Municipal management, politics and finances, urban infrastructure, the health system and housing were the topics of good practices visited during the study tour accompanied by comprehensive training covering subject and methodological aspects as well as reflection and action planning sessions.
On Tuesday, the 9th June 2015, just under 40 Zimbabwean civil servants and local government officials from six municipalities embarked on their return journey from Frankfurt to Zimbabwe. Ten of the colleagues, the mayors and town clerks from the respective municipalities, had already departed a week before. All the participants had been in North Rhine-Westphalia for two weeks in all, and they had got to know local practices in the field of local government and politics, municipal finances, urban infrastructure, the health system and housing. The visits were accompanied by comprehensive training covering subject and methodological aspects as well as reflection and action planning sessions, aimed at achieving an optimum benefit for development.
Institutions visited by the health sector civil servants included Aachen Health Authority, a water treatment plant and various model projects in NRW in the fields of preventive healthcare, AIDS patients and multi-resistant pathogens. The delegates responsible for the area of infrastructure in their municipalities looked in e.g. at Iserlohn’s municipal buildings management, a waterworks and various municipal utilities. As was to be expected, the “housing developers” got to know a wide range of innovative and council housing projects as well as the authorities responsible for them, while the Zimbabwean directors of finance became familiar with financing models, treasures and savings potentials. The important role of the private sector in the municipal budget was also focused on, e.g. during a visit to the City of Dormagen. The mayors and clerks who had already come a week earlier visited a wide range of municipalities as well as a committee meeting in Bergheim.
Feedback on the part of the participants, the institutions and the trainers and moderators after the end of the Study Tour was positive, and many of them were thrilled by the experience. Both the participants and the lecturers were able to gain valuable insights and, above all, new ideas. There was much praise for the good organising by Connective Cities and the smooth running of the trip – all of the just under 40 events were attended without major obstacles or hitches. In this respect, special mention must be made of the Zimbabwean participants. Not only were they always on time and well prepared, but they also displayed a high level of motivation and readiness to discuss issues. As a result, rather than one-sided lectures, exciting and sophisticated dialogues developed at eye level. The Zimbabwean participants did not hesitate to query critical aspects and reflect on what could be applied in a Zimbabwean context.
This was indeed a topic that surfaced again and again during the trip – to what extent can practices looked at in Germany be transferred to Zimbabwe, where the local contexts differ from those in Germany in every respect? Of course the participants and organisers were aware right from the start that a one-to-one reproduction of German practices in Zimbabwe can only succeed in a handful of cases, and this was not the intention of the trip. Rather, the Zimbabwean municipal practitioners were meant to and also keen to get new ideas and widen their horizon and become sensitised to certain subjects such as good urban governance, citizen’s involvement or transparency.
Thus the participants were able to embark on the return journey to their municipalities with a wide range of new impressions as well as action plans. Connective Cities has also gained a further insight after the completion of the study tour. The study tour concept works, and the next group is welcome to come!