Polish local governments improve public services through 'best practice' competitions
On 5 November the spotlight was put on a €2.8 million Norwegian Financial Mechanism project between the regional associations of Poland and Norway, when 12 Polish local governments won awards for innovative projects within social services.
A total 70 Polish local governments had submitted their `best practice` projects within the fields of social services, education and culture in the competition "Local government management leader 2007 – social services", which was concluded with the award ceremony in Poznán this week. The competition is an integral part of the €3.4 million project between three local government organisations in Poland and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities aimed at improving the quality, efficiency and transparency of Polish local government services. "Polish local governments are seen as a slow bureaucratic machine. This is not true", said Marek Wojcik of the Association of Polish Powiats , adding that the competition offered a possibility to Polish local governments to show their true potential.
More than 70 local, Polish governments, small and large, rural and urban, had seized on the challenge and presented their best practice examples within the competition covering the fields of social services, education and culture. A total 24 local governments were selected to present their innovative projects at the award ceremony, bringing together a large audience of their colleagues from all over Poland.
"Through this competition local governments are given an opportunity to display what they can best, and share these tested best practices with others", said Kazimierz Palasz from the Association of Polish Cities at the event. The importance and effectiveness of sharing experiences among local governments was echoed by Pawel Tomczak of the Association of Rural Municipalities, referring to especially rural communes in Poland which often lack human resources.
The twelve winning local governments presented their projects at the ceremony, and provided lessons learnt and pitfalls to avoid for others when undertaking similar projects. All presentations will be published in a small booklet, and detailed project information will be included in a "best practices database", which forms part of the overall project.
The winning initiatives covered a wide range of areas, from splitting a large child care institution in Slupsk into several smaller family-like homes, Pozñan's adaptation of vocational training to labour market needs, the local library in Turek's publishing of books by local authors and on local history, and Elk's centre for ecological education. Limanowa commune won due to their comprehensive approach to cultural development and agro tourism, Slupno due to innovative ways to involve volunteers in social work, and Elblag for their educational activities. Szczecin proudly reported that their comprehensive project had made sure no homeless people died during the last year because of low temperatures.
During spring 2008, the three Norwegian municipalities Grong, Lørenskog and Bærum will receive two representatives from each of the winning local governments for a one week study tours. Øystein Haugen from the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities welcomed opportunity for municipalities in the two countries to learn from each other. Present at the award ceremony was also Sidsel Bleken from the Norwegian Embassy in Poland, who pointed to the importance of a well functioning local government and an effective local public administration in a democratic society. "Public participation, transparency and protection of citizens' rights – as well as efficient service delivery are key words in this respect. All these aspects will be strengthened through this project," she said.
The local government project also includes the creation and implementation of a benchmarking system for public services in local governments, establishing a best practices database and capacity building for local government staff, which will include study visits to Norwegian local governments.
Further project facts are available by running a search for PL0040 in the EEA Grants project database.