IN 2013, I was privileged enough to be part of the team of professors who were hired by the League of Municipalities and the League of Cities in the Philippines to facilitate the orientations of some 14 batches of newly elected mayors at different parts of the country. I was then the assistant director of Governance and Leadership Institute of Ateneo de Cagayan. After the stint, I then ran my own governance consultancy where I provided capacity trainings and coaching sessions with the mayors who were my students at the said series of orientations.
I am sure, the two leagues will be conducting yet another set of orientations for first timer mayors in the next month or so. But let me share with you what transpires on such course. Since 2007, the League of Municipalities in the Philippines launched the Orientation for Newly Elected Mayors (One-M) where local chief executives are invited on a 3-day convention. They would listen and interact with champion mayors who share their secrets of success. There had been other similar programs of other agencies but One-M is the only one that has sustained over the years. In fact was the only one recognized by the World Bank as the most effective framework in orienting new local chief executives simply because it is anchored on the principle of learning from their peers who have walked the talk.
I could still remember the sharing of the multi-awarded mayors. I made modules out of them which I used in my coaching sessions as well. On their sharings I noticed three common denominators. These are:
1. Innovations – all of them somehow did more than what was required. They all started with complying on the national mandates of their responsibilities but all their breakthroughs were due to the added innovations they implored. Part of their innovations was the development of new models of project management that were tailor-fitted to their culture. It goes without saying that all of them bank on effective management as the key to delivering quality outputs and eventual outcomes.
2. Community engagement – all of them were soliciting buy-ins from multi-stakeholders. None of the champion mayors ever claimed that they did their programs all by themselves. Breakthroughs are therefore community efforts. The greater challenge then of leadership is how to synergize the sectors into helping the government carry the burden of growth and development.
3. Revenue generation – all of them were not dependent on the national budget allocated to their cities and municipalities (IRA). They all engaged in public enterprises where they have significantly increased their local income thereby empowering themselves to provide for better social services. They also insisted on collecting the correct taxes that are due to the municipality.
All in all, the mentoring of multi-awarded mayors with the newly elected mayors painted that local governance is both a science and an art. It is a science in a sense that efficiency and effectiveness can be achieved through an established pattern and procedures. We do not have to re-invent the wheel to be effective. However, it is also an art because the breakthroughs of local governance greatly rely on how a leader tailor-fits management with their unique context and in that case there is no hard and fast rule as to how things get done.
My engagements with LMP and LCP gave me a new found respect for the bureaucracy. At the height of all the corruption issues that beset our country, there is still a ray of hope for good governance and that hope lies in the local government units.