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Public-private partnership keynote for the Bratislava conference of ‘The citizen at the centre in the EU` November 25 th - 26 th , 2005
by Carel Tenhaeff [ senior advisor at the Netherlands Institute for Care and Welfare, and representative of the International Council on Social Welfare
Our goal: to strengthen the role of civil society organisations in the social sector. Building public-private partnerships said to be a key strategy. But what does it mean? We need working definitions of those words: private, public, partnership, civil society
Private means NGOs, but there are different kinds of NGOs: – profit-orientated companies, – not-for-profit agencies, and – self-organisations.
In the social sector we have all three of them. Question one is: • Where do we need companies (the market), • where do we need not-for-profit agencies (foundations), • and where do we need self-organisations (associations and committees)?
And question two is: • How should they relate to each other, • and should they relate to the authorities (government)?
Public The authorities means: public. Here, we must distinguish between: – governing (including politics), – and offices (including services).
Governments are redefining their roles. The main trends are: • substitution (decentralization): administration and service delivery at the right level, i. e. closer to citizens; • tendering: increasing the efficiency and transparency of services by outsourcing them; • privatization (des-investment): leaving services to the market.
More and more questions on these trends Decentralization often goes with budget reductions, and may increase inequalities. Tendering often guided by financial criteria, and no guarantee for more transparency. Desinvestment: both successes and failures. For instance, privatization of Dutch PT&T is a success, while privatization of Dutch railways is a problem.
Partnership: is hardly ever defined “Partnership means investing in, and working for, a shared goal (joint mission) side-by-side and on the basis of mutual respect. ” Thereby we define partners as actors who, on their own accord and at the implementation level, contribute substantially to the realization of the shared goal. ”
Matrimonial affairs • Partnership is seen as a joint household on the basis of equality and free will. It is a horizontal relationship. • A NGO largely dependent on public funding for its survival, is not a partner to the authorities. Because of this a vertical relationship it is called a QUANGO or (more recently) GONGO.
In other words: • tendering is not a partnership strategy, but a strategy for authorities to spread risks; • privatization is not a partnership strategy, for its goal is to end the relationship; each party will go its own way.
Do not use the word lightly Can’t have it with everyone. Partnership is a complicated; you will have to compromise and things like that. Partnership is a special strategy, to be applied in special situations.
Civil society What are these special situations requiring partnership as a strategy for the redefinition of the roles of government in society? Answer by Karl Mannheim, sociologist, in “Ideologie und Utopie” (1929!). Recently summarised as: “Planning for democracy: Karl Mannheim, the elite, and the reconstruction of the state”.
Real democracy implies interactive decision making between “competing perspectives”. • people (citizens, or their representatives): expressive definition of the situation; • professionals (whether public or private): objectifying definition of the situation; • politics (politicians and administrators): normative definition of the situation.
Each perspective is rational in its own way Therefore, there should be triangular partnerships between “the three P’s”. Advantage: reduces “the gap”, through mutual understanding of the perspectives from which the various sides – public, private, people – choose their priorities and operate. Handicaps: time-taking affair, and must be co-ordinated well.
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