Institutional Collaboration for Developing Local Democracy: A Literature Review

This literature review presents findings from earlier research on institutional collaboration for developing local democracy. Local authorities engage in a range of different collaborative relationships with partners abroad to exchange knowledge and practices to the as-sumed benefit of all parties. Common examples of this are municipal partnerships, twinning projects and sister cities. This is an interesting area to study since it pro-vides knowledge that can be of use to local politicians and public servants who are, or aim to be, involved in institutional collaboration.

The review seeks to identify the critical aspects of col-laborative partnerships for local democracy developme-nt in existing research and the implications of these for practitioners. It examines relevant peer-reviewed articles accumulated through systematic searches on two search engines, Scopus and UniSearch, in 2021. This involved different types of institutional collaboration in order to present an overview of common challenges, opportu-nities and success factors for collaborative programmes set within the wider field of local democracy develop-ment. Key aspects for collaboration are examined regar-ding North-South dynamics and issues of mutuality in learning, participation, accountability, and transparency. The most common forms of collaboration studied in the articles were at the municipal or city level, often invol-ving wider community groups. Despite being promoted as holding great potential due to institutional similarities that traditional development actors lack, there is a range of challenges associated with these partnerships. The literature centres around the dynamics of partnerships and which factors lead to achieving desired outcomes.

There are three main types of collaboration differing in levels of formal institutional structure. The first is network, which is loose, horizontal structures lack-ing articulated goals and commitments. The second is cooperation, which has mutual gains as the main cha-racteristic. The final is partnership, which is the most structured and features agreements, plans of action and independent partners (Baud 2002).

Important themes in the literature were mutual learning and the links between trust building, accountability, transparency and participation. While many of the re-searchers identified different success factors for collaboration projects, recurring factors were political support, public participation, communication through information and knowledge exchange, structured leadership and management and relationships, and trust between partner members.