New Toolkit Helps Cities Steer Access to Public Goods to Foster Equitable Economic Growth
[23 January 2017] -- Much has been said of the positive effect urbanisation can have on economic development. However, if left to itself, urbanisation is not guaranteed to be equitable; despite the massive wealth generated in cities, roughly one quarter of the world’s urban population – some 900 million people – live and work in slums.
Cities Alliance believes that cities can play an important role in fostering growth that generates more and equal opportunities for all. It has established a Joint Work Programme (JWP) on Equitable Economic Growth that is exploring how cities can steer the provision of public goods and services to benefit all residents, while at the same time positively impacting economic growth.
Recently, the Cities Alliance, financed through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched a new toolkit to help cities take practical steps to promote equitable economic growth at the local level.
Developed by the UK-based international development consulting firm IPE Triple Line for Cities Alliance, the toolkit is designed to help mayors – especially of small and medium-sized towns in the Global South – understand what equitable economic growth means for their city, and what kind of opportunities and constraints exist.
The toolkit takes access to public goods as an entry point for municipalities that want to create a better environment for providing decent employment, and focuses specifically on those areas over which the municipality has some control.
Developing a simple, but not simplistic, toolkit
As its starting point for the project, Triple Line began building on the definition of what equitable economic growth means for cities in which Cities Alliance is working.
It began with the premise that, in order to have equitable economic growth, there must be economic opportunities in the form of decent, productive employment that can be accessed by everyone in society, regardless of economic status, gender, and ethnicity.
Currently, however, that sort of equitable economic growth is not happening in the Global South as countries move from less to more urbanisation. Instead, constraints to growth are cropping up, especially in providing access to basic services and infrastructure. This limits the economic growth potential of cities both in terms of the development of human capital and productivity in the private sector.
The idea was to develop a simple, but not simplistic, toolkit that mayors in smaller towns and cities of Sub-Saharan Africa – some of the most under-resourced in terms of capacity, data, funding, and access to public goods – could use as a starting point to generate insights into access to public goods and services.
It needed to develop insight rapidly and in an incremental way to enable cities to develop more depth to their insights over time. It also had to complement existing reporting frameworks and planning tools and strengthen understanding of equitable economic growth.
A flexible tool for data collection and analysis
The resulting toolkit is simple, user-friendly, and flexible. It can be used by cities just starting out with data collection, or those who want deeper insights into access to public goods and services. It consists of three components, which together make up a process:
The toolkit captures data in nine areas that are of interest to urban managers: background, economy and employment, municipal finances, Water, Sanitation and Solid Waste Management (WASH), education, health services, energy, connectivity (transportation), and land and housing.
Specific indicators are used for each category that describe an overall level of access for citizens and disaggregate levels of access according to pricing, distribution, production of public goods. For example, one indicator for WASH is water. Data collected includes access, reliability, and affordability.
It’s a flexible framework that allows cities to decide how deeply they want to examine the issue depending on their resources and comfort level. For cities with very limited resources, it may only be possible to have a general overview of access to public goods (core indicators). Others can progress to a more detailed quantitative level of analysis or disaggregate further, such as by household characteristic or geographic location.
To present the toolkit in a friendly way, Triple Line developed one-page workbooks for each public good and a questionnaire to obtain more information. Each workbook captures information on level of access to public goods by describing a core and a supporting indicator.
When all the indicators are put together, a summary scorecard is produced that provides a snapshot of overall access to eight public goods in an easy-to-use traffic light format. Red is below average access, yellow is average access, and green is above average. The scorecard is a good way to provide a simple, useful summary of the work that is being done.
It also allows for a comparison across cities, which can engender some healthy competition among them.
Pilot testing, and some surprising results
As part of the development process, Triple Line piloted the toolkit in select cities where Cities Alliance Country Programmes had been active. This enabled the firm to collect feedback and improve the product as the pilots progressed.
Martyn Clark, Managing Consultant on Triple Line’s urban development team, noted that the pilot testing resulted in a surprising outcome, and that the data collected through the process was just a starting point.
“The dialogue generated through the process is perhaps the most important part of the toolkit,” Mr. Clark said at a webinar presenting the toolkit in November.
“During the pilots, when stakeholders sat around the table to discuss the scorecard, they began a conversation about why access was unequal to some public goods as opposed to others, why that was the case, and the impact on economic growth. This then developed into a policy discussion about how the municipality could address the issues.”
What sets the Cities Alliance toolkit apart
With so many different toolkits available to cities, what makes the Cities Alliance tool different? One key area is its focus on smaller and local businesses.
“Nobody is really thinking about the impact on the local business community of unequal access to public goods,” Mr. Clark said. “There’s an assumption the economy is ticking along somehow, but certainly from an LED planning perspective, nobody is looking at this angle. They have access to power and water of some form, but it is much more expensive for smaller and informal businesses.”
The toolkit also helps cities get a more accurate picture of who is providing services, and how. In many cities, people obtain services from community groups or informal providers rather than traditional service providers. The toolkit aims to capture information on all types of providers – individuals and firms, city managers, local businesses, and community groups, among others.
Critically, the toolkit lets cities take a deeper look at the data and see the differences in cost of access and the scale of formal service provision, so they can understand the difference betw