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Published Date:03-07-2017
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successful partnerships a guide successful partnerships a guide Content Introduction 3 Partnership Checklist 7 Roles and Functions within Partnerships 12 Communication 15 Funding Partnerships 17 Legal Aspects 22 Monitoring and Evaluation 25 Lessons from partnerships in New Zealand, UK, Slovak Republic, Spain and Finland 29 Authors 35 This document has been prepared collectively by members of the OECD LEED Forum for Partnerships and Local Governance and staff members of the Forum Office in Vienna, under the coordination of the Chair, Michael Förschner. The opinions expressed and arguments employed therein do not necessarily reflect the views of the OECD or of the governments of its member countries. 3 successful partnerships a guide Introduction Hundreds of partnerships have been formed worldwide during the past two decades. Some of them lasted only a short period; others have been operating a long time. Some concentrate on narrow local targets while others ambitiously try to co-ordinate broad policy areas in large regions where millions of people live and work. There are partnerships primarily oriented towards business circles and others focused on labour market or social issues. “Bottom up” can be seen as a key principle here, but it is good to remember that a good number of partnerships have been created as part of a central government strategy to support the delivery of programmes at the local level. Many studies have been carried out on the subject, which demonstrate that a partnership is a valuable instrument or “organisational” model to overcome weaknesses of the policy and governance framework. Nonetheless, partnerships face several obstacles: they are difficult to set up and maintain, they require political will and resources, and results are not likely to come overnight. The aim of this Guide is not to convince anyone of the merits of partnerships in the context of modern policies. Rather, it is meant to serve as a practical manual for both the practitioners and policy makers involved in partnerships. It provides information on very concrete aspects of partnership work, gathered from those with experience – both successful and otherwise. It contains lessons from a number of experts working at different levels, and combines input from more theoretical academic knowledge with actual results from different policy approaches. Of course, something that works in a given region or country will not necessarily work the same way in another one. The approaches, methods and solutions described in this manual are therefore not to be copied exactly but carefully adapted to the reality of other contexts, taking account of differences in the policy framework, the needs of the partner and the local issues to be tackled. Why partnerships today? We are living in complex societies where the policy frameworks in place often seem to be fall short of providing satisfying solutions to a growing number of problems. But this does not necessarily mean that the frameworks as such are to be changed, as a) existing frameworks are a result of historic development and 1 reflect a balance of different interest groups within the society; they are therefore not easy to alter , and b) it is hard to predict whether changing a policy framework will lead to a higher level of satisfaction. So naturally there is some resistance to large scale reforms. But while we may have to live with given policy settings, partnerships can be a great help in improving their performance: area based partnerships provide a mechanism for local organisations, in particular, to work together and adapt their policies to better reflect the needs of people and the economy at the local level. Partnerships are thus a key instrument of local governance. How does this work? An area based partnership is usually designed to bring together all relevant actors within a region that can contribute to improving a given situation on an equal basis. This seemingly simple principle actually raises a number of different issues. Firstly, to bring together all relevant actors is not an easy task as this implies having around one table not only different government institutions (usually of different levels) – many of which are traditionally competing with or ignoring each other – but also social partners, entrepreneurs, NGOs, the education and scientific sector, representatives of the civil society and many more. The interests of such partners, and therefore their approach to certain problems will usually be rather different. Very often 1 A good example of this is the Austrian Convent on constitutional reform, which clearly has not brought about major reform because of the diverse interests of the parties involved. Thus the changes consented to will probably be only modest. It is argued that an opportunity was missed to create a more up-to date organisation model for the state and the critics may be right in this. But on the other hand it was simply not possible to agree on a different balance of power that would satisfy those apparently “losing” that their loss would lead to a bigger gain for all – including them. 4 successful partnerships a guide partnerships are initiated by institutions that carefully avoid inviting those partners they consider too difficult to be helpful for short-term solutions. Such institutions risk missing an opportunity to achieve wider understanding and approval of their policy. Secondly, partners should have equal rights – and in cases where they don’t, this should be agreed to as a partnership principle. For example, to devise a strategy it is absolutely necessary that all relevant actors agree on 1) the underlying analyses and 2) on the overall targets and principles derived from those analyses. But it is usually not possible to involve all partners in the decision-making process for the funding of single projects or measures. This would not only conflict with the assigned responsibility of government institutions for certain programmes (“Minister’s responsibility principle”) but also violate all competition regulations and principles, leading to sub-optimal results. Especially when it comes to the funding of entrepreneurial or NGO activities, a separation of strategic and single decisions is often necessary to avoid conflicts of interest. The third key issue can be summarised under the term ownership, which stands for the partners’ approach towards their partnership, its goals and its work. If partners feel they are somehow contributing to something that is not really in their interest or line of thinking; if they are dragged into another organisation’s affiliated body without being given the opportunity to bring in their own approach; if the whole idea of a partnership is just a top-down enforcement of a certain administrative structure; and if no relevant output for them is expected – then certain “partners” will not be able to identify with the goals and objectives pursued. And this means that they will not support them wholeheartedly. But if on the other hand the partners have a high degree of identification with their partnership, this will be a firm foundation to build on. As stated above, partners have to agree on a common strategy based on shared (= unanimously accepted) results of analyses. This often means building consensus, and acceptance that some issues might constitute a problem for one group but not be considered as a problem by others. To discuss and accept this is an important step forward and can create the basis for a common approach. In the end, all problems have local ramifications. But competences are rarely organised according to local needs: they are often instead split along different hierarchical, sectoral and/or thematic lines, and are more the result of historical and social factors than a logical division of work corresponding to need. In addition certain interest groups have found ways to influence formal decision making through informal channels while others have not. This may lead to good results for some, but does it lead to optimal results for all? Does it create the necessary basis for future development? Partnerships are a very effective way of overcoming these formal structures and involving interest groups more equitably. The partners are the stones on which to build a prosperous regional development and their adhesive mortar is the trust they can build among partners. How to start a partnership Although area based partnerships are agreements of institutions of various kinds in a local or regional setting, this is not always how they begin. There are a variety of motives for starting a partnership, and therefore also a number of different ways to start. The initial impetus can be: _ Locally driven, or bottom-up, meaning from the region itself where the need for better co-operation and co-ordination of activities is recognised; _ Policy driven, or top-down, when someone at the central level considers the partnership approach to be the right one for the solution to a certain type of problem; _ Incentive driven, in that money is offered for a certain type of activity (as was the case with the European Commission programme on partnerships). Whatever the reason to set up a partnership, there are certain key factors to bear in mind. First, it is important to get all the relevant actors to join in the partnership. So who is a relevant actor? One could say any organisation/institution that is either part of the problem to be addressed or part of the solution. Failure to invite or 5 successful partnerships a guide attract some of these key actors might turn out to be an ongoing weakness, limiting options of manoeuvre and endangering results. This is of course easier said than done. In many cases there will be interest groups that can easily agree on common targets but that mistrust other organisations and have no co-operation base with them. Then why should those interested in co-operating bother with the others? – because often they will need the others to solve the problems. Once everybody is seated around one table, it is important to get formal commitment, which a number of partnerships have solved through the signing of a partnership contract. It is an important step forward when organisations of different background formally sign an agreement to reach out across their respective responsibilities and interests and to co-operate on certain issues, especially when non-formal partners (e.g. from civil society) are involved. To do this, partners have to share a vision. However, to succeed they also have to share a strategy; and to develop that strategy they have to agree on a shared analysis of the issues at stake. Some countries have chosen to develop a more formal legal structure as a framework for partnerships. This clearly helps when it comes to tasks and rights, duties and responsibilities. As a prerequisite, the central or provincial level responsible for creating such a legal framework must have a vision on how to involve partnerships in overall policy. The question that remains however is, how much decision-making freedom will partners have once such a system is installed? Improving work within a partnership Partnerships are formed for diverse reasons, and each has a “life” of its own. Even if everything functions well, it does so within a given context: whenever the situation changes and new tasks are assigned to a partnership, the conditions for its work and success change. One of the complicated issues within the life of a partnership, therefore, is the changing of partners (or of their involvement) and of tasks. A change in partners’ involvement happens relatively frequently, as the participation of each of the organisations involved depends to some extent on the personal commitment of their representatives and on how such representatives fulfill their roles and functions. Partnerships are organised as networks, and when members of the network change, the networks can change. This variable can be reduced by formal contractual co-operation agreements, so that organisations and institutions are committed as bodies rather than as individuals. Nonetheless the variable exists, and should not be overlooked. Another factor that can pose problems is the admission of new partners. If partnerships exist for a long period and become well established within their region, then at some point new partners will almost inevitably join. New tasks may come onto the agenda that call for the involvement of additional key actors (“voluntary admission”) – but also in some cases organisations outside the partnership may decide that co-operation is now advantageous (“requested admission”). In any case, admission mechanisms have to be in place for these eventualities, which will change the network configuration and make the direction of work harder to predict. Of course things can evolve in another direction, and partners may wish to resign. This can seriously hinder the future execution of the work programme, and to avoid a downward spiral, it may sometimes be necessary to redefine the framework of a partnership. Running a partnership is a very delicate operation requiring individuals who can really understand and work with different organisations and their requests. As the main task of partnerships is to find ways in which organisations – with their different tasks, responsibilities and approaches – can co-operate in dynamic societies, it is necessary to adapt methods and ways of working accordingly. Thus there has to be on the one hand a stable framework, and on the other hand a certain degree of flexibility to allow for all the necessary (and immediate) changes and adaptations. In addition there has to be strong communication, among the partners – so that there is maximum transparency both within and outside of the partnership. 6 successful partnerships a guide Structures help. The individual partners’ primary interest is the work of the partnership as such and not its organisation. However, as more tasks are assigned to the new entity, it becomes more important to have an agreed management structure. Agreeing on such a structure not only creates a unit independent of one single partner (whose office is attached to some other existing unit) but also stabilises the work of the partnership. The resources necessary for this entail a commitment to funding which can be seen as a key step forward in the establishment of a partnership as a medium- and long-term organisation. As partnerships set themselves common targets they become answerable with regard to reaching these targets. They therefore have to agree on monitoring and evaluation as key principles. It is important to do this from the very beginning, so that questions regarding the outcome of the partnership and the funds involved can be answered and the value added of the partnership’s work be made visible. And these questions will arise not only from the outside world but also from inside the partnership. Partners will need to demonstrate where and how they are successful – and if they are not, they need to indicate how their strategy is to be changed. The Guide This brochure addresses the issues outlined above and others. It was written by practitioners for practitioners, and is based on personal experience and knowledge. If you are looking for a theoretical framework and its surrounding science, you will want to look elsewhere. If you are looking for practical advice, read on. Michael Förschner Chairman of the OECD LEED Forum on Partnerships and Local Governance 7 successful partnerships a guide Partnership Checklist One key motive for implementing local and regional partnerships is the belief that working together is more effective than working in isolation. Partnerships – an effective way of working together – operate under different local conditions, depending on the detailed nature of the problems, the institutional environment, political factors, experiences and culture. Given that requirements are always specific to these conditions, there is no one model for a successful partnership; the one linking characteristic is that partnerships are always designed to bring together relevant actors within a region to concentrate on co-ordinated activities in different thematic fields. The objectives of this checklist are to help people either wishing to form or already in a partnership to learn more about what will make it a successful endeavour. The checklist describes the elements that need to be considered in forming partnerships and enlisting potential partners. It does not include all possible partnership- building issues and challenges. Characteristics of good partnerships A partnership is an agreement to do something together that will benefit all involved, bringing results that could not be achieved by a single partner operating alone, and reducing duplication of efforts. A successful partnership enhances the impact and effectiveness of action through combined and more efficient use of resources; promotes innovation; and is distinguished by a strong commitment from each partner. To achieve sustained success it is essential that basic local parameters be created and agreed upon; equally essential are political will, resourcing, and the appropriation of funds. Co-operation within a partnership is collaborative; it will be effective if the partners share a strategic vision, pursue compatible targets, and are all equal members in a predetermined organisational structure. The notion of ownership is often used in this context to describe the emotional binding of the institutions and persons involved, which should ideally be with the partnership and not with other, outside organisations. Thus the partnership should be able to bring together different actors in collaborative action as well as in collaborative efforts to effect change. Organisational structure and other partnership characteristics To be efficient, a partnership should have recognisable and autonomous structure to help establish its identity. The structure should have stability and permanence as well as flexibility, and it is helpful if it has a certain degree of autonomy, i.e. freedom from political influence. It is also important to review lines of communication to ensure that all partners are kept informed and involved. The relevant characteristics are as follows: _ The partnership enjoys political and social acceptance. _ The partners show determination and accept the practicalities of their political responsibilities. _ There is a strong sense of ownership. _ Agreements are based on identifiable responsibilities, joint rights and obligations, and are signed by all relevant partners. _ The partnership takes an inclusive approach (relevant actors are involved in planning and implementation). _ Strong commitment from each of the partners is reflected in the fact that all partner organisations are equally present and, where possible, represented by experienced persons who have influence within their organisation. 8 successful partnerships a guide _ Responsibilities and the nature of co-operation are clarified. _ The co-ordinators of the partnership are nominated by the partners. _ Rules of conduct (e.g. good communication between actors, regular attendance of meetings, continuity of personnel, regular transfer of information among the partners) are adhered to by the partners. _ Resources, knowledge, know-how and ideas are shared within the partnership. _ Equal opportunities within the partnership are secured (partnerships will not necessarily succeed if one or a small number of the partners are perceived as dominant). _ Adequate financial and human resources are available for implementation. _ The partnership should be able to lever funding from a range of sources. _ There is a firm foundation of good practice in financial controls, accounting procedures, human resource management, etc. _ Resources and energy are devoted to monitoring and evaluation, on the basis of realistic but demanding performance indicators and targets which are clearly defined. _ A “learning culture” is fostered, i.e. one where all partners are able to learn from one another by allowing new ideas to come forward in an open exchange of experiences. _ Resources, responsibilities and tasks may differ, but the added value of the partnership to each partner is recognised. The Programme of Work Partnerships need to develop a long-term strategy if they are to work effectively and have a lasting effect. For area based partnerships, this strategy must include a vision for the region focusing on the outcome to be achieved, an action plan identifying shorter-term priorities, and a co-ordinated working programme including activities and measures that will contribute to the achievement of long-term outcomes. Also necessary are a shared commitment to implement the programme and arrangements for monitoring and reporting progress. Some relevant characteristics are as follows: _ The working programme is based on a concerted strategy and on a comprehensive analysis of overriding problems, as well as on an assessment of local needs and a consultation process with local actors. It should be ambitious as well as realistic. _ Common objectives are determined. _ Targets are set and are clearly defined. _ The strategy, the objectives and targets, and the working programme following from them, are reviewed and revised at regular intervals, taking into account partners’ experiences as well as changes in context. _ Programme targets are compatible with relevant strategic documents (i.e. European or national programmes and guidelines, regional models). _ The various measures and projects are planned and correspond to the strategy and to local and regional needs. _ The nature of co-operation within the partnership is described within the programme of work. _ Budget responsibilities (including different financial sources) are also specified in the programme and illustrated with budget tables. _ Extension of the field of activities is possible where necessary through changing the partnership conditions and framework (legal, financial, economic and institutional). _ Measures for permanent monitoring and evaluation are planned. _ Public relations activities and a clear external reporting system are planned. 9 successful partnerships a guide Building a partnership Equity should be a guiding principle in building a partnership, as should (for many partnerships) a “bottom-up” structure. Political will and human and financial resources are also needed. One essential step in building a partnership is to ensure that everyone involved knows what the partnership is about, who is doing what, and which outcomes are expected. If possible, a partnership should be built on appropriate structures already existing in the area. Establishing and implementing a partnership is basically a dynamic process. The procedure includes several phases: preparation, drawing up a contract (where thought necessary), establishing a work programme, implementing the work programme, and monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis. Preparation Preparatory work is crucial for developing a steady and effective partnership. Careful research into the context in which the partnership will be operating must be part of this phase. The strengths and weaknesses of the area should be assessed and effective measures designed. One of the most important aspects of this phase is to identify the right partners and establish clear roles for each. (See section on the ‘Roles and functions within partnerships’ below). Contractual Conclusion A partnership is often based on a formal commitment that has been established by a number of partners signing a contract. Bound by this contract, the partners will share a strategy and implement their co-ordinated working programme for a period determined by the partnership. Establishing Working Programmes The work programmes should indicate the interests and targets of all partners and include activities and measures that will contribute to the improvement of the territory. Implementation In this phase partners are in regular contact to co-ordinate implementation, to extend and supplement the working programme with new measures, and in some cases to test new approaches. Public relations activities should inform the wider public of the targets, activities and measures of the partnership. Monitoring To assess a partnership’s achievements, determine improvements to be made and adapt further planning, a comprehensive monitoring system should be used. A partnership should be evaluated periodically and publish reports to demonstrate the added value of its work. 10 successful partnerships a guide Partnership members Careful partner selection is essential for the partnership approach to be fruitful, to enable effective working relationships, and to ensure that partnership activities are sustainable. By identifying partners who will complement each other and strengthen the partnership’s goals, a solid foundation will be built. To achieve the partnership’s objectives it is important to bring in the different relevant parts of the public sector as well as the business, community and voluntary sectors. The size of a partnership should reflect its aims and the issues with which it is dealing; the exact number of members will depend on territorial circumstances and priorities. An alphabetical listing of potential partners (this list is not exhaustive): _ Associations of towns and municipalities; _ Associations of political parties; _ Business sector (e.g. large firms, small and medium-sized enterprises SMEs); _ Chambers (e.g. agriculture, commerce, economic, employees, labour); _ Citizens’ initiatives; _ Consultants; _ Education or/and training organisations; _ Federal bodies (e.g. the Federal Office for Social Affairs and the Disabled); _ Federations (e.g. of trade unions, of industry); _ Financial institutions; _ Government institutions (on different levels and with different territorial responsibility, e.g. communities, provinces, countries); _ “Know-how” carriers; _ Non-governmental organisations (NGOs, e.g. local employment initiatives); _ Non-profit organisations (NPOs); _ Political institutions; _ Public authorities (national, regional, local); _ Public employment services; _ Regional development associations and management bodies; _ Representatives of employees and employers; _ Representatives of the civil society; _ Research institutes, universities; _ School boards; _ Social partners; _ Women’s spokespersons / gender mainstreaming experts. Conclusion As has been described above, a good partnership has many characteristics – although it is unlikely that one partnership will have all the characteristics listed here. Different situations will require tailored solutions and workable agreements can look totally different from agreements that have been developed before The difference between “should” and “should not” is therefore sometimes hard to judge. Generally speaking, what one gets out of a partnership will depend largely on what one puts into it and how one does this. And as in any private or business relationship, what is not specified at the beginning will surely show up as a problem sooner or later. 11 successful partnerships a guide But there are definitely some issues that must not show up in a partnership. To avoid crucial mistakes and misunderstandings, here are some of the key features that should not characterise a partnership: A Partnership is likely to be ineffective if… _ Partners do not share the same values and interests. This can make agreements on partnership goals difficult. _ There is no sharing of risk, responsibility, accountability or benefits. _ The inequalities in partners’ resources and expertise determine their relative influence in the partnership’s decision making. _ One person or partner has all the power and/or drives the process. _ There is a hidden motivation which is not declared to all partners. _ The partnership was established just to “keep up appearances’’. _ Partnership members do not have the training to identify issues or resolve internal conflicts. _ Partners are not chosen carefully, particularly if it is difficult to “de-partner”. Regina Brandstetter Austrian Co-ordination Unit of Territorial Employment Pacts at the Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna 12 successful partnerships a guide Roles and Functions within Partnerships: Lessons drawn from the Territorial Employment Pacts Every partner within a partnership should know precisely why they are there, what they bring to the alliance, what to expect from others, and of course what is to be achieved together – or in other words, what is expected of them. Unfortunately, many partnerships lack clarification as to the roles and functions of the various partners. The experience of the Austrian Territorial Employment Pacts (TEPs) points to the need for a regular clarification of roles and responsibilities. So what roles and functions are important to a partnership approach? In relations of cooperation, partners can take on various functions – knowledge carriers, information brokers, financiers and policy makers – and various roles - visionaries, strategists, salesmen, lobbyists and coaches. Facilitators, mediators and, not least, managers are also essential to the functioning of partnerships. Each individual partner usually has more than one role and function; for example, a partner can act as a knowledge carrier, financier and visionary at the same time. In addition, all roles and functions are important to the overall success of the partnership. If for instance a partnership lacks salesmen, it will not be able to communicate its output in the best way. Similarly partnerships without moderators will almost certainly run into difficulties co-ordinating and balancing the partners’ inputs. It is important that roles and functions are clarified in advance: each partnership should discuss, precisely define and jointly decide on the roles that each partner has and the functions that are necessary for their partnership. Not all of these roles are explicit or can be made explicit, however. The communicative skills required by partnerships are in particular only noticed and appreciated when they are missing from the process. Moreover, partners’ roles and functions vary over time, in particular due to: _ Shifts of emphasis in work programmes in response to changing local and regional demands; _ The changing requirements of different phases of the partnership e.g. foundation, implementation, and consolidation; and _ Fluctuations in the personnel representing the various partners, and their skills and competences. In order to strengthen the inner fabric, efficiency and effectiveness of partnerships, an institutional development process can prove helpful. In the case of Austria, a “partnership consolidation process’’, known as “Steps” has been developed to support the Territorial Employment Pacts. In course of this process, partnerships are required to reflect on their overall function, their obligations and limits, and their responsibilities and restrictions. If partnerships are uncertain as to their key function, they will become overloaded with diverse local and regional requirements. Consequently, reaching all targets, plans and ideas will become impossible. Demands can be met only if partnerships are clear about their raison d'être and communicate their responsibilities and competences as well as the boundaries of their abilities and capacities. This is already a great challenge. In addition, roles and functions vary not only according to the types of partner involved, but also in relation to the overall function of the partnership. The management roles required by partnerships vary, for example, depending on the function of the partnership. For instance, if a partnership defines its key function as a “strategic board for a better co-ordination of regional policies”, the main purpose of the manager of this partnership will be the “co-ordination of partners”. Likewise, the functions of partners can range from “giving thematic inputs from the employer’s point of view” and “developing labour market measures” to “financially supporting partnership measures”. In large partnerships, it is likely that only a core group will be involved in clarifying roles and responsibilities. However, a broad consensus should in general be the aim. 13 successful partnerships a guide A number of the above-mentioned functions can give rise to another phenomenon: the dominance of certain partners. Variations in the level of interaction and communication between partners are standard, with some partners maintaining relatively intense communication, while others only have a loose interaction. In each partnership there will be “followers” as well as “leaders” who somehow gain the “upper hand” in the partnership. The types of partner who gain the most power vary across different partnership and policy settings (e.g. trade unions are frequently strong partners within Italian alliances, whereas they can be relatively powerless in other societies). Partnerships often benefit from the leadership role taken by organisations in power, as leaders often turn out to be an important factor in pushing the co-operation (and related activities) forward. Dominant partners often also ensure financial contribution for the implementation of partnership measures. However, stronger partners can also hinder others – consciously or not – from making their full input. Moreover, partnerships can run the risk of overemphasising those topics that are of interests to such partners. The main task of area based partnerships is to co-ordinate the partners and their topics in order to develop a joint strategy for the region. In particular, the development of co-operative work programmes and the implementation of measures according to agreed priorities are central activities of many alliances. At best, partnership programmes reflect the strengths of all partners and minimise the weaknesses. Partnerships can also build on the actions of individual institutions to: _ Address multi-sectoral (or cross-sectoral) challenges in order to improve the quality of support to certain target groups or sectors; _ Develop a multi-dimensional orientation (i.e. integrated approaches to multi-dimensional problems); _ Increase effectiveness and efficiency in the use of partners’ resources; and _ Make the best use of synergies and prevent duplications of activities in the region. A well-structured partnership is needed for balancing the contributions of partners to this process in the best possible way. Experience has shown that positive results are much more likely to be achieved if full-time partnership co-ordinators are appointed to manage partnerships. Whereas the partners are the core of partnerships, partnership managers are often the “drivers”; partnership performance rises and falls with their inputs and skills. In particular, those partnerships which have managers who have been in the business for some years often turn out to be more stable than others. As regards the choice of types of partnership management, in most cases one of the following three options is pursued: _ Partnerships establish their management externally; _ The co-ordination is settled through an intermediary body; and _ Co-ordination units are built up as part of a partner’s institutional structure. Outsourced management implies up-front costs and a potential loss of power. On the other hand, it ensures a neutral role, which is especially helpful in balancing the interests and contributions of all partners. For that reason, the external option is often considered preferable. In the case of Austria, public financial support for the management of partnerships turned out to be essential, as the managers of the alliances were able to focus on their core task – co-ordination – rather than fundraising. The dominance of the public sector in the Austrian partnerships was effectively limited due to the fact that partnership management was mostly carried out externally or through an intermediary body. Above all, partners need to form positive relationships with the managers of their partnership, and thus, the fundamental basis of partnership management should be an agreement between all partners. The main experiences of the Austrian TEPs in relation to this issue are summarised in the checklist below. 14 successful partnerships a guide Checklist on Roles and Functions _ Discuss, precisely define and jointly decide on the roles and functions of each partner; _ Reflect on roles and functions regularly; _ Clarify the obligations, responsibilities and restrictions on capacity of each partnership; _ Balance interests and contributions carefully; _ Make best use of the strengths of partners; _ Establish a strong management structure; _ Consider externalising the management function; and _ Ensure funding for partnership co-ordination. Partnerships are communities in their own right. The roles and functions of the parties involved are important constituents of partnerships. Internal resources and relations should be considered as key factors for success and for maximising the knowledge brought to bear by the partnership. If clarity is achieved in relation to roles and responsibilities, the desired outcomes of the partnerships are more likely to be achieved. Partnerships should thus put more effort into achieving both an ‘outward’ and an ‘inward focus’ with the aim of developing further alliances through a strong and robust partnership base. Anette Scoppetta OECD LEED Forum on Partnerships and Local Governance and Austrian Co-ordination Unit of Territorial Employment Pacts at the Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna 15 successful partnerships a guide Communication If the organisational structure of a partnership is the glue that holds it together, then communication is the grease which allows it to operate smoothly. Communication is, however, a complicated process; and a great deal can go wrong on all sides, with both the sender and the recipient of messages sometimes making mistakes. This makes it all the more important to get communication right – otherwise the glue will all too quickly turn to sand. Communication has both an internal and external role. Regarding the former, it is crucial to the functioning of a partnership to ensure that there are clear information flows among partners, between the partnership manager and the their own staff, and among partners themselves (and any structures in which they participate, e.g. the board of directors). This will help the partners to understand how their alliance really functions, the constraints under which it operates, and the respective roles of the other partners, organisations and people involved. It might be helpful to establish terms of reference for all operational structures within the partnership. To make a partnership inclusive it is important that all voices within it are heard. This both requires and guarantees a balance of influence, mutual respect and care in the organisation. Good communication will facilitate meetings, decisions and interactions between partners. One should not forget that the partners have to play a two-way communication role, acting as the link points between the organisations they represent and the partnership itself. The external role of communication is to ensure that the work of the partnership is visible, in order to organise support and funding. First, a communications strategy has to be developed – which should be linked to the partnership’s overall strategic plan – and regular action plans deriving from that strategy formulated. Sufficient resources – both staff time and financial resources – need to be dedicated to communications. Designating a communications/press officer can facilitate this and help those outside the partnership know where to turn for information. Good contacts with local media are crucial, so that they can be approached quickly and effectively when needed. To ensure that the partnership is visible and recognised within its designated area of activity, there should be ongoing, two-way communication with local communities and target groups; a permanent outreach approach can be a key component of a communications strategy. The partnership’s successes should be presented regularly to policy makers, who may be involved in mainstreaming opportunities or policy development, and to funding bodies, including potential future sources of funding. There is a need to explain clearly what the partnership is and how it works, since it can sometimes be difficult for those not involved to understand. The partnership’s own communication can be complemented by the communication of others, e.g. the partnership’s beneficiaries acting in an advocacy role. Where appropriate, co-operation with other partnerships can help to achieve a critical mass in communications activities and therefore attract more attention (whether in building media coverage or in disseminating policy recommendations). In addition, forums for the regular exchange of learning and good practice with other partnerships can be established, whether on a regional, national or international basis. 16 successful partnerships a guide Some Thoughts about Communication Techniques As partnerships are usually set up to find a better way to connect different policy areas and institutions working in those areas, the networking between these institutions and with their stakeholders is probably their most important task. “Informal” ways of networking should be complemented by structured forms of communication (websites, newsletters, etc.); this is especially useful in interaction with policy makers, opinion leaders, the general public and with other “outside” institutions with which the partnership interacts in the course of its work. One should therefore not overlook the importance of creating a stable information flow and the necessity of tailoring it to the different target groups. Publicity materials may be needed in a variety of formats, both web- and paper-based, to explain the concept of the partnership and its work. While the web enables a partnership to reach an unlimited number of people at comparatively low cost, handing out paper-based products is still considered more effective during public relation activities. The best solution is to combine methods, e.g. to have regular electronic newsletters and electronic as well as printed versions of annual reports, main results etc. Regular publication of reports on the work of the partnership and its successes (including evaluation reports) is essential both for the partnership’s visibility and for demonstrating the evidence basis for any recommendations the partnership makes (e.g. for mainstreaming or for policy development). Seminars and conferences involving other practitioners and/or policy makers can be an effective means of disseminating information about the partnership’s work and successes; they can also serve as tools for networking and opening debate about the direction of current and future activities. Special attention should be given to communication with local communities and target groups, as they represent the everyday environment of a partnership’s work and will, depending on their attitude towards the activities, support, tolerate or hinder that work. Communication with them is therefore essential; it should not only provide them with a regular information flow about the work and achievements, but also engage them and help create a feeling of ownership. The local communications strategy will therefore require a range of techniques, including close contact with local media, outreach facilities, newsletters, workshops or public meetings, audits of local resources and needs, etc. Venues and materials need to take account of accessibility issues to facilitate the participation of different target groups, such as the business community and marginalised groups. Marion Byrne Pobal (formerly Area Development Management Ltd), Ireland 17 successful partnerships a guide Funding Partnerships An absolute prerequisite to the successful operation of partnerships is a stable funding structure, covering the operational budget as well as overheads. This may sound simple but the task of setting one up is far from easy and often proves a permanent burden endangering the work of partnerships. Let us start with a simple question: does your partnership have an operational budget at all? This translates to: what is the real task of your partnership? Is it co-ordinating activities of different kinds? In that case there is probably not much operational budget needed at all, and the question of funding can be limited to the issue of who is funding the basic structures. Then the question might come up: why fund basic structures at all? A partnership can well be formed on a “self-made” basis where a “co-ordinator” – a secretary employed by one of the key actors – is asked to devote part of their working time to partnership issues, using the available office space and equipment. Many partnerships are started this way, so why not operate on this basis? The answer is obvious. A co-ordinator employed (meaning paid) by one partner can never be absolutely neutral in their action. There will always be a more or less explicit bias towards the employer and not towards the partnership, whether unconsciously (as they have worked here before and are part of the employer’s culture) or explicitly (they are told to follow the employer’s wishes). So if a real partnership is the intention, then a real – meaning independent – secretariat is needed. This neutral secretariat of the partnership should be installed sooner rather than later. It will not only help create a stable and objective co-ordinating structure, but also send a clear signal to the outside world as well as to the partners. To those outside, someone is speaking in the name of the partnership; there are premises, a physical address, telephone, Internet, etc. Partners themselves should have a feeling of having a common secretariat and not of working with an employee at one partner’s premises (with all the natural distrust that might engender here). But it is not only office space that counts here; it is also a question of who is funding it. Ideally the contributions should come from all partners involved, as only then will the secretariat be considered everyone’s own secretariat. If the funding is only provided by one or two partners, there will be a situation similar to the one outlined above, the only difference being that there is now a legal as well as physical advantage. An interesting solution has been found in Austria, where the basic structures of Territorial Employment Pacts are 2 funded by central government. The government is not a partner to the regional partnership agreements, but considers them important to overall labour market performance and guarantees the necessary basic funding. What is funded within these basic structures will depend on the partnership’s targets. Besides a co-ordinator, (probably) a secretary and the office equipment they require, it would be good to set some money aside for common activities. These could include a public relations campaign, a common monitoring system or evaluation, training or similar activities for its members, or even support to local/regional institutions. If a long-lasting partnership is the target, then stable structures are required and one should invest in them as a company would invest in its structures to ensure its survival. 2 The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour, using additional (co-)funding from the European Social Fund of the European Union. 18 successful partnerships a guide Funding Structures in Austria Partnerships were begun in Austria with the idea that more jobs could be created where regional labour market policy intersects with social policy if the key actors in this field co-operated more fully. Of course co-operation existed before but it was limited to individual projects and programme lines, and in most cases did not have the quality of a real regional employment development programme or include a real strategy. One perceived weakness was that it did not have the stable structure co-operation requires – i.e. a secretariat that is responsible for co-ordinating the process in a neutral way. The government offered to help provide a structure by funding this secretariat and also making use of money available within the European Social Fund of the European Union. The operating budget still had to be provided by the partners. This was the basis for the Austrian Territorial Pacts, or TEPs. In a second step the TEP’s tasks were widened in many respects, depending mainly on the situation and development potential of the partnerships in their region. Some concentrated on strengthening co-operation in the social field; some developed local, sub-regional structures to address their goals in a better way. While this diversity is sometimes seen as a weakness of Austrian partnerships, it also reflects the true setting in their respective regions and specific needs. But it became soon obvious that there is also a need for other common activities, such as public relations, monitoring and evaluation. These activities were therefore included in the central funding. It also became clear that this approach, and especially the regional diversification it addresses, requires more attention and therefore time than a ministry could guarantee, so a nationwide co-ordination unit was created to support the partnerships in their work and also help the ministry in the policy co-ordination of the partnerships. Nowadays the concept of the Territorial Employment Pacts is part of the bilateral funding agreement between the European Commission and Austria regarding Human Resource Development (Objective 3 of the Structural Funds Policy) and the necessary budget for funding the basic structures has been set aside until 2006. The annual costs of co-ordinating partnership activities are around EUR 2 million while the overall operational budgets negotiated and agreed on within Austrian partnerships add up to EUR 500 million annually. This clearly shows how a relatively small investment in structures helps to raise and administer large budgets. Let us return to our first question and assume that the answer is yes, your partnership does have an operational budget. Continuing with the next question: who is providing the budget for this, and what is the decision mechanism for the use of the money? It is obvious that a partnership’s operational programme of work has to draw on funds, but it is usually less clear who is contributing to them and who is going to decide about their use. A typical approach would be to have two or three key funding institutions provide the basic budget for operations; they would not create a partnership’s budget on their own but rather have the partnership co-ordinate its use. What does this mean? Usually partners have a legal framework in which they operate and their own targets – set by laws and regulations or company goals or others – and they have to fulfil these goals. So these institutions use the partnership not so much out of altruistic motives, but because they have understood that this will help them to fulfil their goals in a better way. Still, that does not mean that they will allow anyone else to interfere with their decision-making process, as this is also their responsibility. And they will still want to control the money they put into the partnership. Now let us assume there are three partners, each providing one-third of the necessary financial means to fund a project to support social inclusion – this is an overall goal of the partnership. Partner A has 19 successful partnerships a guide a labour market approach, Partner B has a social approach and Partner C is responsible for certain educational targets. (Each one will of course have their own targets within their respective responsibility.) These partners now have several possibilities for the use of the funds; choosing one requires agreement, and there are different levels of agreement. The weakest level – which is nonetheless not simple to reach – will be a mutual agreement on how each partner will use their own fund to contribute to the common goal, and how they will inform the others about the decisions they have taken. Thus it concerns common planning of activities and information about their execution. The next level would be the common funding of certain activities; the partners each agree to provide a certain amount to co-fund activities. So all partners have to agree on certain projects and then have to reach the corresponding decisions within their own institutions. The main and important difference between the first and second levels is that here we have partnership projects; while in the first model we had only partner’s projects. Again, this is an important signal to the outside world as well as to the inside. The agreement is the basis for common funding, and the topics covered will probably (according to the institutional setting) be more general and regional than sectoral. Here the partners can also help each other in supporting certain activities if one of them happens to be short of budget funds for whatever reason – not so unusual a situation in public funding. A negative scenario of this model is what might be called “linking package” decision making – one partner agrees to support the funding of a project of a second partner only if the other one agrees to co-fund another project of the first partner. The political bargaining arising from concentrating on the funding issue might limit the content of the partnership. At level three, the partners create a common fund where they will decide together on the use of the money but not allow for individual decisions. This has several severe implications. First, money has to be handed over out of one public institution’s budget to the partnership, which is usually a privately organised body. It is no easy decision for a public institution to hand over money, and doing so might also be circumscribed by legal requirements or restrictions. In Austria, for example, the main problems allocating money to a non-public organisation are a) liability – it is almost impossible for an NGO/NPO to stand guarantee for funds and bank guarantees are rather costly, and b) budgetary regulations that assign responsibility to the public authority 3 handing over the money. Even if there is a positive attitude towards creating a common fund, doing so may well prove difficult. Secondly the administration of common funds by the partnership requires a stable organisation with specially qualified personnel and the ability to cope with the tasks assigned the funding, and (especially) controlling the money. The funding departments of public institutions usually already employ this type of personnel, so the legitimate question arises: why duplicate structures and create costs that would not be necessary otherwise. A good answer to this is probably that private organisations have been found to have a better, more direct approach to project promoters and are “trusted” in a different way. This definitely applies to social projects that are often in a situation of seeking public support on an unequal negotiating basis, feeling they are not being understood or that the problem is not really being taken seriously by the deciding public authority. Thus negotiating the necessary funding with a non-public organisation might help create a better working base with the project promoters on the ground and lead to better results and a more efficient use of public money. The same negotiating situation might arise with companies and their entrepreneurial problems in a world of bureaucratic funding. If a partnership is targeting regional economic performance, a private body with an entrepreneurial touch might be well received by the business community. Summing up: it is definitely worth considering creating common funding mechanisms to reach targets more successfully, but one must be willing to overcome certain bureaucratic obstacles. The final step of partnership integration is a common budget spent according to agreed criteria without any direct influence of the partners and where their role is limited to that of shareholder. Such a model 3 Articles 112 and 113 of Bundeshaushaltsverordnung. 20 successful partnerships a guide will be appropriate especially when there are certain new activities that have not been on the main political agenda before, at least not in this form. New funds thus have to be found and new mechanisms created to reach the targets. This situation is not so unusual as there are more and more topics that are not covered by traditional 4 sectoral approaches and where satisfying results cannot be reached by one institution alone. The main difference from level 3 lies in the decision mechanism: partners limit their direct influence on individual decisions and agree only on certain criteria, based on a regulation and a procedure. One might ask why an institution should give up its decision-making powers with regard to budgets. There are good reasons: to generate more effectiveness and more efficiency in the use of their budgets. As effectiveness is more transparent, objective ruling should have an influence on the achieved results. And efficiency is important, as this approach can also be applied to situations where the number of decisions is simply too high to be decided by two or even more 5 institutions on a case-by-case basis. How important is it who is contributing what to fund a partnership’s activities? It is probably more important that an organisation is contributing at all, as this shows a high level of commitment: the institution considers the activities of the partnership to be so important that it is willing to devote some of its own resources to them. So if the funding structure of a partnership can be based on a large number of regionally based organisations – e.g. labour and social institutions, the regional government, cities and communities, the social partners, enterprises and education institutions – there is clearly real general commitment within the region. Of course this requires a lot more co-ordination of the partners, but it should pay off as this will definitely help with the execution of the programme of work and contribute to better results. The real amount or share of contributions must be considered fair by all partners, the payer (as they will see it in relation to other investments or strategies) and the other partners (as they will place it in relation to their cost-benefit ratio). Of course there can and probably will also be non-paying strategic partners, but they cannot expect to have the same influence on decisions as those who contribute financially. Some partnerships compete successfully for external funds and can thereby widen their budgets. This is an interesting strategy but requires that partnerships develop from pure networks to organisations capable of attracting outside donors or winning calls for tender. The donor-driven investment is de facto based on demonstrating local weakness and has in the long run the disadvantage that donor attention might change to other areas or topics more in need so that the funding base ceases to exist. But this does not detract from the importance of donors in certain situations, e.g. the rebuilding of Balkan countries in the last years would not have been possible without large investments offered by the international community. And competing for funds requires strength, which might simply not be there in the starting phase of a partnership. But generally, a partnership that can successfully compete in funding decisions will have a much better opportunity to find additional financial support for its activities. Good examples of this are Irish partnerships, which have attracted 6 money from the European Union to co-fund their work. Of course the business world should not be forgotten as a possible source of funding for partnership activities. This of course depends on the strategy in place at the outset of the partnership and whether it is of interest to enterprises. But a number of partnerships are dealing with labour market issues and supporting 4 For example, in many countries the intersection of labour market and social problems lies in the hands of different public and sometimes semi-public institutions at different administrative levels 5 In some respects the Structural Funds of the European Union are administered in this way. The European Commission and the member states agree on funding certain activities on a very general programme level – the agreement is termed a decision in partnership – and the other member states give their opinion on this agreement. Those funding institutions responsible for a certain topic in the respective member state then make all individual decisions, including that regarding the European Union’s co-funding. In this concept the deciding body is only partly identical with the funding partner – or, to be more precise, one partner is interpreting and executing the will of both. 6 In the case of the Area-based and Community Partnerships in Ireland, one programme (Local Development Social Inclusion Programme – LDSIP) provides core funding for the partnerships, which are able to compete (along with other types of organisation, e.g. community groups) for other government and EU programme funds.