Collaborative Government Project Makes Impact in Angola and Kendallville PDF Print E-mail

By Rebecca Downs, HPG Network

phoca_thumb_l_p1040661In an effort to improve collaboration and effectiveness, the cities of Kendallville and Angola worked with the HPG Network as part of the Northeast Indiana Collaborative Government Program. The HPG Network, with support from Dekko Foundation, Olive B. Cole Foundation and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, offered this program to Angola Mayor Richard Hickman, Kendallville Mayor Suzanne Handshoe and department leaders. Participants completed a series of workshops about the critical challenges their cities face. The project encouraged regional collaboration and development by providing local government leaders with the tools and training useful to sustain a responsive, high-performing organization.

The workshops provided a framework for the cities to set strategic goals, learn key implementation skills and engage economies. The program encouraged the exchanging of innovative ideas between the two cities. According to Angola's HR Director Sue Essman, the city found great benefits participating in the project with another city. "Working with Kendallville allowed us to share our best practices," she said.

The sessions also encouraged future networking between the cities—something the HPG Network thinks would be helpful for all of Northeast Indiana's cities and towns. "One of the benefits of this program for Northeast Indiana is the learning and sharing of ideas and best practices between city governments," said Ryan Chasey, President of the HPG Network.phoca_thumb_l_P1030765_small

Essman agrees. "We've experienced more networking, not only between departments internally, but with Kendallville as well. We've made good contacts so we can call up someone in the same department in Kendallville to help us with a problem," she said.

Not only does the Northeast Indiana Collaborative Government Program benefit city government, but it benefits the citizens as well. "When a government understands where improvement can be made, sets goals and then creates a plan to achieve those goals it is working toward becoming an effective, efficient, overall high performing government," said Chasey. A high performing government is responsive to the needs of the citizens, which creates a supportive environment for economic development. The HPG Network has helped Angola and Kendallville do just that.

The leaders and employees of Angola and Kendallville have already realized benefits of this project. During the sessions they worked on forming goals for their departments, as well as plans on how to achieve these goals. Now that strategic goals have been established, everyone in the departments feels a sense of accountability and understands how changes in their work impact the organization in achieving its goals. "Employees now feel a part of process," said Deb Twitchell, Clerk-Treasurer of Angola. "They are more comfortable talking and asking questions."

phoca_thumb_l_P1020694Angola and Kendallville will see long term benefits as well. They have already set organizational and departmental goals, and now are working toward achieving them. For example, Angola's Department of City Clerk set a goal of having 100% of department heads having access to, and being trained on, financial software modules by the end of 2012. Because the goal has been established and communicated, everyone in the department is accountable. Other benefits will be seen region-wide. "The long term goal is to change how Northeast Indiana does business," said Chasey.

The program was held over a 10 month period. City leaders participated in fourteen sessions that were designed and facilitated by HPG Vice President Kate Love-Jacobson. The HPG Network's framework for this project presented city leaders with a pathway to creating a high performing government. The steps include:

  • clarifying the vision,
  • assessing current climate and culture,
  • equipping staff with tools and training,
  • creating organizational alignment and accountability, and
  • building partnerships.

During the workshops the City leaders worked together to discuss and apply the steps of the pathway to their work environment. Each city department focused on their strategic and employee engagement plans.phoca_thumb_l_P1020699

City leaders were pleased with the outcomes of the HPG Network's program. Angola and Kendallville learned from each other. Both cities worked to promote communication internally and between the two municipalities. "I would absolutely recommend this to other cities. It was a great opportunity here," said Essman. Twitchell agrees, and also knows that it can be difficult for people like her with many years of experiences to be accepting of such a program. Her advice to other cities would be, "go into the program with an open mind. There's that saying about teaching on old dog new tricks, and I think that's what this project does."

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