MANILA, SEPTEMBER 8, 2006 (STAR) COMMONNESS By Bong R. Osorio  - Jaime Mahimpit, a former heavy-equipment operator, is now the mayor of President Roxas, Cotabato. The lack of experience didn’t deter him from doing what he is expected to do, and doing it well. Building on the rapport and trust generated by team effort, he saw the importance of information management and communications to keep everyone in the loop and utilize data for his programs. He started the town’s information system plan that paved the way for the establishment of the President Roxas website and Internet Café.

Roberto Sualog, mayor of Sigma, Capiz, sat in his office one day with a big question on his mind: What exactly is governance? He quickly learned the ropes, and in due time, his town, together with a local non-government organization launched Kasama Ka, a solid waste management program covering planning, advocacy campaigns, collection and disposal. This noble effort made a difference in his territory.

Ramon Piang came on board as mayor of Upi, Cotobato with a raft of peace and security problems facing him. He faced each daunting challenge, and soon enough was able to get people of diverse persuasions and ideas to come onboard and introduce new ways of thinking towards building a culture of peace. Linking up with the town’s civil society groups, he came up with the idea of holding a Kapihan sa Sambayanan as a popular venue, not only to discuss peace, but to better explain his programs. Thus the whole process of dialogue opened doors for a mechanism of sharing and learning between town officials and the citizenry.

The tales of Mahimpit, Sualog and Piang are just three of so many stories of excellence in local governance made possible by the Philippine-Canada Local Government Support Program or LGSP. These cases of empowerment can very well be replicated in other municipalities and cities in the country. They are exemplary works that must be built on and made part of the major drivers moving countrywide development. The real champions are the local government workers who are on the frontlines in the fight against poverty and other stumbling blocks to national progress.

The LGSP is one of the largest development programs in the country supportive of local governance projects. A five-year initiative funded by the Canadian International Development Assistance (CIDA), it works in partnership with the DILG and NEDA to forge competency in management, service delivery resource generation and handling, participatory governance and sustainable development in the targeted regions of Western Visayas and Mindanao.

This partnership brings to Juan de la Cruz better delivery of services and trailblazing leadership at the local level. After all, there is only so much that even the most efficient organization can do, without the spark and genius of great leaders. The LGSP is a signal effort for local government leaders to revamp the old notions of government and take on for themselves the roles of true leaders, innovators and public servants.

Last Friday, the LGSP came to a close. It held a reception, dubbed "Salamat, Kalakbay," to celebrate its partnerships, achievements and contributions in promoting distinction in local governance in the country. The affair led by Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Peter Sutherland, was highlighted by the launch of Trekking the Good Local Governance Terrain: The LGSP Capacity Development Way, a publication that articulates the capacity development experience of the program. The primer, principally put together by Red Batario, Basile Gilbert, Peter Bracegirdle and Myn Garcia talks about the approaches that yielded positive outcomes, the insights and experiences of local officials and other stakeholders, and the lessons learned in implementing a multi-year program.

Capacity development the LGSP way is pushed by the collective capabilities of people to act, survive and generate growth. It is the art and science of making informed choices that can give way to excellence in local governance, where shelter and employment, peace and security, and access to quality basic services are ensured. LGSP has tested and reshaped the principles that inspire successful development programs.

Its various processes and approaches gave way to the emergence of seven strategic principles that can help the business of capacity development become more effective.

Mapping The System

The first principle covers framework setting that should be based on an open system and a holistic process that occurs at the different levels of the system. It should analyze the context within which the projects will operate, identify the strengths and weaknesses of existing structures, relationships and capacities, define areas that need support, and target the areas where help is most needed.

Planning For Change

Change is constant in capacity development. It is nothing to fear. In fact it has to be embraced. Making change work is LGSP’s second principle. It has four stages – building harmony among key players, putting together a competent structure that will allow for human resource development, implementing the plan using enhanced attitudes, knowledge and skills, and institutionalizing strategies and executions that work to ensure a culture of sustainability and continuous improvement.

Building Ownership

Meaningful local participation and ownership is the third LGSP standard. For systems to be more useful they must be owned by individuals and groups that make them work. This means getting local people and organizations more involved in the process of change, and eventually recognizing them for the earned benefits that affect their localities. To achieve this, it will require the passionate involvement of individuals and entities working interdependently towards a common goal.

Learning To Change

The fourth belief is anchored on innovation and creativity, immersing oneself in the work that needs to be done, and conducting peer-to-peer mentoring and on-site coaching to complete the learning process more efficiently. It requires differentiating ideas that go through the trial and error process to determine the best approach. The key here is identifying a local champion (in most cases, the mayor) who can be the single, most influential person to move the program to its successful end.

Managing Knowledge

The LGSP focuses its fifth strategy on building a culture of continuous learning, taking to heart its commitment to create, share and use knowledge through the replication of exemplary practices in local governance – ecotourism, IT-based projects, education-driven initiatives among others – and strengthening the local resource partners with which it collaborates.

Monitoring Progress

This sixth principle is an important and central aspect of the LGSP, believing that what gets measured gets done. A performance evaluation and accountability system should help in program planning. And with the formation of the Local Governance Performance System (LGPMS), more and more local governments are using results-based management thinking and practices in their work.

Strengthening The Enabling Environment

Local government units cannot do everything alone, especially when confronted with external factors beyond their control such as poorly designed regulations and requirements from the national government. The seventh strategy relies on strengthening institutional capacities in local governance, where roles and functions of LGUs are defined and relationships with national departments, academe and international partners are strengthened.

The foundations of a strong nation rest on its people from the ground up. Grassroots-led schemes driven by progressive leaderships in our cities and municipalities are what we need to move with greater resolve to make us more competitive as a nation.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved