Strong governance in a strong region: reorganising the co-operation model (B)

Project partners    Intercommunale Leiedal, municipalities Kortrijk region, University Leuven Division Kortrijk (KULAK), University College West-Flanders (HOWEST), University College KATHO, CCI West-Flanders, University College Ghent, RESOC Kortrijk, Welzijnsconsortium, Cultuuroverleg Rego Kortrijk, Eurometropool, WTV Press, Public Welfare Organisations Kortrijk region (OCMWs), major companies, Conference of Mayors, employee organisations, AZ Groenine, Kanaal127, Sinergiek, SEL, LOGO, Buda Kunstencentrum, elected politicians SP.A, CD&V, Groen! And Open VLD, key people from different sectors (economy, educations, welfare, culture…).

Contact data
Bart Noels
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Key words

Main problems to be solved (analysis)
In the last 50 years society has changed substantially. The way the Kortrijk region works together (‘is organised’) has become much more complex as well: Europe plays a more prominent role, the Eurometropole has been established, the Flemish government (which did not exist in 1960) is dominant in many domains, the provinces and municipalities have changed both in domains in which they are active and the way they work. The relation and dynamics between urban and rural has changed. Many organisations professionalised. New organisations became active in new domains (like nature and mobility). Businesses work in a strongly changed economic context. The political parties (and how they interact with regional development) have changed, as well as the way they ‘make’ politics and policies.

A remarkable development has been the strong sectorial organisation of society. In only twenty years society became sectoralised. Welfare for example was divided in care for disabled, care for elderly, care for mental illness, etc – with institutional and legal divisions between them. Spatial management is approached from sectors like nature, economy, housing – each with their own legal framework and coordinating organisations, all with their own administrations, procedures, rules – both on the local and central level. It is becoming more and more complex to govern through these sectors and to approach problems in an integrated way. Major cities can manage this because of their critical mass in professionals; smaller (and mainly rural) municipalities cannot and ‘undergo’ developments. In order to maintain the qualities of rural areas and tackle problems, an integrated approach is needed.

In the last fifty years, the Kortrijk region responded to these developments to the establishment of regional organisations and new co-operation frameworks of all types in many domains. Today 135 such organised frameworks are active. Key question is how the region should organise itself to deal with the challenges (internal and external, local and global, in all sectors). Second question is how the current way of working together can be assessed and which strategy should be used for the current challenges and coming years.

In order to prepare the region for current and future challenges, the first question to be solved is to assess whether the current ‘de facto’ organisation within a region is democratic, efficient, effective and whether the way public and private organisations work together leads to a valid, valuable and effective strategy. The challenge is to improve the regional ‘machinery’.

Policy frameworks to be dealt with/fitting in
1.    RESOC – Regional Economic and Social Cooperation Framework – within Kortrijk region (regional implementation Flemish policy).
2.    Increased cooperation between local authorities (Flemish decree intermunicipal cooperation)
3.    White Book Flemish Government on Internal Government Organisation on making cooperation between government levels more efficient
4.    Societal trends on increased involvement of citizen-oriented and community organisation in the policy preparation (societal trend).

Aim of the project
The Strong Governance in a Strong Region project (SGSR) is not about defining content-related goals for the region, like to assess the quality or provision of education, nor the situation of the economy, welfare, health or other themes.
The SGSR is about the question whether the current ‘de facto’ organisation within a region is efficient, whether it leads to a valid, valuable and effective strategy, which regional projects are needed and how ideally they should be defined, and which changes in the daily working together between organisations are needed. The three questions the SGSR is dealing with are:

1.    How active, how dynamic, how efficient are the current cooperation frameworks in the region?
2.    How active and how strong is the cooperation between private organisations, community organisations and the public sector – an how can this PPC become better?
3.    How efficient and democratic is the public sector organised in the region and how can this be improved.

The SGSR intended to kick off a continuous debate within a region how to work together more effective and by this to become stronger, both internally and externally. A region here is defined as all actors active within a geographic area: regional actors, local authorities, universities and university colleges, research organisations, community foundations, sector organisations, employer and employee organisations, hospitals etc. The focus is not on ‘what’ to do but on the ‘how to do it’. Key is that the region wants to question itself: its local dynamic, its organisations, its methodologies to work together, its capacity to involved younger generations in the wide debate of regional development. The region wants (i) to improve on efficiency (using limited means with greater effect); wants (ii) more democracy (governance, subsidiarity, strong partnerships between public, private and community); and (iii) wants a more integrated approach as opposed to a too sectoral approach of society.

 (Expected) Results
1.    Discussion on the identity of the region
2.    Agreed list of action domains where to work on
3.    New methodologies to work together
4.    Reorganisation organisational network
5.    Governance monitoring

(Expected) outcome within the WP
Going trough a full cycle of the SGSR, with newly established network between organisations and partners.

(Expected) outcome for the region as a whole
(impact of the project; effects may be     written in terms of the sustainability triangle = 3 P approach (people, planet,     profit), i.e. benefits on the social, economical and physical part)
Clarification, modernisation and adapation of the regional machinery to new external challenges.

1.    Research and development phase: 2010-2011
2.    Implementation phase: 2011-2013

200.000 euro, mainly consultancy, staff and communication

50% region (several partners), 50% ERDF

Additional costs

Implementation of the project (cf. CAA)
  About the project

 Which stakeholders were involved?
 Intercommunale Leiedal, municipalities Kortrijk region, University Leuven Division Kortrijk (KULAK), University College West-Flanders (HOWEST), University College KATHO, CCI West-Flanders, University College Ghent, RESOC Kortrijk, Welzijnsconsortium, Cultuuroverleg Rego Kortrijk, Eurometropool, WTV Press, Public Welfare Organisations Kortrijk region (OCMWs), major companies, Conference of Mayors, employee organisations, AZ Groenine, Kanaal127, Sinergiek, SEL, LOGO, Buda Kunstencentrum, elected politicians SP.A, CD&V, Groen! And Open VLD, key people from different sectors (economy, educations, welfare, culture…).

What process did you run through to fit the project into local conditions?
A project structure was setup that reflected values of both transparency, thoroughness and effectiveness.

 Which successes were achieved so far in the pilot project?
What is the background / main reason for these successes?
•    Right timing
•    Open but Smart selection of partners and key persons within partners
•    Shared problem definition
•    Shared sense of urgency (societal developments, external challenges, generational review)
•    Open but central process management
•    Mix of generations
•    Mix of people (typical professional negotiators with real leaders)

what set-backs or problems did you face and what were the reasons for this?
•    Perceived self-interest some organisations (any change means loss of power)
•    Complex process requires funding, preferably financed by several organisations
•    Policy initiatives of central or intermediate government result in ‘fog’ or interfere with dialogue
•    On some moments a too government-centred approach which bored the non-government representatives

are there any break-down patterns to be recognized in the project?
•    Meeting between organisations on formal level, replaced by current and future leaders of the organisations talking
•    Not looking at the region through the eyes of the organisations, but looking at the different organisations through the eyes of the region itself.
•    A government-initiated initiative that does not only involve public organisations and challenges but also semi-public, private and community organisations and their challenges.
•    Setting out a shared agenda not in terms of goals and targets (which is the domain of other for a) but in terms of wharves where future cooperation is needed.

are these set-backs, problems or break-down patterns easy to solve? How?  
•    Timing central government initiatives
•    HRM – change of staff
•    Momentum from analysis to action

what are the DO’s and the DON’Ts of the project?
1.    DO NOT be tempted as an initiating organisation to lead to much. Going for the back-driver seat is sometimes slower, but in the long term more effective.
2.    DO NOT be tempted to define the shared problem definition as the sum of the problem definitions and agendas of the participating partners
3.    DO NOT be tempted to define the group of participating sectors, organisations and leaders as ‘the region’ but critically assess whether you have the full scope of the region involved
4.    DO communicate both internally (minutes, access to reports) and externally (website, newsletters) and attempt to reach out
5.    DO NOT define a list of conditions-to-must-be-met-by others before your own initiatives are or can be successful. If your success depends to a large extent on a change of legislations/rules or desired-but-not-yet-awarded financial streams, then likely your own problem definition is faulty.

what are critical success factors in this project?
•    Expertise in process
•    Expertise in government and society
•    Selection of people involved
•    Open culture amongst participants
•    Shared sense of urgency
•    Clear understanding of the project as momentum and not as goal in itself

What are the expected boundary conditions for the project to be implemented?

-in terms of policy frameworks
The shared goal must be explicitly in line with or not contradictory with a higher policy initiative. Otherwise this will lead to too much interference and confusion.
The key partners must explicitly acknowledge that the project objectives lie within their policy degrees of freedom.

  - in terms of physical circumstances
A convenient meeting location with proper facilities, depending on the amount of participants and nature of the meeting (brainstorming, in-depth analysis, update-meetings etc).

- in terms of involvement of people / partnerships / entrepreneurs / public bodies
Involvement of the right people representing the right organisations is key to the success of the project as it involves an out-of-the-box thinking of a whole region. As the interest of the region is central, make sure that not only public and governmental agencies participate but also entrepreneurs, community organisations, semi-public organisations from several sectors including economy, employer organisations, employee organisations, political organisations, environmental, welfare and cultural organisations. Attempt to create a joint culture amongst the participants, characterised by participants representing themselves rather than their organisation, an open culture (negative reports are not hidden or paraphrased), a positive culture (organisational setbacks are solved before communicated), a culture where the good idea and ‘bon mot’ is preferred above the hierarchy and professional speak, a culture where both a link is made with the past (know your  history) and future (it will be the younger generation that will realize the current dreams of the older generation). Do not be afraid to appoint old and wise (former) politicians to chair the key meetings as they are per definition consensus-builders and have sorted out for themselves what really matters..

  - in terms of budget and financial support
Provide money for process management, project management, external events and communication. Treat it as a separate project with its own budget, goals, milestones and organise yourself accordingly.

 Which related projects can be studied or consulted (other innovative best practice examples) before starting to think on implementation?  
Similar projects done in other comparable regions within the EU.

 What is the applicability / transferability of the project?
  a) as derived from the project results
- in terms of critical mass (physical, social, budget)

Sufficial budget needs to be available to facilitate the process and project management for the duration of the project. This budget needs to be available at the beginning, preferably by the initiating actor. Additional budgets coming trough European or national funding and contributions from other actors participating or not participating in the project, can be used to attract specialised experts, foster communication initiatives, organise events or kick-off follow-up initiatives (wharves). The process should not be endangered by discussions on budget simply to get the process going.
- in terms of the needs of the region or location
The approach needs to be accustomed to the specific DNA of a region. The underlying principles (culture, process and project management, communication) however will be very similar.
- in terms of the starting point for implementation
The approach works very well for the initial phases of a similar process as it involves the building of the project culture, the jointly undertaken shift of position (looking at all organisations through the eyes of the region) and a joint definition of wharves. Once the different wharves are defined, different approaches are needed, all tailored to the objectives and specific starting position.
- in terms of participation and organization
Every organisation needs to understand that it is entirely in or entirely out of the process. The intensity and region-driven approach, does not fit for mere observers or ‘tactical participants’. This approach can be found in similar initiatives.
- in terms of time needed for implementation
Time needed involved 6 months initial preparation, one year of meetings and another six months of ‘landing’ and wrapup. Once the different wharves are known, parallel projects can start as long as they keep referencing to the original group. This timing will be found in many similar processes.
- in terms of expected outcome (spin off for other fields: physical, social, economical)

The expected outcome is to re-engineer the ‘machinery of a region’, namely the existence and nature of working together of very different organisations all in one or more sense collaborating for a better region. The methodology can be adapted to several other sectors like culture, welfare, innovation-driven sectors, etc as is combines a 360° assessment of how organisations in a domain/region/field work together from the perspective and through the prism of (here) regional development.

 b) as derived from testing or implementation the project or the project results elsewhere.
What were the results there?   
A joint definition of ten wharves where to work together in different kind of constellations. These ‘wharves’ involved (in general terms) models for stronger cooperation between public partners; agreement on models where innovative ideas could grow, whether or not it came from public or private initiative; models where efficiency of public initiatives could be improved (efficiency as defined by both the private, public and community sector).

Tools in this project
1.    Communication strategy and communication instruments
2.    Methodologies to create a broad support amongst professionals, active organisations and citizens of such a critical yet untangible endeavour
3.    Model to set up such a complex initiative, including step-outline
4.    Definition of needed profiles, and how to find these amongst the participation organisations
5.    Models for increased public-private-community cooperation within a region
6.    Methodologies to let public organisations work together more effectively, within a given legal context

a) How is/can the project be sustainably implemented? What is needed to reach this?
- in terms of organization
The sustainability of the project is mainly defined in the initial stages of the project: the more clear and honest the intentions of the participating organisations are, the easier it will be to transfer the cooperation throughout the different phases of the project and subsequent initiatives. The finance of process and project management however in a later phase needs to come from all participating partners..
-in terms of regional / local networks/partnerships / people  
The project led to a shared definition of a region, a shared vocabulary, a mutual understanding of the intentions and interests of all partners involved, a mutual sense of realism (understanding external vectors), and group of people (current and future leaders) that met each other in an important moment of the region and therefore of their careers.  
- in terms of budget
The finance of process and project management however in a later phase needs to come from all participating partners

 b) what are the benefits of the project seen from the Profit, Planet, and People side?  
A better and stronger region, adapted to current economic, financial, social and cultural challenges will benefit all. An efficient government will benefit citizens and business alike. An active population with future-proof capacities and a strong sense of initiative will benefit business, government and communities.

Cross-generational and cross-sectorial identification with a region by current and future leaders
Shared understanding of challenges and opportunities as well as a shared understanding of the value, focus and concern of each of the organisations involved.
An element in the shared understanding of the challenges of the region is the understanding that space is limited, and that consequently every square meter reserved for industry opposes space reserved for green or nature. The shared understanding of space as a scarce commodity is valuable.

18    Last update of this format
May 15th 2013