Participation and representation : strengthening the third sector voice in local governance

Cullingworth, Jane and Escobar, Oliver (2019) Participation and representation : strengthening the third sector voice in local governance. [Report]

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Abstract

The report outlines the context of the work of STRiVE, a third sector interface (TSI) in East Lothian as it sought to strengthen the participation of third sector organisations in local governance. It reviews the process that was deployed, the challenges that were faced and the outcomes of this deliberative exercise. The process resulted in a fundamental shift in how the third sector is represented in East Lothian; rather than the third sector voice being mediated by STRiVE, third sector organisations now participate directly in the process of selecting delegates and in being delegates in local governance processes. The report has seven key insights: The current system of third sector representation struggles to be effective and democratic. Local third sector organisations are keen to develop and engage in models to strengthen participation and representation. Democratisation can be initiated from the top. Bringing third sector organisations into local governance requires negotiation. The commitment to subsidiarity in CPPs is a qualified one. There is still a long way to go for the third sector to be considered a full community planning partner. There is strong democratic potential in the TSI being a facilitator and an enabler, rather than a representative. The STRiVE experience highlights the potential for third sector interface organisations to play a facilitating and enabling role, rather than a traditional representative one. The researchers conclude that a TSI that works more democratically can help to enable better representation of the diversity of third sector voices. This, in turn, increases its legitimacy and scope for influence. It is harder for other local actors and institutions to disregard a TSI that demonstrates strong democratic credentials. Stronger third sector representation can, in turn, help to improve local governance and outcomes for the communities it serves.

ORCID iDs

Cullingworth, Jane ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2098-8074 and Escobar, Oliver;