Purpose, terms of reference
Building co-responsibility for the well-being of all requires us to actively seek and promote consultation between the relevant players. A key part of this is for the people behind the project to set up a co-ordination group. A body of this kind provides an opportunity for genuine inter-sectoral partnership that is representative of the functions of a particular area, steering the process and making decisions at all the various stages along the way.
The task of instituting and establishing the co-ordination group needs to be carried out carefully, allowing sufficient time for the various stakeholders to become completely familiar with the concept.
Usually an initial meeting with the main players in the reference area (with, in the case of areas, every effort being made to ensure that both the more vulnerable members of society and the better-off are duly represented) is enough to outline the aim of the exercise and secure a consensus on the main points. At this meeting, the group will be asked to consider whether it is genuinely representative and to make sure that no section of the community has been left out. A second meeting will then be held with anyone whom the group feels ought to be included.
A formal footing
Often co-ordinating bodies are set up under an ad hoc arrangement and run on an informal basis. Putting them on a more formal footing, however, can help to give them greater legitimacy and ensure their viability in the long term. Where a partnership or formal consultation structure already exists, making use of this body has three advantages: it provides a boost to the body in question, making it more representative and recognisable, and enabling it to evolve and widen its role through the acquisition of new methods and tools; it avoids duplication, which is apt to cause confusion or indeed conflicts of interest that are the very opposite of the kind of approach proposed here; and lastly, it obviates the need to for establishing a more formal footing as this has already been taken care of.
This is the case for instance with the community networks in each municipality in Portugal and the Citizens’ Assemblies in Turkey.
Sometimes transforming the co-ordination group into an officially recognised body with legal status can help turn it into a fully-fledged structure for organising and managing local initiatives, including their funding.
In Cape Verde, Regional Partners Commissions (CRPs) governed by a specific law giving them special status (the CRP Act) have been set up on each island as part of the national rural poverty alleviation programme, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). These are full-blown consultation, decision-making and management partnerships, involving representatives of municipalities, community associations, decentralised authorities, NGOs, businesses and other local stakeholders. They have the financial independence required to take co-responsibility decisions throughout the whole process.
Facilitation and expertise
If the process is to be sustained in the long term, at least one facilitator needs to be appointed. This is a task for the co-ordination group, which is the body that makes decisions and steers the process whereas the job of the facilitator or facilitators is to make the process more effective. The role of the experts - particularly in the methodological field – likewise needs to be clarified so that citizens can develop a full understanding of the approach.
Specialist working groups
The co-ordination group may decide to set up its own specialist working groups on key themes for the area concerned. These are generally set up at a later stage such as stage 4, when the aim is to examine specific themes or issues more closely. However, in order to cater for future generations, one or more working groups on resources – focusing on resources under threat and pooling all the current expertise on the subject – should be set up right at the beginning of the process. These will be called “working groups on material resources/assets” and one of the subjects that they may focus on is debt.