Charting the path ahead: Monitoring & Evaluation of Cohesion Policy for the 2021-27 period

Cite as: Dozhdeva V and Fonseca L (2023) Charting the Path Ahead: Monitoring and Evaluation of Cohesion Policy for the 2021-27 Period. IQ-Net Thematic Paper 54(2), European Policies Research Centre Delft

Report to the 54th IQ-Net Conference, 15-17 May 2023, Olsztyn, Warmińsko-Mazurskie, Poland

The 2021-27 CP monitoring and evaluation framework largely builds on previous practice but also introduces some substantial changes compared to 2014-20. In light of the new regulatory obligations and lessons learnt from the past, IQ-Net partners are in the process of setting up monitoring arrangements and defining approaches to evaluation in 2021-27. Adjustments are being introduced to adapt to the new requirements and address weaknesses identified in 2014-20.

Regarding monitoring, important changes are driven by a revised logic of result indicators and financial categorisation system, along with new requirements around climate tracking and data reporting. Lessons from 2014-20, including around indicator setting, data collection and interpretation, operation of IT systems, and communication of data, are also driving adjustments in 2021-27. These aim to improve definition and consistency of indicators, promote flexibility and interoperability of electronic monitoring systems, enhance coordination in monitoring, and improve data collection, reporting and exploration. Despite these adjustments, challenges remain or are anticipated, particularly around indicator setting, measurement and collection, climate tracking, and data transfer.

With respect to evaluation, the definition of approaches is still ongoing. Based on lessons from the past, IQ-Net programmes envisage introducing changes particularly around: expanding evaluation markets, including greater involvement of academia; developing new methodological approaches; rethinking the scope of evaluations, including through better targeting; revising the timelines, to ensure better balance between ‘too early’ and ‘too late’; and introducing new ways to communicate findings and follow up on recommendations. The new regulatory framework is considered to support simplification and flexibility, but many IQNet managers intend going beyond mandatory requirements, adjusting evaluations to their specific needs and circumstances. Notwithstanding these incremental improvements, many challenges are systemic and persistent – including evaluation culture and capacity, and the use and impact of results.

In light of these difficulties and new obligations, IQ-Net authorities are investing in strengthening M&E capacity, including through training, networking and other capacity-building initiatives. It remains to be seen, though, how effective these measures will be in promoting long-term improvements in M&E processes and outcomes.

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