Evaluation of Scottish National Rural Network (SNRN) and Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) Communication Plan

This report evaluates the implementation of the SRDP Communication Plan and the operational effectiveness of the Scottish National Rural Network (SNRN) in order to provide recommendations for the 2014 - 2020 SRDP.

1. Introduction

The following report was completed by the Rural Development Company Ltd and Associates on behalf of the Scottish Government and presents an evaluation of the Scottish National Rural Network (SNRN) and Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) Stakeholder Communication Plan. The primary aims of the study are to determine how effective the existing SNRN and SRDP communication activities have been in achieving their aims and objectives and in meeting key stakeholder needs; consider other NRN/rural development communication models across the UK and Europe; and provide options for how communications and networking could be most effective under SRDP 2014-2020.

1.1 Study objectives

The detailed objectives of the review were to:

  • Determine how the delivery of the SRDP Communications Plan and SNRN has met both domestic and European requirements;
  • Obtain views of key stakeholders, delivery partners and beneficiaries on the performance, role and impact of the Communications Plan and SNRN on supporting the delivery of SRDP;
  • Determine how the delivery of the SRDP Communications Plan has met the needs of stakeholders and the general public;
  • Assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the delivery model adopted for the SNRN and how it has met the needs of relevant stakeholders;
  • Determine whether stakeholders are making good use of the SNRN services:
  • Identify the value or otherwise of the individual communication and networking activities undertaken;
  • Review the communication activities under each SPDP scheme and how well these have been aligned and their complementarity:
  • Review different approaches to networks and rural development communication across UK and Europe and identify good practice;
  • Review how SNRN and the Communications Plan could be further developed for SRDP 2014-2020;
  • Identify how the SNRN under SRDP 2014-2020 might relate to relevant European initiatives, specifically, the European Innovation Partnership Network, the European Network for Rural Development and the European Evaluation Network for Rural Development;
  • Assess the extent of any future needs and opportunities, and provide a clear set of recommendations to assist the Scottish Government with the planning for 2014-20; and
  • Provide an assessment of the SNRN and communications which can feed into the ex-ante evaluation for SRDP 2014-2020 and meets the EU requirements for monitoring and evaluating Rural Development Programmes.

The objectives were subsequently modified as seen below at section 1.3.

1.2 Method Used

The method was designed to undertake the two evaluation tasks in parallel and involved consultations with internal Scottish Government staff, external stakeholders and beneficiaries. We were conscious at all times to make best use of consultees' time during a very busy period in the programme cycle. The following tasks were undertaken as part of the research process:

1.2.1 Desk based analysis

The desk research undertaken took the form of investigation of various reports, minutes and quarterly reports, the SNRN Action Plan and the SRDP Communications Plan. The majority of data in the desk-based analysis referred to the SNRN. Data analysed included web statistics, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the SNRN both for the website and the events contract.

1.2.2 Interviews and survey

Two separate programmes of in-depth interviews were undertaken following discussions with the Project Board at the inception meeting. It was considered that face-to-face meetings with internal Scottish Government (SG) officials made the best use of their time and the study's resources, rather than undertake the workshop originally suggested in the proposal. In total 11 interviews were carried out with SG staff (9 face-to-face and 2 telephone). The second programme of interviews took place with 26 stakeholders (19 face-to-face and 7 telephone) from a broad range of organisations representing agriculture, crofting, forestry, the community, the third sector and LEADER. A further 6 interviews were carried out with representatives from other UK and European Networks.

1.2.3 Online survey

A simple on-line survey was produced and cascaded for completion through the SNRN website and key stakeholder organisations' websites in public, private and third sectors including NFUS, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Government, LEADER LAGs, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) etc. thereby covering agriculture, crofting, forestry, community, the third sector and LEADER. The survey was also distributed through the key stakeholder organisations' email contacts with the aim of reaching as broad a range of rural constituents as possible. A total of 346 responses were received.

1.2.4 Workshops

A workshop with 18 representatives from a wide range of rural stakeholder organisations was undertaken in Edinburgh on 16th May 2013. This workshop explored the lessons to be learnt for communication in SRDP 2014-2020, provided the opportunity to discuss the parameters of what the SNRN should aim to deliver and explored the different delivery models that could be used in the 2014-2020 RDP.

1.3 Change to study method and reasons

The major change to the study method was the re-focusing of the study to look more at how communication had taken place within the SRDP and the lessons that could be learned rather than evaluating the Communications Plan itself. There was a desire from the client for a more forward-looking report, with a stronger focus on the SNRN and its role in the 2014-2020 RDP. The main reason for this was that it became clear near the beginning of the study that the SRDP Communications Plan had not been delivered as originally envisaged. The Plan was written part way through the Programming period, circa 2010, but had not been followed through. It was suggested that one reason for this might be due to the move away from having a dedicated SRDP communications resource following a restructuring of the various Communication Teams within Scottish Government.

1.4 Structure of report

The report has been structured into three main chapters. The first two chapters review SRDP Communications and the SNRN. The third chapter draws together overall conclusions and makes recommendations for the 2014-20 Programme.

Summary of Chapter 1: Introduction

  • This report evaluates the Communication Plan and effectiveness of communications associated with the delivery of the Scotland Rural Development Programme and the operational effectiveness of the Scottish National Rural Network over the period 2007-2013. The methods used include documentary analysis, stakeholder interviews (including of government actors), a questionnaire and a facilitated workshop.


Email: Angela Morgan

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