Rural Intergovernmental Relations: Many Agency Programs Depend Community Implementation

community implementationIntergovernmental relations dramatically reflect the present and historical tensions present between political subdivisions at work within a state. An understanding of these interrelationships is vital to the success of any proposed program within a rural community.

States may not have much of a presence within a small rural community. Representatives of state governments often work at a distance and are restrained in their ability to travel in rural areas. State officials are likely to only appear in a village during a time of crisis. State resources are increasingly being diverted to more urban areas that magnify the divide between highly and less populated regions.

Federalism – The Federal government has a huge impact on communities in terms of land owned, wages paid, funding provided and regulatory program administered. Many administrative functions remain vested with the Federal government. Various schemes of Federalism have changed the way local government organizations interact with various agency initiatives. Many current Federal policies represent unfunded mandates or can be very incoherent in their intent. Many Federal and State programs depend on local communities their for successful implementation.

Project Planning – Community leaders need to met and establish the framework for how they will interact with State and Federal agencies during development of a proposed project or effort. It is important to enter these discussions with the idea that any agreement with a Federal or State agency will be for the good of the community. Project goals need to be aligned with local values and realities. The State and Federal governments represent minimal oversight in many communities and local government officials have an excellent chance to participate in entrepreneurial management of projects occurring in their community. Local communities are not just cog in a greater hierarchy, but important players in the overall government system. Some items for local leaders to consider in planning a project with an outside agency are:

  • Partnering of all local political subdivisions and nongovernmental organizations will improve the community’s bargaining position
  • Consider your relationship with the donor. The grantor agency often needs you to accomplish their mission
  • Employ an experienced facilitator to represent the community’s interests that has the time and resources to follow through with the entire effort
  • Local steering or planning community needs to be carefully crafted with the right membership

Public Facilitation – Once a community has decided investigate a project, public participation in the planning is vital. Factors that will affect participation in the planning process are personal motivation, previous experiences, project resources, time and clear objectives. Stakeholders need to be identified and an outreach effort made to include them in the selection process. Cries of disenfranchisement can quickly derail a project when the outcome is near. Depending on the complexity of a planning project, there may be more than one committee. A steering committee, planning group, or technical review committee are examples. Facilitation is important in the conduct of public planning meeting. People can tell when their input is genuinely accepted and opinions valued. Community support can be an enormous positive or negative factor in the project’s success.

Collaborative Public Management – The community will need to negotiate with sponsoring agency throughout the entire project planning process. Communities need to stay on message and remain consistent. Federal managers will not be traveling to the community at every point of the planning process. Managers need to be focused on the possible benefits arising from the project and be ready to construct their response to regulators creatively. Communities should consider using jurisdiction-based and donor-recipient models of collaborative public management. A community can plan for growth and seek out multiple financial partners, and understand the needs of donor agencies. The sponsor agency is likely to need the community’s help in advancing the agency goals and there should be maneuvering room for activist manager.