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close this bookTraining for Elected Leadership - The Councillor as Policy-maker (HABITAT, 1994, 20 p.)
close this folderPart II: Workshop councillor as policy-maker
View the documentOverview
View the document2.1 Warm-up exercise: policy recall
View the document2.2 Exercise: a policy-maker's quiz
View the document2.3 Trainer presentation
View the document2.4 Case study: Lukasa's waste-management
View the document2.5 Skill practice exercise
View the document2.6 Skill transfer exercise



Governing a local government requires that elected leaders decide on goals and then transform these goals into programmes and services through declarations of policy. In other words, policy represents the critical juncture between what government has decided to do (its goals and purposes) and how it intends to do it (action strategies and plans).

Goals ® Policies ® Strategies

This workshop is designed to inform participants about the nature of local-government policy, how it is made, and how to distinguish policies from problems goals and strategies. Participants who complete this workshop will understand the importance of policy-making as a deliberate process and the consequences of governance by unintentional policy.


A brief description of each learning activity is shown below with an approximation of the amount of time required. If you wish to change the order, to omit something, or to add training material of your own, feel free to do so.

2.1 Warm-up exercise: policy recall

Participants reflect on their own experiences with public policies that have been enacted or should have been. (45 - 60 minutes)

2.2 Exercise: a policy-maker's quiz

Participants identify from a list which statements are policies, goals, problems, and strategies, first working alone and then in small groups. Results are compared. (60 - 75 minutes)

2.3 Trainer presentation

Brief presentation on the role of councillors as policy-makers. Draw on material from the preceding essay to describe the policy-making process to distinguish among goals, policies, and strategies. Describe who is involved in the process of policy-making and the various approaches for carrying out a policy dialogue. (30 minutes)

2.4 Case study: Lukasa's waste-management plan

Participants read a case situation describing the successful development of a waste-management plan by a city council and, working in small groups, identify the problems, goals, policies, and strategies implied by the situation. (60 - 75 minutes)

2.5 Skill practice exercise

Working in small groups, participants discuss problems each of them has in their cities, select one of them, and write a goal statement, policy statement, and one or more strategies for achieving the goal. (90 - 120 minutes)

2.6 Skill transfer exercise

Participants reflect on what they have learned and make personal commitments to put it to use after the workshop. (30 - 45 minutes)

2.1 Warm-up exercise: policy recall

Time required: 45-60 minutes


This exercise is to stimulate councillors to reflect on their experiences with public policy-making.


Give each participant a copy of the following statement as a handout or print it on newsprint.

A policy statement is the expression in writing of a specific council stand in writing intended to serve as the basis for a plan of action to resolve an issue and achieve a goal (e.g., this local authority's division of licenses and taxes shall collect all past due license fees).

After they have read the statement, ask participants individually to write statements of their own that describe policies adopted by their councils within the last year or two. As an option, ask participants to write policy statements that their councils should have adopted but did not. Suggest that participants use the space below to write their policies.

Your Council's Policies

When participants have written policy statements, divide them into groups. Ask each group to answer the following questions about each of the policy statement

1. For policy statements that were adopted

· What was the policy intended to accomplish (the goal)?.
· What actually was accomplished?

2. For policy statements that should have been adopted:

· What might have been accomplished by adopting the policy?
· What are the consequences of not adopting the policy?

After about 20 minutes, reconvene the small groups and ask for summary reports from each of them.

2.2 Exercise: a policy-maker's quiz

Trainers notes


This exercise is to help participants distinguish among problems, goals, policies, and strategies.


Distribute copies of the two-page Quiz beginning on the page following the scoring key. Ask participants to complete the Quiz individually following instructions.

When all participants have completed the Quiz, divide them into four small groups of five to seven each and distribute a second copy of the Quiz to each group. Explain that the purpose of the exercise is for participants in each group to discuss their answers and decide on a single group answer to each statement.

Give the groups about fifteen minutes to complete the task. Then, supply each small group with a copy of the Scoring Key (see Trainer's Guide to Training for Elected Officials). Using the scoring key, have participants record the number of answers which they as individuals and which their respective groups scored correctly. Also, ask each small group to calculate the average of individual correct scores for comparison with the group score.

Reconvene the group and ask for reports from each small group. In most cases, small groups will have more correct answers than the average of their individual members. Discuss this outcome and ask participants why they think groups tend to outperform individuals on many tasks. Ask them what implications all of this has for policy-making by their own councils.


Workshop Exercise


Read each of the 16 statements below. In each case, decide if the statement is a problem, a goal, a policy, or a strategy. Make a selection for each statement by placing an “x” in the appropriate box opposite the statement. Do not leave out any of the statements.


Is it a Problem




1. Only the town's central streets are paved.

2. Shift five per cent of the town's annual personnel services budget to training.

3. Plan a two-day council/staff goal-setting retreat.

4. Retention of not less than 95 per cent of existing businesses each year.

5. Switch from asphalt to concrete for all future street-paving projects.

6. The town's only waste-disposal site reached capacity last month.

7. Affordable housing for every resident of the town in 10 years.

8. Pursue aggressively every possible way to privatize services where reduction in cost will result.

9. A potable supply of drinking water to 5000 new households this year.

10. Adequate protection from flooding and drainage to all flood-prone neighbourhoods on the west side by the end of next year.

11. There is no money to operate the town's new recreation complex.

13. Develop close ties with neighbouring towns to save money and avoid needless service duplication.

14. Take advantage of all national grants and technical assistance available to the town.

15. Authorize a consulting firm to conduct a water rate study.

16. The national government has reduced by half its aid programme for indigent health care.







Your individual score (number correct):





Average of all individual scores (divide sum of individual correct scores by the number of participants):





The small group score (number correct):





Highest score (individual participant):





Lowest score (individual participant):





2.3 Trainer presentation

Time required: 30 minutes


This presentation is to provide participants with ideas and perspectives on the policy-maker role and a conceptual foundation they can use for the individual and group exercises included in this workshop.


Prepare the presentation based on information from the preceding essay on the policy-maker role. Most especially, describe the policy-making process and distinguish among goals, policies and strategies. Describe who is involved in the process of policy-making and the various approaches for carrying out a policy dialogue.

Outlined information on note cards may help you cover the information systematically and stay on schedule. Ask questions from time to time during the presentation as a check on participant comprehension and to hold their attention. Augment the presentation with visual aids including pre-printed newsprint sheets and overhead transparencies as a further aid to comprehension.

2.4 Case study: Lukasa's waste-management

Time required: 60-75 minutes


The process of policy-making is a complex business. As a rule, policies are an expression of intent by a local government to fulfil a purpose or goal through specific actions or strategies to overcome a problem or seize an opportunity facing the community.

The case study is to help participants understand the complexity of the policy-making process and how they as councillors can become more effective policy-makers.


Provide each participant with a copy of a case called Lukasa's Waste-management Plan. Ask participants to read the case. When participants have read the case, divide them into four or five small groups. Ask each group to answer the four questions that follow the case situation and report back with its answers in about 20 minutes.

When small groups have reported back, ask each group how it answered each of the questions. Encourage a general discussion and comparison of points of view.


The situation

The city of Lukasa operates an open dump for disposal of the town's solid waste. Last year, the dump reached capacity and the continued disposal of waste material has led to unsanitary conditions, foul odours and growing rodent infestation. The Lukasa City Council discussed the purchase of land as a first step in constructing a landfill to replace the depleted dumping area.

The Council's plan to scrap the city's open dump and replace it with a sanitary landfill operation soon came to the attention of a group of informal sector manufacturers of stoves and cooking utensils. These manufacturers were dependent on the open dump as a source of scrap metal for their manufacturing operation. In a landfill operation, all solid waste collected from Lukasa homes and businesses would be covered immediately with soil, making it impossible to salvage any waste material for other uses. Several of the more influential members of the manufacturing group began to apply pressure on members of the Council to consider another way to handle the waste disposal problem that would not deprive them of the scrap metal.

Anxious to find a solution to the community's waste-disposal problem without alienating the informal sector, the City Council began to explore options. One council member observed that there could be other materials that are being used in the community that would be lost in a landfill operation. This prompted a lively discussion. One council member, critical of recycling, pointed out the added burden of recycling since homes and businesses would have to take the time to separate disposable items.

As a way of exploring the options in more detail and getting input from the community, the Council formed a waste-management committee. The committee was given two assignments: (a) to investigate the market for various Councillor as kinds of waste products (e.g., wet garbage, glass containers, plastic); and (b) to recommend a method for retrieving and segregating recyclable materials prior to disposal (e.g., at the source, at the disposal site, or somewhere in between). The committee was instructed to report on its findings within six months.

Analysis of the case

1. What problems or opportunities confront the councillors in Lukasa, given this situation?
2. What is the City Council's goal or goals for improving solid-waste management?
3. What policy does the City Council seem to be following in this situation?
4. What strategies were implemented by the City Council in furtherance of its policy?

2.5 Skill practice exercise

Time required: 90-120 minutes


There is powerful learning value when workshop participants take new concepts and apply them to situations they face in their activities as councillors.

This exercise is to encourage more informed and deliberate council policy-making by engaging workshop participants in the active preparation of goals, policy statements, and strategies for resolving current issues in their own local governments.


Divide participants into a number of approximately five-member teams. Ask participants to share problems with each other that currently are confronting their councils, preferably problems that will have dire social or economic consequences if something isn’t done about them soon. An example of problems that might be mentioned are a sudden rise in the crime rate or the loss of a major local-government revenue source.

Some participants may prefer to share opportunities which could have significant benefit for the areas served by their local governments if the council is able to move quickly and decisively. Such an opportunity might be to create the proper conditions for a large manufacturing or other industrial plant to locate in the community.

After participants have shared their problems and opportunities, ask them to select one of these and write (a) a goal statement, (b) a policy statement, and (c) one or more strategies to achieve the goal (specific actions to overcome the problem or seize the opportunity). Suggest that each team appoint a team leader and someone to record the results of team activity on newsprint for later reporting. A worksheet for recording results is shown on the next page.

Reconvene the teams and ask someone from each team to report on what the team would recommend the council do to deal with the selected problem or opportunity.




The goal we hope to achieve is:


The policy stand we intend to take is:


Some strategies for implementing the policy and achieving the goal are:

1. ________________________________________
2. ________________________________________
3. ________________________________________

Transfer to newsprint for ease of reporting

2.6 Skill transfer exercise

Time required: 30-45


This exercise is to help participants transfer the learning experiences of the workshop into their real-world activities as elected officials. The focus of the exercise is on raising expectations, engaging in realistic planning, and making personal commitments. Most of the work is done on a personal basis with some interpersonal sharing.

Between knowing and doing there is a wide chasm.

It is generally agreed that the purpose of training is to improve the way people do things by showing them a better way. In fact, the success of a training experience can be measured by the amount of personal growth and change that takes place both during training and after the training is over.

Training rarely has the impact on workshop participants that trainers hope it will have, particularly after an exposure of only a few hours. The exhilaration of the moment fades quickly when the trainee is confronted with old work habits and the resistance of work associates who have not shared the training experience.

On the other hand, commitments to learning and change made at the close of a workshop can help participants overcome learning resistance in themselves and in the work environment. A trainer can help learners make a successful transition from the world of learning to the world of doing through a few simple planning exercises. The time taken to encourage learning transfer could be the difference between a brief exposure to some interesting ideas and a life-changing experience.


Spend at least half an hour at the end of the workshop to focus the attention of participants on important learnings and encourage them to continue experimenting with these learnings in their council activities. Begin by giving participants about 15 minutes to work independently on a simple learning transfer questionnaire.

When participants have completed the questionnaire, ask them to share quickly with the group two or three things they intend to do differently in their council roles as policy-makers to close the workshop.


Take a few minutes to reflect on the role of the policy-maker, the new ideas you encountered in this workshop, and how you feel about them. Then, in the space below, write a sentence or two to describe something interesting you have learned about yourself during this workshop.

Based on what you have learned about yourself and the many possibilities for change presented by this workshop, what two or three things do you intend to do differently in your council role as policy-maker?

1. _________________________________________
2. _________________________________________
3. _________________________________________

Finally, what obstacles in yourself or in your work environment do you expect to experience during your efforts to implement these changes? What will you do to remove or minimize these obstacles?


Action to remove the obstacle







If you can learn it, you can do it.