Support territories in transition
Designing the engineering for the management of systemic change in territories
Transition in a territory implies change :
- systemic because it concerns all the actors of the territory and all the fields dealt with ;
- systemic because it implies an evolution of ideas, methods, policies, relations between actors, institutional cultures, knowledge, attitudes and skills.
What is the accompaniment of a process of systemic change?
Transition is a process that takes years. Accompanying such a change has nothing to do with project engineering, which remains the dominant model of relations between the State and the territories. It is not an addition of sectoral changes. It does not come about with a wave of a magic wand. It presupposes both a deep desire for transformation, which can only come from the territorial community itself, and an ability to find the way.
Accompanying it means helping a territory to find its own way:
- by enabling it to identify the obstacles to be overcome: there are many of them, which explains why transition strategies that are really carried out over the long term remain rare;
- by developing learning to work together and to cooperate between actors of different natures;
- by translating, in the specific context of each territory, the guiding principles drawn from the capitalisation of the experience of the territories that have paved the way;
- by helping to discover sources of inspiration from near and far that give us confidence in collective creativity;
- by making training tools available.
Resource persons and access to accumulated experience
Support combines the support of people with experience of change processes and the provision of a body of experience and teaching resources. One cannot be achieved without the other: resource persons must be able to draw on a pool of experience and educational tools; conversely, this pool, however well organised it may be, needs mediators in order to make the most of it.
Can we feed on the methods developed for companies
Most of the existing knowledge in the field of systemic change management today comes from the business world: subject to fierce international competition, confronted with rapid technological change and called upon to respond to the new aspirations of employees, many have been led to engage in such changes.
The resulting doctrinal and methodological corpus is a resource but cannot be transposed without precaution to public authorities and territories: a territory is not a structured organisation with a single management, it is a collective actor in the making, made up of a very large number of players.
Combine the skills of allies and create new skills
In order to build a support offer that meets the needs of the territories, the Factory relies in a first stage on the combination of the skills of the different allies, taking advantage of their diversity. None of them can claim to be able to accompany alone the process of systemic change in the territories, but the synergy of their competences constitutes the "version 1.0" of the support.
The different types of competences mobilized
- help a territory to identify and mobilise its internal resources, to establish a diagnosis of its strengths and weaknesses with regard to change management;
- to be familiar with the various methods used for change management in companies and to be able to draw lessons from them for the benefit of change in the territories;
- know how to create and lead cooperation between actors of various kinds; to advance the cooperative maturity of the territories;
- know the territorial transformation processes at work in the world with their strengths and weaknesses and the guiding principles that can be drawn from them;
- to break out of the confinement of concepts and institutions inherited from history and to renew the framework of thought that guides action;
- to offer methods and tools useful to the process of change, in particular: the construction of learning communities; the capitalisation of experiences; the management of a broad documentary base at the service of the transition; the management of complexity;
- designing a pedagogy adapted to the different types of actors and implementing training tools;
- mastering specialised skills in one of the many fields of action related to transition, e.g. soft mobility, local agri-food systems, economy of functionality and cooperation, renewable energy, education, etc. ;
- open up to new methods of governance and the renewal of democracy, with a view to better involving citizens and stakeholders in decision-making.
The Factory is being built step by step and piece by piece. It is by multiplying experiences and capitalising on the lessons learned that the Factory will gradually develop an engineering of systemic change shared by all.
Offering tailor-made support to the territories
The Factory does not offer a standard accompaniment, does not reduce the conduct of the transition to a uniform procedure. It has a clear vision of the stages and difficulties of systemic change processes but wants to respond to the expectations, explicit or implicit, of territories that want to go further in a transition strategy by starting from where they are and by offering them tailor-made support modalities.
Each territory wishing to engage in such a strategy has its own experiences, its own internal resources, its own intuitions, its own priority needs. There are not, on the one hand, territories "to be supported" and on the other hand "support specialists". Both are allies. Forming groups of territories that are at the same stage in their transition strategy as a learning community or associating territories that are already able to transmit their experience are two fully-fledged modalities of support.
Only experience will make it possible to draw up a panorama of initial situations, needs and how to respond to them. Nevertheless, a first outline can be made by distinguishing six scenarios, from the simplest to the most elaborate:
Becoming an ally
The Charter of the Factory proposes a new definition of territories, highlights their central role in the transition, underlines the need for conceptual and institutional ruptures. All this is not self-evident.
Inviting a territory to become an ally is not limited to signing the Charter. A group of actors must emerge at the level of the territory that effectively adheres to these ideas and for this reason one of them must be able to invite the others to a discussion on the Charter’s theses.
A certain number of allies must be able to act as the bearers of these ideas, drawing on the accounts of the territories already engaged in the transition, illustrating the foreseeable obstacles, and giving examples of sectoral policies that are part of the transition by drawing on the Factory’s documentary resources. This musical setting of the Charter will be the subject of a pedagogical support available to all allies to help them create in new territories the desire to enter into an alliance and to engage in a transition process.
Once these theses have been discussed, it will be possible to speak of an informed signature of the Charter. The greater the number of actors in a territory who sign it, the greater the chances of success of a collective approach.
Drawing up together an inventory of the territory's situation and potential
One never substitutes for the aspirations and capacities of the actors. We help them to discover and develop them. However, potentialities come from such different registers that a single territory is not always in a position to identify them and grasp their importance. The Factory can help in this by going through the field of the factors whose development will be decisive in a transition strategy, a sort of "check list" that stems from the theses of the Charter and the guiding principles drawn from the experience of the pilot territories. For information purposes only:
- what do we know about the metabolism of the territory? flows of all kinds entering and leaving, flows circulating within the territory?
- what is the extent of the intangible capital of the territories: is there a tradition of collective problem-solving involving the various stakeholders?
- how does one spontaneously define the territory: is it considered as a human community, is relationships involved or does the institutional approach (the territory reduced to a series of territorial authorities) remain predominant?
- are there institutions at the level of the territory that are able to build an understanding of the metabolism of the territory, to condense the collective experience, to ensure continuity in the transition process?
- What is the current capacity of local actors to make the territory a "collective actor of its destiny"? We can distinguish the three stages of "entering into intelligibility" (combining the partial understanding that each actor has of reality to build a more complete representation of it), of "entering into dialogue" around the transition, of "entering into a project"?
- Does the territory feel that it has creative autonomy or that it is merely the plaything of forces beyond its control?
- is there a tradition of involving citizens in the development of public policies? a tradition of combining public money and citizen initiatives? spaces for collective reflection open to the whole population?
- are the relations between communities at different levels cooperative or simply a sharing of roles?
- within local and regional authorities, is there a strict distinction between elected representatives and services or a tradition of co-construction of public policies?
- is horizontal cooperation between services encouraged or discouraged? are there examples of comprehensive local public policies associating different services around a common goal?
- is society as a whole aware of the issues at stake in the transition and how is this awareness manifested in action?
- are there already, even in a purely sectoral form, local policies that are moving in the direction of the transition?
- what is the dominant vision of power that prevails within the community and institutions: statutory power (power is the property of some) or creative power (power derives from the initiatives one takes)?
- is there a consensus among the living forces and among political parties on the need for transition, or is it associated with a particular party?
- are the different actors of the territory already involved in collective networks of reflection and experience sharing? More generally, when faced with new challenges, are they accustomed to seeking out the various existing experiences?
- are there local reflections on the framework of thought inherited from history (be it governance, economics, law, education, etc.)?
- do actors, particularly public actors, participate in training sessions on issues of transition and changes in governance or only in sessions strictly related to the exercise of the profession?
- are there local university capacities and are they oriented towards the concrete context of the territory, with applied research related to the challenges of the territory?
- is there a partnership between local political and economic actors and educational institutions for the training of young people, particularly in terms of sustainable territory?
- Are there ways of involving retired people in the knowledge and management of the territory?
Accompanying the first steps: star and white pebbles
A strategy for change always involves a succession of steps: becoming aware of the need for change; building a common vision of the direction to go in (the star that will guide us); finding allies for change in different environments, including within local public services; taking the first concrete steps in the direction (the white stones).
The process of change is like a hike in the mountains, less about planning, where everything is defined in advance, than about strategy: reaching a clear vision of where we want to go and finding the means to do so "step by step" as the Factory Charter says. Only the first successful concrete steps will give a community confidence in itself and in its ability to get started.
However, it is not a question of "acting for the sake of acting". Each of these first steps will remain very modest with regard to the transformations to be carried out, and will only be worthwhile for its ripple effect, for the desire to go further...
A third form of support is to raise collective awareness, to outline a long-term strategy involving the citizens and different types of stakeholders in a territory, to choose a few significant actions to begin with, to get closer to other territories engaged in the same process and thus form a learning community, to discover new perspectives and multiple fields of action through the documentary resources site or learning trips, to envisage a collective training process for the different stakeholders: this is a third form of support.
From sectoral policies to an overall strategy
Few territories have not yet implemented a policy in one area or another that is "moving in the direction of transition": this is the trend of the moment. But it is often a matter of a few actions based on a reality that has remained unchanged.
State procedures, centred on the implementation of projects, often encourage these sectoral approaches, creating "windfall effects" for the territories and providing them with funding to be tapped. The areas concerned are countless: mobility, housing, positive energy neighbourhoods, education, food, waste management, renewable energy, water and biodiversity, participatory budgeting, local currency, episodic participatory democracy, etc.
These sectoral policies must be taken as a starting point to go further. This can be done on the one hand by deepening and broadening the policy in question, and on the other hand by asking how the learning acquired thanks to this first policy can save time to develop others.
The design and implementation of ecological development contracts
In France, in 2020, the State seems to be gradually becoming aware of the limits of its own sectoral approach and wants to promote "ecological development contracts". For its part, the recovery plan adopted by the European Union in July 2020 gives pride of place to the fight against climate change and ecological transition. This development echoes what the municipal elections revealed of aspirations to take seriously the evolution of our societies and territories towards a truly sustainable model.
These are historic opportunities that territories must be able to seize. The Factory can play a pioneering role: in the conception of what such ecological development contracts can be and in the mode of relationship between the State and local authorities that can result from them; in supporting their elaboration in pilot territories.
The aim is to encourage in each region a group of territories willing to engage in the elaboration and implementation of such contracts. Each regional group forms a learning community supported by the Factory. The Fabrique must then be recognised as such, both by the State and by the Regions and voluntary territories, as a privileged space for collective invention of these contracts, with a capacity to challenge the State itself and excluding becoming a simple transmission belt for centralised procedures.
The support approach can be designed over a three-year period, combining: personalised support for each territory; collective facilitation of the reflection of groups of territories on the conceptual and institutional systems in which they are enclosed; making collective proposals to the State and the European Union, based on the reflections of allies in terms of the economy and governance; implementation of a multi-actor and multi-sectoral approach leading to each territory having a systemic vision of its functioning and evolution.
Support will include the development of a training programme for different types of actors, designed with each regional group of territories.
The creation and animation of a pilot group of territories at the national level
A number of territories of various sizes are engaged in a transition process in France and in Europe. They are already generally participating in European and global networks and have a tradition of exchanging experiences, at least on a sectoral basis.
The objective is, in the spirit of the Factory, to propose to them to create a pilot group with four vocations: to build a common vision of all the transformations to be carried out in order to meet the challenges; to bring about conceptual and institutional changes at French and European level; to constitute a learning community and capitalise on their experience in order to enrich the guiding principles born of the work of the four local authorities that gave birth to the Factory; to produce educational materials for all the territories.
This process could be contracted out over a five-year period with the participation of each pilot territory and with support from the State and the European Union for the production of everything that will benefit all the territories.