what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Evidence, dear boy? Training - Part III

I have made a lot of assertions in my two recent posts on EC-funded training – based solely on my (limited) experience in 10 countries over the past 2 decades . Before posting the final part of my commentary on EC training programmes for public officials in ex-communist countries, I wanted to check what was available on the internet about the recent experience with, and evaluation of, the EC-funded programmes for developing the effectivness (capacity) of state bodies which Structural Funds have been encouraging in these countries for the past few years. The EC, after all, treasures transparency and it is currently spending hundreds of millions (under its Structural Funds) in projects to develop the capacity of state bodies and their human resource management. In Bulgaria alone, 180 million euros was set aside for the 6 year period for the Admin Capacity theme (significantly this theme doesn't interest the Romanians who have set aside only 1% of their Structural Fund allocation for it). But there are few documents online which give any sense of what is happening. Those few demonstrate the scale of the mountain we have to scale to ensure effective spend of EC Funds. In most cases, of course, the documents are written in a foreign language (English) – for bureaucratic or academic approval – three factors which tend to knock any sense from the text! Key bureaucratic phrases such as cohesion, transparency and inclusion litter the sentences in meaningless ways. There is no experience or critical analysis behind the words – just obedient regurgitation of the required phrases. This academic paper from a Bulgarian in 2007 tries to extract the lessons of pre-accession instruments for future accession states is written clearly but simply presents global figures, organisational carts and some gossip. A 2009 German (GTZ) consultancy report on one of the instruments is more typical of the obtuse reporting style
A document prepared for a small network trying to share their experiences of using EC money for the development of admin capacity gives a useful insight into their world and issues. Finally a more critical 2011 paper from a young Bulgarian academic

Everyone – on all sides(beneficiaries, donors, consultants, academics, evaluators) – plays the same game – everything has to be fitted to the Procustean bed of EC funding. The European Policy Research Centre at the University of Strathclyde, for example, has received hundreds of millions of euros from the EC to explain, evaluate and proselytise the EC’s regional policies since they were a gleam in Bruce Millan’s eye from 1988 when, as EC Commissioner for Regional Policy, he started (under the Delors regime) the incredible expansion of the programmes whose munificence created the real attraction of EC membership for ex-communist elites. Of course it is the last organisation which would dare to blow the whistle on the dubious nature of the ventures. Take, for example, this Greek academic paper it published recently.

One longs for a young boy to shout out that the Emperor has no clothes – and dare to tell it as it is.

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