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close this bookTrainer's Guide for Training of Elected Officials (HABITAT)
close this folderPart I - Planning for elected leadership training
View the documentElected officials training: a changing mandate
View the documentWhat these materials DON'T cover
View the documentAnother example of what these materials don't cover
View the documentIs this guide necessary?
View the documentOptions
View the documentClient - centred training
View the documentTraining needs assessment
View the documentProviding case - based learning
View the documentTen ways to fail when you use this material

Elected officials training: a changing mandate

Training local elected officials may be the most important thing you, as a trainer, do in the next few years. Local governments have been "discovered." Central government officials in many countries around the world are recognizing that they can no longer "manage" human settlement development and service delivery from several hundred kilometres away. External support agencies are also recognizing the key role that local governments can play in the development of human settlements and the delivery of programmes and services to their constituents.

The role of local governments is changing, and will continue to change, as the economic, social, and environmental problems they face continue to grow. Most local governments do not have the funds or resources to solve these problems in any effective way, and different strategies must be found. Increasingly, local governments will be called upon to perform enabling, facilitating, and empowering roles if their constituents are to have access to the kinds of programmes and services they want and need. This means that other stakeholders, such as the private sector and non-governmental organizations, will be called upon to work in service delivery arenas that have traditionally been the purview of government. This doesn't deny local-government involvement in these service areas. It does, nevertheless, change the roles that local governments perform, from direct provider to those of stimulator, enabler, and perhaps regulator to assure that the products and services meet pre-determined standards.

The increasing emphasis on local government as the focal point for locality development, and the changing roles of these governments in fulfilling that growing mandate, puts a heavy burden on their elected officials and staff. Not only do local elected officials and staff need to be knowledgeable about an increasingly complex set of interrelated issues, they must also develop new skills and attitudes in response to the changing nature of their role. Consequently, the need to provide training and development opportunities for local-government elected and appointed officials has never been greater.

Training institutions, if they are to help local elected officials make the transition to a new level of competence and altered view of public service, will also need to change. This Trainers Guide and the accompanying 12 handbooks are designed to help trainers meet the elected official's training challenge.

What these materials DON'T cover

Before we concern ourselves with how to use these materials, let's spend a few moments discussing learning requirements that are not covered in this guide. It is impossible in a document of this kind to cover the various rules, regulations, standing orders, and other legislative mandates that regulate the behaviour of councillors and their legislative forums. First, they differ from country to country. Secondly, they are subject to frequent changes. These learning needs are clearly important but the development of training materials to address them must remain a national responsibility. While we cannot provide the text for such training, we can suggest ways to make the delivery of this kind of training more effective.

Most of the training concerns just mentioned relate to what the councillor is required to know, initially, to perform his or her role within the legislated boundaries of the position (as contrasted with developing or improving skills and changing attitudes and values). There are many ways to facilitate and support this kind of learning, including (a) newsletters, (b) short one-day briefings reinforced by take-away fact sheets, (c) use of the public media, including radio, television, and newspapers, and (d) the dissemination of audio and video tapes, if the technology is available to local governments.

What councillors are required to know to abide by laws, rules, and regulations laid down over decades is often difficult to grasp in anything but short, quickly administered doses. Your approach to helping councillors acquire this knowledge should take this factor into consideration. For example, the essential "do's" and "don'ts" of council behaviour, if printed on a small card that fits in the shirt pocket, would probably win rave reviews for the training institution if sent to new councillors, along with a note of congratulations. There are many ways to reach the elected official with information of this kind. If you run out of ideas, we suggest you call a meeting of local media and public relations specialists to help you define an appropriate and effective strategy.

Unfortunately, the kind of information we've been discussing does little to prepare the councillor to be an effective elected leader. The legislated boundaries of the elected role are more apt to say what the elected official cannot do rather than what he or she can do to be responsive to a rapidly changing environment. We're not suggesting that the councillor shouldn't know these aspects of the role. They are important and should be included in training for local elected officials. But there is much more to becoming a competent councillor, and that's what this guide and the related training materials are all about.

Another example of what these materials don't cover

These elected leader training materials do not include information about the legal and administrative rules and regulations specific to your country. Nor do they include technical information about the many challenges that face local governments. For example, there are no explanations of the various approaches to human settlements development, how to construct a sanitary landfill, the pros and cons of different approaches to primary health care, or strategies for local economic development. While these issues are important, they are not covered in these training materials.

This does not deny the discussion of such issues in the training we are recommending. In fact, we encourage you to "wrap" the training being done around substantive issues that your elected training participants are grappling with at the time. We will have more to say about how to do this later in the guide. For now, we just want to be clear about what is not included in this guide and the accompanying training handbooks.

Is this guide necessary?

While this guide is not necessary to conduct councillor training using the accompanying handbooks, it should be useful. Each handbook includes training exercises to conduct several hours of experiential learning on the role covered in the essay. You could conduct successful training events by relying solely on the materials in the back of each handbook. But we think you can make better use of the accompanying materials if you consider some of the ideas we are about to share. Given the training exercises in each handbook, and in this guide, we hope you can become self-sufficient in your role as a trainer of elected officials.

These materials are designed to provide you with many options in your efforts to train local elected officials. Here are a few examples.


1. Time options

You could offer training programmes that last from an hour to three weeks, using the materials available in the back of each handbook. We don't recommend these extremes, but they are possible. More logical time frames include half- and full-day sessions on each of the roles, although some participants in the field test of the materials suggested offering two full days on some of the roles. We have included more exercises than you will ever need to cover each of the roles, but we wanted you to have options to select from.

For example, you could conduct a two-week workshop; two one-week workshops; several one- or two-day workshops; or a series of half-day sessions each Friday afternoon if you have enough councillors in an area where this approach would be convenient. Your selection from among these options will depend on several factors, including the time councillors have available for training and what you want to accomplish during that time.

2. Presentation options

Your opportunities to develop more competent elected councillors should not be limited to holding workshops of the kind suggested above. For example, you could make a presentation at the annual local-government conference on the various roles performed by councillors. This would be an opportunity to promote the training and to enlighten the audience about new ways to think about roles that elected leaders can perform. Or you and your training colleagues could conduct several concurrent sessions, each discussing a different role as covered in the handbooks. Conference attendees could go to the session of their choice. Or you might decide to feature these roles in articles in the monthly local-government journal (if you have one) or a series of newsletters highlighting some of the points made in the essays, using examples from local experiences. The handbook essays provide lots of ideas to help you develop this kind of written dialogue with your elected constituents. But we believe that significant learning is best achieved when you provide an opportunity for councillors to come together for a lively discussion of these ideas.

The essays have been written to be used for home study by councillors who are eager to expand their knowledge and understanding of the various roles. If there are enough councillors in a geographic area who have taken this approach, your training institution can make this kind of self-study more interesting and effective by working with them on an occasional basis. For example, these self-starting councillors, who have opted for self-study, could be brought together on several weekends to discuss what they have read or to carry out group exercises under your direction and guidance.

3. CIientele options

There are also options regarding who you train at any one time. We've just mentioned one option. Depending on a variety of factors, you might want to conduct training sessions that include only council presidents and the chairpersons of key committees, divide participants by region or size of the jurisdictions they represent, or include only women. You may have a council that wants to do "in-house" training that includes only their own members and perhaps key members of their staff They may see the training as a way to prepare the council and staff for a more intensive strategic planning process. We would encourage you to work with councils that want to exploit training to achieve these kinds of outcomes.

Another possibility is to hold training sessions for councillors from contiguous jurisdictions who need to work more closely together to solve regional problems. Training could provide a less threatening environment in which to get better acquainted after which they might opt to discuss more substantive issues. The options available for using these materials to train councillors are limited only by your imagination.

Client - centred training

The training of elected councillors will be successful to the extent it meets their needs and takes into consideration their time and other resource constraints. In the current-day jargon of the discipline, we're talking about client-centred, demand driven, and performance-based training. Let's spend just a few moments discussing these terms.

First, it could be argued that these training materials are not client-centred because they are based on certain assumptions that may not hold true from one country to another or from one councillor to another. While this is true, the materials are based on numerous discussions with councillors from many countries and a review of dozens of documents that describe the kinds of concerns local-government officials have about their ability to be effective in responding to their constituents' needs.

Elected leadership requires skills and competence in putting those skills to use in highly complex, politicized environments. It is no longer sufficient merely to adhere to the laws that circumscribe the official position of the councillor. The councillor must be able to achieve results, in the vernacular of "be able to get things done." When we started to ask ourselves and others what councillors should be able to do to be successful in their positions, we kept hearing terms like "communicate," "make decisions," "enable others to share the responsibility," "use their power more responsibly," and more.

This guide and the accompanying handbooks are based on the assumption that elected leadership requires skills and competences in a number of roles. In your efforts to be more client-centred and demand-driven, we suggest that you meet with a representative group of your local, elected-councillor constituents before you decide to launch a programme using these materials. Among other things, what you would be exploring with this group is whether they believe these training materials, which are role- and skill-development oriented, will meet some of their training needs. This is also an opportunity to discuss delivery alternatives to determine how the training might be implemented with best results. For example, where would they like to see the training workshops held, in what time configurations, and when?

If the training is to be performance-based, you will need to determine what kind of performance improvements the council is hoping to achieve. While this may sound like a daunting task, it can be simplified by focusing on specific roles (such as policy maker) and determining how performance improvements in this role might be measured over time.

Training needs assessment

You are probably saying that this sounds like a training needs assessment (TNA). Yes and no. It is a TNA in the sense that you are validating certain assumptions about councillor training needs based on training materials already in hand. It is not a pure version of TNA since it doesn't begin with their interpretation of the performance gaps they are experiencing personally from which you can develop a training response.

How you go about this reconnaissance/confirmation process with councillors should be governed by local circumstances and norms. Out of these initial meetings should come an overall plan of action for conducting the training. This plan would cover such details as:

· who will be trained
· when they will be trained
· where they will be trained
· what UNCHS (Habitat) handbooks will be used in the training and in what sequence
· how the training will be conducted
· by whom the training will be conducted

Providing case - based learning

The issues listed above are concerned more with logistics and process than substance. This reconnaissance phase of the elected leadership planning is also a time to collect ideas and incidents about specific problems the councils are experiencing. While case studies and critical incidents are included in most if not all of the handbooks, you should develop your own whenever possible based on local experience. Whenever you are meeting with elected officials, you can be gathering valuable data and ideas to incorporate into the training. For example, you might ask councillors if they have experienced any problems in getting policies adopted in their local authorities. This information might be incorporated into one of the exercises in the handbook on The Councillor as Policy-maker. Or you might probe for experiences councillors have had in working with the private sector and how they have mobilized this resource to achieve certain goals (i.e., the enabler role).

Each of the roles defined in the handbooks lends itself to the collection of rich anecdotes and case materials, based on real situations. For example, during the field test of these materials, the local paper carried a story about a conflict between two districts over the use of a bulldozer for road maintenance. This news article was used to develop a case study on conflict resolution for the workshop and adapted for inclusion in the handbook exercises.

Whenever possible, you and your training colleagues should substitute local cases, critical incidents, information, data, and experiences into the training exercises and presentations. Sometimes it is as easy as watching the local newspaper for stories about local governments and clipping these stories for later use.

There is a tendency to reject an example, case study, or other incident used in a training situation if it differs from our own experience. How often have you heard the expression, "That's interesting, but it isn't relevant." There is nothing that slows down the learning process faster than someone rejecting either the process or the content of the training you plan to use as irrelevant. Fortunately, this barrier can be avoided most of the time by collaborative forward planning with the people you hope to train.

Ten ways to fail when you use this material

Most guides of this kind tell you a specific number of ways to succeed as a trainer. We want to take a contrary view of this task and tell you ten ways you can fail when using these materials to train your elected officials. Success will come to those who turn these contrary ideas on their heads and do just the opposite of what has been suggested.

1. Don't bother to discuss the training with any elected officials before they come to the first workshop. After all, you're the training expert, and they are just your clients.

2. Plan to hold the training in places that are convenient for you and the other trainers. Don't worry about the trainees. They all have big travel budgets.

3. The same goes for when you hold the training. Your clients should be able to adjust their schedules if they are really interested in attending.

4. Don't waste your time checking out the training facilities before the workshop begins. Everyone knows it's the content of the training that counts.

5. The UNCHS (Habitat) materials are so complete it doesn't make any sense to review them prior to the workshop.

6. Stick to lectures as much as you can and don't bother to use small group exercises. They waste a lot of time and take up too much space.

7. If you feel you must use the exercises, start with the first one in the handbook and proceed with others in sequence until the time runs out, or you run out of exercises.

8. Don't make any changes in the exercises. The authors obviously knew what they were doing when they wrote them.

9. Always adhere to the amount of time the authors suggested for each exercise. Even if a learning event is going well, stop it when it's time to move to another topic or event.

10. Don't spend time on evaluations or follow up. The councillors will get in touch with you if they have any questions or want more training.

Your first reaction to these 10 avenues to failure may be that they are silly and have no place in a guide of this kind. Unfortunately, we have witnessed too many trainers who seem to worship this kind of negative advice. No doubt you have experienced these kinds of trainers also.

We suggest you take a moment or two and review these 10 ways to fail in relation to your own training institution's way of doing things. If any of the 10 reflect current practice or behaviour, maybe it's time to call a staff meeting to talk about them. In any event, we hope none of the actions listed above will seep into your efforts to train councillors.


There are other things we could say, generally, about how to use the materials in the 11 councillor-role-specific handbooks (handbooks 2-12), or how not to, but we suspect you have heard them before and are anxious to move on. In the next few pages we will discuss the workshop exercises as contained in the various handbooks and how you can use them more effectively in your efforts to train councillors.