We are still waiting for the new Erasmus+ programme. However, there is still lots we can do while we are waiting for its launch. This week, I took it upon myself to do some research to identify the most common application mistakes. I reviewed M-Powered applications, the applications of our clients, and all the feedback received from evaluators. This led me to draw some interesting conclusions on the most common Erasmus+ KA1 application mistakes. I found that the areas where mistakes are most common included:
- European Development Plan
- Target group identification
- Project activities
- International cooperation
In this blog, I will look at where Erasmus+ KA1 applicants tend to make the most mistakes and provides tips for how to improve the quality of your applications.
European Development Plan
Erasmus+ KA1 projects encourage applicants to design a European Development Plan for their organisation before considering what courses are activities they will involve their staff in. This is an excellent approach because it encourages applicants to link all their projects into an overall organisational strategy, but it is also demanding and can lead to a lot of mistakes. Common mistakes include:
- Too much focus on activities instead of the objectives to be achieved. It is easier to focus on what we want to do instead of answering the question of why we want to do it.
- Not commenting on progress made in the implementation of a European Development Plan. If you have a plan in place and are applying each year for funding, you should make it clear how these projects and activities are helping you to reach your goals, the impact they are having, and how you are building on your plan. Applying for the same courses over and over without explanation as to why can also be evaluated negatively.
- Not demonstrating a strong enough link between the organisation’s European Development Plan and the target group needs and planned activities. Your project application should read almost like a novel (albeit, not a very exciting one!). There should be a clear “plot”, and a clear reason as to why you are doing A and B to achieve C. It should be built on the results of a learner needs analysis and the activities planned should feed into overall objectives.
- The target group’s needs are one of the most important parts of a KA1 application. These projects are always about people at the end of the day, and meeting their needs to achieve overall organisational development. It is vital to conduct research and create a thorough needs analysis. A common mistake is assuming what people need or trying to engineer needs to fit within a European Development Plan when it should be the opposite way around. Present a clear and logical needs analysis process so that evaluators can easily see how this informed your overall plan.
- Avoid being too general in the description of the identified needs. Don’t just say that project management skills need to be developed. What kind of project management skills are needed? Who needs them and why? What impact would skills development in this area have on your organisation’s objectives? Be as specific as possible.
- Omitting a detailed list of project participants. Don’t just mention that, for example, trainers or teachers will participate in the project activities. The evaluators must be convinced that you know exactly who will be involved in planned activities and why. Detailed criteria for selecting participants should be provided and should be clearly linked to your needs analysis and your European Development Plan objectives.
- People often fail to provide enough detail on how the project will be implemented. Be sure to be thorough in describing how participants will be prepared, how mobilities will be carried out, and how monitoring and reporting will take place.
- Dissemination of project results is not adequate for the scale of the project. Sometimes it is too ambitious and sometimes it is not ambitious enough. It is important to plan dissemination effectively to ensure that targets are realistic, and that others will have the opportunity to benefit from project learnings.
- A common weakness in KA1 applications is a lack of detailed description of the courses/mobility programme or teaching methods. Well presented courses give a clear picture of project activities and results. Your course provider should prepare this piece.
- Erasmus+ is a platform for building a strong European education sector. International cooperation is the perfect tool to enhance this process. It is important to keep this message at the heart of your application and not gloss over it.
- The project consortium is inadequate to meet the needs outlined or achieve objectives. While it is not strictly necessary to have already identified your course providing partner during the application phase, it can be beneficial to your project as it helps you to write more clearly about their role in the partnership and how it will contribute to your objectives. Moreover, identifying your partner in advance can save potential delays or disruptions when it comes to project delivery. It also saves you having to plan logistics that the course providing partner may well do for you, e.g., travel, accommodation, etc. The evaluator needs to see that these factors have been considered and, without a partner in place to provide this detail, it is up to you to demonstrate this planning. At M-Powered, we deal with these logistics so that projects can run smoothly, and our partners can focus on learning. We also provide this detail to our clients as they prepare their applications.
- The process for preparing participants for a mobility is not properlydescribed or is inadequate to participants’ individual needs. Sometimes, applicants forget about planning pre- and post-mobility activities, which are necessary for successful preparation and project sustainability.
- Monitoring and evaluation processes are not applied to all project activities. For example, the evaluation of participants’ preparation for the mobility or the effects of dissemination activities are omitted.
- Post-mobility activities are usually planned and described, but sometimes they are only directed to one target group, for example, the wider staff. Applicants should also aim to transfer learnings beyond their own organisations and involve stakeholders. This ensures wider dissemination of the Erasmus+ KA1 programme and the benefits it brings.
I am sure that this list is not exhaustive! We’d love to hear about your experiences. The new Erasmus+ is set to bring us—KA1 enthusiasts—many new challenges but also opportunities! We look forward to supporting you throughout this new programme.