Education 1: Concept of Civil and Public Partnership

Author: Sonja Leboš

Before we clarify the concept of civil and public partnership, we need to clarify the concept of civil society to some extent. 

Civil society has been in existence since the times of Austria-Hungary, when citizens would join various non-profit associations. Many important institutions, such as reading rooms, libraries, etc., appeared during this time, among which one of the most known is the Croatian Music Institute in Gundulićeva, Zagreb. This is an indication that culture often developed out of citizens’ initiatives or from bottom-up, and not from top-down directives issued by the authorities. In the Socialist Republic of Croatia, citizens’ organizations existed as various associations covering many different aspects of public and social life, such as trade unions, youth organizations, boy and girl scouts, sports societies, pensioners’ and hunters’ associations, etc. 

Civil society today includes all the mentioned historical models of associations, so today we also have trade unions, sports societies, folklore and hunters’ societies, etc., but the novelty is that in relation to communist times, civil society takes over the functions that were previously carried out by the state. This primarily relates to the secondary health care (Leagues against Cancer, associations providing speech therapy services, physical therapy, hospice foundation and support to terminally ill patients, etc.), but more and more to education in the sphere of culture, since national curriculum mostly disregards individual’s and society’s need for culture, particularly in smaller communities. This disregard of the state is the very reason for incorporation of many civil society organizations in the sphere of culture. 

There are also artisrtic organizations, that can be incorporated by artists, which were granted status of artists by some professional associations (Composers’ Society, Film Workers’ Society, Croatian Designers’ Society, Croatian Society of Visual Artists, Association of Croatian Visual Artists, etc.). UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 is a document that by its Article 27, paragraph 1, defines that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. However, just as many other Declarations, this one too remains only the dead letter if people do not fight for their rights in an organized way. 

Participatory management is very important exactly because of the realization of the right of each Croatian individual to participation in cultural life of the community. It can contribute to development of “cultural pluralism (esthetic and ethical), creative autonomy, increase and diversification of culture financing resources, polycentric cultural development, stimulation of participation and collaboration in culture ” (Primorac and Obuljen Koržinek, 2016). Although I myself work in the sphere of culture, I cannot agree with the statements viewing culture as a key element of social state. Culture can be one of the elements of a social state, but only side by side with health, education and social welfare, as vital or key elements. Going to the cinema and reading books are often mentioned as “main” culture activities in literature. I think this is wrong, because it would mean that in places with no cinema there is no culture. Also, claims that the city is origin of culture I consider opposing and disabling to polycentric development of culture, that is necessary in a small country, such as Croatia. 

What is implied by syntagm “culture activities”? Let us mention but few: individual or collective enjoyment in or creation of philosophy, music, sculpting, literature, poetry, painting, theatre or many other forms of artistic creation and consideration of life of own or other people’s communities. Culture activities can also include gastronomy, crafts and trades, handicraft, writing or recording of travel books or documentaries, ethnology and i ethnography, and many other activities. 

Civil society organizations (CSOs) in culture encounter two main problems. The first problem is a lack of space for CSOs working in culture and art. This is often due to under-utilization of abandoned and derelict spaces owned by the Republic of Croatia and/or units of local and regional self-government. The second problem is lack of funding for work of CSOs working in culture and art. This problem is often caused by poor management, reckless spending and/or bad distribution of public resources. Civil-public partnership can be both a corrective and a model for resolution of these main, but many other problems as well. 

The objectives of civil-public partnership are, as follows: 

1) Building of foundation for development of good management of public spatial resources; 

2) Initiation of decision-making processes that would allow for participation of various stakeholders and empowerment of community for participation in these processes; 

3) Shift from concept of passive participation in culture to the highest possible level of active participation, that is, participatory management in culture; 

4) Cultivation, protection and promotion of diversity of cultural expression. 

Civil- private partnership can be initiated: 

a) Top-down (initiative of international organization, trusts, agencies and institutions, and public authorities); 

b) Bottom-up (engagement of citizens, civil society and other organizations).


Mušterić, Marina (2017) Historical Development of Companies in the Republic of Croatia. Master’s Thesis, University of Split, Faculty of Economy 

Primorac, J., Obuljen Koržinek, N. and Uzelac, A. (2018). Approaches to Culture in Croatian Cultural Policy. Shift Towards More Explicit Policies. CULPOL, Thematic Document 5. Zagreb: IRMO 

Vidović, D. and Žuvela, A. (2016). Participatory governance as a driver for inclusive cities. U: Imperiale, F. I Vecco, M., ed. 7Th Annual Research Session. ENCATC, October 5-7, Valencia, Spain. Brussels: ENCATC, pp. 356-365 

Vidović, Dea, ed. (2018) Let’s Do It Together. Practices and Trends of Participatory Management in Sphere of Culture in the Republic of Croatia. Zagreb: Foundation Kultura nova 

Wilcox, David (1994) The Guide to Effective Participation. Brighton: Delta Press 

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