Let us begin by reiterating that over the years 2019-2024, the Association of Polish Cities has been delivering the largest training and advisory project for local governments in Poland: “Building the Institutional Potential of Medium-Sized and Small Cities in Poland to Support the Implementation of Efficient Development Policies”. The project has been designed to improve the condition of cities and towns suffering the gravest social-and-economic situation in the country.
This is the so-called predefined project intended to support the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, Programme Operator charged with implementing the grant component of the “Local Development” Programme.
The Programme budget totals EUR 117 million, EUR 102 million of which allocated to development projects for cities and towns. Funds have been allocated from Norwegian and European Economic Area Grants (85%) and the state budget (15%).
Since early project days, the Association of Polish Cities has been responsible for supporting the Ministry in delivering a project addressing small and medium-sized cities and towns. The Association has been providing regular advisory support to municipalities – grant competition beneficiaries, helping them implement formerly drafted local development plans. Jointly with project partners, the Association of Polish Cities has drafted and been disseminating an integrated local development model on a territorial scale, and institutional development recommendations – in the community of other Polish local government units. It has also been building and fostering bilateral co-operation between Polish and Norwegian local government bodies.
In the first half of 2023, the Association of Polish Cities has also been providing advisory assistance to cities and towns engaging in the delivery of Institutional Development Plans (IDP) and Local Development Plans (LDP). In 2023, it provided municipalities with 736 advisory services, including the delivery of 436 consultation meetings and 35 training workshops, the overall recipient number totalling 2,758 individuals. Key support areas included urban investment endeavours (aid in drafting procurement order specifications and risk analyses) and fostering urban institutional development, including project and team management competencies, good team communication, development monitoring systems, and urban reporting advice. Aforesaid forms of aid will continue according to ongoing city/town requirements.
The Association of Polish Cities Office project team organised networking meetings for all 29 beneficiary cities and towns and the Project Operator – targeting project management staff at individual locations. Such meetings serve purposes of experience exchange and supporting the IDP and LDP municipal activity management process.
In the first half of 2023, we delivered 35 on-site training workshops in cities and towns, with a focus on improving institutional competencies and soft skills in such areas as strategic management; applying amended laws on serving papers in electronic format; and public procurement. Overall, 407 local government staff attended the workshops.
EMPIRIAE and the Local Development Forum
Twenty-three meetings were organised as part of eight EMPIRIAE Experience Exchange Networks, including 10 offline and 13 online meetings. Offline sessions were attended by 106 representatives of individual towns and cities (each meeting joined by 11 persons from 5 cities and towns, on average). Works are in progress to organise the next round of meetings, scheduled from September 2023 onwards already.
Over the first six months of 2023, we organised 4 Local Development Forum seminars, attended by 793 participants. Two further Local Development Forum meetings have been scheduled before year-end 2023, one of which during an international conference with an urban energy transformation theme.
“Local Government Leader of Governance”
The finale of the 1st edition of the “Local Government Leaders of Governance 2023” Competition: Communication – Participation – Shared Governance” was held in Tarnów in February. The Competition focused on initiatives and actions taken by municipalities to improve communication with local communities and enhance their local development contribution. Eighteen representatives of cities and towns – winners or honourable mention awardees – joined a study visit to Bergen in March. On 19 June, the Association of Polish Cities announced a call for entries for the 2nd edition of the Competition: “Local Government Leader of Governance – Urban Energy Transformation to Achieve Climate Neutrality and Improve Life Quality”.
“European Economic Area Financial Mechanism and Norwegian Financial Mechanism goals include promoting bilateral relations, individual projects also targeting support for bilateral collaboration with donor states, i.e. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein,” Maciej Aulak, Director of the Department of Assistance Programmes at the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, said at a conference organised at the Ministry one year ago.
Partners in Norway and Iceland were found for 16 of the 29 cities and towns. The first bilateral agreement was signed by and between Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski and Sogndal (NO), followed by i.a. Rydułtowy and Øvre Eiker; Łomża and Nordland; Zawiercie and Møre og Romsdal; and Starachowice and Bergen. The remaining 13 municipalities who had failed to find Scandinavian partners were offered other forms of co-operating with Norwegian cities and towns.
Projects and activities delivered as part of bilateral collaboration – and with Norwegian experts participating – included the following notable examples:
- Norwegian experts attended two Local Development Forum seminars (in Tarnów and Stalowa Wola),
- A “Co-operating with Norwegians” workshop was organised in response to the need for explaining culture codes and differences, said need identified when working with individual municipalities at the first stage of establishing bilateral collaboration with Norwegian and Icelandic cities and towns.
A study visit to Bergen, Norway, was organised for winners and honourable mention awardees of the “Local Government Leaders of Governance 2023 Competition: Communication – Participation – Shared Governance”, as were two opening study visits for municipalities who had failed to find a donor state partner. Thirty local government representatives joined study visits to Trondheim and Levanger (April 2023), and Arendal and Kristiansand (attendance at an international conference in May 2023).
Internships for 24 individuals (from 12 partner-less cities and towns) and 3 successive study visits (for representatives of partner-less municipalities) in Norway have been planned for the second half of 2023.
Thematic workshops and project promotion
In 2023, the Association’s advisory team delivered 11 “thematic workshops” (training sessions delivered for a number of cities/towns simultaneously) with a focus on strategic management, including local residents in the urban governance process, project management (including effective management of IDP and LDP implementation teams), effective communication, and the use of the Local Development Monitor. Thematic workshops were joined by 446 participants.
The project (stage III) promotion task schedule included the publication of 161 materials in assorted media to describe municipal activities, including 122 textual publications, 37 audio pieces and 2 video programmes.