Back to basics – Regional Cooperation
Thinking back at the purpose of the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Regional Cooperation, they aim to do exactly that: support Cooperation. More specifically, the Fund has enabled collaboration across borders all over Europe with the purpose to solve common challenges in the environmental, social and economic arenas.
Knowledge exchange within our project
Learning and transfer of knowledge is at the core of the Circular Based Waste Management (CBWM) project (http://circular-waste.eu/). The project’s purpose is to examine innovations in waste management with the ultimate target to implement systems that are in line with a circular economy.
The project is being carried out by 5 partners from 4 countries, (Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Norway), three of which are municipalities, one is a waste management centre and one an expert in circular economy.
Partners are studying example cases and different aspects of circular economy practices taking place throughout Europe. Practically, this is carried out either through inviting experts to present online through webinars or through study tours, where project partners travel to different locations to experience first-hand how these solutions work.
Following visits or webinars, presentations of speakers are shared with participants to help maintain lessons learned long term. In addition, communication has played a key role through documenting experiences in the form of articles and sharing these on the project website which is openly accessible. Partners are then encouraged to translate and share with their audiences locally.
Knowledge exchange and cooperation with other projects
Cooperation and knowledge sharing is always most beneficial when it is among as wide a circle as possible. At the CBWM project, we have already had the opportunity to collaborate with two projects under the Regional Cooperation Fund in very different ways.
Our first, was during the virtual Regional Funds Week event that took place fully online in December 2021. Along with the SUPMed project (https://www.supmed.eu/en/) we held the round table discussion on the topic “Applying circular economy through waste management and recycling”.
Both projects are tackling waste issues from different perspectives: for SUPMed from the point of view of the tourism industry, for CBWM from the municipality and of a waste management centre. The discussion gave the opportunity to hear each other’s perspectives on the topic and understand common challenges as well as solutions, particularly through changing behaviours and dissemination in the overall goals of achieving sustainable or circular practices.
Our second collaboration, with EU-WATERRES (http://eu-waterres.eu) and TBFVnet (https://www.tbfvnet.eu/) was born out of the onset of the war in Ukraine. Among the three projects, there are partners in Ukraine and Russia and this collaboration was based on writing a common article for the April 2022 Issue of the Regional Cooperation magazine to highlight emotions, the situation and how regional cooperation has been affected by the war (https://regionalcoopmag.net/2022/04/29/regional-cooperation-projects-and-the-war-in-ukraine/).
Open knowledge sharing
Circular Economy is a topic that concerns all sectors and it is set to become part of our daily lives. Among the learnings in our project has been that achieving it requires a change in behaviours and small actions that will add up to big changes.
Being held so close to Christmas, the 2022 Annual Seminar of the Regional Funds projects that took place in Brussels, offered an opportunity to share small but actionable tips to minimise waste during the holidays. There, we held a presentation focused on different types of waste generated during the festive time and how each person can prevent it by changing small things.
A series of three articles have been produced on the topic which can be found on the project website. (One can start with Part 1 here: http://circular-waste.eu/index.php/2022/11/23/santas-role-in-a-circular-economy-part-1-the-christmas-tree-and-ornaments/ and follow the links to parts 2 and 3 from the article).
Key factors that encourage cooperation
From these experiences we have found that projects are open to collaborations and once a common element has been identified, seemingly unrelated projects have a lot to learn from each other.
The 2022 Annual Seminar provided an opportunity to meet representatives from the projects we had collaborated with and others. It further allowed sharing insights not just with projects under the Fund for Regional Cooperation but also the Fund for Youth Employment. This was made possible by having found as a common factor the involvement of youth in some of the Regional Cooperation projects as well as providing a workshop which was useful regardless of the project topic from an administrative point of view.
Support by the fund and the fund operator by creating opportunities for networking that can create collaboration is paramount. Being a central point of contact and having an overall view of all the projects, a first “nudge” in bringing projects together can help spiral collaborations that could potentially last for years.
Maritsa Kissamitaki – Circular Based Waste Management Project