Working in local government requires one to undertake in a never-ending hunt for new and better ways to serve the community. In the pursuit of this Sisyphean task, we almost always look to our neighbors – nearby towns and counties. If lieu of that, big cities and professional organizations are often a verifiable treasure trove of information.
But who said local government needs to stay local?
There are myriad lessons to be learned if we merely turn our eyes to the world stage. To avoid doing so would – in my mind – hamstring our ability to serve our clients and communities. At the most basic level, adding other countries to one’s research repertoire simply broadens the data set. There are more places to look, and thus more information available. There is also the obvious value of seeing how other countries approach governance when compared to the United States.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on one concept that has international appeal. Asset management planning exists in some form the world over. In the United States, this comes in the form of capital improvement planning (CIP) being a near-universal practice amongst local governments nationwide. Over the last decade, many communities have been expanding their CIP programs into more fully-fledged asset management plans. We see this happening along with support from professional organizations like the AWPA. Here is a link to their guide for successful asset management.
Asset management plans are much more common in local governments in some other countries. Looking to our neighbors to the north, we can find examples of how asset management planning is supported and supervised at a provincial scale. In 2015, the Province of Ontario passed Regulation 588/17 as part of the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act. This regulation, also known as Asset Management Planning for Municipal Infrastructure, created a provincial mandate for local governments to partake in asset management planning. Key elements of the act are as follows:
- Requiring every municipality to prepare a strategic asset management policy by July 1, 2019 and reviewing and updating it every five years.
- Requiring asset management plan (current levels of service) to be prepared by July 1, 2022 (for core infrastructure assets), and for all municipal infrastructure assets by July 1, 2024.
- Defines what must be included in the plan.
- Requires them to be posted on website for public transparency.
It’s safe to assume that Ontario sees significant value in asset management planning, enough so to make the concept mandatory at a local level. It is also worth commending the dedication to transparency found in the requirement for posting the plan online. For more information related to asset management planning north of the border, look at this guide from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, or this one from the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association of Ontario.
Since we’re on the subject of guides, let’s look at what’s available in Australia and New Zealand. The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia publishes The International Infrastructure Maintenance Manual or IIMM. The IIMM works alongside the ISO 55000 Asset Management Standard to provide robust guidance on creating and implementing an asset management plan. The Asset Management Standard tells you what to do, while the IIMM tells you how to do it. As these guides were written with international applications in mind, there are clear opportunities for their use in local communities here in the United States.
What I discussed here is very much the tip of the iceberg. Looking to other countries will afford us completely new perspectives on a countless number of concepts and applications. For better or for worse, there is a remarkable amount of value to be found outside of our cities and neighboring areas. One just has to think globally.