The Best Practices Program elaborated by Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform of Council of Europe and adapted in many countries with great success, the Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities (TÖOSZ) adopted in Hungary and published the Call for Application in 2008 at the first time.
The Best Practices Program in Hungary has got a short name in Hungarian: LÖGY. In domesticating the LÖGY program in Hungary dr. Katalin Pallai in representation of Council of Europe and Katalin Sabján the Secretary of International Affairs of TÖOSZ took an important role. The competition of best practices was organized for the first time in Great - Britain in 1999, which was continued in every year with even more participants and greater success. On initiation of Council of Europe in 2004 eight countries - mainly from East and South-Europe - joined to the pilot program of England. In Hungary we published five years ago this program at the first time and since that time the program is developed with expanded content every year.
The aim of the program is to identify the Local Governmental Best Practices and introduce them to other municipalities in the country and the creation of a knowledge base from the best practices. Dissemination of new and innovative local solutions or rather the knowledge of such local government who owned a best practise could result in better public services and higher level performance in leadership among the local governments who are facing similar problems. The knowledge transfer process initiated by the program however could not only help those municipalities, who receive new methods, but those as well, who owned the best practise. Surely the process of transferring the knowledge is not only realized by written information but with open days and consultation with other colleagues. These consultations provide possibility for receiving new ideas by the owner of the best practise for further development of their activities. Besides getting awarded for Local Government Best Practise the local governments receive official acknowledgement of their which is regarded as a success for the employees and the inhabitants of the local governments as well. The further results of the program is that it raises the awareness of state organizations to the necessity of support of innovations and better local government public service provision through strong and highly responsible local governments.
Those local governments can submit an application to the Best Practise Award, which possess in their own judgement on the relevant areas new and adaptable practise. In the given years winners receive prizes in form of financial grant or other forms of prizes from the relevant Ministries or Sponsors. The financial grant could be used freely with the only condition that it is to be used for an aim which has some relevancies to the Best Practise. The grant could be used for example for a study visit of the people implementing the best practise, for improvement of municipal services, for purchasing new equipments or for training purpose. By submitting the application to the Best Practices Prize the local government accepts in the frame of a contract established with TÖOSZ that its best practise will be introduced to other local governments too. In order to make it possible to disseminate the knowledge in a wider circle the winners introduce their best practices in the framework of workshops, professional conferences, study visits and online presentations. The program offers preparatory trainings for all of these purposes.
The LÖGY program was initiated by Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform of Council of Europe together with Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities (TÖOSZ) who leads and implements the domestic program. From the beginning Association of Hungarian Villages, Association of Hungarian Municipalities and Ministry of Interiors are cooperating partners and work together with TÖOSZ. In the last five years for shorter or longer period Dexia Kommunalkredit Hungary Kft., Open Society Foundation, Ministry of Environment Protection and Water Issues, Ministry of Social and Labour Issues, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Human Resources, Tempus Public Foundation, National Development Agency, Budapest Corvinus University and Energy Club Environment Protection Foundation sponsored the program.
The Best Practices of Local Governments Program is led by Steering Committee with the coordination and supervision of Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities. Members of the Steering Committee from the beginning are: the Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities, Hungarian Village Association, Association of Hungarian Municipalities, 42 TÖOSZ Programmes providing help for local governments – with the support of the Council of Europe – 43 and the Ministry responsible for Local Governments. The Steering Committee has different kinds of members depending on the actual topic of the call. A project manager nominated by TÖOSZ supports the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee decides with simple majority in all relevant cases. The members of the Steering Committee have the rights and possibilities to offer decision makers to get involved in the work of the Committee, recommend experts to the Selection Panel and nominate those persons with common decision. The Steering Committee identifies the criteria of call for application, terms of application process, selection process, and control the selection process of the Selection Panel. The Steering Committee accepts the training program, identifies the training possibilities and obligations of the winners, directs the wide range dissemination of the case studies, and actively supports with communication tools the implementation of the program, cooperates in the organization of the Award Ceremony. The local governments experienced experts are delegated by the Steering Committee. The Selection Panel is supported in administration by the Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities. It is the task of the Selection Panel to evaluate the submitted application and make recommendation to the Steering Committee on the short list. The experts in cooperation with Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities and its project manager take part in identifying the topic of the call for application, creating its detailed description, identification of criteria and terms, creating short list for local visit from the best practices. They participate at site visits and preparation of selection the best practices.
Evalution criteria of practices submitted to the call for application in the best practices program:
Successful and well known. Any best practice will be a “success story”; it will have a positive effect within the municipality or the local community; it will fully achieve its objectives. The best practice should be based on cooperation, it has to be accepted and well known by local stakeholders.
Transparent and openness. The practice must be fully transparent; documents and data must be clear; the context must be understood; the staff and service users must be able to explain the practice and the reasoning behind it. Did the local government try to involve local stakeholders?
Adequate. It must be seen to have met the given challenge, to be adequate to the circumstances. It must be appropriate. Adequacy can best be measured against the strategic goals of the municipality, as set out in the Local Development Strategy. 42 43 TÖOSZ Programmes providing help for local governments – with the support of the Council of Europe
Effectiveness. Did the best practise result in significant and measurable development, in effectiveness?
Significant. Has the best practise contributed to the solution of one or more problems of the local government? Does this problem exist in more municipalities and is the solution unfamiliar with many local governments?
Sustainable. A Best Practice should not be a single event. It should be sustainable. For example, whereas the most efficient one-off clearing of rubbish from the pavement is not a Best Practice whereas the systematic collection of waste from households can become one.
Replicable. Is it possible to adapt the best practise in another municipality without any difficulties?
Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities produces summary on submitted applications, from which the Selection Panel creates short lists in all topics with recommendation for site visits. The project manager (Ms Mónika Balla Lüttmerdingné firstname.lastname@example.org ) visits with one or more members of the Selection Panel the local governments applying for the Prizes. The visitors request from the local leaders to introduce their best practise so that they can include those parts of their activities related to the best practise as well which was not part of the case study, but could be important from the point of view of the program. Before the selection the winners, based on the site visits the local governments will be invited to the final conference and competition where they can present their best practices before a wider audience. The Selection Panel and the Steering Committee is participating at this conference and they decide together on the winners of the Prizes of Best Practices of Local Government Program.
The program is closed by a one or two day conference where there is a wider audience from professionals. During the final conference and competition of best practices the relevant government institutions present their point of views and programs. At the ceremonial award event Ministers, leaders of Ministries take part with wider media publicity.
The applying local governments after winning the prizes sign a contract with Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities. In this contract the parties fix the methods and channels for disseminating the best practices to the other local governments.
The directors of the program provide information and consultation the communication of the best practices. The winner local governments accept to introduce their best practices with inviting fixed number of participants from other local governments. The transfer of knowledge could be a further source of information because the owner of the best practice could gain new ideas from the dissemination event and dialogue. Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities and participating organizations through their own channels disseminate the best practises, thereby supporting municipalities, who offer solutions for the given problems.
Every Hungarian local government could win the Prize of the Best Practices Program of Local Governments. The local governments could apply with filling out the application form, which could be downloaded from the following website: www.toosz.hu. The filled out form have to be signed and sent to TÖOSZ (1386 Budapest 62. Pf.: 908.) in one original and one copy. The applications have to be sent electronically to the following address: email@example.com. For the application it is allowed to submit supportive documents, publications, photos (preferred to upload to the website of the local government and send only the link). With submitting the application the applicants contributes for free using the different materials by TÖOSZ and its Partners. The application deadline is determined by the Steering Committee at the same time when the call for application is published for the relevant year.
Jenő Schmidt, President of TÖOSZ
In the course of the last period the Hungarian National Association of Local Authorities (TÖOSZ) besides it traditional interest-representative, interest-promotional activities has been dealing with programmes supporting local authorities in a gradually extended circle and a depth. In this service of strengthening and transmitting local government knowledge, TÖOSZ has received the professional support and help of the Council of Europe from the very beginning. At the same time, the various bilateral, international partnerships of the Association also contributed to the fact that we could provide interested local governments with good examples and solutions that can be implemented in the various fields related to local governance and local government leadership work.
Hungary is colourful. This statement is applicable and true in relation to local governments as well as the municipal planning, financial and management system. In the last 25 years, local governments faced important challenges to which they often reacted with new, creative solutions. They introduced many good approaches and methods in the field of municipal leadership and management as well as in the area of public-service provision, these solutions became known only by a few persons, a small circle of affected groups.
The mottos of TÖOSZ are solidarity and professionalism. A more popular and exciting manifestation form of solidarity is that successful local governments and local government leaders pass on their knowledge, experiences to those mayors, notaries, self-governing organs that are ready and willing to learn and get to know the keys to the given manifestations of success. Professional self-governance is unconceivable without the consistent application of legal rules, at the same time only by taking into consideration the local specificities and circumstances may we provide public services at an adequate quality level.
If other local governments also have the chance to get to know and adopt these efficient methods, the life of citizens in many municipalities may improve in other parts of the country as well. The position of the mayor is a unique „trade” that is undertaken with the control of the general public and that of the citizens. The activities of the mayor is not affected by his/her original qualification or profession in an essential way, it is more influenced by the communal nature of the tasks to be implemented by him/her. One becomes a mayor thanks to the intention of the citizens, however apart from aptitude, for the successful practice of the mayor’s position, learning in the field of local government, leadership skills, exchange of experiences and openness are also necessary. TÖOSZ would like to provide help and support for the mayors in their activities through the TÖOSZ Knowledge Programmes. In the present publication, we wish to provide a general picture on these Programmes.
The Council of Europe’s Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform, its professional leadership and support provided us with incentives as a result of which and in harmony with the European processes and approaches, we continuously improve our knowledge programmes that perfectly fit the mission and adopted philosophy of TÖOSZ and has the improvement of the knowledge and skills of local government leaders as a focus.
I deeply hope that our publication describing the local government supporting programmes of TÖOSZ will provide mayors, notaries, local government leaders and those interested about local governance with a suitable general guide.
The President of TÖOSZ