“From request to executable project: supporting clients from A to Z, that is our signature.”

At consulting firm Reeleaf, they go for “European teamwork. From their support in applying for EU funding to project development. Thanks to this broad service and focus on project feasibility, the agency has a strong reputation ten years after its founding. Among other things, they achieved a 95% success rate for 19 out of 20 project applications submitted to Interreg. Senior Consultant Jacqueline Brouwer explains how Reeleaf has been answering the complexities involved in EU funding for a decade.

Founded in 2013, Reeleaf now consists of a team of experts who know what it takes to work in an European context. “Each of us has had a role in one of the European programs, such as LIFE, EUI and JFT, that we support or has a background in international cooperation. I myself worked for a long time as National Contact point for Interreg Northwest Europe. There I was mostly the liaison between project applicants and the program. I spoke daily with both people who were preparing projects and with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. This kind of experience, so in program and project development, makes that our consultants know what total picture is needed for a successful project.”

But … does it match the EU program?

For every assignment, Brouwer and her colleagues first check whether and if so how the initial idea for a project stands a chance as a project proposal. “A well-founded choice for a particular European program is the absolute starting point of every application. So our very first question is almost always: how does your project fit into a program? We can think creatively about that, but fundamentally the match must actually be there. An application itself must have a logical structure with an objective, activities, results and expected impact. Naturally, our consultants strictly monitor this structure. We also say so clearly if there is no match.”

Ensure sustainable support from everyone

The feasibility of a project is central to Reeleaf right from the application. “That feasibility starts with the project arising from an internal need of the client. The impact the project aims to have at the end of the journey must be consistent with the policy goals of that organization. In addition, there must be sustainable support from all partners in the project consortium. The implementation of a project can easily take three and a half to four years – sometimes even longer. This is why we aim for a strong partnership with every project application. Without commitment from all parties involved, no project will make it to the end. “

How do you divide tasks and roles?

“A well thought-out division of tasks and roles between the parties within a consortium is also an important project requirement and a challenge for many of our clients,” Brouwer continues. She knows plenty of examples of projects in which insufficient thought has been given to exactly who will do what. “On paper, project applications look really nice, but actually they don’t fit the competencies and capabilities of the project partners that are needed. And then you get wet, so to speak. If an aligned division of labor is not there right from the approval of the application, then things go wrong as soon as you actually have to get to work, during later development or implementation. In short, a project application without a focused division of tasks and roles is detrimental because EU projects are often special to organizations. Raising money from Europe is fun, but it often creates additional pressure within an organization to actually make a project succeed.” And that’s where Reeleaf can support you well.

Looking at the clock

Guiding applications consists largely of time management, Brouwer knows from experience. “Most European programs work with calls for proposals that have a strict closing date. Meanwhile, many parties underestimate the time needed for a good application. You have to organize meetings, provide information, introduce partner organizations to the rules and collect good substantive information. We therefore always urge them to start on time and in the meantime keep an eye on the clock. Where possible, we leave room for development time. And where necessary, we keep the pressure on.”

Long-term sparring partner, expert and supporter

After an application is approved, Reeleaf often remains active with the project in various ways. For example, Brouwer and her colleagues also provide support with project management, financial control and training with Reeleaf Campus. Says Brouwer, “Feasibility is central to every assignment for good reason. Once we commit to a project, we really want it to succeed. We are therefore happy to support this with all the expertise we can offer.”

Measuring impact increasingly important for EU

Asked about developments in EU programs, Brouwer mentions the growing importance of demonstrable results and impact with the final target group or with the area on which a project is focused. “A logical development, because European programs run on community money and you notice an increasingly critical EU sentiment. Fortunately, there are more and more dedicated platforms on which you can demonstrate that impact, from the start of a program to even years afterwards.” Looking back, she argues that the Brexit in particular has had an impact. “Many program areas have obviously shifted now that England has left. That has greatly changed the cooperation opportunities for partners in the Interreg programs. Also the Interreg 2 Seas program has disappeared.”

Responding to changes

“Our services are broad and always adapted to changes in program development. For example, we are now going to focus more on project management of ongoing projects again, but also on the interim evaluations of the programs themselves: these are now also coming up again. And of course, accountability and control will always continue,” Brouwer continued. “With the development of Reeleaf Campus, we want to make clients more self-sufficient in terms of required knowledge and organizational development for an EU-funded collaborative project. From submitting a project application to the personnel set-up behind the scenes and financial management. As an agency, we also want to continue to grow, including by broadening the expertise in our team. Everything to offer our clients even more and to truly be their partner for project support, the whole nine yards. We still see plenty of opportunities .”