Central Baltic result orientation!

Ülari Alamets,
Project Manager,
Central Baltic programme,
The Regional Council of Southwest Finland,

Merike Niitepõld,
Head of Managing Authority,
Central Baltic programme,
The Regional Council of Southwest Finland,

The Central Baltic (CB) programme decided to go for result orientation from 2014. Creating public policies with clear, measurable, realistic yet ambitious objectives is not an easy task. It is a balancing act.  And it is double challenge if you are applying it for programme which is covering several countries.

Let us first visit the time when current programme was born – 2013. The basis for chieving results is a result based strategy: objectives described with help of result indicators making clear what is the starting point and where we would like to be at the end. The second challenge is the implementation. If result orientation is not in the intervention logic, you just have to keep fingers crossed and hope that good projects will show up and bring acceptable results.

We started asking what can be achieved with available resources (ca 100 MEUR) during a programme period (7+ years) in the programme area (with ca 10 mln inhabitants)? Then we used result indicators with baseline and target values to make the changes (specific objectives) measurable.

Good preparation and knowing the chosen themes are key in getting the balance right between narrow focuses and demand. One simple activity we used was collecting porject ideas from potential partners already during the preparation process.

We ended up with 11 specific objectives within 4 programme priorities. Examples of objectives are „more exports by the CB companies to new markets“, „reduced nutrients, hazardous substances and toxic inflows to the Baltic Sea“, „improved services of CB small ports“ and „more aligned vocational education and training programmes“.

How about achieving results so far? It’s not yet time to count all results as many projects are ongoing but we can conclude that we have mostly exceeded the target values. Some objectives were easier to achieve than others. If the objectives were described in detail, there was less room for interpretations and misunderstandings and if a clear methodology was missing it was difficult to get comparable results.

The new programme preparation process started early this spring. Our stakeholders again emphasised most important principles, such as result orientation and focusing, simplification and good division of work with other programmes.

The process was designed to move from general choices towards more specific ones. We use existing strategic documents and development plans, compiling a regional analysis to identify main challenges, involve regional and national experts into preparation via a working group and thematic seminars in all countries.

Then, immediately after kick-starting the process, Covid 19 arrived. Our experience is that most of the work can be done combining online meetings with written inputs. But building trust, negotiating and finding consensus are „area of real human interaction“. What helps, is existing trust credit from programme stakeholders achieved during current programme preparation and implementation.

We succeded to use the narrow window this summer for country based thematic workshop. Real people participated and gave input for determining the programme specific obejctives (the changes) for the programme.

We are still in the process of identifying where CB programme should intervene in the next period (2021-2027). We have narrowed down the potential themes to following:

  • Innovative business development & improved digital services;
  • Improved quality of environment & circular economy & improved intermodal mobility to decrease CO2 emissions;
  • Labour market & skills development;
  • Strengthened connections between people, civic society and public sector.

The above listed themes are still too broad. To proceed further we must ask:

  • Is there value added by cross-border cooperation and is the CB scale right?
  • Are interests joint and relevat for member states, regions and potential project partners?

By the end of the process we aim for perhaps 5-7 specific objectives. We want them to reflect tangible and measurable changes. We want that they are realistic but ambitious and there will be good projects with their cumulative results to achieve programme specific objectives.

We see the following critical aspects for improvement:

  • Division of work between different cross-border and transnational programmes;
  • Describing programme specific objectives clearly and in good detail;
  • Better attracting projects with good match to the programme specific objectives;
  • Better enforcing result orientation during project implementation.

We have learnt that we need a good, focused programme strategy. We must implement it with full energy and commitment. And then critically evaluate the results, learn and use that for improving the programme strategy for new programme cycle and implement again with passion!


Expert article 2760

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