European projects are all about impact these days, and consortia are becoming larger and more international. While this is great, it also comes with challenges. How do you ensure your internal and external partners are engaged?
How do you prevent your project from becoming a list of internal tasks to be ticked off, but instead one that grows towards sustainable societal impact. At ttopstart we identified engagement tools and methods to monitor and direct your project on a sustainable impact course.
We’ve all experienced it. You formulate an ambitious project with real societal impact, and you write a project plan identifying work packages and tasks for the coming four years. Everybody in your consortium now knows their responsibilities and starts with enthusiasm and energy with tasks at hand. After four years, all tasks are ticked off. You wrote an exploitation plan, but unfortunately you did not achieve your goals: the reason you started the project in the first place. Internally your project ran like clockwork, but externally, it did not make the difference you were aiming for. What happened and how can ‘engagement’ help you to keep your internal and external goals aligned?
Engagement for sustainable impact
When building your consortium, each participant may have their own agenda. Goals and objectives may even change over time and will differ between organisations and people This is okay if they all align towards the higher ambition or ultimate goal of your project. Engagement is the ‘art’ of working with people and organisations and helping them to achieve their own goals, while at the same time keeping an eye on the overall impact goals of your project; internal and external. It entails knowledge and understanding of the diverse reasons and backgrounds of partners’ goals and how to manage them, e.g., by communicating them to other partners, by giving the opportunity to express themselves in a meeting, or to involve societal stakeholders in an early stage of the project. This way, you create mutual understanding, which at ttopstart we strongly believe is necessary to create a real team keeping an open mind for the perspectives and needs of stakeholders, thus increasing the change of sustainable impact.
Tips for increasing internal engagement
No consortium is the same of course. Size, objectives, context, type of stakeholders, sector, they all differ. At ttopstart we have identified tools and methods that help you with both internal and external engagement
- Be aware. Put some effort into connecting with each partner to get to know each other and to learn about their role in the project. Why is this project of interest to your partners and how does this align with the bigger impact of your project? Address different cultures and goals from your internal and external partners; be aware of differences in the way of working and the communication.
- Identify gaps. Which stakeholders are well represented, and which need further attention.
- Build bridges. Develop strategies to connect individual interest with higher project ambitions.
- Keep monitoring. Stay alert to changes e.g., in staffing. Check in with partners regularly on how they are doing and to hear if circumstances have changed.
- Develop a flexible leadership style, teambuilding techniques, and stakeholder management given the circumstances and situation. Emphasise the common goal and the progress towards that common goal regularly in meetings and in your communication before jumping into the details. Develop a common language.
Tips for increasing external engagement
Your project has a defined end-goal, but it is important to look beyond the boundaries of your project. To achieve sustainable impact, you not only need engagement from those within your consortium, but external stakeholders also need to be engaged. Nowadays, most projects want to involve e.g., patient organisations and insurance companies in an early stage of their project to learn what they need to implement the project’s results. It should be more than just learning, you need to engage with them, invite them to co-create solutions together and make the shift from science push to impact pull! Also, here it is about:
- Creating awareness
- Analyse stakeholders’ needs and assess collaboration opportunities
- Identifying gaps & market needs
- Use this knowledge and insights to build bridges with them
- Develop & validate solutions together in a few iterations, ensuring long-term collaboration
- Execute the smart strategy and develop a common language.
You may have a brilliant project idea and the right people within your consortium, but without the competencies to engage them, your project is in danger of derailing and failing its destination: sustainable impact. Engagement is a powerful method to keep your project on track. At ttopstart we have the tools, experience, and competencies to help you to keep your internal and external goals and ambitions aligned.
Want to know more on how we can put engagement to work in your project? Please contact Arno Schoevaars at +31 (0)6 29 55 89 15 or email@example.com.
‘Engagement is the ‘art’ of working with people and organisations and helping them to achieve their own goals, while at the same time keeping an eye on the overall impact goals of your project; internal and external. It entails knowledge and understanding of the diverse reasons and backgrounds of partners’ goals and how to manage them.
– ARNO SCHOEVAARS, MA –
MANAGING CONSULTANT AT TTOPSTART