Tunisian Municipalities are facing different challenges ranging from managing their budgets efficiently to maintaining good infrastructure to increasing the quality of public service delivery etc on the one hand. On the other hand, active youth have great ideas that could boost the municipality’s work but there is a communication gap between both of them.
For this reason, we launched the “Municipal Innovation for the Community” an open innovation initiative for Tunisian municipalities facing challenges that aims at creating a collaborative problem-solving platform that results in bringing innovations for the improvement of municipal public services delivery and performance.
The program has three phases:
-1st phase: Municipal Innovation Challenge: A participatory workshop to identify key challenges faced by municipalities with members of the communities.
-2nd phase: Municipal Innovation Camp: An innovative ideas competition that will gather teams composed of municipality staff and members communities to solve key challenges identified through collective intelligence and supported by technology.
-3rd phase: Municipal Action for the Community: Municipalities will be supported to implement solutions and to manage change driven by these solutions.
A workshop to identify the challenges faced by the municipality of El Mourouj took place on November 30th, in its premises. The objective of this workshop was to deliver an opportunity to the municipality’s heads of departments to express their challenges to the participants, to foster communication between them and the city’s citizens and to identify the potential subjects of the Hackathon. A google form was shared a week before with active citizens from El Mourouj and we had 55 subscriptions, divided between students and employees.
After welcoming participants who were 22 and the municipality heads of departments who were 6, Mehdi El Batti and I (Ahmed Hadhri) opened the event at 10 am and started presenting the Municipal Innovation Challenge, its objectives, its different phases and talked about the Edgyders Community and its mission. We also talked about the agenda of the event, that we started with an icebreaker to get to know each other. Each participant has to say his/her name and all the names of the people who said their names before him/her.
Afterwards, the facilitator invited each head of a department to the stage to present himself/herself and to talk about the challenges he/she is facing during his work:
-Mr Nader Mechergui: Head of communication and citizen service. He informed participants that the municipality has already an online platform where citizens can submit their complaints or claims without being obliged to move to the municipality but most of them don’t know it (only 400 subscriptions). He said that the municipality is doing many good initiatives and activities but unfortunately, the citizens are not aware of it. On the other hand, he added that they want the citizens to be more active and to help the municipality in the development of their communities…
• Mr Nizar Yahyaoui: Head of environmental police. He shared his big frustration about the situation he is in, complaining about the non-collaboration of the police, of the lack of material and human resources (8 agents and one car only for 150 000 citizens), of the non-application of their decisions and of the slowness of judicial procedures.
• Mrs Souhir Hmaied: Head of green spaces department. She talked about the lack of human resources; she has only 10 employees, 6 of them are disabled persons. She has a problem of job allocation and of employee motivation.
• Mrs Souhir Ganzoui: Head of the technical department. She explained that the municipality doesn’t have a Geographic Information System, so when they start a building site, they don’t have any idea about the changeover plans of STEG, ONAS and TELECOM. This resulted in an itinerary change at many times and consequently in the non-respect of deadlines. Except for STEG who has a non-updated digital underground plan, all the others don’t have one. She also talked about the lack of a system that integrates underground maps with an urban layout plan and subdivision plans.
• Mr Ayadi Wannes: Head of the cleanliness department. He talked about the need for vehicle fleet optimisation since the price of spare parts and fuel consumption are high. He said that there is a challenge to ensure the continuity of the service when some employees are absent, that there is a lack of landfill and trash cans. He also added that door-to-door garbage collection is a problem and that some citizens are irresponsible because they throw home appliances with household waste and take out the garbage at any time.
• Mr Mourad Belhajala: Head of financial and Human Resources department. He said that although the budget is significant, he doesn’t have enough employees and that the ones he has need more training. He also added that there is a lack of human resources optimization knowledge from other heads of departments. Finally, he didn’t hide that the recovery rate is very low because people don’t pay taxes.
It was planned for each one to have 10 minutes speech and 5 min Q&A but we decided to allocate more time (2 hours and a half in total) when we noticed that they were very open to share and that their interactions with the public were very interesting.
After a 45 min lunch break, we started our session at 2 pm with collecting feedbacks regarding the morning session, followed with a funny storytelling energizer. Afterwards, our trainer, Mr Khoubeib Djemai, did a summary of the challenges to the different department heads, before letting participants choose which department they will work on and dispatching them in teams.
Environmental police and gardening departments did not interest any participant, however, communication department had the most interest. We had 5 groups representing the following 5 departments: Cleanliness, communication, citizen service, technical and finance. It was a challenge to keep all the heads of departments after lunch but we succeeded to keep the head of the communication department and the head of the cleanliness department.
Their first task of each team was to discuss the challenges they understood from the heads of departments with each other and to list them while using the five Whys tool. Then, we gave them a matrix with which they should prioritize the challenges.
The next step was to select the most important challenge and to prepare a pitch following the QQOQCCP approach by answering the following questions: Who, What, Where, When, How and lastly Why?. Right after, each team had a 3 min pitch followed by 3 min Q&A.
Finally, we closed the event with voting on the most important challenges using the online polling tool mentimeter. The participants used their smartphones to rank the key challenges from the most to the least important one as follows:
- Lack of effective communication between the municipality and the members of the community ( citizens, CSO…)
- The low number of interactions and subscriptions in the virtual citizen space (espace citoyen)
- Low level of tax collection and revenue mobilization
- Collection of household wastes
- Lack of digital underground maps for the different utilities networks (water, sanitation, electricity, gas, telecoms…).
The event ended at 5.30 pm with a group photo and with the distribution of attendance certificates signed by the head of the municipal commission in charge of participatory democracy and open governance.
An email will be sent to participants with a Google Form to collect their feedbacks and to ask them to share their thoughts and recommendations on the platform.
We are more motivated than before to continue to the next step given the high level of engagement of the municipality and the members of the community of El Mourouj.
Our sincere thanks to the Edgyders Community for its precious support and to the talented Omar Rezgani for the pictures.
The representative of the municipal council and the participating heads of services at the municipality of El Mourouj found the experience very rewarding as they had the opportunity to share their challenges with participants in an honest and open way. They also realized that the members of the community are very committed to help the municipality in identifying their key challenges and to move the next phase to work with the municipality staff to innovate and find ICT enabled solutions for their key challenges. The participants also found that the municipality is facing a lot of challenges that are hindering its capacity to deliver public services seamlessly for the community members and praised the approach that will allow the community to contribute in exploring innovative ways to deal with the municipality challenges through a collaborative approach and enabled by technology.