Taking ownership of objectives
After it has been set up and self-validated, the co-ordination group asserts its justification for existence and its function, taking ownership of the objective of building co-responsibility for the well-being of all and all that this entails, including:
- The definition of well-being for all, as an objective of progress, with citizens themselves in an open and direct democratic process ensuring that all have an equal right to express their views;
- The development of co-responsibility activities, through increasing and inclusive participation by all residents and other local stakeholders in conjunction with other areas;
- The revision of current public policies and activities in the light of citizens’ criteria on the basis of joint participatory evaluation;
- The need to adopt cross-cutting guidelines, including stopping the use of non-renewable resources, and energy resources in particular, reducing inequalities as necessary in the 21st century context, and the corollary of this, reducing poverty;
- The ensuing priorities, including the attention to be given to extreme situations (cases of exclusion, under or over-use of resources, wastage, etc).
These represent significant changes in method as compared to conventional approaches. They therefore need to be properly discussed and clarified, and all their implications understood. Presentations and discussions may be arranged within the co-ordination group, with or without the presence of citizens who would like to participate. It may be particularly useful during this phase to make use of cultural activities (screening films, putting on plays, lectures, exhibitions, etc). Selection of processes The co-ordination group must subsequently be able to select processes, depending on its own context and history. It may for example opt to start straight away with the second cycle of SPIRAL and set up single-profile groups of citizens. This offers the advantage of speedily getting residents and local stakeholders involved. However, the resulting activities have tended to be relatively limited and not very innovative when not enough time was allowed for local stakeholders to express their creativity and initiative.
For this reason, it is now recommended:
- That newly set-up co-ordination groups first conduct an initial progress cycle to provide impetus and references for the second cycle;
- That established co-ordination groups which have already conducted this kind of cycle (in the context of, for instance, an Agenda 21 project, a social cohesion plan, a territorial action plan, etc) either start the second cycle straight away in order to increase the public and participatory dimensions of their process or make an effort in advance to learn more from the first, drawing on SPIRAL’s proposals in respect of that cycle.
Involving citizens and communities in securing societal progress requires an understanding of the concepts and issues involved in the participatory processes and of each person’s role, and the acquisition of methodological skills. It is therefore worth spending time on training the facilitators and indeed all the members of the co-ordination group. There are several ways in which this can be done. One of the most worthwhile, particularly when launching the deliberation process in several communities, is to organise training in groups with about 40 or 50 people and to implement the process in vivo, first with the group itself and then in the field. Training not only enables the various facilitators and/or co-ordinators and members of the co-ordination group to learn skills, but also provides an opportunity to test the methods and to think collectively about how they can be adapted to the circumstances.
In the Walloon Region (Belgium), representatives of the 15 municipalities interested in working on well-being with citizens received training of this kind, first in the classroom and then in the three pilot municipalities.