The Municipal Development
By nature municipal development planning is a policy-making process, which presupposes broad public involvement since it is closely related to the citizensí future, theirs needs and opportunities. The research proposal seeks to provide municipal authorities and community leaders with the recommendations on adequate approaches to the municipal development planning and mechanisms, which allow organizing this process basing on principles of the balance of interests and public participation. The research involves the survey of current practices of the municipal development planning, identification of the key problems which local communities faces on this way and comparative analysis of the best practices.
The economical and political changes on the way to the new democratic society have become a basis for the settlement of the local self-government system in Russia. Since 1995, when the Federal Law on Basic Principles of the Local Self-government System was adopted the level of competence and responsibility of actors in local self-government has been defined. One of the key functions of local authorities in accordance with the adopted law has become municipal development planning, i.e. process of setting mid-term goals for the municipality as whole, prioritization of these goals, identification of methods which allow achieving them and elaboration of an action plan for the implementation of a chosen strategy. These features of the municipal development planning characterize it as maybe one of the most important policy-making process since it is most closely related to the citizens' future, theirs needs and opportunities.
However under the new conditions the former administrative centralized planning system has lost actuality and has become unable to meet new realities of social and political life in the country. It has to be changed by a new system of views on this process based upon refusal from directivity for the benefit of the balance of interests and settlement of partnership between local authorities and local community (citizens, entrepreneurs, NGOs etc.). First development strategy in Russia based upon principle of broad public participation was elaborated in the end of 1997 for St.-Petersburg. Today in accordance with some estimates (Zhikharevitch, 2002) about 35% of the urban-type municipalities in Russia already have or elaborate documents defining development priorities and strategies. But the methodology and organization of this process vary significantly from one municipality to another. Though by nature municipal development is a policy-making process, which presupposes the broad participation of citizens in the political and economic decision-making on the local level, in practice only few local groups contribute to this process. This is mainly due to, on the one hand, the lack of mechanisms and procedures for such participation and on the other hand misunderstanding of the goals and principles of local development planning. As a result it creates the ground for strategically inefficient administrative decisions bringing only momentary benefit, but finally negatively affecting on quality of life of the citizens, especially on socially vulnerable groups.
Primary goal of the research project is to provide municipal authorities and community leaders with adequate approaches to the municipal development planning and mechanisms, which allow organizing this process basing on principle of balance of interests and public participation. The research involves the survey of current practices of the municipal development planning, identification of the key problems which local communities faces on this way and comparative analysis of the best practices. At least 5 municipalities from Western and CEE countries and 15-20 Russian municipalities will be in focus of the research.
The research project will be organized in 3 stages:
Stage 1. Modeling the municipal development planning process. That is a preparatory phase, which will allow establishing the research methodology. I'm going to summarize concepts and techniques behind the municipal development planning. The result of this stage will be a model of municipal development planning with description of key characteristics of each stage of this process. It will be used as a tool giving the format for the description and comparison of the case studies and also for preparation of the interviews and discussions with experts and practitioners.
Stage 2. Data collection and analysis. At this stage I intend to investigate practical experience of the development policy-making from the municipalities, organization of this process and gained results. This stage of the research seeks the analysis of best and miss-practices, identification of the success stories and problems arising in respect of development planning. Following questions represent key objectives of the survey:
- How municipal development decision-making process is
organized, which approaches are used?
Firstly I will gather information using results of my previous researches, resources available on-line, also through monitoring of relevant publications and e-mail interviews with other experts and representatives of local authorities. A database of case studies will be started with information on appropriate experience from 15-20 Russian municipalities. Then three municipalities will be chosen for the detailed survey. This part of research will require visits to these municipalities, interviews with key actors of the decision-making process and community representatives, organization of discussions on following issue areas:
- What does development planning brings to the
International practices of municipal development planning from other Western and CEE countries will be studied using on-line recourses, publications, through contacts with foreign experts and practitioners, participation in conferences and / or study visits. At least 5 municipalities / cities from Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Germany, Spain etc. will be in focus. That will make possible comparative analysis of the best practices.
Stage 3. Preparation of the recommendations & policy proposals. This phase seeks to summarize research results and suggest policy-oriented recommendations for the local authorities and community leaders on improving organization and effectiveness of municipal development planning and reinforcement of public involvement into the process. This policy paper will be available on-line and as a printed brochure in English and Russian.
Results of the research will be contributed to the Municipal
development planning resources center (which is planned to run in 2003 and
I will be one of its creative team members) and used for the preparation
of a study-course for the municipal servants and local community's leaders
on municipal development planning. This project will also allow setting a
database for further research and practical consulting.
- Participation in the conferences and seminars, in
particular those held by Leontief Center (Annual conference for the
municipalities, Annual seminar "Leontief's Readings: Actual Problems of
Further in case of strengthening support of the municipal development planning from the federal authorities in Russia the results of the research may become a basis for the elaboration of the national standard for methodology and organization of the municipal development planning process.
Expected impact of the research project includes: