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Governance International study visit programmes

The end of local government as we know it

Logo of the Institut national des études territoriales (INET, National Institute of Local Government Studies)

UK visit of executives from local government and fire services in France from 9-13 September 2013

INET which is the prime institution in France for training of local government executives, commissioned Governance International to design and facilitate a study trip on public service transformation, community resilience and risk management in the UK. The 39 participants from local government and fire services in France learnt how UK local government is responding to the budget cuts and shared ideas on new service delivery models with their UK hosts. The French delegates were both shocked about austerity but also intrigued by the innovations they encountered during their week in the UK, as an article in the Guardian Public Service Reform Hub reports. 

We are grateful to all the organisations who co-produced this exciting learning experience with us: DCLG, London Borough of Haringey, London Borough of Newham, London Borough of Lambeth, London Borough of Lewisham, Age UK Lambeth, Age UK Camden, Birmingham City Council, Castle Vale Housing Association, Balsall Heath Forum and INLOGOV, Gloucester City Council and Birmingham University.

Anti-corruption and anti-fraud strategies in the UK

Governance International designed, organised and facilitated a five-day study trip to London for the Inspection Board of the Turkish Ministry of Interior in February 2012. The study trip enabled the participants to:

  • understand how inspection and audit mechanisms are used centrally and locally to fight corruption and fraud;
  • how local government can prevent and reduce corruption and fraud;
  • network with senior government officials from the UK; and
  • reflect on UK good practice and their implications for existing audit practices in Turkish government.
Liz Dempsey and Peter Liver from the NSPCC
Participants during their visit to the LB of Barnet

The study trip included visits to the Audit Commission; London Boroughs of Barnet, Haringey, and Westminster; Department of Health; NSPCC; Centre of Public Scrutiny; Local Government Association; and National Fraud Authority. The learning outcomes have been summarised in a report of the study visit (PDF).

Leadership for more open, co-produced and efficient public services in the UK

Governance International organised a five day study visit to London for 30 senior officials from the federal and state agencies in Germany. The study visit was part of the training and development programme of the Speyer Leadership College run by Prof. Dr. Hermann Hill. During their visit to London, participants met public sector leaders and active citizens and discussed with them issues around open government, social media, public service co-production and leadership development. Thanks to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the delegates also had the chance to meet MP David Davies in the Houses of Parliament.

The project manager Anke Mrozowski produced a report to reflect on the UK public sector reforms from a German perspective (pdf download).

Community engagement champions in the UK

The German delegates with the Governance International team and the hosts of the Lambeth visit.

How do citizen really experience community engagement in different European countries? Why do they get engaged and what do they get out of it? Hannes Wezel, Head of Community Engagement of Nuertingen Council, Rainer Nübel, a well known German journalist, and Mario Wezel, a professional photographer, went on the road to visit several European countries in early 2011 to find out.

Governance International designed the UK study visit, which featured the Peer Education Project of Lambeth Council, the Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre, and the London Health Commission's Well London Project.


You can read the full report about the citizen engagement champions in the UK and other European countries in German (pdf download). Even if you cannot read German the catchy photos are worthwhile looking at!


Learning from co-production champions in London

Mayor of Lambeth

Matthew Horne, Innovation Unit; Elke Loeffler, Governance International and Graham Hill, UK (from left to right).

How can citizens become more involved in the design, commissioning and delivery of public services? A delegation made up of representatives of the Finnish Local Government Association and some UK public agencies discussed with senior local managers and leading UK think tanks how to make such changes happen. Through site visits, roundtables and discussions with ‘shakers and movers’, the study trip participants learnt

  • How the Tenant Management Organisation in Kensington and Chelsea works with disadvantaged young people to improve their well-being and employability;

  • Why the London Borough of Lambeth decided to move to personal budgets in adult social care so that service users could commission their own care package and what benefits the new system provides to users, as testified by two young employees with disabilities;

  • How a co-commissioning approach which is based on outcomes produces better results for service providers and users, as piloted by nef with the Holy Cross Centre Trust in Camden;

  • Why time-banking has proved to be an effective approach for reducing social inclusion, as evidenced by Timebanking UK;

  • How the day care centre for people with mental disabilities Holy Cross Centre Trust in Camden uses time-banking to provide additional public services at no cost to the taxpayer through the activities of its users;

  • How the Design Council and Think Public use innovative design methods and creative approaches to see services through the eyes of their users and provide new insights for service providers;

  • How the Innovation Unit brings together innovators and develops tools and mechanisms for innovation – the participants took part in an excursion to the Social Innovation Lab for Kent (SILK) in Maidenhead to see how this happens in practice.

  • Finally, the participants learnt how the public sector can adapt lessons from the private and third sectors, where co-creation is now a widely-used method.

You can read a detailed account of the study trip and lessons learnt here (pdf download). If you can read Finnish you may want to read the article by Tuula Jäppinen in Kuntalehti journal here (pdf download).

Learning from community engagement champions in the South-West of Germany

The Stuttgart region has a reputation for being very economical and efficient. It is not only the home of leading companies such as Mercedes, Porsche and Bosch but also a leader in community empowerment. Why? There is no legal duty to inform, consult or involve citizens but many public agencies have recognized that community empowerment improves the quality of life of citizens at low cost. However, public agencies have been very successful at achieving close co-operation with local business and the media – something from which the UK and other countries can certainly learn a lot.

A number of Governance International study visits took participants to very impressive organisations, including the award-winning local authority of Nürtingen, the machine tool company Heller which has won acclaim for involving staff in social responsibility programmes, Stuttgart council and several other governance champions in the region.

You can read a detailed account of the study trip and lessons learnt here (pdf download).

This is what two of our participants of this study trip thought:

Valerie Smith, Senior Policy Officer at the Commission for Rural Communities: "So many interesting governance initiatives are happening in Europe. We need to learn from each other. This intensive trip not only informed us about southern German experiences of participation, but the international atmosphere enabled us to hear about countries such as Belgium, Norway, Catalonia, Scotland and other parts of England too. Extremely valuable!"

Jordi Pacheco i Canals, Deputy Head of Citizen Participation, Gobierno de Catalunya:"It is important to learn what kind of approaches other agencies use to address similiar issues. The programme allowed us to become familiar with the German approach and, during our informal discussions, to get to hear other points of view from participants working in other parts of Europe."

Learning from participatory budgeting experiences in the Paris region

The high level of interest in citizen participation in budget issues in the UK and elsewhere in Europe suggests that participative budgeting is no longer just a fancy theory, even though developed examples of it are still rare in practice, even in France. Governance International staff have been following the participatory budgeting practices of three local government champions in the Paris region for a number of years and used their experience to put together a programme which allowed participants to compare three very different ways of transferring the Porto Alegre model into a European context.

The one-and-a-half day programme involved visits and discussions with:

  • the director for neighbourhood management and a key citizen activist in Issy-les-Moulineaux,
  • the vice-mayor, the president of the citizen inspectorate and a member of a neighbourhood committee in Bobigny,
  • the mayor and chief executive of Saint-Denis.

The three different areas of Paris inevitably approach PB in different ways. Each each ran up strongly against the tradition of powerful French mayors acting on behalf of their citizens but each threw up an interesting experience – how neighbourhood councils were elected, citizen inspectors, and PB across a city-region.

You can read a detailed account of the study trip and lessons learnt here (pdf download).

This is what two of our participants thought of the study trip:

Katju Holkeri, Counsellor, Ministry of Finance, Finland: "The programme of the study trip on participatory budgeting to Paris was really well balanced. The three cases were different but all of equally high standard and complemented each other well. Through their demonstrated results they provided me with new ideas and contributed to our work on citizen participation".

Gordon C. Frith, Principal Administrative Officer, Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar, Scotland: "I live and work on the Isle of Lewis, which is at the edge of Europe. The Study Trip provided an opportunity to exchange ideas and  develop networks with a diverse and well informed group of individuals. I was struck by the deep and sincere wish of those giving presentations to improve services to their communities. The Study Trip was of almost immediate benefit, as I was able to integrate the information gained in Paris into a Report aimed at building community engagement into the Council's constitutional framework."

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