In regional development, being close to citizens and actively engaging with them is a fundamental aspect. It increases the effectiveness and impact of cooperation solutions. A new study by Interact on “Civic and civil society engagement in Interreg” finds that both programmes and projects recognise this imperative by fostering close engagement with civil society organisations (CSOs).
Interreg programmes use a wide array of tools and methods to actively involve citizens throughout the different phases of a programming period. CSOs are involved as advisors or even decision-makers when funding priorities are defined by programmes such as Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE, the study finds. They are also encouraged by many programmes to share ideas and needs to improve the design and selection for project calls. This helps Interreg programmes to make their funding more accessible for all, for example through new initiatives like calls for small-scale projects and for New European Bauhaus projects.
In addition, the study finds that also funded Interreg projects widely engage citizens on the ground across all thematic priorities. CSOs often enrich project partnerships and help them develop innovative and effective solutions for a smarter, greener, better connected, and more integrated Europe. Even when CSOs are not directly involved in a partnership, projects implement and profit from participatory approaches that allow citizens to co-design fitting solutions for shared regional challenges. The study authors conclude that “Interreg programmes are already doing a lot, which is something to emphasise to highlight a strength in Interreg and its relevance to stakeholder communities, identifying lessons to share, and informing debates on future reforms and initiatives.”