Stakeholder involvement at the heart of municipal partnerships
To ensure that local governments are truly working for the public good, organised and active citizen participation is a must. That is why ICLD considers it very important that the projects within the Municipal Partnership programme are based on broad stakeholder involvement. This seems particularly important at the initial planning phases of the project. The Swedish municipality of Håbo has succesfully been developing, together with their partners, Livingstone (Zambia) and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), their project idea by enlisting the help of their target groups.
The municipal partnership between Swedish Håbo, Zambian Livingstone and Zimbabwean Victoria Falls proved to be good at involving their stakeholders from the very start. The partnership is in their first so-called “Inception Phase” – a one-year phase during which a project plan for a more long-term project is getting established. It is during an Inception Phase that teams should strongly consult their stakeholders.
At the beginning of their collaboration, the three municipalities agreed on a relatively broad topic of empowerment of young people in accessing civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights in their communities. As is usually the case in the initial phase of a partnership between municipalities, the range of identified challenges was far too wide and varied, and in order to narrow it down and to understand who their stakeholders are, the team have been working with Logical Framework Approach, a project design methodology chosen by ICLD. Moreover, the team decided to analyse some statistics and publications, such as reports on youth problems, on newcomers, integration, youth with school absenteeism and so on. Thereafter, a map over target groups and a plan on how to reach them were made.
Developing the project concept through consultations
Among the identified target groups were municipal workers, beneficiaries, young people belonging to various groups, such as newcomers, youth with school absenteeism, LGBTQ youth, and so on. However, some groups of youth have been harder to reach out to than others, and the team had to find different ways to establish a dialogue with them:
– Obviously, it is easier for us to reach the target group that we meet every day, says Jennifer Martins, Acting Head of Unit for Young Håbo. Here in Håbo, it is visitors of our youth centre, that is to say young people at the age of 13–19. With hemmasittare (youth with school absenteeism), it is harder, because they are at home and maybe don’t want to come anywhere, and maybe don’t feel so good. Therefore, we had to go through our colleague at the social services who works with them and ask her to connect us. So, we definitely meet different levels of accessibility.
Nils Backlund and Melissa Ychoo, moderators at the Democracy Day in Håbo, August 2022. 100 young people aged 13-19 from Håbo’s schools were invited to participate. Local politicians and officials also participated during the day. The theme of the day was Agenda 2030, which was part of the ICLD project. Photo: Håbo kommun.
When the direct and the indirect target groups were identified in Håbo, Livingstone and Victoria Falls, and a strategy on how to reach them was developed, the teams started to consult different target groups, trying not to leave anyone unheard. That helped the team to narrow down their problem even more, says Lilian Severin, project leader from Håbo:
– We have narrowed down the project concept to increase the accessibility in the public debate of various groups of youths. We can now be sure that the project will have realistic activities and will lead to tangible results.
In addition, the project group are convinced that without consulting their stakeholders, there is always a risk that the project will not succeed in meeting the needs of the people it addresses:
– We can have many ideas that are so great, because we are good at making ideas, says Jennifer Martins. But if our ideas are not what they need, the project is going to fail. So, the most important thing is to get to know the target group: where are they, what do they want, what do they see, what do they hear?
Here is some practical advice that the project group would like to share:
- Build a good team. Involving colleagues you can rely on in the project process makes it much more productive. A team of four is ideal.
- Dare to talk. Step out of your comfort zone, it is never too early to go out and talk to people. Go to the next service which is in touch with your idea – just brainstorm at a cup of coffee or at lunch. Involvement and consultations are important!
- Get to know your target group.
- Consult various reports. The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society is a great resource to choose the pathway.
- Contact ICLD. Don’t be ashamed to write to your coordinator and ask for advice or suggestions or to ask to facilitate some stages of your project.