DELGOSEA Midterm conference report

DELGOSEA Midterm conference report
10/11/2011

The midterm conference of the EU-cofinanced "Partnership for Democratic Local Governance in Southeast Asia" (DELGOSEA) project took place on the Indonesian island of Batam from 27 - 28 September 2011 (press conference and opening dinner on 26 September) in month 19 of the project.

Participants

Nearly 140 representatives of both, the pilot and the best practice cities, members of local government associations (LGAs), ministries, the EU and ASEAN from all five project countries took part in the conference (for details see participants list).

Objectives

  1. To take stock of the project progress so far and to share lessons learnt;
  2. To present the preliminary results of the midterm evaluation;
  3. To develop first ideas for the sustainability of the projects and its results.

Methodology/Programme:

The conference was neatly split into two sections: the first day was given over to looking back and reviewing, to drawing conclusions and lessons learnt. Proceedings on the second day focused on moving ahead, by looking at the next steps for the project arising from the results of the midterm evaluation, by exploring ideas for sustainability and by getting the perspective of local government officials and local government associations (LGAs) on efforts for good local government.

The conference contained the following elements (for details see attached conference programme):

  1. Marketplace session where the pilot cities had prepared displays of their progress so far;
  2. Three round tables:Perspectives from representatives of the pilot cities;
  3. The Replication process – challenges and changes;
  4. Perspectives from the local government associations (LGAs) as key stakeholders of DELGOSEA;
  5. Presentations of the findings of the DELGOSEA midterm evaluation;
  6. Presentations of first ideas for a strategy for sustainability;
  7. National Working Groups to discuss strategies for sustainability on local and national level for each country, followed by presentations of these working groups;
  8. Presentations by government officials on national efforts for good local governance, followed by a panel discussion;
  9. Presentations and discussions on sustainability aspects from a transnational perspective.

Common Themes/Challenges of the Replication Process

During the three round tables which were looking at the replication process from various angles, a number of themes or challenges emerged that were common to all cities.

During the first roundtable, all the pilot cities seemed to be concerned with the question of how they could ‘graduate’ from being a pilot city to being a best practice city while at the same time still figuring out how best to implement their transfer concept and complete a successful replication of the best practices they had taken as a model. In particular, the following issues emerged as being highly relevant to all pilot cities:

  1. Issues of cross-cultural replication: How do you best copy a model from a different country with a different culture, a different political system and a different social set-up? Usually, the two countries are different levels of decentralisation, ways of motivating people diverge, and there are issues with staff resistance to a new system… The speakers agreed that this was one of the major issues affecting the speed and success of the replication process.
     
  2. How does one deal with the bureaucracy involved in transferring a model from another country where local government units are run in a different way? Examples from Vietnam and the Philippines illustrated eloquently how time-consuming the process of getting all stakeholders on board and cutting through all the red tape can be.
     
  3. Which aspect of the best practice model should one concentrate on? All pilot cities reported the same experience: it was impossible to simply copy a model, one had to take a pick and choose approach, carefully selecting the elements that were right for one’s own city. Every city has different circumstances or challenges – a good transfer concept takes these into account.
     
  4. How does one best involve the community, which methods work best for encouraging people’s participation? All cities had given a lot of thought to that topic, and all were very keen to learn from the experiences of their counterparts from other countries.

At roundtable two, the national coordinators and coaches commented on the approach taken in the different countries, sharing their insider knowledge and the experiences they made so far in the project. These included:

  1. The level of decentralisation in a country influences the ease of the replication process and might necessitate changes to the best practice – it is important that the transfer concept takes this into account;
     
  2. The careful development of the transfer concept is of great importance to the success of a replication: the specific concerns of a city have to be identified first, finding a best practice model to be copied was the second step. From this model, only the elements should be replicated which are actually relevant to the specific city;
     
  3. National coordinators can play a vital role in helping the pilot city succeed – not just by offering training and capacity building measures, but also by presenting best practice ideas and options to interested cities, helping them to develop their own concepts;
     
  4. It is important to spend time on changing the mindset of officials and staff. In many countries, officials are not used to a ‘bottom-up’ approach, so time and effort has to be invested in training and capacity building measures to achieve an institutional change. Even in municipalities were there was good support from the top, staff on lower levels found it difficult to change their working methods and ingrained structures;
     
  5. Innovative measures are needed to get all stakeholders in a municipality on board and to gain their support for a project. In Tra Vinh city, Vietnam, for example, discussion forums were organised for representatives of all stakeholders, since the concept of e-government was hard to understand for many local people.

Finally, during roundtable three, the LGAs had some innovative suggestions on how to support pilot cities, including:
 

  1. Making a showcase of success stories, i.e. displaying them prominently on websites, publications and during publicity events;
  2. To establish national/international databases of successful projects, which other LGUs/cities from various countries can access;
  3. To develop a rooster of experts across the region who can support aspiring pilot cities in their replication efforts;
  4. To set-up a ‘sister-to-sister’ programme between various LGUs to support each other – this was particularly a suggestion from the Philippines;
  5. Finally: to found an umbrella organisation to help move the concept of DELGOSEA onto a higher level – perhaps within the ASEAN framework?

Results/Lessons Learnt from the Midterm Evaluation

The presentation by the outside evaluator brought encouraging news: at the midway point, the project is on track – one is halfway and half of the results have been achieved, the cornerstones for the remaining results are well in place. The project is on its way to being a success story.

What has been achieved so far is:

  • Best practices of democratic local governance are identified, analysed and described;
  • 10 LGAs of the 5 countries are motivated and capacitated to assist member municipalities in the adaptation and replication of BPs;
  • Transfer mechanisms are developed and models adapted, replication is taking place in 16 pilot municipalities in the 5 countries;
  • Partnerships on local and national levels between academic institutions, CSO-representatives and LAs are established.

The success is based on the following factors:

  • A sound intervention strategy, aiming at administrative reforms and decentralization, with cities and municipalities as strong actors – people are involved in the development process, shaping their own lives. Cities and municipalities join in LGAs, exert power on the national level and cooperate across borders;
  • A sound intervention logic, with activities building on each other, creating synergies and contributing to joint sustainable results;
  • Sound project management, with capacity in the centre (Manila) and in five national offices. There is sound planning, reporting, checking and correcting, a good communication strategies and appropriate methods and tools for intervention;
  • Local ownership: the replication of the best practices is carried out by the pilot cities themselves, they are taking responsibility for the action. The LGAs feel that DELGOSEA is their own project, they are developing their own strategies.

Schedule/Plans for the Coming Months of DELGOSEA

The DELGOSEA project still has 10 months to run, until the end of August 2012. The following activities are planned in the coming months:

  • Extensive project monitoring and sharing of lessons-learnt to accompany the pilot cities in their sustainable replication efforts;
  • Support the transnational knowledge exchange between pilot cities and best practice cities by peer-to-peer visits and consultancy from best practice experts;
  • To finalise the national policy recommendations for the improvement of national policies, legislation and administrative procedures to support the efforts of the current and future replication of best practices;
  • Strengthening the DELGOSEA network through strategic partners and their systematic integration into the exchange and replication of best practices;
  • Strengthening links with ASEAN under the leadership of Indonesia and Cambodia in 2012. Start working towards a working group on local governance;
  • Close the knowledge circle and extend DELGOSEA publications towards ‘mechanisms for best practice replication’;
  • Combine all activities and ideas into an exit strategy.

Strategies for Sustainability

During the second part of the conference, first ideas for the sustainability of the DELGOSEA project were explored, with input given by experts, officials from the various governments, the EU delegation in Jakarta, the World Bank and ASEAN. In national working groups, participants from the five countries discussed what could be done on the country level to sustain DELGOSEA and presented their results to the conference. There were many creative and original ideas, some of them only relevant in a specific local context (integrating the recycling ideas from the Marinika eco-savers into the national school curriculum of Vietnam, for example), but some of which have relevance for all project countries.

The results of the various presentations and discussions can be summarised as follows:

  • There are three levels on which action towards sustainability are necessary and on these levels we find three type of actors who need to constantly interact and continue to take responsibility, the national government, the LGAs and the local NSA partner:The local level;
  • The national level;
  • The supranational level.
  •  On the local level, the following steps can be taken to ensure sustainability of the DELGOSEA project:Close ties should be kept between best practice and pilot cities to facilitate continuous learning and development;
  • Pilot cities should aim for/be encouraged to become pilot cities themselves;
  • Best practices and pilot cities could become institutionalised as learning centres (already happening in Thailand)
  •  On the national level, the following attempts should be made to keep the DELGOSEA network alive and expanding:The LGAs need to remain involved, to support and coach the current and any new pilot cities;
  • If at all possible, the role of LGAs should be strengthened, so that they take on the function of keeping pilot cities in touch with each other and promoting best practices within their own country;
  • Policy recommendations for the national level need to be developed and followed up;
  • LGAS can advocate on the national level the pilot cities that have already been successful to inspire other cities, i.e. the second generation pilot cities;
  • The main project partners, Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), United Cities and Local Governments for Asia and Pacific (UCLG-ASPAC), Association of Cities of Vietnam (ACVN), National League of Communes/Sangkats of the Kingdom of Cambodia (NLC/S) could offer links on their website to pilot cities as well as circulate progress and achievement reports on pilot cities nationwide.
  •  On the supranational/regional level, there are potentially four institutions who could help sustain the project on a regional level, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), UCLG, the EU and ASEAN. The following options/possibilities exist:To explore the possibility of playing a stronger role in the ASEAN network, for example through the set-up of an ASEAN working group on good governance;
  • Apply for follow-up funding under an upcoming call for proposals from the EU (Non-State Actor Programme, global call, expected to be launched end of October);
  • Use UCLG as a regional organisation that would be able to sustain the DELGOSEA approach;
  • To give organisations such as LOGODEF a larger role in providing experts and setting up a regional network of pilot cities.

The conference was felt to be a success with participants expressing their satisfaction with the discussions and the results. The impetus of the project has successfully moved from implementation of activities to the issue of sustainability.