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Organising local partnerships

Chapter 4
The partnership matures


4.1 Durability of partnerships and the point of no return


    4.1.2 The point of no return

The durability of local partnerships depends also on durability of means, not least financial.

What happens to a local partnership once its one-off public funding, through a programme such as LEADER, is no longer available? In the case of a simple management partnership, in which neither the leaders of the local partnership nor the local actors see any point in coordination work at area level, the partnership will wind up of its own accord once the money runs out. Some local partnerships simply broke off their activity once the LEADER·I funds were spent.

The first step towards ensuring durability of means is awareness of the need to coordinate the area's development. Awareness can come about at two levels:

  • in the coordinators themselves. They are sufficiently aware of the importance of their work not merely to invest their own efforts in it and achieve the highest quality, but even, in some cases, to be motivated to carry on when things get tough;

  • in the local actors (local authorities, private partners and beneficiaries) and government agencies in charge of development. Coordination can be considered a standard operating cost, even when the one-off financial support is no longer available.

In practice, this awareness is often confined to the coordinators: local authorities and private partners are generally in favour of coordination as long as the cost is met by a special procedure or programme (LEADER, etc.) but are unwilling to take over the funding once the programme has ended. To continue their work, local partnership coordinators sometimes find emergency solutions, or more often than not another programme.

After LEADER I funding ended, many local partnerships took care of their own durability by developing other functions:

  • in Cavan-Monaghan, and elsewhere in Ireland, the local team ensured a continuity of activity between LEADER·I and LEADER·II by pursuing commercial activities connected with tourism (travel agency run by the LAG), and providing consultancy services in such areas as the preparation of business plans, training and the management of other programmes;

  • in Italy, the Iblea (Sicily) LAG survived this period by turning itself into a business offering services and consulting to the local and provincial authorities for the elaboration of development strategies.

A partnership's financial durability is ensured when coordination becomes a 'natural' function.

In order to persuade local actors and the development authorities to make coordination a 'natural' function whose costs are built into the partnership's budget, the specific value-added generated by the partnership and by coordination needs to be brought to the fore.

The key elements of such value-added include the capacity to innovate (see next section) but also the capacity to be "proactive" (and not just "reactive") in the development process.

But more even than value-added, a 'sense of the common good' is a key element in making coordination seem a normal function of local partnerships.

Analysis of current practice shows clearly that such awareness exists in some areas: in Vinschgau/Val Venosta, although the highly individualistic local culture does not lend itself particularly to partnership, there exists among the population a 'sense of the common good' which translates into a generalised and spontaneous respect for the beauty of the landscape and architecture, without any need for prompting from the authorities. This is of immense benefit for the durability of the local partnership.

Which brings us to the 'point of no return': a local development coordination partnership has reached the point of no return when it not only seems an obvious necessity to the local actors and authorities, but has also been fully integrated into the local culture.

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