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How to engage with stakeholders 15 October 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in EU, social economy.
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Policies generally work better if you involve their stakeholders in defining, implementing and monitoring them – so much is generally held to be true. But in the hurly-burly of actually making policies, it’s easy to forget to ask the users and beneficiaries for their views. This issue came to my mind as we discussed strategic partnership and governance at the SEN peer review in Trento in September. I remembered that three years ago INBAS and Engender did a study for the EC on stakeholder involvement in the ‘social OMC‘ (open method of co-ordination). It looked at:
– who the stakeholders are
– what involving them means
– what tools exist for the purpose

Two tables set out the gist of the matter. First, how serious are we in involving stakeholders? The study drew on the Public Participation Spectrum, developed by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) which defines five levels of engagement, saying exactly what we mean by information, consultation, involvement collaboration and (that vaguely used term) empowerment:
degrees of stakeholder engagement

Secondly, what actions make stakeholder involvement real? here. The study analysed 23 aspects:
Aspects of stakeholder engagement

Notice that some key issues are often forgotten: what better way to demotivate the people you consult than by never telling them the use you made of their comments? So always feed back to them how you handled their contributions. And what better way to stymie debate by never publishing the background documents in the first place?

The key outputs of the study are set out in a handy leaflet, and the full documents along with a selection of ‘interesting practices’ are on the website too.


A propos the study, I notice that the EC’s idea of ‘Elaborating voluntary guidelines on stakeholders’ involvement’, action 49 of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, has been “delayed” (see ‘ongoing actions‘).

Success factors for the ESF in CLLD 15 October 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in social economy.
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Recently I looked at four cases where the ESF has been involved in community-led local development (CLLD) – Cybermoor in Alston (UK), Cloughjordan Ecovillage (Ireland), InWest in the Rheinische Straße in Dortmund (Germany) and Barka Foundation in Poznań (Poland).
What makes them work? My analysis came out with the following common success factors: they rely on a base of values, social innovation, networks, models, information, premises, entrepreneurial initiative, mixed funding, economic sustainability and celebration.

CLLD success factors wordle

– Values
The cases show that effective local action is built by people and organisations that are inspired by a strong set of values. Barka has developed a local development practice based on social psychological approach to individual self-development. InWest is based on the twin principles of ecological sustainability and self-management. Cloughjordan Ecovillage is driven by the need to pilot an ecologically sustainable way of living, based on the principles of transition and resilience. Cybermoor is also committed to making Alston more resilient, but in this case the threat against which resilience is being built is the decline of public service provision by higher tiers of government.
The self-conscious development of a locality depends on the existence of a vision of how things could be different and better, which is expressed in the objectives of the civil society organisations that lead the process.
– Social innovation
The cases are implementing social innovations to put these values into practice. Cloughjordan Ecovillage is developing systems to guarantee its sustainable future, in a ‘soft’ organisational as well as a ‘hard’ technological way. In order to distribute power and decision-making fairly among all the members of the community, it is using two methodologies. The first is the Viable Systems Model (VSM), first developed by Stafford Beer, which analyses how plants and animals survive and make a system in nature viable, and transfers the lessons of this model from biology to society. The second is sociocracy, which is based on trust, discussion and consensus decision-making, supplies insights about effective management. Blending these together, The Ecovillage is developing a new ‘operating system’ for sustainable living. Organisations such as the Permaculture Association in the UK are also adopting the system.
The Barka Foundation imported the new organisational model of the social co-operative into Poland, piloted it and then mainstreamed this innovation into national legislation. Cybermoor was inspired by the telecottage movement to bring online connectivity to an isolated town. InWest is scaling up the successful experience of its member Union Gewerbehof to assist new future-oriented enterprises to establish themselves in disused industrial buildings.
– Networks
The initiators of these projects are well connected to external sources of new ideas and models. Cloughjordan is part of the Global Ecovillage Network. InWest is connected to European co-operative federations such as CECOP (European Confederation of Workers’ Co-operatives, Social Co-operatives and Social and Participative Enterprises). Barka is a member of EAPN (European Anti Poverty Network).
These networks both supply incoming models of good practice and facilitate the outward dissemination of experiences.
– Models
The cases rely on models of organisation which meet community needs. A number of different models figure, including association, foundation, co-operative (worker, social, enterprise), viable systems model and sociocracy.
– Information
Concerted action by the members of a community can only happen when there are effective paths through which information can circulate among citizens. All the projects use websites, a community newspaper is published in the Rheinische Straße, and Cybermoor is training community journalists to perform this messenger function. It is also developing a ‘community data explorer’ to open up for practical use by the community the masses of hitherto incomprehensible information that public authorities publish, and is piloting a telemonitoring system for care recipients.
– Premises
Communities need physical places to interact in, and the projects have usually acquired these with the help of the local authorities. The Barka communities got their start by being allowed to operate at little or no cost in unused building such as schools. It was later able to buy and renovate two half-built blocks of flats which had belonged to a collective farm that was being privatised, and turn them in to affordable housing. Cybermoor operates from an office in Alston Town Hall. Union Gewerbehof, founding member of InWest, was brought into being by a group that first squatted the office buildings of a derelict steelworks, and later renovated it with Structural Fund support, making it a cornerstone of the area’s regeneration.
This ‘in kind’ help from property owners is an invaluable resource for local groups, and has been moved up the local government agenda in the UK with the passing of the localism Act in 2011.
– Entrepreneurial initiative
The projects share a “can do” attitude to addressing the problems of their locality. Faced with a local issue, they have made an inventory of the resources available and put them together to create a durable new business which can contribute to its local economy. The businesses in question run the gamut from domestic services for elderly and disabled people through public works such as grounds maintenance and cleaning to retail, property development, education, operating tourist attractions and high-tech services such as broadband telecommunications and 3D printing.
– A funding mix
The projects share an attitude of what might be called “principled opportunism” in accessing a variety of different funding streams to finance aspects of their work. This phrase is not meant to have negative overtones, but is a rational response to the continually changing funding opportunities that arise. They are not shy of accessing funds other than the ESF. LEADER is present in Cloughjordan and Alston, and the ERDF in Dortmund. In the area of technology and research, Cloughjordan has accessed the FP7 CONCERTO programme in renewable energy, and Cybermoor has used the Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) programme to finance a telemonitoring project for carers. Barka used PHARE.
They also access private foundations: the Carnegie Trust funds community journalism training in Alston and a number of foundations such as the Danish Grete Mikaelsen’s Foundation have given sizeable support to the Barka Foundation.
– Economic sustainability
While grant funding is often a key enabler for community action, it would fail unless the underlying projects are economically sustainable. Hence the projects typically combine grant income with earned income in a process where the grant allows an activity to be developed, after which it can survive through the sale of goods and services. The trainees at Barka’s Centres for Social Inclusion spend part of their time on practical job training, which creates an income for the centre, and may eventually enable an independent social co-operative to be floated off, to serve both to private and public clients. This also constitutes a seamless transition for the trainees from unemployed to employed status. The Alston Moor Partnership is investigating establishing a wood fuel supply activity to create an income to finance further developments, and Cybermoor sells broadband services. InWest will offer services to property owners, and possibly neighbourhood services to householders. Cloughjordan Ecovillage runs training in sustainability skills and in its new We Create business centre is opening a ‘fab lab’ (fabrication laboratory) where prototypes can be made on a 3D printer.
– Celebration and awards
This is another important factor in motivating community members to engage in joint action. In Dortmund, the Rheinische Strassenzeitung is full of pictures of community members enjoying activities and street parties are held. Cloughjordan Ecovillage holds a monthly open day and communal meals are organised. Alston prides itself on being the first winner of the national award for Social Enterprise Town of the Year. Barka communities celebrate national and church festivals, and its funders have been fêted by the World Economic Forum.

2. Barriers to the use of the ESF for CLLD

The cases reveal the following barriers to development:
– inconsistent funding
This may be caused by changes in policy or simply by the short-term design of programmes. In Ireland, SPIL ran the successful ‘Green Works’ training programme in ecological building and related skills, which proved very popular and had good outcomes. ESF support enabled it to be offered free of charge to trainees, and meant that innovative courses could be developed, modernising the vocational training infrastructure. One of them has been exported to Sweden. Yet there was no opportunity to continue.
– ‘dumb’ indicators
Over and above the administrative complexity that the project initiators have encountered and found burdensome, and which may be thought inevitable when ensuring accountability form the use of public funds, their comments bring out a deeper issue. Cloughjordan and Cybermoor found that the additional costs entailed in ensuring that the wider community benefits from ESF projects can make them uncompetitive when set against standardised training products offered at large scale by commercial providers. Where simple indicators such as hours of training delivered are used, without looking at the medium-term effects on the trainees and on the local economy, the ESF will not be able to engender the changes in the workforce that are needed to help economies to adapt.
This shows the value of a ring-fenced funding stream for innovative projects which allow budgetary freedom to develop curricula in new areas that are crucial for our evolving economies and to reach out to remote areas where the number of trainees is small. By contrast Barka, in its work in Poland’s national social economy development programme, has been able to include relatively expensive actions such as transnational study visits need to implant innovative ideas.

3. Promoting future development

The cases show different development paths:
• Barka started solving the needs of excluded people locally in and around Poznań and has spread its method across Poland using the technique of social franchising. It has piloted new types of institution for work integration, inspired notably by the Italian model of social co-operatives. It has leveraged the success of these pilots to reform the legal framework at national level.
• InWest is the latest in a series of community-based economic structures that have been established in the Rheinische Straße neighbourhood. It acts as an umbrella for the previously established value-led business incubator Union Gewerbehof and other co-operatives and associations, aiming to move one more step up the scale in regenerating this depressed multicultural industrial suburb
• Cloughjordan Ecovillage has implanted an internationally established model in a locality that was ripe for it and offered the necessary conditions (land, village commerce and rail access among them).
• Cybermoor in Alston has brought new technologies to a small isolated town in order to regenerate its economy, following on from the early Scandinavian concept of ‘telecottages’.
The common thread running through the cases is how the project initiators have:
• been aware of developments in the wider world, and have selected and applied the tools that could help them address local issues: in the case of Barka the social co-operative, in Dortmund the co-operative consortium, in Cloughjordan the ecovillage and in Alston the telecottage.
• done social innovation by setting up new community institutions
• acted with principled opportunism to gain the necessary resources, whether these be derelict buildings, land or funding (various types of public and private)
• established an economically viable enterprise by combining this seed funding with a commercial income stream, from the sale of services to a variety of clients: public sector organisations, enterprises and individuals.
The common thread that fuels community-led local development in these cases is a social enterprise approach: that of establishing a sustainable business that meets social needs by the nature of its activities, and reinvests its surplus in its local community.

4. Policy to support the spread of CLLD

CLLD policy components wordle2

Public policy to support the future widespread adoption of this methodology should therefore embrace the following principles:
– Accessible seed funding
• ensure that small amounts of seed funding are available with minimum administrative complication, to allow project initiators to take the first step. The ESF Community Learning Grants used by Cybermoor and BIWAQ used by InWest are examples of this.
• this should apply to funding in a wide range of policy areas: not just employment and social inclusion but also housing, food production, energy, transport, communications and information technology, health and social care among others.
• funding providers should be aware of the cross-links between policy areas: for instance the very many policy domains that need to be joined up to effectively address poverty and social exclusion
– A transmission methodology
Once innovations have been proven at the local level, a framework is needed within which these can be disseminated. From then point of view of the local initiative, the mechanism of social franchising provides a way of spreading new ideas to other locations. A social franchise allows a ‘kit’ of tried and tested components to be taken up and applied by a new group of people, who can benefit from support and quality assurance provided by the originator. The group of franchisees would typically be joined to the franchisor through a secondary structure which can share and transfer good practice and develop common tools.
– Community rights
National governments should delegate power and control over resources to local communities, who know about, and are in a position to remedy, local problems. A strategic framework is given by the UK’s Localism Act of 2011, which aims to empower local communities to take over the provision of public services in the context of austerity in central government spending. A set of Community Rights has been established, which enable local people to draw up a community plan, build affordable housing and community facilities, bid for contracts to provide services, take over redundant assets such as buildings for community use at a discount, challenge planning decisions and closures of facilities and ‘pause’ the sale of assets such as pubs, giving the community time to mount their own bid for it.
Locality, the UK’s leading network of multipurpose, community-led organisations, offers local groups direct support worth £9,500 (€11,000) plus grants of up to £7,000 to prepare neighbourhood plans, and has so far helped nearly 400 groups to do this.
– Strategic framework
This must take place within a regulatory and cultural framework which is propitious. In Poland, Barka, faced with a lacuna in the legal framework for work integration, lobbied successfully for the passing of a series of laws which regulate social employment, social housing, volunteering and social co-operatives. The ESF has now stepped in with a national development programme (Integrated Support System for the Social Economy) which is surveying social economy activity around the country, establishing good practice guidelines and quality standards, and facilitating the dissemination and creation of new local initiatives. The components of the programme are delivered by eight different organisations. This top-down systemic action, guide by the high-level Working Group for Systemic Solutions in the Social Economy which advises the President, is a necessary corollary to the encouragement of community-led local development initiatives. It is based on a partnership between the government and social economy sectors, and is coupled with annual conferences which facilitate dialogue. This Working Group was one of the good practices analysed at the first peer review meeting of the Social Entrepreneurship Network (SEN) ESF Learning Network in Trento in September 2013.

How can SEN change the world? 24 September 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in EU, social economy, Social enterprise.
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IFAD logframe cartoonThe Social Entrepreneurship Network’s logical framework allows us to keep track of whether we are achieving our objectives:

(Thanks for cartoon to IFAD)

SEN logframe

I think at Trento we kept on track, assembled a great stakeholder group, and covered the critical success factors quite well.

What should we look out for? I would say that:
– as regards the food for our work, the partners‘ role is crucial in contributing examples of good practice
– as regards changing the world, we have to constantly ensure that Structural Fund programmers are aware of the options we propose

Partnership – from theory to practice in two days 19 September 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative, EU, Social enterprise.
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‘Peer review’ is a banalised concept but last week the Social Entrepreneurship Network took it from theory to practice. It took a high-flown concept – “Public sector capacity – strategic partnerships and governance models” – and turned it to practical use by people in a position to change things. I really enjoyed the event. Why?
SEN's Trento peer reviewFirst because of the committed people. Comparing it with an EU social inclusion peer review is was so much livelier and more committed. So much so that on the second day we moved quickly on past the concept of ‘transferability’ to a practical job. The people there were the right people – people who can make partnerships happen around Europe. So, instead of producing a theoretical comparison of different solutions to policy problems, we actually skilled up real live participants in the process – people engaged in the social economy as well as those running the ESF. This was enabled by the quick-witted and responsive facilitation skills of Luigi Martignetti of REVES.
Secondly the setting. I’d never been to Trento before, and quite apart from being fabled for its social co-ops, it’s a lovely place. A peaceful town with glamorous shops and bars selling wine at €2 a glass, with free tapas thrown in. The cathedral’s north transept has a remarkable Adam and Eve sculpture, in which the paintings on either side trompent l’oeil by become three-dimensional, and rising out of the frame. But it’s not all history. In the sleek modernist railway station, serpentine container trains thunder through from the Brenner pass, reminding me that isolated though it is if you try to arrive by air, Trento is there because it’s on a major trade route. Our meeting took placed in the provincial HQ on Piazza Dante, where the poet points upwards to the surrounding cloud-topped alps. The valley is full of vineyard and apple orchards, there is car-sharing and plenty of bicycles – and I was delighted to find an excellent micro-brewery in the shape of the Pedavena . This is sited just outside the old city walls, and has not only a shady garden (it was still summer in mid-September) but a massive and packed Bavarian-style beer hall surrounding its gleaming coppers and fermenting vessels. It brews light, red, dark and wheat beers and serves food to go with them.
So it’s a civilised town, and has civilised institutions to go with it. We were fortunate to be invited to spend the evening in one of them, the Samuele social co-operative. This is located on a hillside with wonderful views, in the Villa San Ignazio building that the declining Jesuit order no longer has a use for. The co-op started making leather goods, expanded by opening shop in the town centre, and then opened a bar and restaurant. The bar is called ‘Bar Naut’ an Italian pun on the ‘burnout’ that social workers can all too easily suffer from. The co-op’s president, Massimo Komatz, hardly had to introduce the enterprise before being pleasantly barraged with acute questions.
Antibodies to defeat the neoliberal virus
To kick off the meeting, we were treated to an inspiring introduction by Felice Scalvini ex of Federsoliderietà and CECOP, and now back home as a councillor in Brescia. He emphasised that the mushrooming growth of Italy’s social co-operatives – there are now 11,000 of them employing 301,000 people – didn’t just happen by accident: it was a conscious choice by a movement of committed people. This quantitative dynamic has led to a cultural, scientific and institutional dynamic. The two ‘evil characters’ in the story are:
• the ‘Washington consensus’ and the idea that injections of capital can solve social problems
• the European idea of introducing competition into the third sector. Co-operatives develop through co-operation – consortia, pacts etc. – not competition.
He urged us to be the antibodies that will defeat these dangerous viruses.
After an exhaustive statistical overview, the Con.Solida and four co-ops themselves then came to present what they did – and in those summery conditions I have to confess that with the best will in the world my attention wandered.
It was brought back into focus by the presentations of our three cases: the Polish Working Group on Systemic Solutions in the Social Economy, Trentino’s ‘Intervento 18’ which supports work integration co-operatives, and Scotland’s Public-Social Partnership at Low Moss prison. It was a rich menu. The three initiatives are at different levels – national, regional and local – and show how policy-makers can work with the social economy to solve serious social, problems like long-term unemployment and reoffending. They ranged from the overarching political to the technocratic evidence-based, but shared the feature of partnership between public authorities and the social economy.
I was particularly impressed by the quality of the nine peer comment papers, which made honest assessments of their own experience and contributed many acute insights into why the three initiatives we were reviewing worked, and how the lessons might be applied elsewhere.
Partnership is not optional
This was Luigi Martignetti’s reminder, referring to the EU’s Structural and Investment Funds. This heralded our second day’s work, in which we broke up into three small groups to discuss the tools for partnership. Concepts we explored included autonomy, objectives, leadership, sustainability, efficiency, transparency, opportunity, innovation, strategy, process, community, funding, human resources, contracts, quality, transfer, indicators and evaluation.
It was my particular pleasure to share with the group my feeling that the overused term ‘innovation’ doesn’t really mean much more than ‘problem solving’. The word has been borrowed from the world of technological R&D, where it is defined not just as the brainwave of inventing something, but of developing a saleable product and bringing it to market. In this sense innovation is an economic term. Similarly in the social field: what we judge to be an innovative project is one which identifies a problem, puts together techniques and resources to address it, and proposes a feasible way of solving it. This is in distinction to simply applying the traditional solutions.
Forward to Strasbourg
At the end, SEN discussed what we know as ‘mainstreaming’ – i.e. how we could make an impact on GECES and at the Strasbourg conference on 16th & 17th January 2014.
I think SEN has broken new ground with this peer review, and don’t doubt that the second in the series, in Malmö on 5th & 6th December on the topic of “Growth and Development”, lives up to my now raised expectations. Thanks to Malgorzata, Aleksandra, Dorotea, Luigi, our speakers and hosts, and everyone who came for making it such an enjoyable and productive two days.

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