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Intermunicipal collaboration » Opportunities & practical example

4 min read

Is your municipality also facing major challenges in view of demographic trends, tight finances and the like? Many cities and municipalities have long since recognised this and developed solutions for digitalisation. So why not learn from each other? In this article, we show you the benefits of intermunicipal collaboration and what it can look like in practice.

What is actually meant by intermunicipal collaboration?

Within the framework of inter-municipal cooperation, (neighbouring) municipalities perform certain tasks together. This purpose-based cooperation creates valuable synergy effects: Among other things, cities and municipalities can reduce their costs, improve the quality of their services, make their administration fit for the future and create greater proximity to citizens. At the same time, your municipality retains its identity and independence.

Why cities and municipalities decide in favour of intermunicipal collaborationn:
  • Economic power decreases as a result of lower population figures.
  • The utilisation of existing infrastructure facilities is too low.
  • The demands on public services are increasing in view of the ageing population.

In which areas do cities and municipalities primarily rely on intermunicipal collaboration?

  • Water supply and wastewater disposal
  • Broadband supply
  • Building yard
  • Fire brigade
  • Registry office
  • Procurement of services
  • Administration, IT & E-government
  • Tourism
  • Youth work

To this end, municipalities have the option of establishing joint ventures, special-purpose associations or municipal companies and concluding agreements under public law.

What are the advantages of intermunicipal collaboration?

If your city or municipality joins forces with one or more neighbouring municipalities, all parties involved can use their financial, human and technical resources much more economically. These synergy effects offer various advantages:

  • By eliminating duplicate structures, the administration will become leaner and more cost-conscious - and therefore more sustainable.
  • Specialised experts can contribute their expertise in several municipalities. This reduces personnel costs and makes working structures more agile. In addition, the quality of administration or services increases thanks to knowledge transfer and network effects.
  • The financing risk and responsibility for larger projects are spread across several shoulders. This increases the chances of realising important projects. After all, a municipality no longer has to manage the construction of a swimming pool alone, for example.
  • Through inter-municipal cooperation, your municipality can improve or expand its range of services for citizens. For example, if several municipalities share the costs of introducing a digital citizen service, even smaller municipalities with a limited budget can offer it.
  • Closer networking creates a stronger regional identity. If the municipalities in an economic area present themselves as a powerful unit, the region can present itself more confidently to investors, for example.
  • Better coordinated strategic planning (e.g. in land management) can conserve natural resources. Inter-municipal cooperation therefore also serves environmental and climate protection.

Practical example: "Smart Cities: 5 for South Westphalia"

The municipalities of Arnsberg, Bad Berleburg, Menden, Olpe and Soest have joined forces with the South Westphalia Agency as part of the "Smart Cities made in Germany" pilot project of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and for Home Affairs (BMI) to form the Smart Cities: 5 for South Westphalia project.

The aim of the project is to jointly promote sustainable urban development with the support of digital possibilities that is orientated towards the changing needs of citizens as well as ecological and economic concerns. The Südwestfalen Agentur was tasked with moderating the process. Its main task was to introduce digital collaboration: "There had to be a place where the project managers from the respective municipalities and we as an agency could coordinate and centralise the work," explains project manager Matthias Barutowicz from the Südwestfalen Agentur.

After comparing various collaboration tools, the choice fell on Stackfield. For several reasons:

  • The German provider Stackfield is a platform that meets the highest data protection requirements and is GDPR-compliant. This was particularly important because some data centres in the model region block US products such as MS Teams. The all-in-one tool Stackfield also integrates all common communication channels for location-independent collaboration such as team chats, video conferencing and screen sharing.
  • As some employees in the offices and authorities of the participating cities had little experience with collaborative working, the tool had to be intuitive to use. Stackfield impressed with its uncomplicated familiarisation process.
  • The portfolio view on Stackfield offers all users an uncomplicated overview of all individual projects and the respective project status at all times. As Matthias Barutowicz emphasises in the customer story, this visualisation can be the first step towards identifying potential synergies. The portfolio view can also be used to recognise critical deviations in the course of the project at an early stage.
  • With Stackfield, the desired "Single point of truth" was created for inter-municipal collaboration: All information converges in the document management system and is easily accessible to all participants at any time and from any location. In this context, the project manager also emphasises Stackfield's discussion module: "Recurring topics and questions that affect all municipalities can be entered here, which makes it easier to search for information."

On this strong basis, the 5 for South Westphalia have already presented more than 15 packages of measures in very different areas such as smart health, new work and networked mobility.

Conclusion: Intermunicipal collaboration for more innovation

The list of practical examples of intermunicipal cooperation is now long. You can therefore find many interesting suggestions in very different areas. In any case, the decision in favour of inter-municipal cooperation means that challenges relating to better citizen service, climate neutrality or the digital transformation can be tackled more effectively in the future.

For your team, intermunicipal collaboration based on digital tools means easier communication, clearer task management and greater efficiency in day-to-day work. And greater motivation thanks to positive citizen feedback.

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Cristian Mudure
About the Author:
Cristian Mudure is the Founder and CEO of Stackfield. He loves digital business models and spends his spare time on the tennis court.
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