Public-civic partnership represents an alternative to public-private partnership and a new institutional design wherein the democratic agency of citizens is coupled with the institutional stability of public administration. These partnerships hold transformative power as they emerge as attempts of commoning and demands to democratize urban governance regimes.
Participatory governance models and different forms of partnerships have been inspired and motivated by wide-spread commons movements in Europe. The public-civic partnership model represents a new governance arrangement that regulates issues of power, mutual relationships and accountability. By sharing responsibilities in the management process, a new model of the structure and of public space and property management can be established. Examples of different practices show that cooperation can be initiated by both sectors, and that responsibilities are defined through clearly specified tasks, rules and legislative frameworks. The development of public-civic partnership depends on a set of ideological, legal, political and economic instruments such as: (1) political will, (2) laws, rules, decisions; (3) development strategies; (4) material support and sources of funds; (5) information access; (6) meetings and cooperation opportunities between the civil and the public sector; and (7) further education of both sectors regarding possible cooperation models. It should be emphasized that in different local contexts there are certain challenges in a political and professional sense, but also challenges that, on one hand, are reflected in the citizens’ distrust in such arrangements, while on the other, imply the very institutions and their willingness to engage in this type of democratic innovations.
POGON - Zagreb Centre for Independent Culture and Youth is a hybrid cultural institution based on a new model of public-civic partnership. In 2008 it was jointly founded and is managed by the Alliance Operation City and the City of Zagreb, and its currently operating in two locations, Pogon Jedinstvo and Pogon Mislavova. It is a first example of this type of institution in Croatia, marking a turning point in the institutional design. This center is a result of years of advocating process by a number of Zagreb’s independent cultural and youth organizations. Advocacy activities began in 2005, just before the local elections, which would later prove to be a very important moment in the negotiations. Namely, the first press conference was held that year, at which the marginalization of the independent cultural scene was presented as well as the Initiative by which the process of public advocacy was officially started. After this conference, several more events were organized with the participation of representatives of the public and civil sector – representatives of city administration, experts from various fields, cultural workers, artists, media and the interested public. These events and public discussions resulted in reaching a consensus on the issues of the independent cultural scene and youth, i.e., in the Declaration “Independent Culture and Youth in Development of the City of Zagreb”, signed by most political parties before the elections, including the one that will come to power. As the political option that took over the management of the city undertook to fulfill the measures agreed in the Declaration, in 2005 the use of the abandoned industrial complex "Badel-Gorica" and the old city slaughterhouse "Zagrepčanka" was allowed during the ten-days manifestation Operation: City. The organizers of the event were associations gathered around the Initiative, and the City of Zagreb. During the event, the Board of the Center for Independent Culture and Youth was established, a mixed-type board in which the City of Zagreb and the associations that initiated the process are co-founders. The role of this board was to establish the Center for Independent Culture and Youth, which would use the industrial complex "Badel-Gorica". Unfortunately, soon after leaving the space after the ten-days event, which was followed by the privatization of the “Badel-Gorica” complex, a period of administrative blockade and lack of political will ensued. The new situation required reorganization and development of further tactical actions in order to implement the measures from the Declaration. The reorganization led to the creation of two directions of action, the first which will be directed towards the needs of organizations of the independent cultural scene and youth, and the second which will deal with the issues of development and management of the city, titled The Right to the City. Namely, the organizations gathered in the Initiative Board founded the formal association "Alliance for the Center for Independent Culture and Youth" in mid-2006, with the aim of resolving the spatial demands of the members of this scene. In 2007, the Alliance illegally occupied parts of the abandoned industrial complex "Jedinstvo" (eng. Unity), and again organized the manifestation "Operation City: Jedinstvo", and symbolically called the space "Temporary Illegal Center for Independent Culture and Youth Jedinstvo". The name was supposed to provoke the leaders of the city and provoke a dialogue; however, a completely opposite reaction took place. This act provoked the indignation of the authorities, harsh reactions, expulsion of users and, in the end, revocation of the license for use by clubs that legally used parts of the complex in previous years. Nonetheless, after a long campaign, advocacy activities and negotiations aimed at reusing the industrial complex "Jedinstvo", at the end of 2008 the City Assembly accepted the proposal of the City Administration on the establishment of the institution. The Agreement on the establishment of the institution was signed between the mayor and representatives of the Alliance, which marked the final formalization of the public-civic partnership. In 2010, the Alliance changed its name to Association Alliance Operation City, while the Center was renamed as POGON – Center for Independent Culture and Youth. This model of partnership allows for long-term sustainability as a result of a balanced relationship between public financing and supervision on the one hand and independent programming and participatory decision-making on the other. The decision-making is equally divided between two founding bodies: the city of Zagreb and Alliance. The role of the City of Zagreb is to provide spaces and basic operational means for running the center and realizing the program. The city is responsible for upholding and developing the financial and infrastructural stability of the institution. It secures the funds encompassing the employees’ wages and running costs for the core operation of the institution. The primary role of the Alliance is to create content and to provide funding for the production of the programs. It is responsible for creating a strategic framework for the institution’s operation, participating in the creation of programs and financial plans, as well as being actively involved in the advisory bodies of the Pogon’s governance scheme. Both entities, Zagreb’s city assembly and the Assembly of the Alliance, make the most important decisions related to Pogon, including the appointment of the members of the managing council that has the capacity to make substantive decisions, such as the distribution of Pogon’s funds. The assemblies also decide on the appointment of the director in charge of operational activities, and who has the capacity to represent the institution. Both managing council and the director are appointed for a duration of four years. The program council is an advisory decision-making body consisting of representatives from the civil society organizations that are appointed by the Assembly of the Alliance Operation City for a duration of three years. It contributes to developing the methods and formats for the use of space, as well as to program development and long-term program planning. This innovative model of shared ownership and co-governance was created to provide new models of cultural institutions that will adequately respond to the needs of the local (non-institutional) cultural sector, but can be replicated in other sectors and for different resources.
POGON (which means both “drive” and “production plant” in English) is the direct result of the advocacy and activism of the organizations focused on finding the solution to the problem of insufficient infrastructure for independent cultural activities in Zagreb. It was initiated by the coalition of CSOs consisting of two national networks; one independent culture network – Clubture Network, and the other made up of youth organizations – Croatian Youth Network, the local collaborative platform Zagreb – Cultural Capital of Europe 3000, and three independent cultural clubs: Močvara, Attack! and MaMa. The coalition initiated a comprehensive advocacy process in early 2005, few months before the local elections. For the first time, the needs of independent culture and youth in Zagreb were clearly articulated, publicly discussed, and defined in a policy document signed by the future political decision-makers. In parallel with public discussions, media activities and protest actions, the coalition organized a series of events, Operation: City, which every year focused on a different specific issue important for the urban development of a modern city. Through various formats and forms of artistic expression, Operation: City temporarily occupied various abandoned locations and, among other things, promoted the idea of a cultural center which Pogon was modelled after. Through the advocacy work of independent cultural organizations in Croatia, the concept of public-civic partnership and management of cultural and social infrastructures has become an important topic on local and national level, even crossing the Croatian borders into the South East Europe region.
Žuvela, Ana, Davor Mišković, Dea Vidović, Leda Sutlović and Mirko Petrić. 2018. Do it Together: Practices and Tendencies of Participatory Governance in Culture in the Republic of Croatia. Zagreb Zaklada Kultura nova. Vidović, Dea. 2010. Taktikal Practices in Approaching Local Cultural Policies in Zagreb. Časopis za suvremena likovna zbivanja: Život umjetnosti 86, 22-35. https://www.pogon.hr/en
POGON - Zagreb Centre for Independent Culture and Youth