Diletta was in Baia Mare, in Yellow Shirts, for 6 months during 2022, where she learned more about project management and social media. She made a short list with tips for NGOs that are new to the world of European funds, which she hopes to come handy for every beginner out there:
First, it is very useful to read the links put in the guide, the description of each programme and take time to read and research within the sites. The more time you spend among the sites, the more familiar you will be with the terms, concepts and themes of the funds.
But if you feel lost, the advice is to contact a local organisation already working in this field and ask as many questions as possible. Search online for ‘name of the fund you are interested in + name of your city/region/country’ and search the contacts. It is important to find someone who will explain the dynamics to you, but who can also help you in more depth: with a partnership or partnership training, with a series of training courses on European funds that can further clarify your ideas and make you more and more practical.
It is worth remembering that funds strictly related to the European Union and the European Commission require to form a partnership. But there is no need to be discouraged, partners can be a great help in understanding fund management, training, logistics and much more.
Also, regarding the trainings, one can find many online courses on EU project design and EU project management, the costs are not high and some can be free. While large EU agencies such as Eurodesk or Salto, with Erasmus+, offer many face-to-face training courses, ranging from basic, technical or content-related notions to more detailed and in-depth topics.
Once the partnership has been established, appoint a coordinator, the person who will be in charge of the overall management of the project, from communicate with partners to delegate concrete activities. The coordinator will follow the progress of the project from start to finish. Having a coordinator, with a top-down view of the project building process, as well as a reference figure, is important to have a stable structure.
It is fine to work online, but it is also good to meet in person and discuss decisions together. It would be easier to collect questions, thoughts, and doubts over time to discuss them clearly during face-to-face meetings.
It is important to form a partnership before applying for a project. You may have the idea and its target group, but the partners can help to find as many beneficiaries as possible, thanks to their experience and network of knowledge.
Budgeting moment is important. Figures have to be evaluated, logistics accommodated, human resources. It is important to be clear about the target group, the number of participants, the location of the project, the calculation of distances between the participating countries and the country where the activities will occur. Trust your partners in this respect, the use of EU money you will all have to answer for at the end of the project, when writing the report. There are various checks on tickets and invoices, so is not possible to play with money.
It is very important to agree in advance for each project worker the payment for his or her service, so that the sum will go into the overall budget at the time of the application.
During the project writing, it is always good to ask yourself: does the project meet the objectives of the call? It is therefore always a good idea to keep it available to read it whenever it’s necessary.
During the project activities, whether writing, organising or actually implementing the project, it is important that everyone remembers their roles. What does this mean? In the dynamism of the situation, it may often happen that you are asked to do things outside what has been predetermined. It is by no means obligatory, necessary or good manners to say yes. Everyone has his or her own role to play, and this is good to remember, because each role, if performed with maximum commitment and concentration, contributes to the success of the project. The risk is that you take on the roles of others, spoiling your own performance. If this happens, it is always a good idea to discuss it with the coordinator.
Likewise, the coordinator, who has to coordinate, will of course take on various tasks for the success of the project, but must be able to delineate the difference between extra work that corresponds to the objectives of the project, and extra work that actually consists in doing the work of the others. The coordinator coordinates, where there are shortcomings among the human resources involved, it is good to get together and take stock of the situation, to understand whether it is necessary to change the schedule or the allocation of roles and responsibilities.
It is always good to have extra human resources you can count on, in case of problems and unforeseen events, especially while the project, be it an exchange, a visit, a training, an event, etc., is in progress and therefore the main resources are busy.
English is not a requirement, nor are all those who do not speak English to the best of their ability automatically excluded. However, it is important that the language, whatever it is, is a channel of communication involving all participants, organisers and facilitators in the process, usually between members from various countries English is the only option. Therefore, a minimum level is necessary to ensure that everyone involved is not excluded or does not feel excluded.
Deciding on the target group of beneficiaries is crucial to the success of the project. Choosing the project’s target beneficiaries is a choice that coincides with the objectives, the ultimate goals of your project. How does your project impact the beneficiaries? This also helps in the positive evaluation by the committee. The more specific and detailed the target group of beneficiaries for the project, the greater the chances of success of the project. It may happen that partners cannot find enough direct target beneficiaries for the objectives of your project. With good facilitation, it is still possible to involve even less interested in the topic participants in the learning process. In this case, it is important to require support from the group leaders of each team and to work together so that the group of participants is cohesive and motivated towards the learning process.
Communication in the team is very important, indeed fundamental. Tasks and deadlines should be communicated clearly. Particularly when working with interns and volunteers, it would be better to make a distinction among compulsory tasks for the purposes and optional tasks, which the young worker can then carry out voluntarily, with more flexibility or can choose not to fulfill.
When working in a team with volunteers, e.g. ESC volunteers, it is essential to have a weekly check, be it coordination or evaluation meeting, of how their work is going, how they feel about the learning process. Giving each other feedback with respect and openness is of great benefit to successful progress.
In case of projects, internships, voluntary work experiences of extended time length, it is necessary to have the structure of a programme or schedule to always be clear about the objectives and the path to reach them. Meanwhile, it is possible that you will make some changes to the programme itself, and this is not a problem, as things may turn out differently from what you planned at the beginning. It is important, however, that any changes are functional to the final objectives.
In the case of intercultural exchanges, it is important to have a figure who is quite experienced in “facilitation”, i.e. one who accompanies the participants in the learning process.
A co-facilitator should always accompany the facilitator. This co-facilitator can replace the facilitator if there are problems, maintain a line of contact with the team leaders, support participants if a specific moment in the learning process touches a sore point. The facilitator, on the other hand, must always be present as a guide for the activities, being the thread of the learning process.
The learning process is not linear and always positive, neither for programme newcomers nor for project beneficiaries. There may be low moments, these are however part of the process. Do not discourage yourself and trust the process, especially if it has been well organised beforehand with the partnership.