Background and key questions
Based on an earlier INTERREG IVB project, MP4 (www.mp4-interreg.eu), and new ideas in Emmen on a new role for local residents and enterprises concerning public tasks and responsibilities, the first ideas for the project SELF were initiated in 2013/2014. A project idea and brochure were published mid-2014, and presented in several network meetings during the same year.
Both demographic changes and financial issues (less budget available, shifts of tasks between public authorities, along with a shift in priorities) have resulted in a re-thinking on the (most) necessary tasks to be carried out by municipalities, at least in the Netherlands. Another aspect is a leaner local government and a more participative society, leading to a reduction or “streamlining” of public services and a shift from (entirely) public tasks to shared responsibilities with the local communities and private sector.
Another starting point for Emmen is a recently established local energy cooperative, which was set up alongside a large-scale (external) wind power plant, on which the municipality has agreed only on condition of part of the benefits being invested locally through a community/area fund.
Emmen has followed up on this through a survey on all key tasks within the municipality, focusing especially on those that may also be carried out by other organisation – in the first place residents or related organisations (village or district councils), that already fulfil an important task in implementing and supporting municipal tasks on a local level, but also local enterprises or other public/private bodies that can provide services on any of the tasks or subjects concerned. This can be maintenance of public realm (“place keeping”), but also (health or elderly) care, local renewable energy production often already organised in cooperatives, follow-up education, employment training and support, cultural activities etc.
The model of place keeping as such has already been evaluated and “tested” in a previous project, Making Places Profitable (www.mp4-interreg.eu), therefore the focus in SELF is more on developing and extending the model(s) as such and the transfer to other organisational structures and (types of) services.
The survey has so far identified which tasks could be shifted to other providers, if these providers would be interested and willing to share responsibility and (eventually) be handed over these tasks, and what tools, facilities and other means need to be provided in order to achieve this: from direct financial transfer to a training on the required skills and knowledge, based on experiences of those providing these tasks up to now.
Also the main questions on behalf of possible providers, for example on responsibility and liability, have been covered in this survey.
This issue of (co-)responsibility and a more direct role of citizens in municipal policy, not only in implementing it but also in preparing future strategic choices in a local community, has also been discussed between the municipal council and the responsible “board” of mayor and aldermen.
Finally a first indication on the organisational structure, cooperative or otherwise, can be based on the conclusions of the survey.
These questions (and challenges!) may be different, both in content and in
possible solutions in any participating country or even region, therefore apart
from the initial objective and structure of SELF provided by Emmen, all elements of
SELF so far are open to discussion – the project should be a result of the joint ideas,
input and expertise of all partners involved!
This leads to the first quest questions towards the project design of SELF,
its (potential) partners and their possible roles in the project:
1. What tasks and services can be transferred to other, (semi-)public or private, partners?
2. Which (other) stakeholders need to be involved in this process?
3. What type of organisational structure is required to cover all (legal, financial, other) aspects of this transfer?
4. Which means and skills are required to enable this transfer?
5. What other aspects in this process and the themes covered are still missing?