How Association of Polish Cities Advisors Worked with Cities and Towns to Design New Development Paths
To date, over 1,800 municipal authority officials have participated in assorted activities as part of the Association of Polish Cities’ advisory assistance provided under the “Local Development” Programme.

During a recent Urban Policy Congress, the Association of Polish Cities invited participants to join a session with a focus on the so-called predefined project, an in-progress component of a broader “Local Development” Programme delivered by the Association over the past two years to the purpose of building the potential of small and medium-sized cities and towns in Poland, and the related implementation of efficient local development policies.

The session agenda included city and town advisors presenting their predefined project-related implementation experience. Project works realised to date yielded Local Development Plans and Institutional Development Plans, drafted by 54 cities and towns assisted by Association of Polish Cities’ advisors. Combining local and institutional development is of paramount importance to the process of building strategic planning systems at all locations concerned. Basing on the use of diverse diagnostic and planning tools, the project work method proposed by the Association of Polish Cities allowed the development of a universal strategic planning system available to other municipal units too.

The Project in Numbers

At the advisory assistance stage, cities and towns received 1,977 advisory services. Prior to the introduction of pandemic-related restrictions, 457 sessions were held at assorted locations across Poland, with a further 1,013 online sessions and 507 training workshops (the vast majority online) held as well. All aforementioned activities were attended by a total of 3,135 participants, including 1,828 municipal authority and urban local government staff members and local councillors, the remaining group consisting of local partners. The Association of Polish Cities participating in and assisting the process, 635 documents – 330 analysis and study reports and 156 contributions to planning records – have been drafted. A total of 1,410 individuals (26 per city/town, on average) joined Urban Teams formed for project purposes. Notably, these Teams – formed in an extraordinarily participative process – will remain active locally also once the project has been completed. Multiple cities and towns had opted for an open Team recruitment formula, local residents accompanying official authority staff throughout the development plan drafting process: initial diagnosis through to listing specific concepts and making them part of individual projects. Association of Polish Cities’ advisors have emphasised that local residents were considered experts throughout the activity schedule.

The Need for “Open Minds”

In summary of past months of work on local and institutional plan drafting, city/town advisors Agnieszka Dawydzik, Barbara Łączna, Lucyna Maury and Katarzyna Śpiewok shared their observations concerning components essential to the success of any city or town deciding to join the aforesaid effort.

First and foremost, collaboration of different partners at the stage of developing the urban development vision and communicating said vision in clear and precise ways are absolutely indispensable. Further two aspects determining the success of programming any location’s future success include local resident-engaging administrative structures and their professionalism, the latter a particularly tedious challenge these days, with employers struggling to find staff. As emphasised by Association of Polish Cities’ advisors, strategic development governance requires management staff ready to shoulder their role and governance duties – a team of “open-minded” specialists.

Decisions Visible in Urban Space

Lucyna Maury believes that the greatest lasting urban benefit ties in with urban space, the benefit also mirroring any local management decision. Cities and towns are already aware that planning any future in public space without contribution from local residents – future end-users – is unfeasible.

The Repetitiveness of Development Management Systems

Advisors have pointed to a new strategic planning approach, wherein local government authorities ought to integrate the process with the city or town’s regular lifecycle. Combined with an array of diverse municipal authority staff specialists, the entire array of diverse tools ought to become the foundation for developing such a mechanism, which will ultimately become a rolling, annually repetitive development management system.

Local Governments as Hosts of New Development Path Planning

“Cities and towns have made a huge effort to make local residents part of the process of planning a New Development Path. In view of individual locations occasionally short of staff sufficiently competent to hold such debates, third-party entities have frequently been invited to join the process. Yet cities and towns were the acting co-ordinators, hosts, and organisers of the process, fact we advisors are enormously proud of,” said Lucyna Maury.