Municipal Institute Of LearningMILE - Municipal Institute Of Learning
Political Leadership and Officials recommit to making Town Development Strategies happen in Namibia

When the Swakopmund Municipal Institute of Learning (SMILE) was launched last month at its inaugural learning exchange with the Kwadakuza municipality, there was agreement from the UCLG, the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) and it sister organisation NALAO that SMILE should waste no time in organising its next learning event.

Over the last few weeks the technical support team from MILE in partnership with the team from SMILE, have been busy planning an intensive three-day Town Development Strategy (TDS) action-learning workshop. Run at the fully-kitted SMILE learning centre at the Swakopmund Municipality, the session which was organised by ALAN/ NALAO and  co-facilitated by MILE and SMILE brought together Councillors and senior officials from the four-pilot municipalities of Usakos, Karibib, Otjiwarango and Maltohohe into a learning session with the Swakopmund Municipality.

Funded by the Cities Alliance, and supported by the UCLG, it was very encouraging to note that in just three days six key learning objectives were fulfilled. Firstly, a refresher course was run on the content of strategic planning and in particular what a powerful TDS should contain. This module ended with participants reflecting on what was shared by the South African facilitators and then deciding for themselves what a home-grown Namibian TDS should look like, given that each country’s local context is unique. Secondly all municipalities were exposed to importance of engaging with local stakeholders including exposure on how exactly to run stakeholder engagement sessions using interactive techniques.

There was consensus on the need to move beyond representative democracy towards participatory democracy if governance is to be more sustainable. Thirdly, all participants appreciated the module on workshop facilitation, learning the hard and soft skills and debating whether a good facilitator is born or made. The fourth objective was to expose each municipality to the value of knowledge management and the critical importance of documenting – which all participants agreed was not taken seriously enough by Namibian municipalities. This session went beyond merely raising awareness to the actual sharing of the practice of how to write learning notes and again was well received. The final day of the learning event involved a critical review of each town’s emerging TDS process. Adopting a peer-learning methodology, towns were twinned and the content reviewed, which was followed by a plenary session where instructive comments were made on how to improve the content of each town’s TDS.
The learning event was wrapped up on a high note, with each town committing to what the next steps would be to ensure that documentation of their TDS and their entire TDS process itself is completed before the year is out. The Mayor of Otjiwarango summed up the spirit of the workshop when she closed the event remarking that she had not seen a single official or politician slip in and out of the workshop over three days! She praised all for their perseverance and leadership and re-committed the support of Otjiwarango to assist the other three pilots as part of their own commitment to knowledge sharing. Let us watch this space for the perhaps the emergence of an OTJI-MILE this time mentored by SMILE…. 


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