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53. Citizens’ Agreement for an Inclusive Barcelona

53.1. Short description

The Citizens’ Agreement for an Inclusive Barcelona1 is the result of the 2005-10 Municipal Plan for Social Inclusion that was approved in Barcelona in March 2005. This plan provided the framework for municipal policies aimed at preventing the social exclusion of individuals and groups and the promotion of participation. The Citizens’ Agreement (CA) was established in April 2005. The ultimate goal of the programme is a redistribution of responsibilities in the social welfare sector in Barcelona through a broad agreement among representatives of the main social agents in the sector. The intention is to create a strategic framework shared by all participating entities. This is a new philosophy, which integrates the diversity of activities carried out in the local social welfare system into a single framework or joint strategy. It is based on a policy decision to coordinate the diverse activities of the different social stakeholders. No one loses their space for action; on the contrary, it is possible to improve results by combining efforts.

A total of 235 entities of a diverse nature (organisations, businesses and universities) signed the Agreement with the aim of establishing alliances, generating synergies, coordinating activities and finding shared objectives with the municipal government and among themselves. It was established with the intention that it would remain open to the incorporation of new entities and social organisations. Since its public presentation, the number of institutions and organisations involved and attached to the Agreement has grown each year. In December 2011, there were a total of 467 participating organisations, institutions and businesses (representing a doubling of the number of participants in 5 years), and by the end of 2012 there were 500 entities.

It is the result of a process that began 20 years ago with the goal of generating greater participation in the area of social welfare in the city. This process has gone through different phases and at present has taken the form of the Citizens’ Agreement.

53.2. Types of services and ways of addressing users

The Agreement has been promoted and is coordinated by the municipal government. Currently, the more than 500 participating entities work in such distinct spheres as the economy, culture, education, social action, housing, health and labour. The values that the Citizens’ Agreement promotes are identified in the strategic framework that defines the programme: co-existence, cooperation, social cohesion, creativity and community. As stated in a Citizens’ Agreement document: “these values emphasise the need to improve dialogue within a framework of diversity, increase interactions between individuals and organisations, social ties in the community, solidarity, transformative action and social innovation”. In addition, from the perspective of the internal administration of the agreement, the desire is for “the values that preside to be closely related to democratic governance, networking and quality of work” (I-12).

Signing the Agreement means joining a network that provides opportunities for access to and exchange of information, resources and knowledge. It also promotes projects in which cooperation between diverse entities and organisations in the city are key.

53.3. Internal organisation and modes of working

The Citizens’ Agreement is organised on different levels:

  • There is an annual meeting of all the signatories to the agreement, in which participants provide an account of the work they have carried out during the year and agree on the direction of the work for the following year.
  • There is a governing council, which is a deliberative and decision-making body that shapes the development of the agreement and its actions.
  • There are work commissions, formed by organisations that temporarily work on concrete issues.
  • There are action networks formed by organisations, institutions and other bodies that work in specific sectors, which establish common objectives to improve the work they do. The development of their work has the support of a Technical Secretariat.

The organisations and city institutions in these networks share concrete methodologies and goals; they cooperate and direct their shared work toward common strategic and operational objectives. The networks begin with a desire to work together on a particular issue or matter and to achieve improvements in the respective fields of the participants. Each network is independent and has, based on its objectives, its own dynamics and work plan. At the time of this study (summer 2012), ten networks had been formed:

  • Network for the Reception and Support of Immigrants in Barcelona.
  • Network for Assistance to the Homeless.
  • Network of Businesses with Social Responsibility Projects.
  • Network for Social and Labour Market Integration (now: for “Social Economy”).
  • Network of Centres for Children and Teens.
  • Support Network for Family Caregivers.
  • Inclusion Housing Network.
  • Cultural Network for Social Inclusion.
  • Network for Children’s Rights.
  • Network for Co-existence and Prevention.

53.4. The embeddedness of the project in the local welfare system

The Citizens’ Agreement has had an interesting impact on social welfare policy in the city. Not only has it allowed the sharing of resources and information, but it has also changed forms of governance. The entities involved feel themselves to be stakeholders who have influence on social welfare. It has led to the participation of citizens and social organisations in welfare policies through different forms of deliberation and action. The programme has changed the social welfare system in the city in various ways. For example, the structures of the Citizens’ Agreement represent a new form of governance, in particular the dynamic in the executive commission, which allows and promotes pro-activeness with a very high level of reflection and production of documents (I-6). There is participation in the overall welfare system that also improves or facilitates the activities carried out by each of the participating entities.

The municipal Social Inclusion Plan in its fourth strategic line of action promotes a “shared strategy” with the signatories to the Citizens’ Agreement. Its goal is to coordinate public resources with private resources and with social and voluntary initiatives, in order to respond more effectively to social needs in these times of crisis. As stated in the presentation document, the “shared strategy” is itself a plan for the inclusion of all the social stakeholders in the city, whether public or private, commercial or non-profit. The document “Shared Strategy 2012-17” was presented on 4 April 2013 and refers to the activities of the civil society contributing to the social inclusion plan promoted by the city government.

In addition, direct action depends on the networks. Each of them has their own dynamic and characteristics. Some of the networks have progressed more than others, and some have managed to agree on common citywide projects or programmes. In the following section we will analyse three of the networks forming part of the Citizens’ Agreement.

53.5. Description of three networks

The Network for Social and Labour Market Integration (now Social Economy Network) was created in April 2006. It is made up of 49 organisations and its objective is to coordinate the effort of public authorities and other social agents that work to find employment for persons in situations of vulnerability. Since the end of 2007, the recession and economic crisis have strengthened the network as a resource that gives a voice to its members and enables them to find solutions by combining efforts. The network has also been a “school”, helping its members consolidate as social enterprises that can find their own sources of funding to break with their dependency on government subsidies. In this sense, the network does not directly intervene in the social welfare model but is rather a tool or instrument that can improve the work of the entities involved. It is important to remember at this point that local governments in Spain have no direct competencies over employment policies.

Two years ago, and as a result of two factors – the change in city government and the economic and financial crisis – the network began to rethink its objectives and even changed its name. It is now called the “Social Economy Network”. This new focus means that it no longer only targets the most vulnerable groups but that it also attempts to promote the social economy of the city. Along with measures to assist individuals and groups with difficulties, it seeks to promote “entrepreneurship” and social innovation in the workplace, incorporating companies that have corporate social responsibility policies and programmes into the network.

The Network for Assistance to the Homeless was created in November 2005 and constituted of twenty-six organisations and federations. The social organisations that are participants in this network are committed to working together to help homeless persons regain autonomy and social relations. The network initially arose in order for its members to set goals and plan actions together. They especially wanted to break with the stereotype that actions taken by the government were different from those carried out by the third sector, overcoming a lack of trust between the two sectors.

Various working groups were established and together they have carried out diverse actions, such as the following: a count of the number of homeless persons in Barcelona; preparation of a document with proposals on how to improve healthcare for the mentally ill; coming to agreement on proposals for actions; sharing information and data; and creating an open online catalogue of all the resources and services available through government and other entities. The network has representation and dialogue with officials of local and regional government. The administration, politicians and professionals with responsibility in this area have embraced this new way of working horizontally with third-sector organisations. This network has made it possible to create a new form of governance in this area.

Network of Centres for Children and Teens is made up of seventeen organisations and was established in April 2006. Its aim is to improve the city’s responsiveness to children and adolescents in situations of social risk.

It was an initiative of the organisations that manage or run centres for children and teens (outside school hours), the aim of which was to gain greater recognition for the work they were doing. Through the network the member organisations would work on developing a common model of care for young people for all the centres in the city, albeit managed by different entities. Each year the different centres work on a theme that is chosen by all the participants in the network – both public authorities and social organisations. The organisations and the local administration recognise that they share a discourse. Moreover, this discourse has become a reference for other municipalities in the region. It is the network in the Citizens’ Agreement that has had the greatest impact on the city’s social welfare system.

Today there is one model for the centres agreed upon by all. During the work carried out new centres have been established, and today there are centres that depend on the city and centres that depend on the social organisations, all with the same programme for teens and children.


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53. Citizens’ Agreement for an Inclusive Barcelona


53. Citizens’ Agreement for an Inclusive Barcelona