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Adopting a joined-up approach to fundamental rights will require the active support and involvement of senior managers. Senior managers are constantly balancing budgets and different priorities, which means that fundamental rights work may not automatically be given adequate resources and time.

The following approaches can assist in engaging managers and obtaining support.

  1. Time and resources:
    Staff working on fundamental rights initiatives should discuss time and resources with their manager. Particularly at local level, time is rarely dedicated to fundamental rights activities, and staff are expected to engage with fundamental rights in addition to their normal duties. Discussing time and resource issues can help managers focus on the objectives of fundamental rights initiatives and their importance. This can be a good way of creating awareness and support.
  2. Collaboration:
    Collaboration with a broad range of colleagues and external stakeholders is an integral part of many fundamental rights activities. Managers need to be made aware of the collaboration and have a clear sense of who is responsible for what. This process can heighten awareness of fundamental rights’ responsibilities with managers and stimulate their support.
  3. Mainstreaming:
    Ensuring sustainability of fundamental rights work and cooperation requires a process of mainstreaming into the organisational culture and working practices. Ultimately, a series of managerial tools such as internal audits, staff appraisals and training, should be employed to mainstream this work. These require managerial decisions and long-term commitment to be implemented. Discussing such tools with managers, and how they might be applied, is a key part of securing management buy-in.
  4. Management team:
    Fundamental rights are not the unique domain of one department in a municipality or organisation. Rather, they need to become part of the organisational framework. This will involve other departments across the municipality or region, and therefore requires coordination and support from the management team. Staff look to managers for leadership on fundamental rights. Engaging the entire management team, therefore, plays an important advocacy role for staff involved in fundamental rights and supports cooperation across departments and sectors.
  5. Communication:
    Raising awareness on fundamental rights is a key challenge. Managers should be involved and give permission for regular communications on fundamental rights to internal and external audiences. Obtaining permission and regularly discussing the content of communications helps keep fundamental rights on the agenda.

It is always a challenge to involve senior managers. It is very positive when it works well. It is important for managers to feel ownership of the project so the project outcomes are sustainable. If there is a lack of management commitment this can create downward spirals as nobody wants to be involved in similar projects again.

Furthermore, a lack of involvement in parts of the management chain can create problems for project implementation, for example, when a project is initiated at the top level without being grounded at the middle management level. When this happens, it may complicate the implementation and worsen the end results.

A strategy to ensure cooperation between top and middle management, as well as politicians, is needed for successful project outcomes. It takes time for all levels to get on board and adapt to change.

Source: Regional focus group, 2011, Gothenburg, Sweden

Learning Point

Senior managers play a key role in sustaining the engagement for fundamental rights over the long term. This is necessary to implement and build on progress made through initiatives once they are finished.

Staff commitment
Senior managers can motivate and encourage staff to support fundamental rights activities. However, staff will be de-motivated if they sense that managers do not take fundamental rights seriously.

If managers are not involved and consulted, they can become an obstacle to new initiatives.

Management chain
All levels of management and leadership need to be considered and brought into the process to avoid resistance.

Time and lobbying
Securing management support can be a process that takes time and requires proactive “whispering in the right ears”.