In reality, the groundwork for a successful decentralization of municipal government is laid not in the capital but in the cities and communes that are to be vested, under the new law, with new duties and expanded powers. But are the heads of our cities and communes prepared to work in the new conditions? Do they have enough knowledge and creative spirit for this?
Some public activists have decided to help them by drawing up an educational program, School of Mayors, based on the world’s best standards for training local administration head candidates. As soon as in June, future mayors and their teams from 13 Ukrainian cities will begin to study on the basis of the Kyiv Mohyla Business School (KMBS). The best of them will also have an opportunity to do advanced studies in Visegrad Four municipalities.
It is Ruslan Rokhov, head of Joint Efforts, an agency for strategic communications and development, who initiated this uncommon project in conjunction with the KMBS, the Institute of Political Education, the NGO Smart City Civic Council, and the US-based National Democratic Institution. Presenting this project to journalists, he said that today’s mayors are still not much aware of how to develop their city and what possibilities open up to them in the conditions of greater independence, when the excuse “Kyiv won’t give money” is no longer valid.
Revealing the essence of the mayor training program, KMBS Deputy Dean Viacheslav Herashchenko noted that in the course of these studies municipal executives would be seeking answers to such crucial questions as: What is the role and mission of a city mayor? What is the phenomenon of a city? In what way can the success of city strategists be measured? What is a mayor and his team supposed to manage and what does he manage in reality? What is the real strategy of urban development?
Asked by The Day about the main problems mayors and their teams will face in the conditions of decentralized municipal administration, Herashchenko said: “The main challenge to a mayor-level leader is their way of thinking. If they fail to assume a systemic, instead of a traditional functional, way of thinking, they won’t be able to solve the problems of public utilities, education, and health care in the period of five years.”
He also recalled Confucius’ maxim that an individual can be characterized with only one word, “interaction,” if s/he knows how to find ways for cooperation with their team. In the academic’s view, if a mayor can build a relationship with councilors, s/he is sure to gain success. “Reciprocity and interaction are the core of a highest-quality executive,” the deputy dean emphasizes, “it is not a customary action but an interaction.” And classes will mainly focus on this kind of skills.
The Day has also learned about the way project participants will be selected. Is it possible that two teams from the same city will simultaneously come to do the course – for example, one that represents the current mayor and another that represents his/her future election rival? Herashchenko does not rule out this possibility.
But Rokhov thinks otherwise. Noting that this educational project will be launched on May 15 at the Ukrainian House for all those who wish to come, he specified that there can only be one team from a city. “It will be mapping out a strategy for its city. And, to choose the best one, we will introduce a competition. There will be 13 teams. Among the competition assignments is an essay on one’s vision of the city development in 10 year’s time. We will select the most motivated people by the results of these works and begin to interview them in early June. This will enable us to choose the best teams for studies. There will be no political factor among the selection criteria. The attitude to representatives of the current authorities and their opposition will only depend on what strategy the team offers and whether it cares about its city or is guided by the considerations of publicity.”
In spite of some differences, the project participants signed a memorandum on cooperation. Yet Herashchenko pointed out: “I am signing this on condition that it will be a permanent, not a short-term, project, for there are much more than 13 mayors in Ukraine, and the teams of councilors, with whom mayors will have to establish cooperation, consist of thousands of people involved in municipal self-government.”