How to readjust a methodology based on interactive workshops respecting the physical distance required in Covid 19 times?

Written By Cristina Stronati
Publishing 15 September 2020

t33 is conducting the study SMEs’ needs analysis in public procurement, required by the European Commission – DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, whose main objective is to identify more efficient and targeted support mechanisms and actions to catalyse SMEs participation in public procurement. The results will contribute directly to policy making as well as to develop additional and more effective tools and channels for the European Commission to better communicate market opportunities and measures already taken and now in place to facilitate SMEs participation in public procurement.
The study covers five Member states – Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Sweden. National experts from the above-mentioned countries are supporting and collaborating with the t33 core team to collect information on SMEs participation in public procurement market.
In particular, the Netherlands are covered by Reeleaf, Poland by EPSEC, Romania by Lideea, and Sweden by Ad Astra. The core team includes Javier Fábregas Martínez who is the expert for communication responsible for preparing inspirational stories and key messages.
t33 technical offer, which was selected among 14 bids, was strongly based on techniques allowing to observe the way SMEs deal with problems and barriers featuring the public procurement process. Such techniques would have implied the organisation of very interactive workshops based on the conduction of practical exercises on actual procedures.
As the international scenario abruptly changed in March because of the Covid 19, it appeared both to the European Commission and t33 that in presence workshops – even if formally allowed in the member states - could not have been proposed to the SMEs. t33 team elaborated therefore alternative IT solutions to collect information from SMEs, ensuring the same methodology requirements, by introducing new digitalised tools to reach the target.
It was decided to involve Italian, Dutch, Polish, Romanian and Swedish SMEs in online workshops aimed at exploring the potential of TED database (Tenders Electronic Daily) to identify  new business opportunities across the  EU member states, so as to verify the administrative barriers posed by public procurement procedures.
Very differently from common webinars, where interaction consists just in the possibility to ask questions, it was necessary to ensure to the participants the possibility to download and upload learning materials and be observed when doing the exercises. This implies significant technical and data protection issues.

Three workshops were organised by t33 between July and September with full success. They showed how qualitative methods of data collection can be applied with a digital approach, if a significant investment in know-how is made.