Increasing business capacity and sustainability through an inclusive culture - is it possible?2023-05-11
During the DEBUTING project, ten regions across Europe will collaborate on issues related to gender, diversity and inclusion in the design of policy tools. This is to support SMEs to increase their business capacity and sustainability by implementing an inclusive culture based on gender equality.
DEBUTING is an Interreg Europe-funded project that started on 1 March 2023 and runs for four years until 28 February 2027. A kickoff for the project was recently held, hosted by Karlstad University. About 40 people participated.
10 European regions are included in the DEBUTING project to work on issues related to gender, diversity and inclusion with a link to the design of policy tools, such as cluster strategies and smart specialisation strategies. The partnership includes responsible representatives of regional organisations as well as representatives of various cluster organisations.
Karlstad University will contribute with analyses and knowledge dissemination and generate conditions for more research. How can clusters play a greater role in supporting companies and their business development by actively introducing a diversity and gender perspective? And what are the challenges that need to be addressed? Through the activities to be carried out, the project will contribute to the exchange of experience and implementation of good examples, but also provide recommendations for policies at EU level based on the lessons generated by the project.
- Karlstad University takes an active role in providing support for the change work that will take place, in the desire to achieve better business opportunities and better working environments when you succeed in working from an awareness of, and having tools for, utilising diversity and gender equality properly. We have experience that it is often difficult to succeed with this and want to constantly improve ourselves, in our own organisation and in the tools we can offer based on knowledge. By participating in the project as an advisory partner, we also get to know the more specific challenges that exist around Europe in different ways and give us the conditions to strengthen our education programmes, our contract education and our ability to conduct research that has an impact," says Erica Åkerberg, research advisor at the Grants and Innovation Office and project manager for Karlstad University's part in the project.
During the kick-off, the Grants and Innovation Office (GIO) was presented by Head of Department Håkan Spjuth, and Karlstad University's interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Research (CGF), through Associate Professor Tara Mehrabi. GIO and CGF are part of the project for Karlstad University. Håkan Spjuth presented the Academy for Smart Specialisation, the long-term strategic cooperation agreement between Karlstad University and Region Värmland. Within the framework of this cooperation, initiatives were taken early on to increase gender mainstreaming, something that laid the foundation for parts of what is done today. A good example of this is the establishment of the Gender Academy, a project established within the framework of the collaboration and presented by process leader Manuel Almberg Missner during the meeting. The goals for the participating companies were to develop their ability to challenge norms and power structures based on their own situation, and to use diversity and gender equality as tools for leadership, innovation, recruitment and business advantages. CGF will, based on the methodology and experiences developed in the Gender Academy, spread knowledge to the DEBUTING partnership and further develop the work in a future initiative.
In the course of the DEBUTING project, interregional project meetings will take place in all the different project participants, with the meeting in Karlstad as a starting point. In addition, some 80 meetings with regional stakeholder groups will be held to analyse and transfer good ideas into new actions for better policy instruments and practical advice for successful change management. In addition, Karlstad University will organise 6 digital thematic seminars, and a number of staff exchanges between the partners will take place.
- We started the project with a perfectly planned and organised project meeting in Karlstad/Värmland. It was an intense but also very interesting agenda, through which the project partners were able to gain an incredible number of new impressions and ideas on the theme of gender inclusiveness and gender awareness already at the first project meeting. It is truly impressive what has been worked on and done in this field in Värmland for many years! I believe we as project partners can learn a lot from these experiences, says Judith Bartschat, representing the RegioClusterAgentur for innovation and transformation in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. We want to use this knowledge to place the topic of gender inclusiveness and gender awareness specifically and effectively in the cluster initiatives, in the companies and at the political level.
Interreg Europe is an interregional cooperation programme funded by the European Union. The European Union aims to reduce disparities in development, growth and quality of life within and between European regions.
The partners involved in the DEBUTING project are:
- Region Värmland (Lead Partner)
- Karlstad University
- Lapland Regional Council, Finland
- Regional Development Agency North-West, Romania
- ecoplus. Business Agency of Lower Austria, Austria
- Prime Minister's Office, Hungary
- ART-ER Joint Stock Consortium Company Emilia Romagna, Italy
- SODENA Navarra Development Agency, Spain
- Pomorskie Voivodeship, Poland
- Grand E-nov+, France
- VDI/VDE-IT/RegioClusterAgentur Baden-Württemberg, Germany
DEBUTING is expected to contribute to:
- two operational programmes under the European Regional Development Fund for investments for growth and jobs.
- six smart specialisation strategies and through them also cluster strategies
- a national cluster strategy in Hungary and a cluster policy programme in the Lower Austria region in Austria.
- EU strategy for small and medium-sized enterprises
- The EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, which sets out a vision, policy objectives and actions to make concrete progress on gender equality in Europe and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Raising awareness via clusters on the potential of adopting gender equality strategies.
- Increasing the effectiveness of existing measures, designing new, more innovative measures and improving monitoring and evaluation with appropriate indicators.
- Increase the awareness and capacity of policy makers and clusters to address gender equality in industry as a crucial factor for SMEs to grow and become more competitive.