Good policies and good political decisions cannot be made without listening to those who are directly or indirectly affected by these decisions. The creation of social policies and their subsequent monitoring and evaluation should be a process based on continuous dialogue with all stakeholders.
Participation enables the interaction between governments and relevant stakeholders which is essential for any effective and meaningful governance. Particularly in times of sudden local or global crises, we see the increase in the importance of mutual trust and cohesion within the community. Inclusive decision-making is essential to ensure that government actions respond to real needs and do not affect people disproportionately.
Communicating with a wide group of stakeholders is important for effective public policy. At the same time, information needs to be obtained quickly and efficiently, i.e. at a reasonable cost. Participatory meetings with key stakeholders are an effective way of obtaining valuable input directly from the parties concerned when new policies that are being developed or existing ones are being modified.
Stakeholders have important information from the field, which they capture and process experience with the subject matter systematically over a long period of time. Therefore, they have a very good overview of what is going on in a given sector or topic and can highlight emerging issues, provide feedback on the functioning of the government or various policies, services, etc., and report on good practices and successful innovative projects.
An example of the effective involvement of stakeholders in policy-making is the recently held Forum on the participatory process for the development of the Nitra Regional Action Plan for the prevention and elimination of violence against women. The Department of Social Affairs of the Nitra Regional Municipality in Slovakia undertook to develop a new action plan through direct dialogue with key stakeholders from civic associations and NGOs, municipal authorities, labor and social affairs offices, police, universities, and the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Roma Communities. The aim of the meeting was to map the activities that the key actors are already doing, to identify needs and obstacles to their activities, or to generate proposals for new activities. The meeting also addressed the possibilities of educating the professional and lay public on the topic of prevention and elimination of violence against women and the possibilities of multi-institutional cooperation.
The outcomes of the meeting will now serve as input for further elaboration of the regional action plan. Besides, it was also an excellent opportunity for the participants to network, make contacts, and emphasize their need for systemic cooperation that would help them to make their work more effective in many ways.
Hopefully, inclusive policy-making with stakeholder participation will be an ongoing trend that will support the cultivation of a democratic culture across Europe.