Ale municipality has a long-standing tradition of attempting to find out what its inhabitants are thinking through citizen dialogues. The primary focus has, however, been on trying out different methods of conducting citizen dialogues, and the municipality has consequently not spent so much time reflecting on the goals and objectives of these dialogues.
Ale Municipal Assembly consequently decided to take part in the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions’ development project, “Developing control systems through citizen dialogues”. The municipality’s goal by the end of the project is twofold: to have defined the purpose of its citizen dialogue work and to have developed control systems and methods that enable citizen dialogues to function as part of the decision-making data used by elected representatives.
Ale has also, as part of its development work, entered into a Municipal partnership with Ghanzi District Council in Botswana.
Botswana offers interesting traditional structures for civic participation and involvement in local development. Many of the Ghanzi District’s inhabitants live in remote villages, far from the urban centres. The villages’ inhabitants are poor and Ghanzi District Council is using a range of different empowerment activities as part of its attempts to improve living conditions there.
Many of these measures have, however, failed due to a lack of grassroots support, but Ghanzi District Council is keen, through high quality, relevant citizen dialogues, to improve both the municipality’s services and its development activities.
Ale and Ghanzi have carried out joint analyses of problems, goals, the wider world, local stakeholders, and the risks faced, and have worked together planning appropriate measures and activities. The work is characterised by mutuality, with the parties gaining mutual enrichment from the differences in their respective backgrounds, experiences, and requirements. Ghanzi District Council has also taken on board Ale municipality’s dialogue principles to assist their project group in starting to think about the sort of principles that could be appropriate for them.
“We would absolutely recommend participating in a Municipal partnership if you’re interested in developing civic influence methodologies. The differences in our experiences and traditions give us a much broader perspective and injects a really strong dynamic and innovative approach into our development work. The partnership also functions as a driving force for development work – if you’ve undertaken to carry out certain activities as part of the partnership, you have to deliver,” says Joachim Wever, Development Quality Officer at Ale municipality.