Need for increased impact – Lessons from agro-environmental projects

Projects often produce results and recommendations aimed at improving policies. Some projects succeed better than others in doing so. To establish the best methods of designing projects with a strong impact and avoiding pitfalls, Organe Institute and other SuMaNu project partners conducted a gap analysis.

‘Typical pitfalls leading to gaps between envisaged and realised impacts of manure and nutrient related projects’ – a gap analysis summarises the aims and impacts of seven agro-environmental projects. These were Baltic Slurry Acidification, Manure Standards, Baltic DEAL, Baltic Compass, Baltic PROMISE, Green Agri and BALTIC MANURE.

The analysis explores whether the project aim was to create policy recommendations, how clearly they were formulated and communicated, whether there was any policy integration and how the end-user-acceptance was surveyed and documented.

Three projects, namely Baltic Slurry Acidification, Baltic COMPASS and Baltic Manure scored high for their aims to produce policy recommendations and create impact among end-users. Manure Standards could have expressed their aims to produce policy recommendations more clearly as part of their objectives. Two projects, namely BONUS PROMISE and Baltic DEAL, scored low with respect to the aims of producing policy recommendations and creating impact among end-users.

Typically, pitfalls for projects already occur in the planning phase. More focus could be given to formulating the project aim. The SMART guideline for objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) could be used to plan more clear and concrete objectives. The projects should not be afraid to give recommendations. They will spark interest among policymakers and after that, project results are needed to back up the recommendations. Communicating the results need to be properly and realistically planned, using the right channels for the different target groups. For example, in order to secure policy impact, contact with and involvement of policymakers need to be established. The report suggests that, in the future, projects could be faced with concrete demands of producing clearer policy recommendations and delivering them to policymakers.