Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED Programme)
Action Space for local partnerships development in Croatia - Joining up efforts at local level
Enhance joining up efforts at local level within the framework of a local development strategy and establish a wider umbrella partnership that can be tasked with a greater role in the design and implementation of the strategy. Further, regular opportunities for organisational development and specialised training for the partnership and its partners should be provided.
Every practicable local development agenda needs a sound strategy that translates a local development vision into concrete objectives and action plans around jointly agreed development priorities. If a partnership were to contribute effectively to this, it would need to be both strategic in terms of influencing key actors and strategic development issues, and local in its outreach, as it needs to be in touch with the local community and its needs and interests. Developments across OECD countries show that the establishment of one ‘umbrella’ local strategic partnership following a joined local development strategy can make a maximum use of available funding by pooling existing sources, but also by attracting new ones. Such an approach also helps to secure synergies between a wider strategy and single development projects and initiatives.
For local partnerships to function effectively and to contribute to the local development agenda certain preparation and continuous maintenance is needed. The membership of the partnership should be inclusive and involve all key players, and open for new members, if the partnership work requires an enlargement. Strategic linkages need to be developed between stakeholders, not at least to avoid duplication and inefficient use of scarce resources.
Although being inclusive, local partnerships must ensure efficiency in decision making processes. Civil society organisations and NGOs should be equal partners to public agencies and businesses. OECD country experience shows a prominent involvement of local governments and their agencies in partnerships. This way the often occurring problem of resourcing local partnership structures is solved. Hence, the partnership structure needs to be robust enough to avoid local government taking an overly dominant role in the partnership agenda and membership issues. The involvement of the business sector proves to be a long-term initiative with lots of ups and downs. Here, the involvement of business representative organisations at first place, could prepare the ground for a later involvement of single businesses. Private firms in general would like to see a demonstration of the value added resulting from participation and an investment of time and human resources.
Partnership structures should be following the principles of trust, reciprocity and mutual advantage amongst partners and should hence be enabling all partners to make their contributions. In a partnership leadership should be shared and must rely more on consensus building and the "wisdom of crowds"*, than on the exercise of authority. Taking into consideration the organisational specificities of a partnership, it would be important to develop an approach of ‘distributed leadership’, in which several important actors jointly exercise leadership of partnership agendas. (*Surowiecki, James (2004): The Wisdom of Crowds, Random House.)
Strengthening communication structures amongst partners will help to settle conflicts of interest and contribute to maintaining effective management and operational structures within partnerships. The process to reach an agreement on (i) the use of outcomes; (ii) the planning and managing of a wider programme of work and single projects and activities; and, (iii) strategic priorities often bares conflict potential both between partners and towards the government counterparts, which if not addressed adequately may lead to disruptions of wider relationships. Here, the development of training programmes in prior assessment of strategic options, participatory evaluation techniques and conflict management can be helpful to enhance performance management, monitoring and evaluation practices.
Outreach towards the wider community is all the same important for a local partnership to develop and maintain its legitimate role in local development processes. Here, partnerships will need to develop regular information material to widely communicate about their work.
Effective local partnerships will have a skilled and motivated partnership team that is able to steer the work of the partnership in strategy building, to take over communication with partners, outreach to the wider community, and successfully represent the partnership in political negotiations. Training and development programmes to enhance skills and capacity can facilitate the exchange and dissemination of good practice and lessons learned, which in turn will contribute to the organisational development within partnerships. Most of the skills and experts knowledge will be already existent within the partnership. It is thus important to mobilise single partners to contribute with their expertise to the organisational development of the partnership.
Experience from across OECD countries shows that an involvement of crucial local development actors, such as regional agencies and other bodies that are closely working with a partnership, but are not member organisations, can be very supportive for an increased understanding of each others needs and interests. The introduction of an external facilitator, in the function of a neutral arbiter, demonstrated success in avoiding conflicts of interest, resolving tensions and problems and in finding joint solutions.
Across OECD countries, networking between local partnerships within one country and at international level is considered by partnerships as crucial to their work. In the exchange with peer structures partnerships become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and learn from each other in an effective way. Here, the task of the above mentioned intermediary organisation would be to use the information gained for an identification of needs and the development of tailored support structures and initiatives.
Key activities recommended to enhance the effectiveness of local partnerships in contributing to local development include: facilitate the creation of an umbrella partnership to take the lead in implementing the local development agenda, strengthen capacities of partnerships and their members in organisational development; allow for local piloting that can be later integrated in policy mainstream initiatives; and facilitate inter-partnership networking and exchange of experience.
International Learning Models
The Devon Strategic Partnership in England has been assigned with the task of setting out the strategic vision for Devon County. The partnership is seen as a vehicle for considering and deciding how to address difficult cross-cutting issues such as the economic future of an area, social exclusion and climate change.
Introducing organisational change and increasing co-operation of local actors through a series of small grants projects that are implemented under a local development strategy umbrella, is what the Local Social Capital initiative in Berlin is promoting.
How to involving distant actors in the work of local partnerships and stimulate their full membership is being described by two examples from Berlin, Germany. A first case study discusses the case of a University of Applied Science in Berlin that triggered the development of a new niche in the local economy. The second case describes how companies are attracted to a location through a joint local business recruiting package. These are good practice examples of widening the strategic orientation of a local partnership.
Piloting new initiatives locally that can contribute to national policy innovation is what the "Perspective 50plus – Employment pacts for older workers" has successfully aimed at. A shrinking local labour market and a surplus of well-skilled older persons have been the starting points for the development of a nation-wide pilot initiative in Germany to re-integrate elderly in the local labour market.
Giving the local partnership a primary role in the design and implementation of a local development strategy through enhancing co-operation between key government agencies and the partnership has been successfully applied in the case of the Local Strategic Partnership of Coventry. Within the partnerships operational geographic area, a strategic plan was prepared for each locality based upon local data and resident surveys. During the implementation phase, public funding has been made available to kick start activities, and it was continued upon demonstrated success of the activities.