Joni Wijhers

Talent for Governance is the talent programme of The Hague Academy for Local Governance. The programme provides young, accomplished civil servants working for local governments in developing and transitional countries the opportunity to follow a training course with The Hague Academy and a short internship with a Dutch municipality. Through this experience, young leaders develop the knowledge and skills towards developing a ‘Back Home Action Plan’ to address the concerns and challenges of a problem in their communities. Sandra from Ga West Municipal Assembly in Ghana was one of this year’s selected talented civil servants. She participated in the training course Citizen Participation and Inclusive Governance with The Hague Academy and followed an internship with the municipality of Rotterdam. The training course aimed to strengthen Sandra’s knowledge about participation, accountability, communication and the policy processes at the local level, whereas the internship shed light on the Dutch practices in terms of citizen participation and inclusive governance.

The Ga West Municipal Assembly is one of the ten districts that make up the Greater Accra Region. It occupies about 300 sq. km of land and is the home 220.000 inhabitants. Sandra works as Public Relations Officer for which her daily activities involve speech writing, producing communication materials, maintaining media relations and mobilize the community. 

As a public relations officer, Sandra was motivated to inspire more participation in her community. Therefore she set up a programme called ‘Your Voice, Our Action’ which aimed to involve citizens in the municipal policy process. During the training course Sandra visited the Client Contact Centre in Delft and was impressed with this kind of design, “this is where citizen participation starts! Unfortunately, in my municipality, we do not have a central location where people can discuss civil affairs. This made me realize that reaching the citizens is more than just communication. It is also about providing citizens with a space for sharing ideas about their municipality”. Her internship with the municipality of Rotterdam strengthened this train of thought, “the municipality of Rotterdam is very active in involving its citizens. They have implemented various projects in which citizens can express, discuss and even submit their ideas”.

Sandra’s original Back Home Action Plan focussed on campaigning to draw the attention of the citizens to the work of the municipality. Yet, her experiences in the Netherlands – the training course, study visits, her internship and the contact with other civil servants from all over the world – made her realize that it is not enough to only reach out to the citizens. “My new Back Home Action Plan also consists of a more organizational switch to create more accessibility and organizational institutions for the citizens of the GA West Municipal Assembly. For example, my municipality did not have a website for a long time. Recently, we have created one but it still is in need of improvement. The municipality of Rotterdam had a section on Frequently Asked Questions, to include this to our website would already be a great improvement”.

Since her return to Ghana, Sandra has been eager to implement her knowledge and ideas to her home community, “I am pleased to inform you that Ga West Municipal Assembly now officially has a Facebook and Twitter account where I will be informing the citizens of all major activities. Personally, I am amazed at the number of friends request I get on daily basis and how many enquiries people make through our Facebook message platform”.  She even finished a poster that will be distributed throughout the community and on the internet so that the citizens are informed on how to get in touch with the Ga West Municipal Assembly. Even though, there remains work to be done to enhance the citizen participation in the Ga West Municipal Assembly, Sandra made a great start in accomplishing her goals and implementing her Back Home Action Plan. To be continued!

The Talent for Governance programme is initiated by The Hague Academy for Local Government and is dependent on generous donations from organisations and individuals. If you are interested in learning more about this programme, please see the following website:

Joni Wijhers

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