Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Behind coordinator's desk

I am the person you call to ask when will the call for proposals open, what does 'outputs' mean or is it OK if we do this activity this way instead of that. I've been that person - a coordinator - for ten years already (yes indeed, I was 16 when I started). My title has remained but the operational environment, as well as my tasks and answers to the questions, have changed a lot during the past decade.

When I started as a coordinator we were implementing Interreg III A Karjala programme. That time the biggest problem, at ideological level, was that we were doing cooperation between Finland and Russia but only had funding for the activities taking place in Finland.

With the Neighbourhood programme a step forward was taken when it became possible to apply for funding for both sides of border with a single application even the funding came from two different instruments (Interreg and Tacis). However, the administration of one action with two set of rules and raporting was quite challenging for the beneficiaries.

Now there's only one set of rules and both Finns and Russians are eligible as lead partners. That is definitely a step to the right direction.

Hopefully it won't be the last step. The cross-border cooperation programmes can still be improved with the experiences from the current programmes.

From coordinators viewpoint it would be better if we didn't have stick to the European Commission's Practical guide to the External Assistance but could more freely define the guidelines of the calls and to modify the annexes and forms to better emphasize the cross-border nature of the programme  - not all the rules and policies that fit for external assistance fit to cross-border cooperation.

Then again, restricted and thematic calls are a good idea and they can and should be used and evolved further in the future as well. It is not possible to pay too much attention on the effectiveness and productivity of the projects and programmes.

While waiting for the operational environment to change once again, I keep on working with the ongoing projects trying to answer their questions and in return asking even more questions from them.

Henna-Mari Helenius
Programme Coordinator

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