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Archive for July 2013

Not Business as Usual

Most often, when the topic of new service delivery and expanded scope of responsibilities comes up in local government, the discussion has been around downloading or the challenging demands from residents and businesses shouting “More service, less taxes!” or the ever-popular “Do more with less!” scenario. As the editor of Exchange, the Local Government Management Association (LGMA) member magazine, I had the chance to connect with local governments who looked at the needs and opportunities in their community, explored options to do things differently and implemented innovative solutions. The results of their initiative have paid off in multiple ways.

The success of the City of Coquitlam’s QNet initiative is exciting, not just because of the value and benefits it’s bringing to the City, but also because of the potential for regional networks and for other local governments to tap into this new market opportunity. I remember when the City of Coquitlam launched QNet, (I had the pleasure of working on the branding, marketing and communications materials). What stood out at the time was the entrepreneurial thinking involved in looking beyond the standard use of a City’s fibre optic infrastructure to see the incredible business opportunity. Next it took strategic business development tactics to create a company that would successful leverage the tremendous potential of this asset. This involved engaging people with the knowledge, experience and expertise to deliver a new type of service effectively.

In a similar way, when Abbotsford, Williams Lake and other local governments took on municipal airport operations, they were responding to the need to protect an important asset for their communities. They not only assumed responsibility for the asset, they tapped into the knowledge and expertise of staff at the existing airports and leveraged the benefits of existing municipal services to offset costs. Moving forward, these local governments continue to explore options to generate revenue, adapt to regulatory changes, plan for future infrastructure requirements and take steps to secure the long-term success of these operations. As a result, they are successfully managing and delivering a very non-traditional service.

It’s also interesting that working outside of the box is not just about leveraging an asset or operating in a new business model. In Operating Outside of the Box we also learn about how the City of Vancouver has created programs tailored to the needs of its inner city community. Some of the factors that distinguish local government are the direct customer interaction experience and the variety of services delivered to residents. Every community will have distinct challenges in service requirements, but it’s refreshing to see how a city can address those challenges with effective programs that meet very basic needs in the community. Instead of the standard “that’s outside of our role or not our job” response – which is quite often correct – there may be times when a new approach can be achieved through partnerships and shared funding. The trick seems to be looking at the challenges from the perspective of identifying the most important needs and being open to solutions that may not fit traditional parameters.

Through these shared experiences in Exchange, we learn that new ideas and approaches can be introduced into organizations, that a non-traditional service model can sometimes be the best solution and that success in other communities can be a catalyst for change – or even motivation – for others.