practice were meant to be explained, both in general as institutions and in particular relating to the good practice. The online methodology was designed to fulfill this objective while keeping members of the project consortium safe yet completely engaged in the process. The first online study visit will take place in September.  To see the online study visit methodology, please click here.