The administration of local governments and the ability to operate independently are widely agreed upon as important in order to achieve both the MDGs and local priorities. Unfortunately, administration capabilities are one of the most difficult aspects of government to measure. By focusing on specific countries, regions, or local communities, it is possible to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the internal aspects of local governments.
Organizations such as the Urban Institute, the World Bank, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum have experience researching the internal issues arising in local government administrations. Although on a case-by-case basis, local government research consistently demands a significant amount of time and dedication per study. Opposite many development organizations and institutions’ current beliefs, research suggests that an internal administration’s capacity indeed is possible to measure by focusing on individual communities.
Our community of practice aims to find ways to measure the effectiveness of local government administration without going deep into its capacity. Together, we have established and agreed upon a method that focuses on measuring the inputs and outputs of effective local government.
A decentralized government serves as an extremely important input necessary to produce effective local governance. Government representation at the local level increases the accessibility of locals to participate in the political decision-making process as well as the responsiveness of the government to the community’s direct needs. Importantly, decisions agreed upon by local governments must be upheld and equally enforced in the legal frameworks of both the national and local governments. By decentralizing the government power structure, local governments become more responsive and accountable for their actions.
Local government leaders must understand how to effectively carry out the wishes of their constituents. Operational training cannot simply consist of training on service delivery, transparency and management, but also must consider negotiation techniques, taxation, and national legal mechanisms. Additionally, operational training must discuss ethics and the inclusion of minority groups in local governance. Such training will ensure that local government officials have the knowledge to run local government operations in a participatory manner.
The outputs of local governments equate to its supplied service delivery. Measuring the amount of electricity or water that goes through the system is not always an adequate measure of how effective the system is working, as the services may be directed at one particular group or service. Therefore, perceptions from locals and those working in the area are important. If the majority of the community deems the local government’s services unavailable or inadequate, then the services are not being delivered effectively.
Inputs such as operational training, decentralizing the power structure, and a positive communal perception of the government’s ability to deliver services determine local government outputs within an effective administration. Such outputs are more easily dispensed, measured, and responsive to problems within the government administration’s internal capacity. Upon establishing the aforementioned outputs, community members are better able to focus money and time on other significant issues, thus enabling development.