Local government is involved with several issues that directly affect people’s lives, as opposed to central government, which has a more distant role. Local government’s position allows for the delivery of plans and actions with multiple benefits, involving, for example, public health, carbon emissions and job creation.
Considering that local governments have certain statutory obligations towards their citizens and that, being a non-commercial entity, a local government can provide information and projects that are generally well received and trusted by the public, municipalities have a great opportunity to develop services and projects that otherwise will not be provided.
One way of carrying out this role is creating strategic partnerships with local organisations and institutions, like neighbourhood associations and community groups. These partnerships can facilitate the sharing of information between public, private and community sectors, can provide ways to address cross-sectorial issues and opportunities, and can be a forum to facilitate communications between organisations and the general public.
Moreover, local government can provide information and advice, for example, in response to laws and regulations changes, or in support of an environmental campaign. This can include free household audits and lifestyle surveys aimed at helping businesses or private individuals to better understand the services they are eligible for and, at the same time, facilitate the dissemination of behaviour changes and useful tips. In doing so, it is very helpful to identify the best time and situation to provide information and advice.
Often it is impossible for local governments to do more than provide information and advice using only their own resources. Thus, it becomes natural to associate with private commercial or non-profit organisations that have the skills that the local government is lacking. Typically, the local government would provide means of advertising, links to citizens, some limited financing, project management and quality assurance, while private organisations can contribute with specific expertise, delivery of the project and private financing.
Finally, local government’s position as a non-profit entity would allow for investment in less commercial projects (pilot projects) that can be later replicated in other areas if successful. The support of local government is vital in the process of obtaining funds as funders and partners incur a reduced risk.