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Environmental Education, Social Services or Open Data: How Far Does the Agenda of Participation Coordinators in Slovakia Go

Do you work in the field of social services, sustainable transportation or environmental education? All this and much more is being addressed by the participation coordinators, who have been working in teams of three in six Slovakian regions since the beginning of the year. The coordinators are in-house participation experts who ensure the quality of participation across the regional government’s institution. They help other departments with the design and implementation of participatory processes within their agendas. And the agendas are really diverse. Here is just a small selection of typical agendas that coordinators are starting to work on: 

  • Social Services 
  • Environmental Education 
  • Cycling 
  • Tourism 
  • Marginalised Communities 
  • Culture 
  • Youth 
  • Open Data 
  • Water Conservation Measures

Within these agendas, coordinators ensure the involvement of key stakeholders and the general public in the development of conceptual and strategic documents, create platforms for networking and long-term collaboration of stakeholders on a particular agenda, identify spaces for improvement through engagement of relevant stakeholders, and more. There are more than enough projects that need to include participation. Coordinators in each region are responsible for at least 3 participatory projects and every month more departments approach coordinators with request to help with participation. 

How have these agendas been identified? 

In the first months in their new roles, the coordinators, under the expert guidance of the Participation Factory, made a participation diagnostic within their government office. This helped them to identify current and upcoming projects that require the involvement of the public or key stakeholders. At the same time, the diagnostics helped the coordinators to become better acquainted with the functioning of the office and, above all, familiarise their colleagues with their new role as participation coordinator and the participation agenda as a whole. Thus, the diagnostic also helped individual departments  to become aware of their needs with regard to the involvement of key stakeholders and the public and to make room for participation in their projects in order to improve their quality and sustainability. 

Interdepartmental cooperation: a shared stumbling block

The diagnostic also uncovered a major obstacle to participation and the overall functioning of the regional government: it is inter-departmental cooperation and this issue is shared across all regions. Individual departments are siloed from each other and information exchange is sporadic, ad hoc and unsystematic. At the same time, departments could help each other and make each other’s job easier by sharing data, experience and directly collaborating on projects that require complementary expertise. One by one, the teams of participation coordinators are thus taking on another agenda: strengthening internal participation and cooperation. 

We will keep you informed about how successful the coordinators are in their agendas and what we have learned from each process. After the current design phase of the participatory processes, the participation coordinators will spend the next 12 months implementing them. There will be many opportunities for learning and sharing experiences!

Would you also like to implement a participation team in your office? Contact us and we will advise you on how to do it!