‘Driving Ideas into Action’ - COPIE partners share governance techniques for designing and implementing regional inclusive entrepreneurship support strategies

Driving ideas into action

‘Joint action planning’ is one of the five designated thematic areas of collaboration within the COPIE partnership. Over a period of one year, delegates from Asturias, the Czech Republic, Flanders, Germany and Wallonia met four times to share experience in governing regional entrepreneurship systems. More specifically, discussions revolved around the four themes of ‘Developing a common vision’; ‘Agreeing an evaluation strategy’; ‘Building an integrated campaign’; and ‘Planning for a legacy’. Partners shared their individual regional policies and practices, and the group jointly worked towards identifying strengths and weaknesses as well as key criteria for success.

When setting up the COPIE work programme, partners chose the topic of joint action planning with a view to COPIE’s Diagnosis Tool for Inclusive Entrepreneurship. As a standardised analysis tool it provides an assessment of local or regional entrepreneurial support structures and, in consequence, calls for a regional action plan.

As lead expert and workshop facilitator Iain Willox explains, ‘the fundamental message that runs right through the action planning approach is that no single department, no single agency, no single organisation will be successful in creating an entrepreneurial region or member state.’ It is therefore essential from the outset that the key organisations work together and deliberately and explicitly agree to follow some form of joint action planning.

By involving a range of entities including ESF Managing Authorities, business support providers and policy departments in the Action Planning group, COPIE partners were not only able to discuss their experience with their European counterparts but also to test joint action planning amongst themselves as well. Each 1.5day session was built around an innovative and highly participatory workshop methodology that encourages active exchange and discussion among all participants involved.

If you are interested in more information on the workshop methodology and an example, please listen to our Action Planning Methodology podcast.

Podcast

Iain Willox: Action Planning Methodology

With a view to the results, it is worthwhile to look at each partner individually.

Asturias applied COPIE’s Diagnosis Tool in 2007 and identified key strengths of their regional entrepreneurship system in the areas of strategic policy development and the provision of start-up support services. The 2009 Action Planning COPIE baseline study for Asturias confirmed the existence of a well-developed enterprise strategy and highlighted existing levels of joint up support through the Asturias Competitiveness, Employment and Social Welfare Agreement (ACEBA: 2007-2011) between the government, business federation and trade unions. The series of action planning workshops gave Asturian delegates the opportunity to specifically learn about new collaboration techniques for qualitative evaluation of ESF initiatives and discuss key aspects of effective joint entrepreneurship promotion campaigns with the other COPIE partners.

While at the time of the workshops still being in the process of drafting their enterprise strategy on a member state level, delegates from the Czech Republic were particularly interested in interdepartmental coordination, the potential role of entrepreneurship policy champions within the administration, effective campaigning for entrepreneurship and the measurement of success of entrepreneurship initiatives. The Action Planning workshops allowed them to compare joint techniques and discuss experience with a transnational circle of partners. This has helped to broaden their knowledge on key criteria and success factors for joined up policy development.

The regional COPIE Diagnosis Tool report for Flanders from 2007 acknowledges the region’s priority on entrepreneurship promotion and its overall financial and support infrastructure for entrepreneurship. The 2009 Action Planning baseline report further substantiated this by pointing to the overall 2020 vision for Flanders (PACT 2020). PACT 2020 mentions entrepreneurship as the 5th strategic priority and explicitly adopts an inclusive approach to entrepreneurship. While a broad range of external stakeholders were involved in drafting this document, coordination between government departments in terms of policy remains rather loose. Participation in the four action planning workshops thus offered delegates from Flanders the opportunity to reflect and systematically discuss techniques of joined up support in all aspects of entrepreneurship policy development.

As the Lead partner of this group, delegates from Germany sought to learn more about the key strategic aspects of joint action planning. In addition, they were keen to establish a transnational forum for reflection on the application of joint action planning to inclusive entrepreneurship across Europe. As a member state, Germany was furthermore interested in how to apply these techniques on different levels of national, regional and local policy. As a result of the workshop series, delegates feel better equipped to design various aspects of entrepreneurial policies and to use the workshop experience to facilitate operational Structural Funds programming on all levels.

Promoting entrepreneurship and self-employment is at the heart of the economic development policy of Wallonia. Following the adoption of the decisive Marshall Plan in 2005 the Walloon government set up the Agency for Economic Stimulation (ASE) in 2006 who acts as a transversal integrated umbrella body for economic development initiatives and operators in the region. Within the field of business creation, ASE puts a special focus on programmes for professionalization and specialisation of services offered by operators, entrepreneurship education, women entrepreneurship, and on raising awareness about entrepreneurship as a professional option among young citizens. ESF funding priorities in Wallonia are aligned to this overall strategy. By participating in the Action Planning group, delegates took the opportunity to share experience and particularly reflect on managing the evaluation of the impact of ESF programmes and projects. In addition, they intensively discussed measures to effectively promote entrepreneurial spirit as a life-long opportunity through the ESF with their European counterparts.

Overall, delegates have valued the innovative work methodology of this COPIE Thematic Group and have started to use the results in their daily work. The final COPIE Policy Forum in March 2012 will offer the opportunity to meet the delegates and hear about their achievements directly. Further details on this event will available on this website later on in the year.

For more information on COPIE’s work on joint action planning, please go the following sections of this website: