The Local Government Unit institutional development self-assessment tool developed by the OECD in co-operation with partner institutions was debated during a seminar with a focus on internal potentials for urban development.

On 17 December, the Association of Polish Cities organised its 14th online seminar forming part of the Local Development Forum “Endogenic Potential Activation as a Condition of Small and Medium-sized City/Town Development in Poland” series, this one with a focus on “Local Government Unit Institutional Development Self-Assessment – a Tool Developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)”.

During the meeting, OECD experts introduced the new and practical institutional development self-assessment tool developed for Polish municipalities and counties. In its approach, the OECD showcases the importance of institutional development to effective local development governance, emphasising critical challenges faced by Local Government Units, such as financial management, recognising climate changes in local policies, or the essence of supralocal collaboration. The organisation pointed to the great significance of the capacity for taking advantage of the potential of local residents and other parties concerned or considerably influencing improvements to the quality of life, or building and/or delivering development plans on basis of advancing in-house staff competencies. Working together with the Association of Polish Cities and Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, the Organisation developed a self-assessment method for Local Government Units in Poland in order to support them in the process of planning and delivering local development strategies, particular importance attached to key areas of public governance and territorial development.

Self-assessment is very important as a tool of assisting Local Government Units in the process of development strategy implementation. Professor Tomasz Kaczmarek, Ph.D., of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań assured all participants of his optimistic view of the OECD tool from the practical and academic viewpoint. He believes strategic management ought to base on local residents’ (“service producers and suppliers”) participation in all city- or town-related decisions, the use of open and big databases, and information and communication strategies. “Essential aspects of strategic development governance include technical efficiency and effectiveness in plan delivery, as well as learning and analytical and adaptation capacity”, the professor said. Public consultations are as important as participating in the decision-making process.

OECD analyst Isidora Zapata presented meeting attendants with the universal self-assessment tool, useful to larger and smaller Local Government Units. She pointed out that the tool had been designed in co-operation with representatives of Polish Local Government Units, collaboration having begun the previous year. Prior to tool design, the OECD drafted a detailed questionnaire, visited assorted Local Government Units across Poland, and held interviews with representatives of local authorities, staff of assorted departments and multiple stakeholders. The tool was subsequently tested during workshops with potential users and experts.

The primary purpose behind the tool is to offer support to persons responsible for development on the local government level, and i.a. improve the effectiveness of any activity planned, provide assistance at the stage of more effective local priority implementation, and secure higher-quality services. The tool shows where we are and what else can be done. The self-assessment tool analyses three areas: strengthening institutional development, improvements to service provision, and boosting internal potentials of management processes. It further outlines three institutional maturity levels: basic, intermediary and optimum. “We ought to invariably reach for the tool, letting it assist us in the decision-making process,” Isidora Zapata said. While simple yet precise, it requires regular use and a long-term perspective. If self-assessment is to be effective, the process is as important as its outcomes. This is why it is hugely important to get internal and external stakeholders on board.

In discussing assumptions of OECD’s self-assessment tool, Association of Polish Cities advisors Katarzyna Śpiewok, Krzysztof Markiel and Wiesława Kwiatkowska presented an entire catalogue of benefits potentially arising for local governments once the tool is applied.

The Local Development Forum agenda included local government representatives’ presentation of institutional development mechanisms in practice and their own experience. Robert Wójcik, senior inspector at the Economic Policy Department of the Municipal Authority in Gdańsk, spoke of monitoring development strategies and operational programmes in Gdańsk, including benefits, challenges and recommendations for smaller Local Government Units. A “Sustainable Mobility Plan for Jaworzno as an example of multifaceted and integrated public service design” was presented by mayor of Jaworzno Paweł Silbert. “Debentures in the financial governance of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski” were discussed by mayor of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski Jarosław Górczyński.

As pointed out by deputy mayor of Krosno Tomasz Soliński, the self-assessment tool, once coupled with the Self-Government Analysis System, constitutes an excellent diagnostic system for local governments. “The self-assessment tool lets us scan our in-house needs, its core purpose that of making data-based decisions. We will be promoting it widely in the urban community as part of the ‘Local Development’ Programme and our statutory activities,” said Deputy Director of the Office of the Association of Polish Cities Tomasz Potkański.