Sunday, March 28, 2010

The 'More Than' Approach to Urban Management

Hari Srinivas

UEMRI's analysis of urban programmes, events, case studies and other activities have generated a number of insights and lessons on the management of cities and development of the region where they are located. These insights have shown the importance of ‘partnerships’, more than participation; of ‘consensus-building’, more than decision-making; of ‘sharing of resources', more than resource allocation; of ‘capacity-building’, more than training; of ‘governance’, more than planning; and of ‘inspiring ideas’, more than best practices.
  • Partnerships, more than Participation
    More than the need for greater participation of the citizens and other stakeholders, there is a need to generate better partnerships. Partnerships go beyond mere participation in emphasizing collaborative activities among interested groups, based on a mutual recognition of respective strengths and weaknesses. Such partnerships focus on common agreed objectives that have been developed through effective and timely communication. This is the key message that has to be advocated in the transfer of knowledge. The involvement of all stakeholders at all levels is important.
  • Consensus building, more than Decision-Making
    More than the need for effective decision-making, the need for local governments has been effective consensus building. This brings all the different stakeholders together, to effect informed consent on activities to be undertaken. Through transparent implementation processes and information disclosure, local governments can build collective commitment, and can prioritize, for example, the most "city-friendly" initiatives to minimize the environmental impacts of urban activities. Consensus building also enables entrenched ideas and mindsets to be broken and produce deeper learning and understanding.
  • Sharing of Resources, more than Resource Allocation
    More than effective resource generation and allocation, the critical need is for sharing of resources among and between the stakeholders. The resources exist, whether institutional, financial or human, but need to be properly identified and shared to achieve agreed common goals. The sustainable use, and maximizing output for a given set of resources, also requires a more effective sharing of resources.
  • Capacity-Building, more than Training
    Human resource development for broad-based urban development and management activities need to go beyond just training – where emphasis needs to shift towards building of capacity to be able to handle the myriad range of problems. The need therefore is for 'knowledge management' activities that build capacity to enable clear understanding of issues involved, to clarify roles and responsibilities, and to take decisions quickly and effectively. Empowerment of citizens and their locally elected officials – through capacity building – will also promote local autonomy and decentralization (vertical, horizontal and diagonal).
  • Effective Governance, more than Planning
    Management of urban areas and the regions in which they are positioned calls for more than good planning and design – they, in fact, call for good governance. The current processes of urban growth and urbanization, clearly point out that a good local plan can only be implemented effectively if there is a good governance system in place. There is a need to look beyond just technical quick-fixes, and to also actively involve the community in any development plan, provide political support and put in place a strong information and awareness campaign - all elements of good governance.
  • Inspiring ideas, more than Best Practices
    While best practices have highlighted winning methodologies of local governments in solving the problems that they have faced, it has been difficult to transfer them in toto to another location. Inspiring ideas, on the other hand, have extracted and simplified smaller and individual components – the success factors – of an overall 'best practice', enabling its wider dissemination and use. Best Practices document initiatives, but inspiring ideas inspire!