One of the biggest challenges for a citizen participation councilor is to obtain the necessary resources to carry out an ambitious project. Oftentimes, the rest of the government team does not value the importance of this department. But citizen engagement departments are not just an area of government necessary to comply with the law more effectively. They can become essential tools to leverage external financial resources. This is the case of the European Funds for Sustainable Development (EFSD).
Do you want to know how your citizen engagement department can contribute to attract millions of euros of investment for your municipality? Keep reading the article we have prepared. Or contact us if you prefer we to help you with your strategy.
A little bit of history about EFSD
Cities constitute the growth engine of a country. And their importance is highly valued by the European Union, since Europe is one of the most urbanized continents. Taking into account their value, the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 tries to promote strategies that allow the improvement of sustainable urban development. To this end, the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) are being used to support the European Funds for Sustainable Development (EFDS).
Specifically, this support is regulated in Article 7 of Regulation 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, where it is determined that the ERDF will support sustainable urban development and, in order to do so, at least 5% of its resources are allocated to integrated measures that support sustainable urban development.
To date there have been three calls for these grants. Only in Spain, 269 municipalities applied to the first call, 185 to the second one and 159 to the third one. The success rate was 30%, 21.6% and 31% respectively. According to unofficial sources, a new call will be opened in December 2019.
Who can access aid?
Any European city with more than 20 thousand inhabitants can choose to be a beneficiary of the aid. To do this, you will first have to prepare a proposal that must address the following four thematic objectives (TO):
- Improve access, use and quality of information and communication technologies.
- Promote the transition to a low carbon economy in all sectors.
- Conserve and protect the environment and promote resource efficiency.
- Promote social inclusion and fight against poverty.
Candidate cities will follow a process that is divided into three phases: Admission, valuation and selection. Each country is responsible to select winner proposals and allocate the funds. And then they generate reports they analyze the results of each call. These reports show that citizen engagement has been the weakest point in most applications. And they recommend to give more importance to citizen participation from now on.
How does citizen participation contribute to obtaining EFSD?
If we follow the recommendations of European Comission, our strategy proposal should be structured as follows:
- Initial identification of urban problems or challenges in the area.
- Analysis of the whole urban area from an integrated perspective.
- Diagnosis of the situation of the urban area. Definition of expected results and SWOT analysis.
- Delimitation of the scope of action.
- Strategy implementation plan.
- Description of citizen participation mechanisms and social agents.
- Warranty of the administrative capacity for its implementation.
- Reference to horizontal principles and cross-cutting objectives.
As you can imagine, in the light of this content structure, citizen participation must be the backbone of your application. Involving citizens is essential not only during the challenge identification and diagnosis phase, but also during subsequent monitoring and evaluation.
Some examples of success have been those of the City Councils of Jerez, Cádiz and Benidorm in Spain. The City of Jerez launched a website to facilitate online participation in the design of its sustainable urban development strategy. In Cádiz, the City Council developed a very detailed strategy, complying with all the contents in an exhaustive manner, especially the analysis of the urban area and citizen engagement. This City Council also launched a web page to encourage citizen participation; and held workshops and round tables.
What can I do to turn my municipality into a new success story?
In short, we must consider citizen participation as a fundamental piece in the elaboration of our sustainable urban development strategy, since it is a horizontal requirement that must be taken into account while preparing the entire process, from the design phase to the implementation phase. With citizen participation it is possible to give consistency to the strategy, since citizens know first hand the needs of the municipality. If good processes are designed, their participation will bring great value in relation to the problems that must be tackled.
So, if your municipality is thinking of applying to the next call of EFSD, take advantage of the next local government board to highlight the importance of involving the citizen engagement department in the process. In Kuorum, we have spent years helping governments design citizen participation strategies and developing technology to support them. If you need professional support to design the participatory processes of your EFSD application, contact us.