What is Civil-public partnership?

Civil-public partnership is a form of participatory governance in which public administration and civil society cooperate in the use and management of public resources. The key word here is “partnership”, because in such governance models both actors should have equal roles and decision-making power. 

The term civil-public partnership means cooperation between the public and civil sectors, but unlike the delegation of tasks and expenditures from the position of power to civil society actors (organizations, cooperatives, initiatives, various collectives), the center of civil-public partnership shares responsibility for management and use of public resources. Such management and use is different from the mentioned conventional and traditional approaches where the public authority, most often the local government, delegates to civil society organizations activities for the fulfilment of which it is responsible. In the case of such a partnership, the responsibility for management is shared, but also the use of the common good – neither is civil society prevented from full access to the public good, nor is the responsibility for its preservation and improvement fully transferred to it.

Almost all actors in the field of non-institutional culture in Croatia, to a greater or lesser extent, face the problem of lack of space to perform daily activities and to present their work. Even though in many cities there are suitable facilities for this, which are often abandoned military or industrial heritage buildings, the processes of opening, conversion and renovation of these spaces are generally very slow. To point out the needs and benefits that the revitalization of existing spaces with a new purpose can bring to the life of the local community, several advocacy platforms and initiatives are active in Croatia. At the same time, these initiatives promote innovative models of managing these spaces, which are based on cross-sectoral cooperation and civil-public partnership.

Models of civil-public partnership exist in different forms, with different durations and intensity, and the Croatian independent cultural scene knows almost all of them. 

The Zagreb Center for Independent Culture and Youth POGON is a new joint institution co-founded and co-managed by the public (City of Zagreb) and civil sector (Operation City), which has taken over the role of public resource management (for now, the space of the former factory Jedinstvo and workspaces in Mislavova). 

The Rojc Social Center is managed by a Coordination consisting of three representatives of the Rojc Association and three representatives of the City of Pula, which we could call a joint management model if the Coordination's conclusions would not have to be approved by an appointed person from the City.

However, this is not a model of collaborative management, such as the one in Split where the Youth Center is under the jurisdiction of the Multimedia Cultural Center, a public city institution in culture, which jointly manages the use of space with the Youth Center Platform, the organisations which use the space. The extended cooperation models exists in Karlovac, where cooperation between the public and civil sector is established at the level of providing public resources (Hrvatski dom) to the civil sector (the KAoperativa organisational network), to management and use for a certain period of time, free of charge and with the obligation of the public sector to cover part of the material costs of using the infrastructure, while Kooperativa ensures the public (cultural and social) use of space.

Terms we associate with civil-public partnership: Participatory governance, Models of public infrastructure management for culture, Socio-cultural centers.

Participatory governance

Participatory governance is the equal sharing of obligations and responsibilities between different sectors (public administration, local authorities, civil society…) which thus achieve the common goals of public interest. In this way, public spaces, but also public goods in general, can be managed. Participatory governance is recognized as a long-term sustainable and quality form of governance, because it involves different actors from differentl existential, social, economic, and political facets, and thus ensures broad participation of all stakeholders.

Participatory management in practice provides concrete answers to questions such as: who makes decisions, and how? Who takes responsibility for what? How is communication achieved between various stakeholders about important issues? How is the jointly managed public resource used, i.e. “programmed”? Participatory governance in practice should always be carefully designed and adapted, as much as possible, to the context and local community within which it develops.

Models of public infrastructure management for culture

So far, in the Croatian context, we have mainly recognized and recorded models of public institutions, cultural centers, public open universities, etc. where the founder, and then the manager, is the city or the state. On the other hand, there are increasing tendencies towards emerging models: socio-cultural centers, squats, where the founders and managers are from civil society organizations, or civil society and public administration.

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