Christmas Interview with DELGOSEA Project Manager Ms Susanne Stephan

Christmas Interview with DELGOSEA Project Manager Ms Susanne Stephan
12/12/2011

Germany

As 2011 is nearing its end, the DELGOSEA project manager, Susanne Stephan, took some time to answer a few questions and to reflect on what had been an exciting and eventful year for DELGOSEA.

Looking back at the end of the year, what, in your view, were the most important developments in the DELGOSEA project?

This is not an easy question to answer – so much has happened in just 12 months! But if I had to choose a few strands of our work, which were influential for the success of the whole project, I would start with the approval of the transfer concepts and concrete actions plans by the mayors of our 16 pilot cities: Alaminos, Bacolod City, Misamis Oriental (Philippines), Pakkred, Songkhla, Chiang Rai, and Yala (Thailand), Kupang, Pangkal Pinang, Tarakan, and Wakatobi (Indonesia), Danang, Tra Vinh, and Vinh (Vietnam), as well as Choam Chao and Kampot from Cambodia.

This meant that all the city governments were completely on board and the cities could start their work in earnest. Which leads me to the second important step for DELGOSEA last year: the start of the actual replication process, leaving the long and valuable period of research and training behind and finally implementing the best practices. And, of course, towards the end of the year, starting the monitoring phase, giving the coaches and the local taskforces the chance to apply their new skills and show that they were ready to work systematically on action plans and logical frameworks.

Last, but not least, it was a pleasure to witness throughout the whole year the good cooperation and communication that is characterizing all aspects of the project: between the DELGOSEA team both in Manila and in the five project countries, between the coaches and the local taskforce in each city – and in particularly, the positive and nurturing relationships that developed between best practice and pilot cities. It was so exciting to be part of this exchange between people from different cultures and political backgrounds, united by their passion to transform their cities.

Are there any outstanding moments that you personally remember particularly well?

Again, it’s hard to choose between the many great and impressive moments and milestones of DELGOSEA. I guess seeing the 16 marketplace presentations by the pilot cities during the midterm conference made me feel quite emotional - it was great to see how much effort the cities had made to present their project and how proud they were of their achievements. Being part of some of the exchange visits also felt special, witnessing the great mutual interest between best practices and pilot cities and the ‘aha-effect’ on the side of the visitors when actually seeing the best practice model for the first time. I am also remembering – though this is not a moment, but an on-going source of satisfaction – the growing friendship between everybody involved in the project, the spontaneous offers of help without expecting anything in return, the Facebook interchanges. And, of course, the publication of our book series on best practices; it was great to finally see them in print after all the effort that had gone into compiling these four volumes.

What do you see as the main achievement of the last year for DELGOSEA?

If I had to pick one of the many milestones we have reached over the last year, it would have to be the networking and cooperation aspect. DELGOSEA has become stronger and more solid, growing from a lose collection of organizations to a proper network, functioning well both on national and international level. National teams have emerged, who are working closely with the pilot cities, and the communication on all levels is working very well. I am also really pleased with the way the communication of DELGOSEA’s project results has developed – we have a great website which is attracting a lot of visitors, not only from the development community. It is turning up as one of the first results on search engines when looking for terms such as ‘ASEAN‘,‘governance’ or ‘Southeast Asia’.

This all sounds wonderful, but did you also encounter any problems?

I would be lying if I said that there were no challenges at all. Working with people from five different countries, coming from different cultural and political backgrounds, we were of course facing the occasional difficulties. Just think about how to deal with five different languages and the need for translations and interpreters, the various ways in which work is organized in each culture and how you are aiming to implement the same activity in different political settings.

We had also not been able to anticipate all the needs from the pilot cities that we encountered along the way: be it more demands for trainings or a higher need for coordination amongst the local taskforce members. There was also occasionally an unforeseen issue with the budget each individual city had for their best practice replication – the integrating of DELGOSEA into the fiscal planning did not run smoothly everywhere.

But none of these issues became major problems, which is really due to the great DELGOSEA network, with the DELGOSEA core team getting such wonderful support from LGAs, civil society organizations and academia and such commitment from city leaders and the local taskforce. It was heartening to encounter their excitement to work with DELGOSEA, even though the project’s support is limited to exchange and capacity building (in contrast to other huge donor funded projects).

What are your hopes for the next year for DELGOSEA?

2012 being the last project year for DELGOSEA – in fact, the last eight months of DELGOSEA! – my thoughts are naturally turning towards sustainability of the project results. How can we ensure that this project doesn’t just remain a one-off experience, but that pilot cities turn into best practice cities and the network continues to exist and spread its wings? 2012 will therefore see strong efforts from LGAs and partner organizations to extend the best practices to other cities and to build a solid base from which the work can continue after August 2012. After all, DELGOSEA is laying the foundations, and small changes can already be observed in the 16 pilot cities now. However, it will take much more time to see real results and make real differences to the lives of people. My greatest hope is, therefore, that we will have managed to create a solid enough foundation on which many more cities can create their own projects, being able to draw on a hopefully still existing DELGOSEA support network. I have this vision of a permanent DELGOSEA Secretariat, which is continuously promoting the best practice exchange between local governments in ASEAN. Local governments face so many similar problems, but also many solutions to these problems are already existing. We could achieve a lot for the people when we extend and sustain our network across the region.

And finally, on a more personal note: how are you planning to spend your Christmas break?

I am going to relax! My parents are coming over to visit us, and the entire family, including my husband, Dirk, and my 15months daughter, Milla, will be spending Christmas on the pretty Philippine island of Bohol – which just happens to be the site of one of the best practice examples. Funny coincidence!

But before I go, I would like to use this opportunity to thank my colleagues from the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), the Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), the United Cities and Local Governments in Asia Pacific (UCLG-ASPAC), the National League of Communes and Sangkats (NLC/S), and the Association of Cities in Vietnam (ACVN) for their strong commitment. I also would like to express my thanks to the 11 Local Government Associations supporting this project. These are: The League of Cities, League of Provinces, League of Municipalities as well as the umbrella organization Union of Local Authorities in the Philippines; the Association of Indonesian Municipal Council, Association of Indonesia Regency Legislative Councils, Association of Indonesian Municipalities, Association of Indonesian Regency Governments in Indonesia; the Municipal League of Thailand, the National League of Communes and Sangkats in Cambodia as well as the Association of Cities in Vietnam.

A particular thanks also to my colleagues from Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung here in the Philippines and in our head office, as well as the various KAS country representatives supporting this project. They all worked very hard to build up the DELGOSEA network and to provide the best possible support for our pilot cities. A particular thanks of course to the Delegation of the European Union to Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam as well as to the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung for funding this network.

A merry Christmas.