Strategic planning tools developed by the Association of Polish Cities and tested in collaboration with cities and towns were debated during the 19th Local Development Forum seminar organised on 28 May.

What has changed in the area of strategic planning rules applied in cities and towns? How does the Association of Polish Cities approach planning, and what is it proposing for municipalities to be able to base their development on endogenic resources? What kind of tools ought to be employed for diagnosis development purposes? In what ways are these tools useful when planning urban future? – all these issues were debated in the course of our nineteenth seminar with a focus on internal potentials of small and medium-sized cities and towns.

“Today’s seminar summarises a yet another tool development stage, the solutions developed by the Association of Polish Cities for purposes of specific data-based strategic decisions useful to the process of planning said development,” Executive Director of the Office of the Association of Polish Cities Andrzej Porawski said during the meeting.

The Association Provides Cities and Towns with Data

The Association observed the need to provide municipalities with data in 1998, upon having decided to join forces with the Union of Polish Metropolises for purposes of designing a Self-Government Analysis System. The System was developed with assistance from the USAID, an Agency very active at the time. Successive projects let the Association advance and modernise the System, a new version of the urban strategic planning support tool introduced at a later stage. Aforesaid projects were financed from so-called Norway Grants in collaboration with one of the Polish ministries (the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy today).

The scope of data available to the Association as a result of aforementioned activities is the largest across Poland. Nobody else holds data resources to the tune of what the Association has managed to collect over recent years.

How Have the New Regulations Changed Development Planning

The Association has been additionally spurred on in taking action by new urban development planning regulations, enacted in late November 2020, and completely altering the development planning landscape. Legislative amendments have produced a number of outcomes, i.a. diagnosis stage removal from strategies. Self-sufficient organisms today, all diagnoses ought to be handled with regularity and continuity and based on credible data from a number of fields.

Notably, legislative amendments have moved Local Government Unit development strategies and supralocal strategies to the system-related law level.

The strategy comprises diagnosis-based conclusions, outlining strategic objectives, courses of action planned to implement strategic objectives and expected results (spatial planning included), the functional-and-spatial structure model, municipal spatial planning recommendations, strategic intervention areas, and the delivery and financial framework system.

The new development policy approach includes options of engaging in collaboration in functional areas. “This means that administrative municipal boundaries – usually no more than lines on the map today – no longer have to be adhered to. Entire development processes are occurring in functional areas,” Andrzej Porawski remarked.

Rolling and Annually Repetitive System of Managing Development

The seminar agenda included Association’s expert Janusz Szewczuk’s intervention regarding the optimum strategic planning model in the context of the Association of Polish Cities’ experience.

“We ought to change our approach to strategic planning,” was his comment. “Until now, it has been extremely frequent for planning to be restricted to a process engaged in once in a few years, largely supported by third-part experts. They would tackle our cities and towns with their method and their tools, they would be the ones doing most of the work, we as cities and towns merely accompanying them. Given the current outcomes of changes to legal regulations and other conditions, we ought to integrate the strategic planning process with the regular urban life cycle. The entire system of assorted tools and contributions by diverse specialist staff within municipal authority structures should become the foundation for developing said mechanism, which will in turn become a rolling and annually repetitive development managing system.”

Sustainable development should increasingly often be based on in-house resources and co-operation with local partners. Such activities should produce diverse outcomes, including high quality of life and prosperity for local communities, and environmental wellbeing. “Once such objectives have been defined ahead of the entire planning system, the rolling mechanism will be indispensable if the planning process is to be firmly grounded in local governments,” Janusz Szewczuk emphasised.

He presented and discussed the sequence of annual repetitive actions to be taken if the planning process is to become a rolling and regular assignment rooted in daily urban operations.

New Approach to Strategic Planning

“We at the Association believe that strategic planning is a continuous process rather than a one-off effort to draft a strategy. It is rather something of a municipal governance process spanning a number of repetitive stages. The planning model is based on a diagnosis and intended to foster sound solutions for the future, most advantageous to our unit and ones we should fundraise for,” said strategic advisor to the Association of Polish Cities Ryszard Grobelny. “While the strategy as a document may be developed with the use of assorted methods, the strategic action philosophy should be deeply rooted in our community.”

Works on all previously mentioned documents require solid data and their analysis. The structure of tools developed by the Association of Polish Cities has been designed to make said analysis easier for cities and towns, providing them with data from systems usually unavailable to them.

Strategic Planning Tools

In the course of the meeting, Association of Polish Cities Office staff and advisors to cities in towns discussed details of solid strategic management tools the Association designed for municipalities. They include diagnostic tools that will help us find out if we know our city/town well enough, what else we should learn about it, which components should be paid attention to, which sections of municipal knowledge ought to be developed or ascertained, and how to devise methods of sharing know-how with others, e.g. local residents. Notably, all previously mentioned tools are highly participative in nature, having already been employed in cities and towns under somewhat strenuous pandemic conditions.

Strategic planning tools were also presented, reference application examples included.

Other discussion subjects included works to design monitoring and assessment tools for plans, programmes and strategies, and institutional development self-assessment solutions to OECD recommendations.