The overarching goal of the project is to stimulate the managers, politicians and administrative personnel of local municipalities, the employees of municipal institutions and enterprises to become more creative, to look for new approaches to solve existing problems, to ground on the experience of the colleagues and LALRG support in acquisition and analysis of the facts describing operation of the municipalities within the process of introduction of the novelties.
The proposed model is the final document of the first stage of the project “Smart Governance and Performance Improvement of Latvian Municipalities”. On the basis of the experience of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) and the Association of Polish Cities, evaluation of current and forecasted development trends of the Latvian municipalities, as well as public discussion in several forums, the description of the system is proposed offering detailed solutions that can be verified during the implementation of the project. The solutions will be approbated while operating the networks.
It is envisaged that the product developed within the project will serve for a longer period of time. The estimated lifetime of the product can be 20 years taking into account that the initial approaches of the Latvian model will be preserved and updated. Within the project, the approaches of this model will be approbated, and relevant modifications performed, paying special attention to the opportunities for the development of the project after its implementation.
During the implementation of the project, a benchmarking data base is elaborated; the data base will enable application of quantitative methods and the best practice of the world in the governance of the municipalities, it further will be used for a range of additional activities with a positive impact on the social and economic development of the municipalities and the State.
The second main activity – establishment of the cooperation networks on the basis of the benchlearning method. In the cooperation networks, the representatives of the municipalities help each other by giving advice, discuss different solutions known in Latvia and in the world. During implementation of the project, the skills of network coordinators to organize and serve the networks are developed.
Benchlearning system is established and applied successfully in Norway; within this system, the municipalities receive information from the benchmarking data base and establish networks in which they select appropriate solutions for their further development on the basis of the received information and analysis of the experience of other municipalities.
KS has successfully passed on its experience to several states, Poland being especially successful example among them. To take over the experience of the Norwegian and Polish municipalities and adapt it to the circumstances in Latvia developing further the contribution of the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG) and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (MEPRD) in improvement of the performance of the municipalities, development of the most appropriate system model is necessary for Latvia.
Politicians having won the municipal elections are fully entitled to accept or reject performance enhancement activities. Thus, application of benchlearning totally depends on the understanding and attitude of the politicians. Thus a special attention should be paid to involvement of the politicians of the local municipalities.
According to the public choice theory, the politicians will choose to implement the system only when they will be certain about positive impact of innovations on electorate and reliability of the applied procedures.
Due to these reasons involvement of the politicians in decision-making regarding the contents of the plan for the benchlearning system is decisive to ensure sustainability of the system. For making a well-reasoned decision, the politicians have to be informed about all stages of the project – from the beginning to the end.
The benchmarking idea is borrowed from KS; on transforming the idea to fit the circumstances in Latvia, ongoing consultations with KS experts take place. Visits to the Norwegian state administration institutions and municipalities are ensured; Norwegian and Polish experience is analysed during the visits. The KS experts participate with their reports in the main events of this activity, they warn against possible mistakes and risks.
The State Regional Development Agency (SRDA) is experienced in development and application of the indicators for regional development; it has experience in maintaining the data bases for storing the indicators and in working with data bases with user access rights of different levels. Ongoing consultations will take place while the model is being elaborated.