Education 2: Participatory Management

Author: Sonja Leboš


What is implied by syntagm “participatory management”? 

The possible definition would be that participatory management is “dividing management responsibility among various stakeholders having share in what is going on” (Vidović and Žuvela, 2018). 

The next question that imposes itself is who the stakeholders in this process are? 

They are: local administration, public institutions (in culture), non-governmental organizations (CSOs), representatives of local community (interested citizens), artists and cultural workers. Participatory management model also implies the process of granting authorizations and empowerment of all included in the decision making process, in which the decisions are not adopted by individuals, but by a collective (Vidović and Žuvela, 2018). Let us observe closer the dichotomy individual-collective. How does a collective form? In its foundation is any kind of partnership agreement and a certain dedication to a joint cause is also needed. 

Participatory Management as Subset of Management Theory 

Participatory management can be viewed as a subset of management theory. As such, its objective is to overcome democratic deficiencies the political, economical, social, ecological or cultural systems encounter. 

Overcoming democratic deficiencies implies:

 a) Questioning legitimacy and responsibility of the state; 

b) Opening new organizational spaces; 

c) Taking over public activities (as is the case with already mentioned areas in secondary health care). 

Definitely, one of the most popular forms is participatory budgeting. It originated in Brazil in 1989, when the Workers’ Party Government in Porto Alegre, together with civil society, initiated one-year long process of budget-related decision making, during which the citizens negotiated with public administration about allocation of funds for public works, services and projects. This successful participatory practice soon spread to other cities in Brazil and all over the world. The primary condition for development of participatory management and various possible models of public-civil partnerships is establishment of the common objective and agenda, that are not related only to some objects, but that have strong effect on life of wider community, which opens new perspectives for development of local cultural policy, and indirectly national one as well. 

David Wilcox thought out a Guide to Effective Participation, containing Scale of Effective Participation, that implies: informing — consultation – joint decision-making — joint acting — provision of support. 

SOCIAL CENTRE format has turned out to be effective tool for participatory management in culture. 

Social centres are not a new concept, we knew them as Culture Homes in 1950-ies, or as Culture Centres founded during 1970-ies and 1980-ies (Zagreb has 13 such centres, deployed in municipalities, e.g. Trnje, Trešnjevka, Dubrava, Centar, etc.). However, both of these examples were projects arranged from top-down,with the state (or local self-government) deciding on scope and activities of such centres. 

In that sense, SOCIAL CENTRE, as bottom-up organized project, is a kind of novum. If we consider the existing initiatives for social-culture centres in the Republic of Croatia, we see that their profile of operation is such that their context (or sum of needs in culture of wider community) becomes their content. How do we solve the problem of space? There are various possibilities: squatting, long-term use contracts with the state or local self-government, co-ownership, flexible use of space, advocating campaigns for utilization of space. 

What are the characteristics of space potentially intended for social centres? They need to be, as follows: — multifunctionality — transparent regime of utlization — agreement about utilization regime.

The practice shows that networking of CSOs is the main starting point to make social centres function. That is how CSO platforms and alliances are formed that gather around the common objective. Key task of platforms or alliances is regulation of its members’ interests in relation to common resources. The activities of platforms and alliances, ranging from organization of artistic activity, such as festivals, development of social entreneurship and joint program management of space, arise from this. Platforms and alliances ofren imply multi or inter or transdisciplinarity, that is, collaboration of actors of various profiles. 

Participatory management models rest on three-way interest convergence:

 1) Interests of local self-government, 

2) Interests of platforms or alliances,

 3) Interests of citizens’ wider community. 

The basic presumptions for development of diverse models of participatory management in culture, or participatory management of social-cultural centres implies: 

a) Allocation of responsibility, 

b) Motivation of all engaged parties, 

c) Control and sanction mechanisms, 

d) Network structure, 

e) Functional management bodies; 

f) Support of local community, 

g) Sufficient operating resources, 

h) Active participation of all stakeholders, 

i) Efficient conflict management. 

The examples of social-cultural centre initiatives are, as follows: Social Centre Lazareti in Dubrovnik, Social Centre Čakovec in Čakovec, Social-Cultural Centre in Karlovac, Molekula in Rijeka, Social Centre Rojc in Pula, Youth Home in Split, Pogon – Independent Culture and Youth Centre in Zagreb. 

After these more or less theoretical postulates, we will consider in closer detail each of these initiatives in order to present various practical and political approaches and meanings of management in different social environmemnts in order to create new ideas for integration of these practices into the existing frameworks of culture development on the island of Šolta.  In this sense, we will point out what it is that can create new ideas for development of participatory cultural and material resources management models for each of these initiatives on the island of Šolta. 

Social Centre Lazareti (Dubrovnik) 

SC Lazareti was generated in specific environment of Dubrovnik, one of only few cities in the world that was granted UNESCO status of Outstanding Universal Value of material and immaterial cultural heritage. 

Nowadays Dubrovnik is the most developed city in the Republic of Croatia, after its capital city Zagreb. Although it is the most developed city after Zagreb, Dubrovnik has the biggest personal income in the Republic of Croatia. In addition, Dubrovnik has the biggest share of investment in culture per capita, and 30% of tourists actually come to visit because of culture, which means that cultural tourism is a very developed branch of tourism. Nevertheless, such a situation has its negative sides, such as for example a drop of population in comparison with the rise of number of seasonal workers. According to results of the survey carried out by CSO Placa, effect of tourists on historical city core is higher than in Venice or Barcelona. City Culture and Heritage Department manages the sphere of culture in Dubrovnik as main administrative unit for management of local cultural sector. 

The roots of SC Lazareti go back to 1988, when Art Workshop Lazareti started to work. In collaboration with other actors, this very Workshop was the main driver of initiative for Social-Cultural Centre Lazareti. This is an example of space that developed from artistic driven space to the social-cultural centre format. 

Main users of Lazareti are: Art Workshop Lazareti, Association DEŠA, Theatre Lero, Folklore Ensemble Linđo (such structure of users is comparable to situation on Šolta). 

How does management of Lazareti currently function? 

By long-term contracts on use of space between the City of Dubrovnik and associations, hence Art Workshop Lazareti has a contract signed participatory management in culture. 

The existing incorporation plan for Social-Culture Centre Lazareti envisages three possible models within legal framework: 

1) Social-Culture Centre Lazareti as public cultural institution (such as national theatre), 

2) Social-Culture Centre as public foundation (such as National Foundation for Civil Society Development), 

3) Social-Culture Centre Lazareti as public company (public company can be a) private company or b) corporation, see more Mušterić, 2017). 

It is important to note that each of these models is subject to different legal frameworks. 

Social Centre Čakovec 

Čakovec is an ageing city with an average age of 40.2 years old. Nevertheless, Čakovec has a very rich CSOs scene. According to Croatian Register of Associations, there is a total of 471 active associations in Čakovcu, out of which 49 operate in the sphere of culture and art. 

Platform for Social Centre Čakovec was initiated and its significance was recognized by  Međimurje County, that signed a tripartite agreement among the Platform, City and County in 2015. 

Unfortunately, neither the City nor the County complied with the undertaken obligations. This is reality of the Croatian political code, that is, such a code does not exist and very poor forms of anarchy rule. However, in case of Čakovec, it is very positive that diversity of profiles of the Platform members can be identified. Thus the Platform consists of the following members: ACT Group, Youth Centre Čakovec, Association Zora, Fotografija – Association for Photographic Culture, Croatian Society of Visual Artists from Međimurje, Cultural Association Pokret plus, Association Međimurskie roke, Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities Međimurje, Speleological Association Međimurje Čakovec, MURID – Međimurje Association for Early Childhood Intervention, Multimedij – Association for Audio-Visual and Multimedia Culture. 

Such a diversity indicates social dimension of an emerging centre.  However, the fact that 70 associations uses Baraka, the only space for independent culture in Čakovec, and only 11 associations are members of the Platform, makes it obvious that a lot of negotiations are necessary in order to reach up to the needs of wider community. Again, we also need to bear in mind the fact that one of the Platform founders – ACT Group, is a strong platform in itself, one of the strongest social enterprises in Croatia that gathers together:  Autonomous Centre ACT, ACT Printlab d.o.o., ACT Konto d.o.o., Centre for Eco-Social Development CEDRA Čakovec, Social Cooperative Humana nova, Međimurje-County Centre for Home Assistance, Social Agricultural Cooperative Domaći vrt, ACT Press d.o.o., Volunteering Office Međimurje, and Tabula Rasa Library. 

Molekula (Rijeka) 

Rijeka is a contradictory city.  On one side, it is a city with vital index of 53 (the ratio of births to 100 deaths), which means that Rijeka, as a city, is dying. On the other side, Rijeka is still holding the first place in population density in Croatia with 2295 citizens per square kilometre.  The main administrative unit for management of local culture sector is Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Rijeka. 

The most important actor in the social centre initiative is Alliance of Associations Molekula, that used space of former enterprise Ivex when it consisted of six organizations from 2009 to 2014, and as of 2014, when it consisted of nine members, it used the space of Filodrammatica, Palah and Hartera. The Alliance manages the space, and program is prepared by its members. 

What is interesting for Rijeka, and can be interesting for Šolta model as well, is differentiation between the three categories: private, public and common space.  

Each category has its own coefficient: private space has coefficient 3, public space has coefficient 2, while the common one has coefficient 1. The price of the space is specified by multiplying number of square metres with its coefficient.  In such a way those associations that have privacy pay more, and those with space open to all pay less.  

Social-Cultural Centre Karlovac 

Today, the City of Karlovac is, unfortunately, characterized by high unemployment rate.  In addition, highly educated population is represented by only 5.3 % of the total County population.

 The main initiative driver for social-cultural centre is Alliance of Associations KAoperativa, and Croatian Home is identified as the location.  Thanks to the proper management of space intended for independent culture in the previous period, the City of Karlovac has allocated a two-year management contract to Kaoperativa (2016-2018) with the City ensuring resources for overhead expenses, and KAoperativa ensures program resources.  The City of Karlovac definitely wants to put Croatian Home building into order (2 600 square metres) and included it in its cultural strategy.  

Architectural Collective Platforma 9,91 created a document of its development as a multi-purpose object.  However, taking into consideration dimensions and condition of the building, renovation will be possible only by assistance from EU funds or similar sources.  Additional problem is that the City of Karlovac and KAoperativa foster different visions of development, hence negotiations are required in order to find the best possible solution for the community.   

Social Centre Rojc (Pula) 

Pula is the eighth Croatian city by its size, and the fifth one in terms of density of population.  Ethnic composition is varied with 1.88% of citizens that express their regional, and not national entity, and high 8.28% of citizens without any nationality. As regards local structure for cultural management, in the end of 2013, autonomous Administrative Department for Cultural Affairs was established as one of the activities envisaged by The City of Pula Cultural Strategy. 

Council of Alliance of Associations Rojc, that manages huge space of ex-military complex (associations squatted in this space after it was vacated by refugees in the late1990-ies), has been in existence since 2008.  Today Rojc is used by more than 1 000 beneficiaries on a daily basis, whic is a large number, even for, say, Germany or Great Britain. The City Administration already budgeted 1.5 million kunas for maintenance of Rojc and covers all overhead expenses, apart from electricity.  However, in spite of such quite favourable arrangement leading to participatory management in culture, there is a need for construction of strong and sustainable model of civil-public partnership between the City of Pula and Alliance of Associations Rojc. 

Associations that work within Rojc are involved in activities in the sphere of culture, sport, psychological-social care and health, children and youth, care for people with special needs, environment protection, technical culture, ethnic minorities and others.  In 2017, there were 111 registered associations in Rojc. Alliance of Associations Rojc was founded by 17 associations only. Hence, here, as well, there are some complex negotiations among CSOs at work, taking into consideration that it is a complex city community.  

Youth Home (Split) 

Split has been included in UNESO World Heritage List since 1979.  Old historical core of Split has been attracting world known architects since Renaissance.   Split also has very dense network of cultural institutions, museums, etc. The City of Split issues Call for Tender related to public needs in sphere of culture, and the decision is adopted by individual councils in a transparent way.  Beneficiaries object that the funds are inappropriate or insufficient in relation to the needs, and very often delayed too, although with 10% share of the total budget, Split has one of the highest budgets in Croatia. 

The construction of Youth Home began as early as 1977 under the name Socialist Youth Home, and was fully suspended in 1984. In 1994, in order to stop dilapidation of the building, some 50 young people first organized cleaning of the neglected Home and then Art Squat. The Coalition of Youth Associations was founded in 2001, as the first such coalition in Split. 

Today, Youth Home Platform also represents alliance of associations working in independent cultural scene and youth sector with 11 members at the moment. Architect Dinko Peračić, who was doing civilian military service at Multimedia Cultural Centre Split,  made a huge shift in ordering space of the Home. Currently, the Youth home has central performance space with two stages and a seating capacity for 700 persons, multimedia and libertarian libraries, music studio and community radio, art studio, wardrobe, sleeping room… There is no initiative to make the Youth Home into a functional social-cultural centre, but recently the Youth Home Platform, City of Split, Multimedia Cultural Centre, CEDRA – Cluster for Eco-Social Innovations and Development (CEDRA), and Mediterranean Film Festival submitted an application for joint project Culture in the Centre, supported by ESF, which can be a good way for development of social-cultural centre in Split, although the city should have several such centres due to its size. A model of polycentric and multilocation social-cultural centre can be considered in the context of Šolta, as well. 

Pogon – Independent Culture and Youth Centre (Zagreb) 

Zagreb is the most developed city in the Republic of Croatia, with average annual income per capita of 44 773 kunas. If this is the meaning of the most developed, that is, income in the amount of 3 731 kunas, that is not sufficient for the living costs, then the status of culture in Croatia is pretty clear. Such condition is unsustainable. 

Until recently culture was managed by Education, Sports and Culture Department, and since 2018, Zagreb has had autonomous Cultural Affairs Department, with already one resignation due to irregularities in tender procedures.  We should use syntagm the most corrupted, and not the most developed Croatian city, when referring to Zagreb.  

Pogon – Independent Culture and Youth Centre (Zagreb) is the first Croatian hybrid institution, founded by Alliance for Independent Culture and Youth Centre (now Alliance of Associations Operacija Grad) and City of Zagreb. In practice, it means that the City of Zagreb partly covers overhead expenses (some employees’ salaries and some overhead expenses on two locations of POGON, one being an apartment in the city centre, and another building of ex-factory Jedinstvo on the Sava river), while program funds are collected independently, by calls for proposals. POGON has developed a very transparent use regime, free for all the beneficiaries, which is excellent for the development of independent and non-institutionalized culture. 


Social-cultural centre is a result of participatory management in the sphere of culture with local self-government on one side (and very often is the owner of some space and it is in its best interest to put that space in order) and alliance of associations on the other side. Depending on size of local self-government, the number of members in alliance of associations may vary, and the important thing is that it includes cultural needs of as wide community as possible. 

Analyses of various models of civil-public partnerships and local cultural needs, provide opportunity for the island of Šolta to develop its own, innovative model and get included in modern shaping of culture in Croatia and EU, as well as to form all sorts of partnerships on national and international levels.  

Sonja Leboš, January 2018 


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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