The 2nd transnational project meeting (TPM) of the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership project “Enabling Sustainable Growth and Transformation of SMEs with a Focus on Work-Based Learning” (GT4SME) took place online between 15.06. – 19.06.2020.
The main objective of the project is to support SME-educators in their work in four topic fields to enable sustainable SME growth and transformation eventually. These are Digitalization, Internationalization, Financial Access, and (positive) Impact. In order to improve the knowledge and practical experience of the consortium partners, four TPMs have been planned to have a practical thematic aspect dedicated to one of the four project topics. To support a work-based learning experience, these TPMs have been planned to incorporate a ‘thematic workshop’ to which the consortium invites a ‘guest SME representative’ (the case-SME) and works on the specific project topic together.
The project coordinator, with the support of other partners, has developed a ‘workshop methodology’ (one of the project deliverables) which is based on various infographic cards presenting valuable know-how and tips for the four project topics. During the workshop with the case-SME, the consortium has planned to go through these visual materials, ask various questions to the case-SME, assess the needs and opportunities of the case-SME, and, finally, present certain suggestions or solutions regarding the four project topics.
The specific theme of the 2nd TPM was Financial Access and it was originally planned to take place in Belgrade, Serbia. However, due to the Covid-19 crisis, the consortium had to cancel the physical meeting and organize a virtual one instead.
The virtual TPM was spread to four days (15th, 16th, 17th and 19th of June 2020) and each day had two 2-hour sessions. During the meeting sessions consortium partners not only evaluated the overall progress of the project and discussed next steps but also exchanged knowledge and practices related to the project’s four topics, with a focus on Financial Access.
While it was relatively challenging to have lively and interactive sessions in a virtual platform compared to a real one, it presented certain benefits as well: Instead of ‘bringing’ best-practice examples from their countries and presenting them during a physical meeting, the partners were actually able to ‘invite’ guest-speakers who can directly talk about their own practices. This contributed to the richness and quality of the input brought to the meeting sessions and the consortium was able to hold multifaceted discussions. In total, there were seven external guest speakers and one case-SME participating in the 2nd TPM, in addition to the regular consortium partners. The external guest speakers have presented on the following topics:
- Topic-Expert from Serbia: SME-Internationalization and Funds, Natalija Kostic
- Best-Practice Example from Croatia: Smart Lumies
- Best-Practice Example from Turkey: tarla.io
- Topic-Expert from Italy: Internationalization of Tourism, Giovanna Ceccherini
- Topic-Expert from Turkey: Financial Access at the European and Regional Level, Talha Göktas
- Topic-Expert from Turkey: Carbon-Financing – Examples of projects in the field, Kemal Demirkol
- Best-Practice Example from Serbia: Camping Association of Serbia
- The Case-SME from Serbia: D-PLAN d.o.o.
While the short discussions on the best-practice examples focused on those SMEs’ impact and internationalization journeys / aims, the presentations of the specific topics highlighted helpful online sources and tools at the European and national levels related especially to Financial Access.
The first 2-hour meeting with the case SME was composed of the case SMEs presentation of its own business and the extensive question-and-answer session aiming at understanding the SME’s needs, its actual (positive) impact, gaps in the sector, challenges and opportunities of opening to other markets, etc. During the second 2-hour meeting with the case SME, the consortium partners presented their findings and suggestions that can be helpful for the SME’s sustainable growth.
As part of the project’s dissemination, the consortium has been publishing blogs on the project website and spreading them through the project’s social media accounts (Facebook / Instagram), which present valuable knowledge on the project’s four topics; or share best-practice examples from Europe in general and partner countries in particular; or discuss global issues that touch upon project’s scope.
More detailed information on the specific topics and practices covered in the 2nd TPM can be followed through the above-mentioned social media channels, as the consortium will publish blogs on them in the coming weeks.