Bulgaria CityLinks Project
Successful U.S. models are adapted for Bulgarian municipalities
As a result of its participation in the project, the Municipality of Veliko Turnovo has made considerable improvements to the city infrastructure. (Photo: USAID)DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES The welcomed trend of decentralization in Bulgaria presents local authorities with greater responsibility and accountability to address critical economic development issues which were previously firmly in the domain of national governments. Local governments have undergone a tremendous change in terms of their ability to influence the development, management and the very identity of their communities. However, local government officials must be given the necessary training and the tools to carry out these responsibilities effectively.
USAID INVOLVEMENT Through technical assistance from USAID, Bulgarian local governments developed and adapted a wide range of innovative governance practices and models. The program addressed municipal issues of highest priority through development and implementation of practical and replicable solutions in technical areas such as: Economic Development; Infrastructure Management and Planning; and Solid Waste Management.
GOAL USAID will continue to support Bulgarian municipalities to better serve their constituents through effective collaboration and know-how transfer between Bulgarian cities. The Agency will enable U.S. practitioners to provide guidance and creative solutions to their Bulgarian partners in order to consolidate the results achieved under the previous program phases and ensure lasting legacies beyond USAID graduation.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION The Bulgarian Technical Twinning Project (CityLinks) began in 1997, when USAID established an institutional partnership with the Foundation for Local Government Reform (FLGR). This partnership is now in its fifth and final phase. CityLinks focuses on its four most successful key elements: Local Economic Development Consortium Model; Public Infrastructure Management Model; Replication and Expansion of the Practitioner Model (in the area of solid waste management); Institutionalization of Technical Assistance (in the area of local economic development after USAID graduation).
• Local Economic Development Consortium Model: The Local Economic Development (LED) Consortium/Network Model was developed to respond to the needs of progressive municipalities to enhance their local economic development skills and potential and to create new job opportunities in their communities. This model has empowered local governments in Bulgaria to begin to prepare their communities for economic development. Initial efforts have proven very promising, and the emphasis of this extended program will be placed on strengthening and growing the LED network.
Training: FLGR and ICMA are institutionalizing a comprehensive LED training program including basic and advanced courses, and elective modules. The training is fundamental for building the professional skills of LED professionals in Bulgaria and its implementation is a joint effort of Bulgarian and U.S. partner cities.
Expansion of the Certification Program – Basic and Excellent Levels: Preparation for the certification is lead by FLGR and Bulgarian municipal experts and supported by the U.S. Resource group. It also assists in the review of applications and site visits to applicant municipalities to carry out simulated exercises to gauge the cities’ “readiness for business.”
Enhancement of the marketing program: Marketing materials are developed by the new members of the consortium, reviewed and updated periodically by the old members, and are used locally and at national and international trade fairs to promote Bulgaria and each participating city to investors. A core element of the consortium marketing strategy is www.invest.bg website.
Internships: The internships are offered to certified municipalities and enable Bulgarian municipal officials to gain hands-on experience in U.S. economic development techniques that may be adapted to the Bulgarian environment upon their return.
Technical Assistance: The U.S. Resource Team works with each municipality to identify a viable LED project - establishing a business advisory board, developing a tourism strategy, etc. The U.S. practitioners bring valuable hands-on expertise to their partners and provide tools and know-how to adapt good U.S. practices to the Bulgarian environment.
Consortium Sustainability: The U.S. Resource Team in cooperation with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is assisting FLGR to develop a business plan for the LED Consortium to continue to operate and provide services beyond the period of funding.
• Public Infrastructure Management Model: Replication of good municipal government practices already adapted in Bulgaria: The model emphasizes planned infrastructure maintenance as the key to good financial management. Originally implemented in Veliko Turnovo in 2000 with the creation of a road and sidewalks management plan, it was quickly replicated in the city of Plovdiv. During this phase, a U.S. practitioner is supporting the replication efforts along with technical assistance from city engineers in Veliko Turnovo and Plovdiv to replicate the model in 10 new municipalities.
• The Practitioner Model: The Practitioner Model involves two or more municipalities joining to develop innovative solutions to a technical issue of common interest with the technical assistance of U.S. urban management and development practitioners. Through this program the model is applied to solid waste management particularly in rural areas. A U.S. practitioner is assisting Bulgarian municipalities to develop composting sites and to educate the public about the benefits and processes of composting. The Program started in three rural municipalities and is being replicated in an additional fifteen with the help of technical engineers in Boliarovo and Tundja. The Bulgarian Association of Municipal Environmental Experts (ASECOB) is assisting with program implementation and will continue the efforts after the USAID funded period closes.