Governance through Partnership Between the Municipality and the Community

  • Best Practice No 6
  • Thematic Area 2: Institutional Governance
  • Country of Origin: Thailand
  • Name of Local Government/Municipality: Prik Municipality
  • Type of Local Government: Municipality

Short Version

Summary

The Prik Municipality experiences show collaboration between community people and government authorities, public organizations, and civil society institutions which let to an effective governance effort improving and sustaining people’s livelihood. Its first pilot project on solid waste management showed that by involving people’s participation in the activities, their knowledge and attitude towards waste management were improved and thus, developed positive consciousness and behavior to sort out waste prior to disposal.  At the same time, the role of municipality officials has also became stronger as they got to know better the needs of their community and could develop appropriate policies. 

To solidify their effort, Prik Municipality formed various Community Core Teams (consisting of municipal’s officials and community leaders) and relevant learning centers where community people participate actively. The intention of the municipal authority is to provide the capacity building activity to the local people. That consists of participatory process development and the sharing and learning-based activity.

Majority of learning centers for each theme were initiated and are operated by the Community Core Team and community people.

From 2005 to 2008, the Municipality and its communities expanded their activities and developed the following systems:

  1. The Tambon/local governance system
  2. The environmental management and energy system
  3. The community-based economy, welfare, and safety agriculture system
  4. The learning and educational system
  5. The voluntary healthcare system
  6. The communication system

These systems have become a best practice for other municipalities/cities to learn how to ensure peoples’ participation in many aspects of governance and to achieve sustainable development. In 2009, more than 50 public organizations conducted study tours to Prik Municipality’s learning centers and systems.  Based on these experiences, moreover, Prik Municipality became a pilot area for other programs, e.g. Healthy Tambon Network or the program on efficient economy - which later on shall be transferred to other municipalities in Thailand.

Background and Objectives

Prik Municipality is a tambon (subdistrict) municipality located in Sadao district, Songkhla province in the southern part of Thailand. It is located 8 kilometers from the Thai-Malaysian border. Based on 2009 statistics, the population is 6,114 or 1,412 households. There are seven communities in the Prik municipal areas. About 90% of the population is Muslim. The rest are Buddhist. Most people in Prik work in the agricultural sector, particularly in rubber plantations and orchards. The rest of the population are wage labours or engage in commerce.

The goal of the Prik Municipality is to come up with a holistic approach to improving the municipality in all aspects--social, economic, environment, cultural, political, and administration. In 1999, the Mayor of Prik Municipality started mobilizing the municipal network, the academics, and external organizations, such as NGOs, Provincial Natural and Environmental Office, and Office of Regional Environmental 16th to work on this vision. Prik Municipality now also works with provincial and national organizations, such as the Thai Health Foundation.

A.   Innovative Elements

Below are several innovative approaches integrated in the Prik Municipality’s partnership efforts:  

  • A shift from a “local government-based” to a “local governance-based” approach, and works via the partnerships.
  • Addressing red tape concern, the usual problem of public sector. The municipality’s administrative system has been more flexible, applying the ideas of adaptation, exchange, and dynamics. Municipal officials have disregarded the rigid “division-based” job requirements, and play a proactive role in facilitating the community’s activities.
  • New administrative style uses the coaching system: sharing, teaching, and supporting. Through the Bumiputra, indigenous people are also recruited to the municipal staff to assist in developing programs for their localities. The mayor and other local officials act as coaches and mentors of the staff. The working style is not necessarily top-down.  
  • Promotes good governance through the following efforts:
    • Transparency: The municipality provides one-way and two-way communication channels to link the stakeholders. Prik holds various meetings--the community forum, monthly meeting, and community core-team meeting. The Community Organization Council was formed in 2008 to work with other municipal councils to inspect and audit the performance of the municipal authority. This system allows community to access information and participate in policy-making.
    • Accountability: The municipality has set up a complaint system so that community people can express their thoughts on government programs.
    • Participation: Prik Municipality encourages participation through wider partnerships among all stakeholders.
  • Employs the “Healthy Tambon (subdistrict)” concept. It refers to the implementation of the municipality’s vision of “sufficient economy, the community livelihoods’ tie, human-centered development, and peaceful civil society”. Prik seeks to accomplish its vision through the following:
    • the tambon/local governance system;
    • the environmental management and energy system; and
    • the community-based economy, welfare, and agriculture system, with learning and education as core part of the system.

B.   Involvement and Activities

The municipal mayor initiated the best practice model. The goal is to work toward “human-centered development.” Those involved in the program can be divided into two groups: (i) the community groups and (ii) the “outsiders" that have supported the activities of Prik. Among these outsiders are the academic institutions and NGOs that conducted the “Liveable City and Community Project” initiatives.

The civil society groups play important roles in realizing Prik’s vision.

The civil society groups consist of the following:

  • Community’s core-team members.
  • Occupational groups, such as the Chilly Paste group, Coconut Milk group, and Thai Bakery group, among others. These groups, which were set up by the community people, have turned into “learning centres,” where other municipalities can learn from.
  • Community Organization Councils, which were organized in 2008 to work in parallel with the municipal councils to inspect and audit the performance of the municipal authority. School leaders, religious leaders, and “natural leaders” (i.e. headmen) have also been involved in monitoring and scrutinizing the municipality’s performance.

The local community formed their own groups to conduct following activities:

  • Within the environmental management and energy system, the groups implement comprehensive waste management through zero-waste activities. They include production of E.M. (effective microorganism), biogas, and composting;
  • Within the community-based economy, welfare, and safety agriculture system, the various groups have been organized (i.e. the occupation groups, the saving groups, and the safety agricultural groups);
  • Within the healthcare volunteer system, a holistic approach has been adapted to deliver healthcare services for all (i.e. community-healthcare volunteers, mother volunteers, junior community-healthcare volunteers, elderly-people care volunteers, and emergency-medical service volunteers).

Several positive impacts on having community involvement are:  

  • The people, especially the core-team community members, have been empowered and encouraged to participate in the municipal tasks through the Participatory Process Development program. This continues to build up “civic culture” and the sense of “co-ownership.”
  • The local communities have formed their own groups to work on the healthy tambon mission. This has resulted in better environmental management, better healthcare system, and good quality of life.
  • Prik shares the model with other communities. Leaders of other communities visit the municipality to learn from its programs. An example is community-based enterprises like home stay, catering, and souvenirs.
  • Since 2009, the Thai Health Foundation has promoted Prik Municipality as the “pilot area” for the “Healthy Tambon Network” project. This means that Prik also has to play as “role model” to Tambon Administrative Organizations (TAOs) from southern Thailand. This project has supported 20 TAOs annually or a total of 60 TAOs from 2009-2011.

C.   Sustainability and Replication

The model shows that the municipality does not have a monopoly of good ideas. The donor-recipient” relationship between the municipality and the local people is not workable. The new approach toward good governance should encourage “partnership” between the municipality and the community people. The local community people should be empowered and provided space to share and learn in developing their locality. The model also highlights the necessity to integrate local communities in governance. For example, the mobilization toward being a healthy tambon was achieved through a multi-partnership approach. Although Prik Municipality is small compared to other city-municipalities, its best practice model shows the significant benefits of the “paradigm shift” from “local government” to “local governance.”