Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED Programme)
Action space for local partnerships development in Croatia - National Support framework for local partnerships
Local partnerships will need to rely on a supportive framework at national level if they are to become more firmly embedded in local governance and if they are to maximise their contribution to local development. The role of central government and its agencies is crucial in establishing a sufficient space for partnerships in legislation, providing policy guidance to establish the framework for local partnership, such as the national guidelines for local partnerships, and communication channels and mechanisms to enhance, manage and monitor local partnership performance.
Increase co-ordination and integration between different policy areas at national level, concerning local development, and allow, for example through the establishment of an intermediary body, for a greater communication and exchange between local partnerships and central government institutions. Clear guidance for the work of partnerships, while maintaining the necessary flexibility, will be a pre-requisite for more effective partnerships.
An effective partnership depends upon a close collaboration between agencies and stakeholders at local level, but all the same also effective co-ordination within and between line ministries is of crucial importance to the work and performance of local partnerships. Innovation in policy can only match with the different stages of the policy processes, if procedures and regulations are flexible enough to allow for a contribution of local agencies to established local priorities, when implementing national policies and programmes against a set of national targets. Overcoming disconnections between the ministries and the regional and local authorities will therefore be a major development task. Local partnerships can be the context for this to happen.
The supportive role of national government would also need to include the provision of adequate financial and human resources for local partnerships. As experiences in OECD countries reveal a solid, sustainable financial basis for operation, covering the partnership's overhead costs, is key to enabling partnerships to take a long-term view on local issues and problems and contribute fully to better policy outcomes. In order to secure this financial base from public or other sources, the partnership will have to demonstrate its ability to deliver and to be innovative in contributing to local development.
It is important to create fluid and effective links between policies and strategies at national and local level. In a number of OECD countries co-ordination and support are not provided by ministries, but by an intermediary agency which has been assigned with the responsibility to provide support to local partnerships. The efficacy of an intermediary organisation would depend from its status within government and from functioning communication channels that would allow the intermediary to bridge and accommodate between government and local partnerships and what might be very different interests, expectations and demands. To increase both vertical and horizontal communication and co-ordination takes time and requires consistency. An intermediary will have to change processes skilfully while ensuring delivery of assigned tasks and demonstrate progress made against overall objectives and goals. The concepts of partnership, participative governance, local capacity building will however not be translated into practice without some commitment of resources both at the partnership level and at the level of an intermediary organisation.
Local partnerships should be strategic and at the same time in close contact with beneficiaries and the wider community to contribute effectively to the local development agenda. Finding the right level for their operations tends to be difficult for local partnerships, especially when local government consists of two tiers. In OECD countries with two tier local government systems, local partnerships are often being established at both levels. This might create uncertainty about respective roles and responsibilities, which bare risks of overlap, duplication or competition. Also, political tensions both within and between local authorities can inhibit local partnerships and lead to a total blockage of activities or a doubling of efforts through the establishment of a parallel body assigned with a similar repertoire of tasks. The provision of guidance in the distribution of roles and responsibilities, through national government, or, if existent, through an intermediary organisation, can be useful in the settlement of disputes and may lead to an optimised task allocation. However, the right level for operation needs to be decided by the partnership itself.
Key activities recommended for a national supportive framework that is enhancing the local development contribution of partnership, increase co-ordination and integration between different policy areas, and allow for a greater communication between local partnerships and central government include: establishment of national guidelines for the work of local partnerships; foster the preparation and dissemination of toolkits to assist partnerships in concrete issues; consider the creation of an intermediary organisation; organise national meetings for local partnerships to stimulate the exchange of experience and enhance mutual learning; facilitate debates about the right level for partnership action through an introduction of international show cases and moderated negotiations between conflicting tiers.
International Learning Models
In Romania the building process of local partnerships has been supported through a national framework and the establishment of permanent technical secretariats.
In Ireland, POBAL has been established as an intermediary organisation that figures as a ‘non- interested space’ and assists partners at all levels to advance co-ordinated services and integrated approaches across government levels and amongst local partnerships.
The "Renewal.net" initiative in England facilitates the generation and dissemination of information around partnerships and local development in form of an internet based platform and knowledge pool.
The "Action Learning Set" on two-tier partnership working in England promotes a constructive dialogue about local partnerships operating across different tiers of government that increase clarity over respective roles at county and district level.