Impact Assessment Toolkit for cross-border cooperation in Ireland

As part of the integrative work of a cross-border observatory, the Centre has devised and developed an Impact Assessment Toolkit (IAT) for practical, mutually beneficial cross-border cooperation in Ireland. This highly innovative toolkit – the first of its kind in the European Union – is designed to guide policy-makers and EU funders (and to be of particular assistance to the Special EU Programmes Body in Ireland) in thinking through the impact assessment process, assisting them in designing better quality cross-border programmes and projects. Impact assessment has been used particularly in the health and environmental sectors in Ireland, North and South, and widely in the European Union, but not until now in cross-border cooperation.

While the toolkit has been developed specifically for use in Northern Ireland and the Irish border counties, it is intended that the methodology it uses can be adapted to other cross-border regions in Europe. The toolkit breaks new ground in that it offers an integrated process that takes into account social, economic and environmental impacts (the three EU ‘pillars’ of sustainable development), plus a fourth ‘cooperation’ pillar that will identify and capture impacts specific to cross-border cooperation in Ireland. 

In the past EU-funded cross-border programme and project promoters have often found it difficult to demonstrate impact: i.e. the changes that have taken place as a result of the activities undertaken. The Impact Assessment Toolkit for Cross-Border Cooperation can help to define and clarify the extent to which a programme or project is likely to contribute to the desired changes. Many problems of Northern Ireland and the Irish border region do not respect jurisdictional boundaries. The toolkit will help to determine whether a cross-border approach is the appropriate level of intervention and, if so, to identify the ‘added value’ of such cooperation.

For example: Will a cross-border approach be more efficient and/or effective than a single jurisdiction approach? Are the proposed activities expected to have a greater overall impact – socially, economically or environmentally – if undertaken on a cross-border basis than separately within each jurisdiction? Or, by addressing problems of the cross-border territory through a collaborative approach, will additional impacts result specifically from the cooperation process? For example, will new relationships be built between people or organisations that would not have developed otherwise? Will the cross-border activities lead to new ways of working or more intensive collaboration that would not have been the case if they had been carried out separately?

The toolkit was launched at a conference in Cavan on 27-28 October  by Dr José Antonio Ruiz de Casas of DG Regional Policy (DG REGIO) in Brussels. There has been an extraordinarily positive reaction to the toolkit, and Ruth Taillon has made presentations on it to a wide range of EU, public and community organisations. Among these have been the EU’s territorial cooperation programmes training agency INTERACT (separate presentations in Valencia, Brussels and Rome); the Northern Ireland ESF Programme ‘Innovation and Mainstreaming Working Group’; the NI Regional European Forum (staff of key organisations involved in EU programmes); the Community Relations Council NI Evaluation Advisory Panel and the Community Workers Coop. The Toolkit is now available on the SEUPB, INTERACT and CCBS websites.

Most significantly, the  SEUPB completely redesigned its INTERREG IVA application form for the January 2012 public sector collaboration ‘call’ to incorporate the toolkit’s methodology (using the same questions as those outlined in the toolkit). Ruth addressed SEUPB workshops in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland for applicants to this round of the INTERREG IVA programme. The new Victims and Survivors Service for Northern Ireland has also been planned using the toolkit’s methodology.

A first pilot training course in IAT took on 17-18 January with six projects (ConneXions, Cavan County Council, Proteus, Blackwater Partnership, Community Workers Coop and Women into Public Life). A second training course was held in March specifically for EU programme implementation bodies. The Scottish National Contact Point for INTERREG, Cooperation and Working Together/HSE and Proteus have all expressed interest in the training course.

Further training and mentoring, using the toolkit, are key elements in the INICCO Phase 2 funding application which was submitted by the Centre and ICLRD in May 2012. This application also contains complementary evaluation and budget toolkits. There are also plans for the Transfronter Euro-Institut Network (TEIN) of cross-border training institutes and university departments in nine European border regions to work together to adapt the toolkit for other border regions.

This project was implemented by a team comprising Centre for Cross Border Studies Deputy Director Ruth Taillon; Director of the Euro-Institute in Kehl, Germany, Dr Joachim Beck, an advisor to the European Commission on cross-border cooperation and impact assessment; and, as research assistant, Sebastian Rihm, formerly a postgraduate student at the Universities of Kehl and Ludwigsburg, who came to Armagh for six months in 2010-11 to work on the project as an intern, and now works for the Euro-Institut.

The project Steering Group is drawn from the Special EU Programmes Body, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), Cooperation Ireland, INCORE International Conflict Research Institute (University of Ulster), Pobal, Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Northern Ireland Commission for Victims and Survivors, International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) and the Centre for Cross Border Studies.

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