One of the Power of 32's 15 initiatives is to create a "best practices bank" to help governments cooperate with each other across boundaries and consistently assess how to improve the region. Leading the effort for the Power of 32 is the Local Government Academy, an independent non-partisan organization that promotes excellence in local government.
According to Susan Hockenberry, Executive Director of Local Government Academy (LGA), having more efficient, smarter government is very important to economic development in the region.
"Local government is the form of government that affects quality of life the most," explains Hockenberry. "So, when we talk about competing as a region, in terms of quality of life, it's the local governments that have the most impact."
Hockenberry says the goal of the best practices bank is to get better information into the hands of local leaders, so they benefit the community. LGA curates a bank of resources from a wide variety of expert sources, so the implementation of shared ideas is focusing on an online learning platform to compliment the in-person training programs.
"We plan to use the broad reach that technology provides to reach audiences beyond our in-person classes," points out Hockenberry.
During 2014, LGA worked on a project assessing interest and readiness towards online courses on best practices and training. In the fall, they tested the potential of online and in-person combined training with the Fight Blight Brightly series. The course was very successful; 56 municipal leaders took the course and 120 downloaded the resource materials. The 10-week course is currently running now through the end of February.
Fight Blight Brightly is offered as part of the Sustainable Development Academy, a partnership of Local Government Academy and Sustainable Pittsburgh. The comprehensive course is inspired and structured on the new From Blight to Bright Toolkit publication of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, which guides the participant through numerous resources and tools used in the community to combat blight.
LGA also offers Fight Blight Brightly LITE, exclusively for elected officials and municipal managers. This version gives policy makers and elected leadership the knowledge they need to make good policy without all of the detailed information needed for administrators and code enforcers.
With the success of the courses on blight prevention and remediation, LGA is working on curriculum for a course for planning commissioners that will tie together planning, zoning and code enforcement. "The course will combine in-person and online training," explains Hockenberry. "This will allow us to deliver a larger body of work that is more manageable and digestible."
At the core of the initiative to develop a best practices bank is the intention to share ideas and proven concepts that help governments cooperate with one another across boundaries and consistently assess how to improve the region.
"Sharing creates a common nomenclature and language about what it means to serve and what excellence in local government looks like," says Hockenberry. "Sharing solutions and experiences helps communities put proven practices to work. And it helps communities collaborate on shared priorities that are more regional such as blight, water quality and land banks."
The concept of promoting best practices is consistent with what LGA has been doing since its inception – creating training for newly elected officials, candidates and municipal employees. Now, LGA is extending its impact by developing a best practices bank to improve local governments across the P32 region.