The transversal management of municipal development cooperation strategies

5. Conditions and instruments to move towards the transversal management of municipal development cooperation strategies

In order to move forward in the transversality of the development cooperation policy, certain starting conditions and instruments are needed that allow for implementation. These can be classified into four key blocks:

The first condition is of a political nature. There must be a political will and a real commitment to cooperation being strategic for the corporation and which seeks to be transversal. This intention should be set out primarily within the mandate plan or government strategy, so that it can be subsequently rolled out in a more operational manner to the rest of the sectoral planning.

It is therefore of the utmost importance for the field of cooperation itself to take part in drawing up the mandate plan for its technical knowledge, and ensure that its objectives, vision, and values are incorporated correctly at a strategic level. At the same time, this participation of the cooperation department in drawing up the mandate plan will provide it with the tools to assume other corporate objectives as its own, which must then be reflected in the cooperation plan and in the actions it carries out on a day-to-day basis.

The cooperation department must embrace this political commitment and foster it within the corporation. It is therefore key that, throughout the process of setting out the cooperation plan itself, which must reflect this political mandate of transversality and strategic centrality that is to be awarded to this policy, it is clearly laid out which areas of the city council the relationship needs to be forged with so that they can participate in drawing it up, and are strategically integrated into the plan and share goals, values and commitment. We refer to areas such as international action, youth, education, etc. It is also necessary to include other internal services, such as recruitment, communication and press, and the services responsible for monitoring and disseminating the results externally, which are also key to achieving transversality, as we will see later.

In this process of participation by the actors affected by drawing up the cooperation plan, it is necessary to consider and jointly debate in order to come together and ensure that they all share the same goals, values and vision.

For all other policies to adequately integrate the objectives, principles, and values of cooperation it is important to:

  • Roll out an internal awareness and training plan. It may be an objective of the cooperation plan itself and be subsequently set out operationally. Once this training has been delivered, the plans of other municipal policies will now be in a position to adequately incorporate the objectives, values, vision and commitment shared with the cooperation and provide for mechanisms of complementarity and synergies.
  • Have a robust and specialised cooperation department, with sufficient economic and human resources, to ensure transversality. This cooperation department must open up a fluid and horizontal dialogue with the other departments, come up with new frameworks and coordination tools, deliver training, monitor the incorporation of objectives into other policies with indicators and provide studies that facilitate sectoral information on the external impact of certain policies and programmes, among other issues.

Therefore, the policy must result in sufficient human and economic resources to make transversality possible. Resources may be distributed among the departments that will play a more prominent role in making transversality effective.

One of the areas to be taken into account in a transversal cooperation plan is the monitoring and transparency of the corporation, as it will be key when it comes to incorporating cooperation into the monitoring, transparency and open data system. This department must not only monitor the actions carried out by the cooperation department itself, but also those carried out by other departments and related areas of work resulting from this transversal work.

The cooperation department must:

  • Participate in designing, executing, monitoring, and evaluating the mandate plan.
  • Draw up reports and documents that gather progress, which should involve all actors.

The participation of the cooperation department in designing, executing, monitoring, and evaluating the mandate plan, as well as in the plans of the other areas of the city council, and ensuring that technical expertise is not squandered, guarantees the necessary harmonisation of the transversality system as a whole.

Once it is politically assumed that the field of cooperation is to become strategic within the municipal action, the cooperation department shall be responsible for giving impetus to this mandate by opening up a fluid and horizontal dialogue with the other departments.

One of the problems previously mentioned is that most local administrations have an organic vertical organisational structure that is not really in a position to foster this fluid dialogue and this transversal work. This requires interdepartmental working mechanisms to be created with the different areas and departments to jointly address the design and implementation of shared projects in the field of development cooperation.

These relationship mechanisms may be formal or informal.

  • Informal channels, which are brought to life through business lunches, phone conversations, e-mails, and conversations held outside of formal spaces, quite often become more effective than formal ones.
  • Formal channels result in regular meetings, working committees, etc.

Formal instruments must be effective, there must be a clear work agenda and a connection between the expectations of the management and technical departments.

Formal and informal spaces could be opened up to the diversity of actors in the municipality, in a logic that fosters networking. In this regard, the cooperation department will go from assuming the role of provider and manager of resources to revitaliser and facilitator of this relational space with the actors, which includes other areas and departments, other administrations, and other public and private actors in the region.

Did you know that…

Citizen participation plays a highly significant role, necessary, not only in the strategic planning processes of this policy, but also in the transfer of competencies and responsibilities. This implies a completely different conception of the required professional profiles (which, until now, were geared towards managing resources), as participatory processes will be set out, not only in the design, but also in the execution and monitoring of the policy.

In the implementation phase of the development cooperation policy, suitable conditions must be met; as well as opening up a dialogue in this regard between the departments involved, it is necessary:

  • To have shared goals, responsibilities and defined processes.
  • For communication and the transfer of information to flow naturally and by consensus.
  • As part of the roll-out process of the programmes, sectoral experts and technicians must be involved from the development cooperation unit.
  • To have sufficient staff and budget.

It should be borne in mind that, the fact that there may be two departments addressing a problem together or undertaking a one-off or recurring collaboration is not enough for it to be deemed to be transversal. Nevertheless, this should not be underestimated, as it will mean that a dialogue has been opened up between departments, which could be the first step towards moving towards transversality.

Human resources management will play a key role, because assuming the objectives of cooperation in the mandate plan and in other sectoral policies must lead to the creation of a set of conditions aimed at the staff involved, being released from other tasks to devote more time to the new objectives, and a range of employment incentives that contribute to not perceiving this new assignment as an extension to the task that is already being developed in the sector.

Workers need to perceive their participation as an opportunity to learn and achieve personal satisfaction, not as a job on top of the work they usually carry out.

Not everyone is willing to accept this workload, in particularly if it may seem that they are working for the benefit of other departments or services, when the objectives of the cooperation are not part of the mandate plan or sectoral plans. The right working conditions must be provided that allow, for example, a technician to become involved in a direct cooperation project while continuing to carry out his/her usual work within the corporation: schedule recognition, professional recognition, training, subsistence recognition, etc.

Fostering the transversality of municipal development cooperation strategies must lead to a desire for improvement and mutual learning. Within this context, the important thing is what is done and the will to do it increasingly better in the future. In order to strengthen this principle, it is necessary to safeguard the commitment to evaluate, communicate and be accountable before all citizens.

One of the pillars in the commitment to transversality in the learning culture is the generation of mechanisms for the transmission of information and knowledge between departments on the operation and results of development cooperation strategies.

Strengthening these communication channels may help to identify implementation challenges, inconsistencies between actions, and the joint detection of proposals for improvement.

Accountability before the public is often seen as something intrinsic to public action, although, in recent years, it has been seen as synonymous with publishing the results on transparency portals and websites. The significant challenge lies in getting all the departments that actively participate in the municipal cooperation strategies involved in the communication and dissemination of information.