From 22 to 24 of April, the RuDI project held its third project meeting in Rome. The aim of the meeting was to inform each other about the first year of the project, to make a synthesis of key results and to develop case study methodology. Once we have finalized the case study methodology this summer, the next phase of the project will be to conduct 20 case studies for in depth understanding of key practices in the policy process and their potential effects. For example, in the Netherlands, the European Rural Development Plan has been incorporated into a broader process of rural policy change. A key element of this process is the ‘performance contract’ between the national and the provincial authorities in which both levels of government agree on policy priority, investment budgets, co-finance responsibilities and performance indicators. The question is how different RDP Axis are brought into a system of performance contracts and whether these contracts are indeed a stimulus for more integrated rural policy design and delivery
We also presented our work to the International Expert Group (IEG) which was established for the duration of the project. In Rome, eight experts joined us, coming from a wide range of organisations including the European Commission, the OECD, consultancies and universities. The IEG helped us to reflect upon our first results and to gain new insights. They formulated recommendations for further elaboration. The experts encouraged us to find a qualitative way to analyse the transformative effects and potential impact of the rural development policy process; the ‘forgotten middle’ in current evaluation practices.