By Richard Dickinson and Richard Lloyd.
This qualitative study by ICF GHK Consulting Ltd was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to evaluate the Innovation, Transnationality and Mainstreaming (ITM) strand of the current ESF programme. The aims of the study were to examine how the ITM strand is being delivered, whether it has been effective in generating new ideas to influence policy and delivery, and the key lessons for future transnational activities in the next round of ESF. The study comprised of a telephone survey of 20 ITM projects; case study research with 12 projects, and interviews with 17 ‘policy influencers’ to explore potential mainstreaming impacts.
The ITM strand seeks to develop and trial innovative approaches to moving individuals towards the labour market, sharing lessons with transnational partners and seeking to inform policy development and delivery through mainstreaming. £23 million of ESF funding supports 32 ITM projects, with key features of the strand including:
- The structuring of the projects funded around six themes - developed on the basis of consultation between Government and external partners, and comprising active inclusion; engaging with employers; ICT and the digital divide; demographic change; skills for climate change and sustainable development, and; social enterprise;
- Projects based on partnerships, including at least one transnational partner - although unlike previous transnational ESF innovation programmes no specific parallel funding was available in most other Member States to support transnational activities, and;
- A central support body, the ITM Unit hosted by Birmingham City Council - whose responsibilities included helping projects understand the requirements of the strand, providing support throughout the delivery period and supporting mainstreaming efforts through the provision of Thematic Events and identifying suitable policy contacts.
The report was commissioned in January 2012 in response to the ESF Evaluation Strategy for the programming period 2007-2013. The research will help meet European Commission requirements to evaluate ESF, and will contribute to the overall evaluation of ESF in England and across the EU. It will also provide evidence to inform the development of the 2014-2020 ESF programme. The European Commission’s draft ESF regulations for 2014-2020 require Member States to use some of their ESF funding to support transnational co-operation and social innovation. This evaluation provides evidence to inform the design of these activities in England. It indicates that future ESF transnational and innovative actions should be directly relevant to the needs of policy makers, and that better focused and shorter projects may be appropriate.