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[ Contents ]

Organising local partnerships

Chapter 3
Optimising the results


3.1 Factors for assessing the results


    3.1.1 The quality of the partnership's action

The first result lies with the local partnership itself, i.e. the quality of its action, which will guarantee it vitality and the ability to be a tool for coordinating the area's development. This quality can be assessed at three levels:

    1) local partnerships as an instrument to rally membres of the community and to achieve social cohesion - in most cases, partnerships are evolving towards enlargement. They gradually bring together representatives from other sectors of local society around common interests, bridging ideological or social divides. This still constitutes an innovation in rural society. The nature of the initiators will remain a very decisive factor in the direction taken and the results obtained:

    • in partnerships started up by individuals, the aim is to expand the action by using all of the area's "living strength". The representatives of the various sectors of activity are then only one of the components involved in a partnership extended to all sections of the population, including those which are traditionally excluded from debates and decisions (retired people, women, the underprivileged, etc.). Through its flexibility, this type of partnership allows a great diversity of status and opinions as well as total freedom to participate. Technical, economic, territorial and social solidarities are then discovered;

    • in partnerships started up by undertakings or organisations of an economic or professional nature, the exhaustion of a sectoral partnership focused solely on the carrying out of mainly economic projects signals the need for a strategic enlargement at area level to guarantee the durability of the dynamic. The problem of enlarging the partnership is then a different one: should it be extended to people or organisations? Should it be enlarged to make it more effective or rather aim at a better geographical representation? In some cases, the business partnership leads to the formation of other groups, which are gradually integrated in the original partnership, allowing it to diversify its activities and become better established in the area. The original partnership does not necessarily change its structure but is obliged to go beyond its initial interest;

    • in the case of partnerships started up by public authorities, even though the procedure (LEADER, etc.) is temporary, it may be an opportunity for the relationship between the population and its political or professional representatives to evolve towards decision-sharing;

    • in all cases, any enlargement of the partnership is based on a representativeness effectively recognised by the local actors and not simply on formal representativeness, which is too often of an institutional nature only.

    2) local partnerships as an instrument of dialogue and decision-sharing - the enlargement of the local partnership is in principle a first step towards formally sharing decision-making power, even though this novel approach should be carefully considered: the formal management of local partnerships is often controlled by certain types of partners, particularly in a large number of Member States, the local authorities. In fact, the genuine sharing of decision-making power between actors from an area is always the result of a particular situation where this power is granted by the party that holds it.

    But more than in terms of sharing decision-making powers, the problem is one of dialogue between the area's actors. In order to promote this dialogue, the local partners are often organised into working committees by theme and/or by geographical sector, enabling a large number of actors to be mobilised in collective discussion. The dialogue reaches a high level of quality as soon as it is no longer based on a logic of sharing resources but on elaborating a common action plan that, moreover, is not limited to the mere juxtaposition of proposals drawn up by the various working committees.

    3) partnerships as an instrument to implement local development - the effectiveness of the local partnership in terms of development is essentially based on three conditions:

    • its legitimacy as the area's "development agency" (acquiring legitimacy enables "protection" from any calling into question by the formal or informal authorities on the ground);

    • its recognition by the local actors as an instrument of action for local development (this recognition is acquired through practice and the results obtained);

    • its ability to act (this depends above all on the diversity of the actors in the local partnership).

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