10 Tips For Your Successful Europeanisation

The Europeanisation of an organisation is a complex issue. This process brings with it both interesting opportunities and various challenges (you can find five opportunities and five challenges here). Learn from the experiences of others. Be inspired by their success stories, but don’t repeat their mistakes. When you start your process of Europeanisation, look for organisations you know that have already gained experience with international work. They will then certainly be able to give you valuable tips. The seven upgrade2europe partner organisations have been working successfully in Europe for many years. We would love to hear from you.

The following ten tips are born of the experience and know-how of the partner organisations from the EU projects Europeanisation and upgrade2europe, as well as from a survey on the Europeanisation of educational organisations. This survey was conducted between May and July 2015. 520 people took part from more than 30 countries, including all EU member states. The results of this online survey are available here.

Tip 1: Begin by Searching for Reliable Partners for International Cooperation within your Immediate Environment

Start by asking your team if they have personal contact with colleagues abroad or with former international partners. Then expand the circle and ask your regional and national partners for recommendations for international contacts. If possible, revive former partnerships.

Searching for reliable partners in your immediate and extended environment will generally lead to initial successes. The next step is to search on professional online social networks such as LinkedIn. You can search topical groups created and managed by LinkedIn users. The EU Project Partner Search group alone has more than 47,000 members (as of November 2023). The upgrade2europe consortium jointly moderates the LinkedIn group Europeanisation. As all project partners have extensive contacts in Europe, you can also use this channel to search for trustworthy European partners. All upgrade2europe partners are also interested in cooperating with new organisations from Europe in their respective areas of expertise in the future. Feel free to contact us if you need support with your Europeanisation or would like to benefit from our expertise as part of an EU-funded project.

Alternatively, the European Union’s programme administrations and information centres offer many databases or information services that can be used to identify potential partners. One way to access this is the Enterprise Europe Network. It comprises more than 600 chambers of commerce and industry, technology centres, universities and development agencies from all EU member states and other countries worldwide, with the aim of helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make the most of their business opportunities inside and outside the EU. Start by identifying your regional EEN point of contact. Get in touch with a consultant and explain your international plans. Do you already know in which country you are looking for partners? If so, you should contact an EEN representative in that region directly. For example, if you are looking for a Hungarian partner, you can contact the colleagues at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Szeged. As a project partner of upgrade2europe and a member of the EEN network, the Szeged Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the ideal first port of call for your future success in Hungary.

Organisations in the adult education sector can use the EPALE community to find partners. In the area of research and development, the information from CORDIS (Community Research and Development Information Service) is one place to research suitable partners. The Otlas database is available for those in the youth sector.

Another approach to finding international partners is to use two EU transparency tools: the database of EU funding beneficiaries, which lists all organisations that have received funding directly from the EU, and the transparency register of those lobbying at EU-level. This database includes commercial, non-profit and public organisations from all countries aspiring to influence the European legislative process through lobbying.

Tip 2: Have Faith in your English-Speaking Staff

English is the most widely used working language in the European world of work. When implementing your Europeanisation strategy, you should enable key people from your organisation to improve their English skills and/or entrust important tasks to your English-speaking staff. If both approaches are out of the question, make sure that applicants have very good foreign language skills when planning new hires. The ‘Personnel Development’ tool in the upgrade2europe handbook contains, among other things, further important information on the subject of language skills.

If working in English is currently too challenging for your organisation, working with partners who speak the same language as you could be an alternative. You can use the Common European Framework of Reference for Language Skills as a guide to assess the language skills of your team.

Tip 3: Use EU Funding

EU funding is an interesting way to partially finance the implementation of your Europeanisation strategy. The European Commission’s budget for the period 2021-2027 amounts to around 1,074 billion Euros. Of this, over 80 billion Euros are set aside for the EU research programme ‘Horizon Europe’, 6.7 billion Euros for the new ‘Digital Europe’ programme and 21 billion Euros for ‘Erasmus+’. ‘Erasmus+’ funds projects in the areas of primary and secondary education, higher education, vocational and adult education as well as youth and sport. Thousands of project applications are submitted each year by organisations from all EU member states. The best project proposals receive funding ranging from a few thousand Euros to over one million Euros, depending on the funding programme.

So, make the most of this opportunity! Swap ideas with practitioners or get advice on how to make the EU application process more efficient. The professional association EU-Fundraising Association e. V., which is also a partner in the upgrade2europe project consortium, promotes exchange among practitioners in the field of European projects and can also recommend consultants and training providers to you. Three other partners in the upgrade2europe consortium are very experienced when it comes to advising on EU funding: ECQ from Sofia in Bulgaria, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry from Szeged in Hungary and emcra – Co-shaping Europe from Berlin in Germany. You can also use the ‘Logical Framework Approach’ if you would like to develop a promising EU funding project by yourself. This approach has become established as the standard method. We show you how to work with this project development approach in the upgrade2europe handbook.

Tip 4: Develop Relationships with Funders and Investors

The European Union is a particularly important contact for supporting the Europeanisation of your organisation. Organisations from all different types and sectors can receive funding from the EU if their projects deal with key EU topics and address target groups relevant to the EU. You can use the European Commission’s Funding & Tender Portal as a starting point for researching EU funding.

In addition, national, regional and local authorities, international organisations, foundations, sponsors and banks are further contacts when it comes to funding, loans or contributions in kind for the implementation of your Europeanisation strategy. Get in touch with these institutions and organisations, study the funding and financing options and choose the approach that suits your organisation. Keep track of funding calls and announcements on the websites of potential funders and investors and attend their information events and conferences. Your aim should be to find the funders, sponsors or financial service providers that best suit your organisation and, if possible, to establish a professional exchange built on trust.

Tip 5: Prepare your Organisation for International Accounting

International cooperation will include new challenges for the finance department of any organisation or the external service providers you work with in this area. These challenges extend to areas such as legislation, tax law, specific financial rules of funding organisations, budgeting for (EU)-funded projects, international accounting, currency conversion and specific technical vocabulary in other languages.

If your finance department has not previously worked with international suppliers, customers or donors, plan specific activities to build up missing knowledge. If necessary, ask external consultants or consult representatives of friendly organisations if they are already active in other European countries. Your finance team will need some time to familiarise themselves with the subject matter. If you proceed systematically and carefully in this area, you will avoid unnecessary – and sometimes costly – mistakes.

Tip 6: Improve Your Project Management Skills

The results of the online survey from the Europeanisation project highlight that a lack of project management skills is one of the biggest challenges facing organisations moving towards international work. For this reason, we recommend that organisations first develop their project management skills as a prerequisite for successfully implementing their internationalisation.

As a first step, you should develop and apply internal project management standards within the organisation. Motivate your team to work with a common internal standard and to use templates, thus developing a project management culture within your organisation. It is best to orientate yourself around “international project management standards”:“/ee/europeanise/project-management/methods/ such as PRINCE2, IPMA, PMBOK/PMI, PM2 or ISO 21500. Introducing and applying international standards usually requires further training for your staff. Certification could be useful for some of your employees. Seek advice from professional organisations. Organisations such as the” Cyprus Project Management Society (CPMS)”:/ee/teave/partnerid/ in our upgrade2europe consortium can help you choose an appropriate project management method or certification. CPMS is a member of the International Project Management Association (IPMA), a globally recognised project management association.

If you want a cost-effective and faster shortcut to professional project management, we recommend ‘P3.express’. This project management method is used worldwide, and the learning materials and information are available to you free of charge in 26 languages (as of November 2023). In the upgrade2europe handbook, we explain how you can use ‘P3.express’ in your process of Europeanisation. If you have further questions about this method, please contact the lead partner of the upgrade2europe project emcra – Co-shaping Europe. emcra is one of the organisations that co-developed ‘P3.express’.

Tip 7: Ensure the Support of All Those Involved in Your Organisation

In most organisations, decisions about a Europeanisation strategy are still formally made at the management level. In practice, however, they are implemented by the entire team. It is therefore best to involve your employees when developing your Europeanisation strategy. This will increase acceptance and will mean you won’t have to retrospectively convince the team of the benefits of cross-border work if they could provide the primary impetus for the strategic development themselves.

Involving your team is not only a challenge you should face when it comes to Europeanisation. Any form of change in organisations becomes easier if you invite everyone to contribute from the outset. For example, consider the resistance that the simple introduction of a new piece of software in an organisation can cause if users are not clear why they should use this software in the future.

Your Europeanisation strategy can also trigger scepticism if you do not transparently and comprehensibly work out the reasons for this decision with your team beforehand. In the upgrade2europe handbook, we provide you with two tools for you to confidently accompany important internal processes of discussion. The first is the ‘Change Management’ tool, which supports you in selecting the right approach for your change process. The second is the ‘INCLUDE’ tool, which gives you the opportunity to involve your team in your process of Europeanisation from the very start and, at the same time, to build a greater sense of individual responsibility, more decentralised decisions and a more agile approach within your organisation.

Tip 8: Internationalise Your Personnel Development

Your team can be an obstacle, but it can also be a key to success on your journey towards Europe. It is certain, however, that you can only take this path together with the members of your management team and your employees. Everyone needs knowledge, skills and competences if they are to work successfully in a European context.

This is why personnel development should be at the top of your agenda. Your HR managers should ideally be involved in the development of your internationalisation strategy from the very start. This will enable them to promptly initiate the further training required and take the need for expertise for your European work into account when hiring new staff, for example.

Among other things, check whether the following skills are available in your organisation: English language skills, experience with national and, above all, European sponsors, project management skills, international accounting skills, knowledge of organisational development processes. Developing and expanding the competences that support your Europeanisation should also be included in your team members’ personal development plans. With this approach, you will not only prepare your organisation well for European work, but will also prevent internal resistance, integrate your team members into the process of Europeanisation and turn them into active supporters.

You can find further information on the topic of ‘Personnel Development’ in the tool of the same name in the upgrade2europe handbook. This handbook also contains a section on ‘How to prepare and conduct an upgrade2europe training course?’ This will enable you to create important knowledge foundations for a process of Europeanisation by yourself. If you are interested in the details of the know-how, skills and competences required for a successful process of Europeanisation, you will find extensive information on this in our upgrade2europe curriculum.

Tip 9: Establish a Structure for Communicating with your International Partners

Good communication is the foundation for any organisation to function. International communication generally means developing and adapting your established internal system further. Start by considering the profile and needs of new stakeholders, for example newly recruited staff, international partners, customers, suppliers and sponsors. Then review your existing communication system and established processes. To what extent are the existing structures still suitable and what may need to be further developed and adapted?

One challenge might be ensuring a certain spontaneity and speed when communicating between the players involved – who are usually far apart – given the different work locations and languages. A few carefully selected digital communication tools can help here. During the coronavirus pandemic, online communication tools such as Zoom or Teams became a normal tool in many organisations that many people now use routinely. You can also use them to solve the majority of your international communication tasks. However, remember that you should not rely solely on virtual communication to start new collaborations. Face-to-face discussions are the be-all and end-all, especially when it comes to starting new partnerships.

In the ‘Public Relations’ tool in the upgrade2europe handbook, you will find suggestions to help you set up a communication system ready for cooperation within Europe. When developing and adapting your communication structure, it is best to think about both information security and knowledge management. The topic of ‘Knowledge Management’ is covered by the tool of the same name in the upgrade2europe handbook. The topic of information security is dealt with in the ‘CASSANDRA’ tool.

Tip 10: Support a Culture of Innovation in Your Organisation

Within both Europe and your national market, new offers, products or services are key to your future success. Of course, you should first consider which offers that are already running successfully may also have a potentially international target audience. Most organisations start their Europeanisation with their existing offers.

However, your organisation will be better equipped to meet the challenges of internationalisation if your team has a practised approach to innovation and you have established a culture that is open to new ideas and innovations. Learning, curiosity and an interest in paths that are off the beaten track are important for this. Encourage creativity and trust within your team. Only then will your team members be happy to talk openly about their ideas.

You should also support continuous improvement and the internal dissemination of new findings. The ‘Deming Cycle’ tool in the upgrade2europe handbook explains in detail how you can establish and implement continuous improvement within your organisation.

Useful Links and Further Information

We hope that these ten tips will provide you with some interesting ideas and suggestions for shaping your process of Europeanisation.

You can find more helpful articles and tips in this upgrade2europe learning tool, in our learning videos and in our upgrade2europe handbook. If you would like to familiarise yourself with some of the tools we have prepared for you in the handbook without spending a lot of time, we recommend our upgrade2europe email course. After subscribing, you will receive an email once a week over a period of around two and a half months in which we briefly introduce you to an upgrade2europe tool. You can, however, also start right away with our self-assessment tool and immediately check online to what extent your organisation is well positioned for Europe. As a result of this self-assessment, you will receive a comprehensive individual evaluation with hints and tips on where you can best focus your organisational development.