UFIL Journal 2: taking stock of the project implementation
If in the first year UFIL did a lot of preparatory work, the second year was expected to see the fast take-off of its activities. But nobody had taken the occurrence of a pandemic into account. Year 2 is therefore still characterised by delays in implementation. Some important delays are obviously caused by the restrictions put in place by governments to fight the spreading of coronavirus. In fact, the project was obliged to adapt some of its activities (e.g. training and coaching) while other activities had to be cancelled (e.g. street marketing activities and rural dissemination workshops). Still, some delays are due to implementation weaknesses. On a much less important level, I could not visit the project during this reporting period due to travel restrictions. The project management was helpful in filling the information gap for the preparation of this journal but the analysis necessarily lacks of first-hand impressions.
It was clear since the very beginning that UFIL was an ambitious project and that a timeframe of 3-years was short. Led by the Municipality of Cuenca, the project aims at locally triggering a forest-based bioeconomy through the implementation of a city-based forest innovation lab. Accumulated delays in the first two years of implementation have obliged the project to ask for a 1 year extension to the UIA Permanent Secretary. Indeed, this extension is necessary.
The intensity of UFIL’s implementation challenges during Year 2 slightly improved compared to Year 1. The project still benefits from a strong leadership. Public procurement suffers from delays and its allocated budget is importantly underspent but overall the project management seems to control sufficiently the procurement process. Organisational arrangements within the urban authority keep on running smoothly and are well distributed across municipal units. The co-management approach satisfies both the urban authority and the supporting partner Khora Urban Thinkers. Coordination mechanisms were fine-tuned in the last year and web-interaction between partners was boosted as a side-effect of the pandemic. Communication with target beneficiaries and users shows weaknesses, especially with regard to the capacity to reach citizens and to engage local businesses in project’s activities. Instead, the networking capacity of the project is good and several contacts and new cooperation prospects as well as potential synergies start materialising, laying the foundations for future upscaling/consolidation opportunities. Finally, notwithstanding its good reaction capacity, flexibility and ability to build on lessons learnt, the project keeps on not having a monitoring system in place.
In addition to this summary, Journal N. 2 first presents some important developments occurred in the city of Cuenca and in the project, including its contextual conditions (Section 1). Then, it provides an overview of the implementation challenges faced by the project in Year 2 (Section 2). Brief conclusive perspectives are made in Section 3.
Not to lose sight of the progress made, the trend of each challenge’s intensity over the two reporting periods (Year 1 and Year 2) is recalled. This supports the understanding of where the project is heading to.