FORMA.Azione, International Project Manager
FORMA.Azione is an Italian Adult Learning Vocational Education and Training (VET) provider based in Perugia (Umbria) with 14 staff members. It has been providing training since 1997, ranging from full-time postgraduate programmes to short basic skills courses. Chiara Palazzetti is one of the company’s international project managers.
Project team: How do you personally understand the term “Europeanisation” and how do you envisage it being implemented in your organisation?
Chiara Palazzetti: For me, Europeanisation is the process through which a society, at every level – from government to individuals – revises its policies and activities on the basis of a common European framework. For us at FORMA.Azione, Europeanisation means having a broader perspective when planning our projects and educational offers and always being aware of European trends and strategies.
Project team: What kind of European work is FORMA.Azione engaged in?
Chiara Palazzetti: In a first phase of development, FORMA.Azione has received the support of the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for local projects in the region of Umbria. In 2009, the management of FORMA.Azione started looking for transnational European opportunities beyond ESF and ERDF through a first cooperation project that opened the way. Since 2011, Erasmus+ has helped us support mobility projects (Key Action 1) and strategic partnerships (Key Action 2) in a more structured way. We have also begun cooperative work with Ukraine through the Central European Initiative.
Project team: Does your organisation have a Europeanisation or internationalisation strategy?
Chiara Palazzetti: As a small organisation, our internationalisation strategy emerged as a process through internal discussion driven by the company’s management, and not from a formalised document. Our goals and priorities are clear though: we focus on reinforcing our existing partnerships whilst constantly looking for new European partners. In both of these goals we value the quality of the relationship over the quantity of partnerships.
Project team: What are the biggest challenges that your organisation has faced in its European work?
Chiara Palazzetti: We realised that establishing strong relationships with foreign organisations requires the investment of much time and a lot of skills. Different cultures, different work approaches and different education systems: we had to become familiar with this information before starting the intended European cooperative work. We also had to develop our language skills.
Project team: What particular aspects of FORMA.Azione seemed to be poorly suited to this new context and have been changed during the transition period?
Chiara Palazzetti: Firstly, the organisational structure and the competencies of our staff had to be adapted to the new transnational level. An international team was created through the recruitment of three new staff members, including myself. The management staff did not have an international profile at the outset and had to develop their language and management skills to meet the new requirements. Secondly, we changed our work organisation. We adapted our project management process by having only one staff member leading the whole project cycle, instead of different ones in charge of each step. We also had to develop a new quality management system by revising our internal processes and communication means; for example, doing Skype calls with international partners had not been part of the old quality management system. Small but necessary adjustments had to be made in order to make the work understandable for the administrative team of the company whilst communicating efficiently with our new international partners.
Project team: What has been the biggest impact of the Europeanisation on your organisation?
Chiara Palazzetti: We improved the quality of our expertise and services. Our educational offer has become more innovative and we have become a reference point in Umbria for specific topics such as quality assurance and peer review. The other VET organisations in the region now learn from us. We are still competitors, but they come to us to benefit from our expertise. The fact that we just became co-manager with the municipality of Perugia of the first Eurodesk in the Umbria region seems to confirm this trend. Eurodesk aims at sharing information about European opportunities for educational mobility.
Project team: Where do you see your Europeanised organisation in the future?
Chiara Palazzetti: I hope that we will keep on growing at the European level by reinforcing our competences on specific topics and our relationships with our partners. We also wish to become a reference in candidate countries and neighbouring regions. To this end we are currently leading a capacity building project in Ukraine.
Project team: What would be your advice to other organisations so that they can better manage their Europeanisation or internationalisation process?
Chiara Palazzetti: Investing in the development of staff’s competencies is imperative. Participating in international events is also very useful to get to know organisations from other countries. But perhaps the most important advice is to be ready to leave your comfort zone and to fail a lot, even every day, because failure is a learning process. Through failure you develop relationships and skills, and it will eventually lead you to success. Not receiving funding is no big deal: it can discourage you for a few days, but it will also provide an impetus for the next time.