Annual programme report 2020 submitted to the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO) in Brussels – executive summary
Despite the difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemia we managed to implement all planned activities. We organized 4 calls for proposals: 2 for thematic projects and 2 for sectoral projects (one planned originally and one additional dedicated to monitoring and advocacy activities). In the first call for thematic projects we received 1317 project outlines and awarded 223 grants: 100 for outcome 1, 58 for outcome 2 and 65 for outcome 3. In the main call for sectoral projects out of 388 project outlines submitted in the call 32 received grants. Currently, the first stage of project evaluation is underway under the second call for thematic projects in which we received 1588 project outlines and the call for monitoring and advocacy projects is open with the deadline for applications set for March 15, 2021.
Since right now we are at the phase of signing project contracts in two calls for proposals the only relevant indicator of bilateral cooperation at the project level is the number of projects which will be implemented with a partner from Donor States. So far we have supported 31 such partnerships out of 50 planned for the whole programme. Among bilateral partnership projects 21 involve one or more partners from Norway, 7 a partner from Iceland and 3 – partners from both Norway and Iceland. Among the bilateral partnership projects supported there is none from Liechtenstein. In total there are 26 entities from Norway participating in the projects and 10 from Iceland. 4 applications contain more than one partner from the Donor State.
At the programme level bilateral results were achieved in three indicators. Five (four online and one offline events ) of the planned 10 bilateral cooperation initiatives financed from the ACF-N bilateral fund were completed. 319 individuals (compared to the planned 200) participated in bilateral activities. Among the participants, there were 35 from Norway, 17 from Iceland and 3 from Liechtenstein. In all five bilateral initiatives participants reported in the evaluation forms improved knowledge/methods/approaches at a level of 67.53% (compared to the planned minimum of 50%).
Fulfilling the first condition to the PIA i.e. additional outreach and capacity building to support Project Applicants we organized: 9 off-line information workshops in different regions of Poland, 8 information meetings online, 11 inspiration online workshops with external specialists and 1 capacity building workshop. Altogether the meetings were attended by 1315 participants and had over 10 000 views. We prepared 2 instruction films how to prepare the proposal in the Online Application System, 2 instructional videos on financial issues: salary costs and indirect costs and 5 handbooks on results, promotion and cross-cutting issues for projects applicants available on Program website. We also organized 11 webinars: 1 webinar presenting general overview the ACF-N programme, 5 webinars devoted to topics that might cause difficulties for CSOs applying for thematic and sectoral projects, 4 webinars on capacity building, 1 webinar on financial and procedural issues (eligible costs, budget, etc.) Altogether they were attended by 865 participants and had over 4600 views. In line with the plan of providing the applicants with capacity building guidelines FAOO posts educational materials and instructions for project applicants on its educational platform Kursodrom. During the Opening Conference we organized inspiration workshops with a special focus on less experienced, small organisations from underserved areas and target groups and provided individual consultations for the organizations interested to apply for grants. On the second day of the Conference we prepared matchmaking session for organizations interested in developing projects with partners from Donor States.
We continued to provide comprehensive support to Project Promoters, especially to those inexperienced and coming from underserved areas, during the whole process of projects development since the launch of the call till projects’ submission. Each Project Promoter had the opportunity to receive counselling, coaching and mentoring in the form of individual support (by phone or e-mail) from programme team (e.g. about budget, planned activities and results, implementation of the projects during pandemic.) Additionally, we offered 4 information webinars to Project Promoters designed to discuss different aspects of project contracts, present the main rules for projects implementation and budgeting, provide an introduction to the Internet Application System and to explain mandatory promotional activities.
The ACF – N has been implemented in very demanding conditions for the Fund Operator, Applicants and Project Promoters. The need to organize online all meetings and trainings planned in the programme was difficult not only in terms of logistics but it placed the entire Programme team under considerable psychological strain. Also in face of COVID-19 restrictions we had to develop a system of submitting all supporting projects documentation online instead of delivering it personally or via post. Although we have managed to introduce new electronic system of transmission of documents the procedure for signing project contracts with the Project Promoters took considerably longer due to pandemics. The fact that face-to-face meetings could not be organised with representatives of organisations impaired our ability to reach the target groups, especially the smaller grass-root organisations based outside of the big cities. On the other hand, moving the events online allowed us to reach a much higher number of people than the conventional forms of support could have allowed.
Restrictions and limitations resulting from health situation and further spread of pandemic affected the implementation of the programme. We should be prepared that some Project Promoters could have problems in achieving planned results and spending full amount of grants.
In the promotion, information and communication activities we built on our previous experiences developing our presence in the traditional and social media. We ensured high visibility of the Donor States.: the ACF logo, with a statement on the source of funding, was used on all the information and promotion materials (website, social media channels, leaflets, presentations, roll-ups etc.). Information about the donors was also provided during all the information meetings, webinars, training, interviews, etc. Additionally, a paragraph containing a statement on funding was always included in all press releases sent to the media. The representatives of the Donor States attended the conference held to launch the Programme and gave opening remarks.