Participatory Planning Produces Strategic Blueprints for Cities

Graeme Thompson, communications specialist for the Tetra Tech-implemented U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Urban Municipal Governance project (UMG) in Guatemala, discusses how the project executed a three-month technical assistance initiative to help four municipalities deliver high-quality operating plans to the Ministry of Finance. All opinions expressed in this post are the author’s own.

Read the full post on the USAID Urban Links blog.

In a post on the USAID Urban Links blog, Graeme explains how Tetra Tech has supported urban municipalities to efficiently deliver public services. The UMG project is a five-year project designed to reduce levels of violence in municipalities most at risk of violent crime through enhanced municipal governance, increased coverage and quality of municipal services, and improved citizen participation in and oversight of government.

Is it possible for urban municipalities to efficiently deliver public services without a strategic annual operating plan?

Surely, large-scale infrastructure projects like road construction or amplification of primary schools over a region require multi-year plans. At the end of each year, municipal planning departments in Guatemala scramble to deliver a key document—the Municipal Annual Operating Plan, a strategic, multi-year blueprint for a city. When done correctly, these plans serve as an indispensable resource for both government and citizens. The plans improve living conditions and reduce social inequality that has historically plagued Guatemala. Due to a lack of a cohesive governance structure, it has been over a decade since these municipal annual operating plans have resulted in a clear plan for delivering public services.

Using an organizational capacity assessment tool to identify this common governance issue, the project implemented a three-month technical assistance initiative to help four municipalities—Malacatán, Coatepeque, Chimaltenango, and Villa Canales—to deliver high-quality operating plans to the Ministry of Finance before the annual deadline in December.

The constraints range from a lack of staff in a municipality’s planning department to a lack of basic information about the needs of residents. “Many people from different departments do not know these assessment tools or how to fill them in,” said Edwin Barrios, director of the planning department in Malacatán.

Graeme Thompson

Graeme Thompson

Graeme Thompson is the communications specialist in USAID’s Urban Municipal Governance Project in Guatemala, which is implemented by Tetra Tech. Graeme is a former journalist turned development communications practitioner, with 20 years of experience documenting and informing democratic community development in Central America. Graeme holds a Masters of Arts in Classical Archaeology from the University College London and a Masters of Science in Human Rights from the Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala.