If you care, you act seriously. How to organize good workshops for the commune’s development strategy?

We have 2,477 communes in Poland, covering all the country, and all of them are developing their development strategies. One of the conditions for developing a good strategy is to listen to residents and entrepreneurs, especially leaders and decision-makers. They know the problems, needs, opportunities, advantages and threats of the commune and have the greatest influence on it. Therefore, local authorities organize with them the so-called strategic workshops. These are meetings aimed at collecting information and opinions about the situation of the commune and its future, as well as proposals for directions of its development and specific actions, especially investments, including multi-million ones. They also serve to debate on the commune, even furious one, and… to work out a compromises. To sum up, the workshops mean joint creation of the commune development strategy.

That’s the theory. And the practice? Unfortunately, this is still often done wrong in my country. This reduces the quality of the strategy, which worsens the functioning of local government, and then the living conditions, economy and environment. While working on strategies, I conducted such workshops for about 200 days. So I have 10 pieces of advice for the authorities organizing them. They will be useful in places where local government exists. And if you were invited, they will let you know whether you are wasting your time.

So, Dear Municipal Authority and Officials responsible for the workshops:

1. Are you inviting only a few? You will lose both the accuracy of the strategy and its support (yours too). For example, in a commune with 10 thousand inhabitants, a good list of invitees is about 150 people. If you try really hard, half will come and IT’S NOT LITTLE.

2. Do you want to work with the unprepared? Anyone who knows little about the commune’s development strategy, or even about local government, will be less useful than they could be. Precede the workshops with training, you will be pleasantly surprised by their level!

3. Are you planning workshops for 3-4 hours, on Friday, in the afternoon, for everyone at once? It does not make sense. Good workshops include: 2 days with each branch group of invitees. Up to 2 weeks in total.

4. Is your workshop moderator not familiar with local government, strategies and teamwork? He probably won’t be able to cope with a hall full of presidents, directors, managers, chiefs, councillors, chairmen, commanders, activists, etc. They will eat him/her, raw, and go home.

5. Is your moderator very smart and talks more than listens? So what was the point of inviting all these people?

6. Does your hall have a cinema layout? It’s great for movies, but a disaster for workshops. There is nothing to write on, and some people hide behind others. Solid tables at U layout + large board are the minimum.

7. Do you think that if most of the invitees think something, they are always right? Did you know that when Einstein announced the general theory of relativity, 100 scientists, including 1 Nobel Prize winner, wrote a book in which they argued that it was nonsense? However, if you ignore what the majority thinks and wants, you will make a mistake.

8. Are you planning to organize workshops as part of the strategy draft consultations? Workshops make sense before developing a strategy, not after!

9. No. Good workshops findings are a great foundation for a strategy, but not yet a strategy. A strategy on it (and others) still needs to be developed – creatively, boldly and reasonably.

10. Generally: if you put your heart into the workshops, if you do it seriously, you will get the involvement of a significant number of invitees. I have seen many sceptics turned into workshop leaders. You have influence on this!

And in the photo, the opening of one of the best workshops I have ever conducted. Commune of Mikołów – ogród życia “Garden of Life” – wonderful, well prepared people, active participation and great results. And the strategy? Strongly supported and solidly implemented. Worth following!