Strong governance in a strong region


  • Lack of power


  • Reorganising cooperative network within a region


  • Regulations, politics, ownership, history


Problems and challenges

In the last 50 years society has changed substantially. The way the Kortrijk region works together (‘is organised’) has become much more complex as well: Europe plays a more prominent role, the Eurometropole has been established, the Flemish government (which did not exist in 1960) is dominant in many domains, the provinces and municipalities have changed both in domains in which they are active and the way they work. The relation and dynamics between urban and rural has changed. Many organisations professionalised. New organisations became active in new domains (like nature and mobility). Businesses work in a strongly changed economic context. The political parties (and how they interact with regional development) have changed, as well as the way they ‘make’ politics and policies.

A remarkable development has been the strong sectorial organisation of society. In only twenty years society became sectoralised. Welfare for example was divided in care for disabled, care for elderly, care for mental illness, etc – with institutional and legal divisions between them. Spatial management is approached from sectors like nature, economy, housing – each with their own legal framework and coordinating organisations, all with their own administrations, procedures, rules – both on the local and central level. It is becoming more and more complex to govern through these sectors and to approach problems in an integrated way. Major cities can manage this because of their critical mass in professionals; smaller (and mainly rural) municipalities cannot and ‘undergo’ developments. In order to maintain the qualities of rural areas and tackle problems, an integrated approach is needed.

In the last fifty years, the Kortrijk region responded to these developments to the establishment of regional organisations and new co-operation frameworks of all types in many domains. Today 135 such organised frameworks are active. Key question is how the region should organise itself to deal with the challenges (internal and external, local and global, in all sectors). Second question is how the current way of working together can be assessed and which strategy should be used for the current challenges and coming years.


The Strong Governance in a Strong Region project (SGSR) is not about defining content-related goals for the region, like to assess the quality or provision of education, nor the situation of the economy, welfare, health or other themes.

The SGSR is about the question whether the current ‘de facto’ organisation within a region is efficient, whether it leads to a valid, valuable and effective strategy, which regional projects are needed and how ideally they should be defined, and which changes in the daily working together between organisations are needed. The three questions the SGSR is dealing with are:

  1. How active, how dynamic, how efficient are the current cooperation frameworks in the region?
  2. How active and how strong is the cooperation between private organisations, community organisations and the public sector – an how can this PPC become better?
  3. How efficient and democratic is the public sector organised in the region and how can this be improved.

The project is innovative in following way:
The SGSR intended to kick off a continuous debate within a region how to work together more effective and by this to become stronger, both internally and externally. A region here is defined as all actors active within a geographic area: regional actors, local authorities, universities and university colleges, research organisations, community foundations, sector organisations, employer and employee organisations, hospitals etc.
The focus is not on ‘what’ to do but on the ‘how to do it’. Key is that the region wants to question itself: its local dynamic, its organisations, its methodologies to work together, its capacity to involved younger generations in the wide debate of regional development. The region wants (i) to improve on efficiency (using limited means with greater effect); wants (ii) more democracy (governance, subsidiarity, strong partnerships between public, private and community); and (iii) wants a more integrated approach as opposed to a too sectoral approach of society.


Potential barriers:

  • Perceived self-interest some organisations (any change means loss of power)
  • Complex process requires funding, preferably financed by several organisations
  • Policy initiatives of central or intermediate government result in ‘fog’ or interfere with dialogue
  • On some moments a too government-centred approach which bored the non-government representatives


  1. Communication strategy and communication instruments
  2. Methodologies to create a broad support amongst professionals, active organisations and citizens of such a critical yet untangible endeavour
  3. Model to set up such a complex initiative, including step-outline
  4. Definition of needed profiles, and how to find these amongst the participation organisations
  5. Models for increased public-private-community cooperation within a region
  6. Methodologies to let public organisations work together more effectively, within a given legal context