The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Follow-up of regional growth measures. With a focus on performance (2016:28)

On behalf of the Government, Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has investigated how the follow-up of appropriation 1:1 Regional growth measures can place a greater focus on the performance of initiatives receiving funds. This appropriation consists of three areas – regional business support, support for commercial service and regionally adopted project activities. In accordance with the Government’s commission, we will focus on project activities.

The following three elements make up our proposal for increasing the performance focus of the follow-up:

  • Annual reporting on a set of indicators
  • Annual systematic qualitative follow-ups
  • Regular outcome evaluations

The qualitative follow-ups and outcome evaluations cover all parts included in appropriation 1:1 – project activities, business support and support for commercial service. But the indicators only relate to project activities.

Statskontoret proposes that the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) be assigned responsibility for the construction and administration of the new follow-up system. We also propose that the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis be assigned responsibility for the evaluation of outcomes.

One set of indicators

According to our proposal, the first part of the follow-up consists of 15 uniform indicators reported by Tillväxtverket on an annual basis. This information is based both on data from the projects and on data that Tillväxtverket obtains from Statistics Sweden. The aim of this is to enable the Government and the Riksdag to monitor the performance of project activities over time. The starting point for the proposal on indicators is our breakdown of the National Strategy for Sustainable Regional Growth and Attractiveness 2015–2020 and our assessment of indicators already used by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as well as indicators already used by regional decision-makers to follow up project activities.

Our breakdown of the national strategy resulted in seven indicators, while the remaining eight indicators in the proposal come from the ERDF and the regions. The indicators consist both of performance indicators and of indicators showing the number of participants in different projects. The indicators cover all the priorities in the national strategy.

Qualitative follow-up

Annual follow-up of a relatively small number of indicators does not reflect the full breadth of project activities or show the long-term performance and outcomes of appropriation funds. Consequently, Statskontoret also proposes a systematic qualitative follow-up every year. This qualitative follow-up will provide opportunities to follow up performance that is better measured with qualitative methods than with indicators.

We also propose that the qualitative follow-up should pay particular attention to the sustainability dimensions. The sustainability dimensions consist of economic, social and environmental sustainability and, according to the Government, are to be integrated in the regional growth efforts.

Outcome evaluation

We propose that the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis

be commissioned by the Government to perform regular outcome evaluations of project activities. A prerequisite for this proposal is that the Business Process Management system, Nyps, contains the corporate identity numbers for the companies participating in the project activities. Our proposal includes Tillväxtverket assisting the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis with the identification of groups of companies that are suitable for comparison. This will increase the quality of comparisons made in the outcome evaluations. 

Important prerequisites for our proposal

Statskontoret’s proposal is based on an analysis of today’s steering and follow-up of the regional growth measures and on previous experience from follow-up systems in other policy areas. The analysis shows that there are some important prerequisites and starting points for the new follow-up system to function:

  • The purpose and content of follow-up must be clarified
  • Uniform indicators are necessary for national follow-up
  • A clear structure for reporting is needed
  • Follow-up needs to facilitate the learning of regional actors

The purpose and content of follow-up must be clarified

Statskontoret’s assessment is that the Government should clarify the purpose of the annual follow-up of the projects if the follow-up system is to function as intended. The Government should also place more explicit requirements on the regional actors making decisions on project funds. Therefore, in order to clarify the purpose and requirements, we propose that the Government amends Ordinance (2003:596) on subsidies to project activities within regional growth policy. The Government should also make additions concerning follow-up in appropriation directions and conditions set for the actors that have responsibility for regional development. We also propose that Tillväxtverket specifies in its regulations which information the regional decision-makers are to report to the agency.

Uniform indicators are necessary for national follow-up

Today, the lack of uniform indicators makes it impossible for Tillväxtverket to compile and draw conclusions at the national level. It is therefore important that all regions use uniform national indicators.

Ideally, a national follow-up system containing indicators that measure performance requires a developed operational logic with explicit goals for both the national and regional levels. This entails the need for a continuous chain in which overarching national goals are interlinked with regional goals which are interlinked with sub-goals and finally with individual project goals. We note that there is no such operational logic with explicit goals for regional growth policy and that there is no opportunity to develop this in the context of this commission. With a pragmatic perspective and in accordance with our commission, we instead make use of the national strategy with its overall goals, priorities and focus areas as a starting point for developing our proposal for follow up that has a greater focus on performance.

A clear structure for reporting is needed

In order for the follow-up system to function, our proposal clearly outlines the responsibility of all decision levels to report in the new follow-up system. These decision levels are project owners, regional decision-makers, Tillväxtverket, the Government, the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation and finally the Riksdag.

One fundamental prerequisite is that all actors use a common reporting system, with consistent procedures for reporting. In our assessment, the Business Process Management system, Nyps, can serve as this common system. It is then important that Tillväxtverket continues to develop Nyps to meet the requirements of the new follow-up.

Follow-up needs to facilitate the learning of regional actors

Our ambition is to create conditions to make the follow-up results known and applicable to the intended recipients Besides the Government and the Riksdag, the regional actors are also important recipients of the follow-up. We therefore propose that Tillväxtverket establishes a forum through which administrators at the regional organisations can exchange experiences about project activities and about how regional growth policy can yield results.