Getting to the point of

Manage to be successful?
Jeremy Gault from the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre in Cork had the task of managing the four year project. What are his tips if he had to do it again?

What made the four year Corepoint project different to other Interreg funded coastal projects involving a number of European partners focusing on ICZM? True capacity building where it matters most is the answer says Val Cummins, Corepoint Project Coordinator who speaks to Lesley Smeardon.
In 2004, the €4.3 million Corepoint project was borne out of frustration at the stop start approach of many funded ICZM coastal projects. Its aim was to build a lasting capacity within ICZM, on the ground, where it really mattered. The idea was to create a bridge locally between those with research expertise in ICZM and those working at the ‘coast face’, perhaps with less understanding of ICZM but great knowledge of applied coastal management. Says Val Cummins, Project Coordinator and instigator of the Corepoint project, “With so many projects around that time suffering from the stop start nature of funding, it wasn’t difficult to find support in others interested in building local, sustained networks like those we were proposing. We put together a sound proposal with agreed partners and the project eventually kicked off in 2004 with 12 partners throughout North West Europe representing seven countries.” Partners represented a range of expertise and specialisms. “All of the research groups involved in Corepoint, have a broad perspective on coastal management with a genuine interest in applied research”, adds Cummins. “The expertise that they brought to the project was very diverse. Our French partners, for example, had a strong knowledge in maritime economics and in Belgium it was maritime law. Northern Ireland and Sefton were strong on coastal processes, while in Cardiff and Cork, stakeholder engagement and GIS respectively were more the focus. All brought something different to the mix and all were interested in coastal zone management as a process. Where one partner was weak, another was strong.” The geographical and socioeconomic characteristics of the coastlines represented by the partners were equally diverse. Physical characteristics ranged from sites with one shoreline type, to those with far greater contrast. Sandy beaches almost totally characterise the Belgian and Sefton coasts for example, while Donegal and the eastern side of the Western Isles are predominantly comprised of rocky peninsulas interspersed with small sandy beaches or mudflats. Locations, such as the Severn Estuary and Mont Saint-Michel, are much more varied, with large areas of shingle, sand and mud, but also with areas of sea cliff and rocky shore platform. Equally varied were the socioeconomic characteristics, with Cork Harbour, the Severn Estuary and Flanders, for example, incorporating large urban populations and extensive industrial development as well as tourism and recreation. Others, such as Donegal, Western Isles and Mont Saint-Michel, are sparsely populated with a high reliance on more traditional industries, such as agriculture, fishing and, increasingly, tourism. “This provided Corepoint with great physical, ecological and socioeconomic diversity in which to test ICZM capacity building approaches”, adds Cummins. So just how did the project build capacity? “The central focus of Corepoint was the development of local relationships between those involved in the day to day coastal management and those with expert knowledge of ICZM”, says Cummins. “These relationships, coined ‘expert couplets’ by the project, were piloted across Europe between partners and local authorities. The aim was to implement policy-led research by pooling resources in local centres to lift capacity.” “To help facilitate this process we also set up a series of two day training schools, targeted towards local authorities that focused on the ICZM principles of best practice. The schools made use of good relevant case studies from our partners that allowed unprecedented cross-learning. This, along with site visits, gave the learning experience huge practical relevance. “With information management being key to good ICZM practice, Corepoint also provided guidance on developing local information systems. Six pilots were developed in the course of the project with a set of very structured guidelines the end result. In addition, Corepoint, through CoastNet, developed ‘CoastWeb’, a coastal portal launched in June 2006 enabling practioners anywhere to access important coastal management information as well as add to the resource themselves.” “Of course, there were many other aspects of Corepoint, with cross cutting work going on throughout the project. The EUCC, for example undertook some interesting research, testing the EU approved ICZM progress indicator at the local level to measure the progress in ICZM implementation in Europe.” funding under a new name (Imcore), with a new set of objectives and timeframe. Wouldn’t capacity building in ICZM have been better served had Corepoint used its coastal credibility to lobby at a national level for national strategies with real financial teeth to fund on-the-ground work? “There’s definitely a need for EU member states to develop national strategies”, says Cummins. “Only a handful of countries have responded to the EU ICZM recommendation so far – Germany, France, Northern Ireland, for example. In Corepoint, we tried to develop a nested approach to influence back up from the local level. In Ireland, for example, we encouraged the development of a national advisory board which was set up with government departments. This proved highly successful, culminating in a national coastal conference with recommendations for changes to foreshore legislation coming out of this.

Communicate well
• Get off to a good start. The first meeting should offer opportunities for Partners to get to know how the people they are going to work with actually tick. Build up a rapport with the funding body from the start – they like to be kept informed and are as keen for you to succeed as you are! Promote the project from the start – our biggest error was not including a budget for promoting the project with high quality multi-language material for dissemination. Don’t be over-reliant on email. It’s a great management tool but you need to follow up with phone calls and other contact. Cultural diversity is a key strength of a European project but remember that with this diversity comes a need for cultural sensitivity. Work transnationally. In a very short time it became apparent that the training schools were better because several partners were working together to deliver them. Partners saw the benefits of this type of working for other actions and the actions which involved more partners produced the best outputs and generated the best working environment. Be prepared to adapt the project to unforeseen internal and external influences, such as changes in the political landscape. Be aware of the differing levels of expectations from partners. Partners need space and time to decide exactly what they can take from the project and what they are prepared to give. Be absolutely clear to partners about what is happening at project level, not just in their specific field or geographical area, from the very start. Accept critical feedback. It’s a positive thing and can only benefit any project. The edge Spring 2008 The edge Spring 2008

Play to the project’s strengths

Manage expectations

“Ultimately”, says cummins, “with Corepoint we wanted to demonstrate that building capacity from the local level through our expert couplet approach can work and I think we “It’s true that without a recognised national strategy, you’re always going proved that.” to be riding the funding circus. But I Where next? think Corepoint has certainly raised a Now, as Corepoint comes to an end, greater interest in ICZM. This is hugely you can’t help wondering if the stop evident in the fact that many more start nature of coastal funding has local authorities are now coming on changed all that much. Continuing board as full partners in Corepoint’s where Corepoint left off has meant successor, Imcore. The commitment is reapplying for a new package of there far more than it’s ever been.”



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