On the fact-finding mission to the regions of Kazakhstan: Uncovering hidden knowledge and forging friendship with the local executive authorities
25 Jul 2016
By Bakhytzhan Kurmanov
Within the period of just 2 weeks, the joint delegation of the UNDP and the Ministry of National Economy alongside a professional business trainer and other officials visited more than 8 cities in all parts of Kazakhstan. The delegation had to rely on air, rail and land transport to get to some remote cities in the harsh conditions of Kazakh continental winter. Airports were shut down, roads got constrained and trains occasionally missed the schedule. Despite tight deadlines and blocked roads, the organizer’s team had just 14 days to cover all Kazakhstan’s regions to deliver its ultimate mission of explaining the new model of the assessment system.
However, the goal of the trip was not to give ordinary presentations or organize public lectures to show the best practices to regional officials, but to uncover problems and establish effective relationships with the people who were implementing the assessment system of efficiency of state bodies at regional and local level. From Aktau and Pavlodar to Taldykorgan and Shymkent officials of local executive bodies (akimaty) actively participated in the interactive and frank dialogue that facilitated cooperative discovery of hidden potential and problems of the existing model of the assessment system.
First, the seminar organizers had to deal with the hidden reluctance of local officials that was borne out of corporate culture of top-down approach. Together with the use of non-traditional ice-breakers and other exercises, the dialogue became more open. “I liked the ambience and I had a sense of something exciting and professional happening in the room”, as it was expressed in one of the feedback forms.
Second, it was time to sit and to listen to hundreds of voices who have been dealing for years with the practical realization of the assessment system. “Yes, the assessment system has made us more competitive and today we try to do our best job not to be the last in the ranking”, one official in Kostanay said. “There are some problems with the existing model of the assessment system, but overall it has increased discipline and brought positive contributions to our operations”, said a local official in Aktau.
Third, having addressed all the issues and taken notes, the delegation organized a special session on the new model of the assessment system. That included organizing a Global Café where officials participated in a giant brainstorming session and shared their visions and thoughts on the new model. “The format of the seminars facilitated the discussion of real problems and creation of new ideas”, an official in Shymkent region highlighted.
With a view to helping local officials – the real front office of the government business – broaden their knowledge in the field of assessment system and to communicate its achievements and problems, the seminar organizers put all their efforts to uncover and to listen to the hidden wealth of knowledge, which was essential for ensuring transparency and accountability.
This initiative has been driven by an emerging understanding that the new model of the assessment system of efficiency of state bodies can be improved through the involvement of local officials who have hands on experience with it.
The United Nations Development Programme and the Ministry of National Economy organized the seminars through its joint project that has three specific objectives: improving the assessment system of the performance of state bodies; improving the system of provision of public services; harmonizing goals, functions and resources of government agencies; and strengthening capacity of government officials.