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Evaluation of sustainability: European conferences and training courses "EASY-ECO 2005 - 2007"

Final Activity Report Summary - EASY-ECO 2005-2007 (Evaluation of sustainability: European conferences and training courses "EASY-ECO 2005 - 2007")

EASY-ECO 2005-2007, was a training and conference programme on evaluations in the specific context of sustainable development. The project consisted of 3 conferences and four training courses, aiming to build evaluation capacity by training young researchers and exchanging relevant experience amongst researchers and practitioners, with a special focus on the needs of the new EU Member States and Accession Countries. While the conferences took place in Western Europe, the training courses were hosted in CEE countries. Thus EASY-ECO 2005-2007 provided top trainers in the countries with urgent needs in the field of sustainability evaluation.

The key purposes of the training courses were to address the need for high-quality evaluations in the context of sustainable development, to support institutional capacity building by training young researchers, and to provide 170 young researchers with high standard interdisciplinary education and to support them over several months. Trainees were encouraged to present their own paper at a conference following the training, thus ensuring close contact with the experts and with other participants for a long period.

Each training course followed a curriculum developed by the coordinator in cooperation with the core-course trainers.
- In a three-month virtual preparation phase, young researchers had access to teaching materials and to short descriptions of the case studies used as teaching cases. This phase enabled the hosts to raise publicity for the training course and to select the most promising young researchers.
- The 10-day training phase provided hands-on work, theoretical input and individual support. 12 core course trainers gave lectures on scientific issues (such as theory-based evaluation, data aggregation) and on complementary skills (such as stakeholder involvement, presentation of results) every morning.
Case training took place in three parallel working groups of 10-15 young researchers and covered three different fields of application. In their hands-on work through the different steps of an evaluation, the groups were guided by the evaluators and scientific tutors.
- The virtual follow-up phase supported a regular virtual exchange between leading experts and young researchers. Each young researcher had the possibility to conduct his / her own scientific paper or evaluation supported individually by the trainers and the scientific board and to present it at a following conference.

The key purposes of the conferences were to provide an international scientific platform and networking opportunities for young researchers, to facilitate exchanges of experience between leading scientists, practitioners and young researchers, providing practitioners with scientific knowledge and scientists with feedback from application, and to provide the scientific backing for the training courses by discussing the teaching material, helping to select the case studies and increasing publicity for the planned series of events. Overall, the conferences aimed to build capacity and trigger a significant scientific impact. The three conferences focussed on three different levels of evaluation: the strategic level, the project level and the institutional level.

Conference 1: Evaluation as decision-making support: 'Impact assessment for a new Europe and beyond'.
Conference 2: Evaluation as performance assessment: 'Improving the quality of sustainable development projects'
Conference 3: Institutional level: 'Governance by evaluation: Institutional capacities and learning for sustainable development'

Several publications were triggered: A book series on 'Evaluating sustainable development' with Edward Elgar Publishing, United Kingdom, edited by Peter Hardi and André Martinuzzi and a special issue 'Governance by evaluating sustainable development - Actors, institutions and instruments', Journal Environmental Policy and Governance, Whiley Publishing.