Communication on ERDF performance using
common indicators

Introduction
The 2014-2020 ERDF (and Cohesion Fund) programmes saw reinforced use of common indicators to measure the investment outputs, in line with similar practices under the other ESI Funds.  Those developments accompanied other performance related improvements such as more robust setting of objectives, clearer target setting and the 2014-2020 "performance framework" linked to the "performance reserve".
One of the effects of an increased focus on performance is that indicators must no longer be the concern of a few technicians. The use of indicators and the need to monitor and report on performance must be a shared responsibility and be an essential part of all meaningful debates on the policy.
In this article we outline the recent development of ERDF common indicators, encourage you to explore the common indicators and look at trends for the future. 
The most visible product of the indicator system 2014-2020 is the presentation of "achievement" tiles for common indicators by fund and by theme on the ESIF open data platform.
You can explore the ERDF achievement tiles on the ESIF Open Data. Here you see a static image of one ERDF tile from January 2019 with explanations of what is displayed.  The key indicator variables are 
  • Planned: the target value set in the adopted programmes; 
  • Decided: the value from decided (selected) projects; 
  • Implemented: the value achieved (completed) by the selected projects.
Explore the progress over time with a common indicator 

ERDF programmes are multi annual, running for up to 10 years. A programme may have thousands of projects starting and finishing at different times.  The indicators provide a useful monitoring tool to look at progress towards the initial target at EU, national and programme level, across the project portfolio. 

The chart below allows you to explore the 46 indicators (chose one at a time!) and to see the national contributions to progress using the filters.
... with data available by Member State  ... 

Below you can see the country targets (planned), project pipeline (forecasts) and implemented values (achieved). 

TIPS: Use the filter in (top right) to explore other indicators (one at a time!!) or progress over time; click on view data to see a full screen view 
... and in more detail by programme. 

Again use the filters to look at programme targets and progress by year.

The ERDF 2014-2020 : 46 common indicators across multiple themes 
How did we get to the current system?
The current systems of common indicators developed based on experience over years, specific to each fund (common indicators in 2014-2020 are common to the programmes financed under a specific fund).  The indicator concepts and indicators are adapted to the fund-specific objectives, the target sectors and the intervention rationale applied.  Common output indicators are the product of a monitoring system that seeks to measure the direct deliverables of the project supported.  
RACER criteria are recommended by the Commission when defining monitoring indicators (relevant-acceptable-clear-easy-robust).  Two of the key questions influencing the choice of common indicators and their definition are :
-       Are the indicators a meaningful measure of the interventions and objectives of the specific fund?
-       Are the indicators readily available without creating excessive cost and burden for managers and beneficiaries?
For 2014-2020 the answers to those questions were developed in partnership with the stakeholders and experts from the Member States over several years of reflection. For the ERDF, for example, the list of common output indicators was expanded compared to the period 2007-2013, the common indicators were made "obligatory when relevant" and the definitions and methods for collecting and reporting indicators were reinforced. 
Are there too many indicators?
This question is raised at the highest level of the EU Institutions. Indeed, it would be simpler to communicate on a few, easy to aggregate indicators at the EU level. 
In particular, the European Court of Auditors raised the question of the relevance of so many programme specific indicators, their (lack of) use and the difficulty of aggregation to EU level.
On the other hand
  • different stakeholders have different needs and some propose a broad range of indicators (many already available to them and specific to their region or Member State).
  • Another explanation for the seemingly large number of EU common indicators is the very wide thematic scope of actions and sectors financed by the ESI Funds.  For the ERDF for instance there are 46 common indicators. Is that too many?
Perhaps more pertinent questions are "do the common indicators capture the key achievements in the different thematic areas?" or "are there areas where we do not capture key achievements?"
With a view to preparing the ERDF proposals for the period 2021-2027 the Commission launched several work streams in 2017.  In addition to the continuous review of experience with the reporting of 2014-2020, the Commission ordered a study of the Member States and programmes experience with the common indicators 2014-2020 in order to inform that legislative proposals of May 2018.  Check it out in the links below.
Want to explore more resources?
Author: REGIO.B2 - J. WALSH - REGIO-EVAL@ec.europa.eu
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