Case study: Ways of acting towards mobilisation and development of local community
»LOCOMOTIVe project Lika»; Edited by Jadranka Pelikan and Nataša Škrbić
During the period of three years (from 2000 to 2003) in Baltic countries, the British Embassy Department for International Development – DFID financed the project Baltic Rural Partnership, which turned out quite successful and a good role model for rural areas' development. Primary goal of the project was the involvment of marginalized groups of population into society and warding off poverty. Considering the fact DFID of the British Embassy in Croatia had acted in Lika for a long time, helping endangered population groups by granting single donations for motivating the development of village households, it was decided to apply the Baltic model in Croatia. Coming to Croatia, British and Lithuanian consultants saw that the Baltic project could not be fitted into living conditions of Lika, because of different population mentality, climate, war consequnces, completely destroyed economy and numerous other problems. Therefore, it had been decided to create a new project for Croatian conditions which would support donators' goals (DFID of British Embassy), and which would be adjusted to local needs. Project was entitled LOCOMOTIVe (Local Community Motivation) by keeping ambiguous symbolics: project for mobilisation of local community and locomotive development.
At the same, cooperation had been offered to potential interest groups already acting or having announced their performance in areas of three chosen municipalities of Lika. The project included: Ministry of seas, tourism, transport and development – Administration for regional development as coordinator, County Lika-Senj as the partner for ROP design, charity organisation ADRA as administrative service, OSCE as support and contact on a local level, and head principles of three chosen municipalities – Udbina, Vrhovine and Plitvička jezera. (lakes of Plitvice). It had been arranged that the project would be implemented contemporaneously on different levels: 1. On a local level, the process of strategic planning for local development would be implemented as micro-region (what would make it easier for municipalities to access native and foreign funds). Representatives of three sectors from target municipalities (Plitvička jezera, Udbina i Vrhovine) would participate in the process (public sector, business and civil sector), equally numbered. Representatives of institutions whose importance is beyond municipality level, were included into partnership for creating a strategic plan (National park Plitvička jezera, Home for old and helpless persons Udbina, Agricultural-consultant service, ADRA and the representative of Lika-Senj County, member of partnership for ROP design – Regional Operative Plan). Partnership built in this manner had been called Local Action Group (LAG) according to LEADER manual (methodology of which was partly used for implementation of the project). LEADER is the EU programme for rural areas' development; 2. On a county level – during the process of ROP design for Lika-Senj county, materials, information and results between these two projects would be exchanged. Moreover, in the Partnership for ROP design, which counted 25 to 30 members, 6 representatives were also LAG members; 3. On a national level – results and conclusions arisen during implementation of the project were put into the plan of measures of regional development which would be the component of national strategy of rural development. Project Management Team with headquarters in the Ministry – Administration for regional development, was formed, also Policy Reference Group made of 5 Ministry representatives who had given their comments and approval for the final version of strategic plan and other documents originated from the project; and 4. On an international level – the donator had decided to motivate the development of local communities, next to education and direct acting in local community development, by financing a part of implementation of the originated strategic plan through Small grants programme.
The entire project had started on ''paper'' during April 2004., and in the local community itself at the beginning of July of the same year, by opening the LOCOMOTIVe office in the building of Plitvička jezera municipality. The project was closed on March 31st, 2005., by signing a contract with the support recipients through Small grants programme. This means that the project took altogether 12 months, including the phase of planning. DFID London assigned the amount of 60.000 British pounds, which equals something more than 630.000 kuna, to the bank account of the admministrator (ADRA organisation) for opening a call for tender and financing small development projects for organisations, municipalities, institutions and local citizens' initiatives. The condition for gaining funds were quality written projects which supported the development of local community and which did not relate with individual welfare but the welfare of local community and a larger group of people, all being in accordance with the mentioned strategic plan. 50 projects were recieved, 31 of which were approved while others were denied because of not realising enough points or they were put on a waiting list, in case they would be supported by the remaining means, with some corrections.
Planned strategies of informing, motivating and educating local leaders
Project was created and implemented by: the project manager Jadranka Pelikan, consultant for strategic planning of economic development (The Urban Institute) and sustainable area development (LEADER), trainor for PCM and pre-accessible EU funds (MEI), Jimmy Armstrong, first category consultant from Northern Ireland, cooperating with consultants from Lithuania, Onutė Babravičienė, and Croatia, Nataša Škrbić, during the entire process and with Branka Peurače during the first phase of the project. Although having an assigned model, methodology of the project had developed during the course of time and all participants had shown high level of flexibility and readiness to adjust to a situation.
According to Jadranka Pelikan, the process of project implementation and interactions between different actors involved into intervention, went relatively smooth and fast. Nevertheless, numerous comments and advice on project implementation had been coming from many sides, trying to, more or less successfully, implement projects in Lika. The general attitude was that it wasn't possible to form a Local Action Group which would have meetings once a week in order to work on the design of a strategic plan for local development on a volunteer level. Namely, it was considered that it had been ''popular'' to live from social support and wait for foreign donators in Lika, and that the people were passive, ethnically divided, local administration corrupted, slow and inefficient, and that the project would go down the drain like many others. But Jadranka's challenges were of different nature:
«The basic task was to think of a strategy for motivating people to involve themselves into project practice, and how to recognize potential local community initiators? The logics we followed was in identifying and educating leaders in order to make them motivate their community. But the basic challenge was in avoiding non-quality and somewhat ''professional attendants of seminars and workshops '' and to reach performative and quality people who are able to make a contribute to their community when the only challenge is the working area? Namely, the municipality Plitvička jezera administers an area of 43 localities and more than 4500 inhabitants the largest locality being Korenica with more than 1600 dwellers. Udbina as a municipality counts 1649 inhabitants but, the locality Udbina counts half the less, while the rest are scattered in 25 localities. In the municipality Vrhovine, according to census from 2001, there are 905 registered inhabitants living in 5 localities. Area division shows that in Plitvice Lakes these localities are placed on an area of even more than 550 km square, while for example, Udbina covers even a larger territory of more than 650 km2.»
During two summer months, July and August, a great number of individual meetings was organized with potential project participators, especially through sectors (meetings for entrepreneurs, meetings for associations and local citizens'initiatives). Meetings for citizenship were most visited and they were announced 10 days before in local stores, coffe bars and bus stations in all localities (a total of 74 in the area of 1350 km2). The project was presented and results predicted on these meetings. We rendered our objectives, anticipated by this project. The people who were asked what they wanted from this project made a list of needs according to which, an approach was formed to find potential local action group members. Most inhabitants expressed a desire for additional education, for initiating development and for events in general.
Local action group and community leaders
Local Action Group (LAG) was formed after having examined questionaires through which candidates expressed their motivation to participate in the project practice and a readiness to meet every week. With each candidate, and there were 38, a verbal interview was held, after which 21 person became a member. The selection of candidates was done by Initiative group made of municipality head principles and representatives of international organisations involved in the project. Because of the whole process and serionusness during selection, chosen members were very proud and in this way they achived acknowledgement in their community, while others who were denied found themselves somewhat hurt in feelings.
In time. some new groups of interested people had arisen, but the positions had already been filled. At that time Lithuanian model was applied again according to which a new group of people who were called community leaders was formed, and they needed education for preparing and writing project proposals for Small grants programme, and also for occasional meetings with LAG for the discussion on some parts of strategic plan.
The same model of application form and interview was applied as with choosing LAG; a group of also 21 person was chosen and it was supposed to apply the new learnt methodology for motivating its community. For the Initiative group two daily workshops in local areas were organized as well as a series of meetings in order to follow their performance in the community. Individual technical help while designing project proposal was provided. Members of both groups ( LAG and Leaders) were of different profession, sex, age, social and material status, and ethnic origin. Nevertheless, they came from various social positions in the community, those filling a post in high positions in municipalities and those who were currently without a powerful position in the community or those belonging to citizens' initiatives which were quite marginalized in Lika.
The answer to the question how to unite and motivate them for mutual practice, Jadranka says that the Lithuanian example served as a model by organizing a two- day training for better acquaintance and project introduction;
«In our case we went to Dugi otok, where some of the LAG members met for the first time. With the professionally led training for team formation, the group was integrated, confidence and collaboration were achieved. The first problem was solved and then, by consensus, as agreed, LAG chose one day in a week (Tuesday) for meetings as well as the hour of its holding. These became unvariable constants for all LAG members. Three weeks after, the performing group was permanently reduced to 19 members who kept a very high percentage of participation. During 16 meetings at which time the strategy developed, the smallest number of present members was 14. It is important to point out that these members travelled from distant places, apart for 45 km (Gospić), 35 km (Vrhovine) and 30 km (Udbina), at all wheather conditions (only one meeting was cancelled for every access road was closed because of snow).»
There is a dimension of special interest and symbolism running through entire project. Namely, the performing part for creating strategy was completed by formal awarding of thank-you letters and certificates of attendance for all members of both groups in December 2004., and a celebration on occasion of which the call for Small grants programme was announced. In general, the importance of small ceremonies that is success celebrations, was manifested, as well as of formal openings and closings of certain project phases which had intermediately served for additional participants' bonding and for emphasising the importance of their role.
Institutions did not remain indifferent either, Jadranka points out:
«County institutions had mostly understood our indispensability for documents and/or information, moreover, a great part was performed by the county itself in spreading the project image as cooperative and partnership-like. Local institutions had reacted slowly and with difficulty, mostly out of ignorance (whether they are entitled to give information or not), often because of long-term procedure for these claimed guidelines from their head office and the like. The best collaboration with institutions was achieved there where performants were acquainted with the project and its objectives.»
Maybe even the least and slowest information flow came from DFID of British Embassy in Croatia because of a complex procedure of approbation and/or offering certain information, while on the other hand, MMTPR, Administration for regional development behaved itself supportively and cooperatively in relation to the project by giving information and documents significant for project implementation, as well as by presenting it on other gatherings and/or workshops (CSERP – the project of the World Bank and MMTPR). The project coordinator, although extremely satisfied with the overall process and project results, emphasises the problem which seemed greater than the local one, that is:
«Often donators are not interested in actual development of local community but for means consumption, therefore they frequently irresponsibly and without organization approach rural areas causing more damage than use in such way! Many times it was questioned what our donator really wanted: development or means consumption without much thought. Donators' operators frequently didn't understand the project and they wanted to intervene in a way and direction which are not in accordance with sustainable development of the area. It was necessary to put much energy in maintenance of ''proper'' direction for project implementation. Opposingly, great support and understanding was shown by the Irish consultant, Jimmy Armstrong, who beside possessing quality knowledge had extreme understanding for local specalties.»
There were other challenges. During project implementation certain problems had arisen in relation to the concept of group roles, group «identities», that is the division into two groups - LAG i community leaders. Namely, their educations and roles in the project were initially planned differently when finally it was expected to make everybody join the creation of project proposals, based on identified needs. Then, some difficulties were overcame through intensifying technical help for LAG members who had not passed the part of education mastered by community leaders. Besides, as it had been decided that LAG would chose projects, and contemporaneously its members were approved to apply for grants with individual projects , which was recognized as an interest conflict. Therefore, the creation of a very clear instrumentation for evaluation was set, education on evaluation procedure was provided. In addition, mechanisms for unfeasability to evaluate one's own project as well as group evaluation were also set (approval team evaluates one project and then it provides a collective mark or mark adopted by consensus) and finally the evaluation of the facilitator who implemented the project was done. Nevertheless, probably this part would be modified in a new project and it would ensure more clear and consistent division between groups or it would form only one group which would then go trough a unique educational cyclus.
„ Lika is worth investing – putting efforts into people!“
Results of this intervention are multiple. One of key conclusions is ''Lika is worth investing!'' This would mean putting efforts into people because they are the basis of every form of development, and the donator's goal was achieved through implementation of cause-effect related activities contributing the development of self-respect of a local community, education of local community, associating and networking between people, mobilisation of local resourses and amplification of economic activities in a chosen area. Through this project a lot had been done with people (by way of example 10 different focus groups enclosing all significant population groups had been interviewed – up to 100 representatives of different groups on which occasion persons questioned were expressing their opinion on the current situation in economic and social life, on their fears and hopes for the future. They were regularly informed; all inhabitants were being invited to meetings. and those who were selected were actually motivated individuals, and not those ''most relevant'' i.e. those occupying high positions.. Confidence between consultants and project participants was established.
Project LOCOMOTIVe encountered more or less each of the mentioned activities and it was decided that the key for successful development of local (rural) areas actually laid in the qouted methodology:
»For the first time in Croatia, a local community, counting less than 7500 inhabitants scattered on 1350 km2, had the chance to express its desires, plans, needs and possibilities, through a document which would reflect itself from local to national level of decision making. Benefits for those who were involved and for the local community are seen in the fact that the project directly educated 40 members of three municipalities, who had motivated in average, three persons each, in their localities what had already been done by 120 project beneficiaries. 50 project proposals were received, 31 of which were approved, and some of those who applied were not even members of one single group that was educated. During project implementation, involvement of at least 10 members of local community beneficiaries.», says Jadranka.
It is important to emphasise that members of both groups learnt how to recognize a problem in their community and how to start solving it. Two citizens' initiatives wanted to apply for tender with projects regarding small infrastructure construction. While collecting data, they received an answer from authorized services that the problem had not been known on their side and that it would be solved by the cost of service or administration in question. So, these two citizens' initiatives were able to dedicate themselves to other problems in their surroundings. Others contacted their fellow-villagers and started making petitions which helped them to decide on agreement regarding issues important for individual communities.
Indeed, there were some doubts about transparency of alotting donations, there were attempts to put pressure on LAG members (who were in the committee for the evaluation of recieved projects). But, at this point it was planned to create a quality evaluation instrumentation and facilitation of group evaluation. Some of the applicants of denied projects tried to run down the project and members of LAG, but this had no greater effect because most people already knew the quality of those unpleased with the selection of projects. Some of the best projects supported were: repair of the bridge in Mihaljevac, renovation of cultural home in Čanko, placing a bus stop in Udbina, renovation of childrens' playground in Vrhovine, placing recycling containers in Udbina as pilot project, motivating and equipping agricultural associations, and supporting a series of small civil initiatives such as equpping the club of retired persons in Vrhovine.
Regarding further steps, LAG members and local community leaders have jointly founded, for the area of target municipalities, an association ''Pokretac'' which would deal with the development of local areas. The association ''Pokretac'' was concieved as a formal configuration of LAG and Leaders, in order to implement projects defined by the strategic plan calling for tenders with native and foreign donators. On the other hand, municipalities would implement those project parts which were under their competence. Large hopes were put into pre-access EU funds which, once put down on a local level through sector ministries, demand extreme speediness and skilfulness of small localities, which would then be able to compete with quality project proposals for available means only by merging into partnerships.
Recommandations for mobilisation and development of community
The process of community mobilisation should start with improving self-respect and awareness of proper value, then the values of areas and other people of the surroundings. By gradual adoption of tools available for motivated individuals to use and by allotting small tasks easy to achieve, their self-confidence will improve. Nothing is as encouraging as success and demoralising as failure. It is necessary to reinforce circulation (just like in a living body) in order to develop a certain area, in this case information should be spread, people ought to be joined together and network, create partnerships and as Jadranka says:
«At any rate, it is necessary to find motivated people, just like those enjoying work or hobby. Such persons are not hard to motivate in a sense that they re-direct their passion or love for certain kind of work so that they can interest other people – based on voluntary work. In this way strong bonds of mutual love for the same kind of work or hobby are made. People motivated in such manner are just one step away from commercial economic activity; they just need additional education and guidance into entrepreneurship. Without educated and motivated people there is no economic development which on the other hand, if it is satisfactory, offers a chance for new superstructure of civil society and local community in a whole.»
Sustainable development represents a new concept in economic and political vocabulary, it is frequently used, but hardly understood. It is related to the balanced development of all three sectors in the society (public, economic and civil sector) and in such a way that in each of them there are equally represented the social, economic and environmental component. Said in simpler words: sustainable development is a form of economic growth and development which is not damaging for the environment and which is socially approved. So, we are speaking about the development of areas based on win-win strategy. Of course, such mode of planning the development of an area excludes many possibilities and economic activities which had already existed or still occupy an important position in the economics of a certain local area. Painless transition to sustainable development demands educated members of all three sectors. The maturity and readiness of local authorities to start the road of sustainable development is questionable.