July 2014: What’s in a Name? – Cowater’s Newly Minted Local Governance and Economic Development (LGED) Group

Those of us working in the development community often find joy in a good acronym: one that perfectly captures the essence of what an initiative is all about, that is reflective of industry trends, or that simply has a great ring to it (any number of American aid projects, development organizations or pieces of legislation might come to mind here). As I have learned over the years, this applies equally as well to Cowater’s projects as it does to the internal groups that populate our internal org chart: FIG, PFMA, SDG, WSE, and now LGED, or the Local Governance and Economic Development Group.

Not entirely new, LGED Group blossomed earlier this month out of Cowater’s former Municipal Services and Enterprise Group, or MSE, my home for over four years here at Cowater HQ. Over that time, our core services have expanded slowly but surely alongside an increasingly large portfolio and a growing recognition amongst our clients of the multifaceted nature of good local governance and its role as an enabler for sustainable economic growth. As a result, our projects now encompass not only ongoing priorities such as good financial governance and the effective delivery of urban services, but also efforts to combat petty corruption, increase citizen engagement, utilize open-source software and GIS technology to manage urban growth, and streamline procedures through which SMEs can setup shop and grow. In Indonesia, for instance, Cowater is supporting efforts to increase the transparency and efficiency of local procurement processes at provincial, city and district levels. In Nepal, we have assisted over the last four years eight different municipalities, including Kathmandu Metropolitan City, with identifying new, local sources of revenue that have enabled them to both provide better services to their citizens and to finance the infrastructure they need in order to grow. And in Mozambique, starting this August, we will be working with cities and towns across the country to modernize their land management and taxation systems in order to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Meanwhile, we have also expanded into countries in which the term ‘municipality’ does not apply, or where other levels of government below the centre are equally as important.

Having taken all this into account, we therefore decided it was time to revisit the name of our group, and take on a new identity that is  more in line with current and future realities. Several internal meetings, and a Survey Monkey questionnaire later, we settled upon LGED (Local Governance and Economic Development) Group. While not as smooth as some acronyms that effectively spell out the purpose of the initiative itself, it does convey what our group is all about, and where it seeks to go in the future.

Loking ahead, Cowater’s freshly-minted Local Governance and Economic Development Group is set to become even more deeply engaged in efforts to promote sustainable and inclusive growth at the sub-national level in developing and emerging market countries around the world. We will do so, for instance, by supporting the efforts of business incubator facilities to stimulate job creation through the growth of SMEs; by working with various levels of government to streamline the policy frameworks that may be inhibiting entrepreneurship; and by working with smallholders and other producers to move their products farther up the value chain. At the same time, we will continue to support the development of strong local public institutions capable of carrying out their mandates with the best interests of their citizens – and, perhaps, the value of a good acronym – top of mind.

Per Unheim, Project Manager, Local Governance and Economic Development Group