Topic 3 Actors in the process of community participation and networking

At the beginning of this module, it was commented on what for M. Marchioni are the agents of the community process: population, institutions and resources.

In participatory processes, each of these actors assumes a different role that is usually given by his condition and his interests and demands.

As technicians, one of our functions is to try to ensure maximum conditions of equality and legitimacy, so that all actors have to change their attitudes towards others.

What kinds of relationships exist and what kind of relationships are important to promote?

  • Relations of social entities with the social base: the lack of autonomy, resources, training, methods,… has made many associations dependent on the Administration, fundamentally to maintain their associative structures, implying in many cases the decoupling from the social base, creating inbred internal dynamics, little democratic and little flexible and permeable. A change of attitude and orientation in the associations is necessary, adopting methodologies that return to the associations their mediating role and catalyst of the demands of the social base and strengthen the construction of social networks.
  • Interassociative relationships: the associative fabric requires an articulation in a cooperative network (occasional or permanent), which is only possible through encounter, dialogue and communication from the vocation of the public and of the common project that unites us. This is the only way to gain strength, position and legitimacy without losing autonomy.
  • Relations between local government and social entities: social entities are natural mediators between the local government and the social base, so there is no better way to implement and legitimize public policies than to incorporate the mediating role of the social organizations involved in the territory. It is necessary to build from the public administrations a culture of cooperation and promotion of the social fabric.
  • Relations between local government and citizens: for the development of participatory democracy neither the administrators, nor the consumers, nor the clients, nor the users are worth it. Active citizens who are co-responsible with their city, with the local environment, with their organizations and groups are necessary. Social organizations, natural leaders, technical personnel, etc. they can be mediators but they must not displace or exclude the role of the individual or unite the forms of direct participation. That is why it is essential to recognize the main actor, the person and the population (not organized) and ensure diverse strategies from the approach of participatory methodologies.
  • Inter-administrative relations: if we move in a managerial model divided into different departments, coordination and internal communication of the different administrations or areas is essential to ensure a certain quality in the process of common construction with the outside.

The participation that we promote must be a process that links not only the citizens (individuals and groups organized as associations or others) that reside in the neighbourhoods, but also a group of actors that configure and produce the plurality of well-being: citizens not resident in the neighbourhood, professionals, politicians, businessmen, other NGOs, volunteers.

The inclusion is desirable, not only of representative groups of interests, but of individuals who, in a personal capacity, and perhaps also disenchanted with the representativeness of groups and associations, are “speakers” of the feelings of a community, of its interests, its demands, its needs and how to satisfy them. We are not so much interested in their representativeness as the significance of their discourses.

This approach highlights the need to carry out training/motivation processes for democratic citizenship at all levels, in which education for participation is a central part. Participation is learned by participating, and here social organizations play an important role.

When talking about the relationships between the different agents of the community process, another of the fundamental elements of the processes of participation in the community field appears, networking.

The term is often repeated, but not always under the same meaning. Networking is a matter of technique, but also of attitudes, based on the following principles: horizontality, complementarity, autonomy, participatory belonging, commitment, common goals, communication and collective construction of knowledge, organizational simplicity and flexibility, certain leadership and assessment and lifelong learning.

Thanks to networking, civil society organizations can multiply their resources, increase their social influence, tackle larger projects from new perspectives and enrich themselves or learn from the work of others.

How can networking be put into practice? :

  • With other forms of social participation, associations and social movements: through platforms, forums, campaigns, citizen networks… Beyond the particular objectives of each type of social organization, there is a need and a commitment to find a place and a common mission in which to learn to share experiences and resources , establish relations based on cooperation and not on competition, maintain fluid and permanent communication and make the interrelated problems and realities close.
  • With Public Bodies: from the independence of the Third Sector and the coordination and complementarity of both agents. Public bodies can find in associations and organizations key contributions to the development of public policies insofar as these are an expression of citizen participation. In this sense, their work must be aimed at supporting their development without invading their own space and promoting a culture of solidarity and participation in society.
  • With Companies: through occasional or permanent collaborations, as long as the company’s activity does not harm fundamental ethical principles or conflict with the mission of the social action entity. Organizations can play a very important role in facilitating corporate social responsibility within companies and their workers.
  • With the educational sphere: promoting and educating in all those values ‚Äč‚Äčassociated with solidarity, participation and social action through awareness and training actions from the first cycles to the university.
  • With Social Media: working closely to transmit messages that are not discriminatory or catastrophic, or devalue the commitment of volunteering. As agents of awareness, the mass media can contribute to promoting awareness of existing social and environmental realities as well as promoting co-responsibility.