Culture and The Structural Funds – What you need to know
The Structural Funds are the EU’s most important tool for the economic and social development of Europe’s regions. A budget of €347 billion has been allocated for the period 2007-2013. Funding from the national and regional level complements the European allocation.There are three main objectives for the Structural Funds:
- Convergence - 82% of the total budget – assisting the poorest regions to catch up
- Regional Competitiveness and Employment - 16% of the budget - supporting innovation, sustainable development, better accessibility and training in the remaining regions
- European Territorial Cooperation - 2.5% of the budget – promoting cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation.
The conditions under which projects can be developed will depend on the objective under which your own particular region falls. You can see a map of eligible areas here
There are now two main funds that can support culture-based projects :
- The European Regional Development Fund
- The European Social Fund
A small proportion of the overall budget is co-ordinated at a European level (through the INTERREG IVC and URBACT II programmes).
National Reference Frameworks and Operational Programmes may refer to objectives that could have a cultural dimension either explicitly or implicitly.
The discussion in the following pages will refer to a number of aspects of the Structural Funds and their operation, but for more information about the general framework consult the DG REGIO website.
How it worksAt a regional or national level – Operational Programmes
The important thing is to build on your strengths. Reflect, first of all on what has worked well in your recent activities, what has attracted attention and how they could be taken further or in new directions.
Then consider how a new project could be framed. Think through how it could affect your community and the wider region. Will it help create employment or develop skills, promote innovative thinking, attract new businesses or stimulate their growth, engage with groups who are socially excluded?
You then need to see how such a project fits in with regional priorities and whether it might be eligible for funding.
It will probably help to talk through your ideas with local development managers and officials responsible for the management of the Structural Funds. After this, you will move towards preparing a proposal, through an appropriate regional or national Operational Programme, possibly in conjunction with a number of other organisations. For this purpose, you need to become familiar with the applicable rules and timetable for calls for proposals in your region and country.
At a European levelIf you already have experience in working with culture and regional development and wish to share it with experts in other regions, you may wish to consider the funds that are available at a European level for transnational, cross border and interregional co-operation (INTERREG IVC, URBACT II)
Meeting Structural Fund ObjectivesIn order to develop a clear focus for your project, it can help to examine the objectives set for the Structural Funds at an early stage- the general objectives at a European level and the specific objectives set out in relevant Operational Programmes. It could help you identify if your project matches these objectives and eventually demonstrate that your project can really make a difference.
Further details on objectives that culture-based projects can address are provided in the section on culture-based development.
Funds availableThe amount of funding available depends particularly on where you are located. The proportion provided by the Structural Funds will vary, but in every case there will need to be some matching funding.
Matching FundingOrganisations can provide matching funding themselves or from supporters or participants in projects from the private sector, or there may be funding available for this purpose from national and regional bodies and the local authorities
For details on how the Structural Funds work in your region and other assistance, do speak to the local officials responsible for the management of the Structural Funds. You may also find that the Cultural Contact Point in your country or the regional members of the Enterprise Europe Network can be of help.
Thinking AheadApplications for funding in the current period will have to be in accordance with existing criteria, since the priorities and objectives of the Structural Funds are now set until 2013. However, it may be appropriate to start thinking about the role of your organisation in the next programming period, from 2014.
Those developing Structural Fund programming welcome inputs from people with practical experience on the ground.
You may wish to contact authorities responsible for local development or those responsible for the Operational Programme in your country or region to provide input into the reflections on the priorities for the next programming period.
Do’s and don’tsThere are a number of steps to take in developing a successful project supported by the Structural Funds. Click here for a diagram of the main stages of a project management cycle.
There are also a series of practical considerations that it is useful to bear in mind, when planning a project.
In particular, these relate to:
- The organisation of the project
- The nature and substance of the project
- The financing of the project
- Proper evaluation.