Report of the Webinar: Local Governance Indicators - The Global State of Knowledge

On the 12th of August LPSA and DeLoG hosted a webinar on the state of knowledge on decentralisation, multilevel governance, and local development datasets. Leading researchers presented their work, followed by a discussion on how governance indicators can better inform policymakers and practitioners.

The Local Public Sector Alliance (LPSA) – in collaboration with DeLoG and the Forum of Federations — hosted an online webinar discussion on ‘Local Governance Indicators: The Global State of Knowledge’. The event, moderated by Charles Cadwell, Institute Fellow of the Urban Institute, was part of LPSA’s global webinar series on ‘Elevating the Decentralization Debate’, which aims to bring together practitioners and scholars on issues related to multilevel governance, decentralization, and localised development. During the webinar, Kelly McMann (Case Western Reserve University; USA) Paolo Dardanelli (University of Kent; UK) and Alexander Bastianen (University of Lausanne) presented their work on the subnational dimension of public sector governance, considering their individual perspective on the following questions: What is the problem they try to solve with their assessment and data? What data are they collecting and scoring? Why did they choose this specific approach and who uses the data? 

Kelly McMann, Professor of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University, is Project Manager for the Subnational Government for Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem). The V-Dem-project, covering more than 450 indicators and almost all countries in the world, takes a multidimensional approach to understand democracy and regime time, including different understandings of democracy, e.g., electoral, liberal or deliberative. The project uses an inclusive as well as a local and decentralized approach to collect data. It is the first data set to look at democracy and government sub nationally. The data is being used by international, governmental and advocacy agencies, national governments as well as media organisations. 

Dr. Paolo Dardanelli, Reader in Comparative Politics at the University of Kent (UK), is lead investigator behind the De/Centralisation Dataset (DcD), which measures de/centralization across 22 policy and five fiscal categories in six federations - Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Switzerland, and the United States, since their foundation. He aims to tackle the relationship between the state and the provincial, decentral level as ‘heart of the political system’, as he explains.  

Alexander Bastianen, Graduate Research Assistant and PhD candidate at the University of Lausanne, elaborated on the Local Autonomy Index 2.0, a comprehensive measure of local autonomy in 57 countries from the year 1990 to 2022, including almost all EU, CoE and OECD member states. Alexander Bastianen stated that in general, more autonomy is better, however he also pointed out the high complexity of local autonomy, including financial resources, legal autonomy and a wide range of policies. The index is a tool to see where autonomy can be improved and is for instance used by the European Commission and the OECD. 

Phillip Gonzales, Forum of Federations’ Head of the Asia-Austrialian Office in Melbourne, and Benjamin Oloyede of the DeLoG-Secretariat joined the follow-up discussion,  focusing  on how the data can be used in practice and policymaking as well which limits the indices have.  The discussants raised the question of how key actors can be addressed and involved in the process as well as how local governments can be held responsible through community-based approaches. For instance, the Local Autonomy Index can be used as a tool to figure out in which policy sectors, municipalities have partial or full responsibility and where  autonomy can be increased,  however, the index cannot capture changes and actual policies.  

In summary, the presented Governance Indicators can help to understand the variety of local democracy and local administration around the globe. They also can be used as a tool for policy-makers and practitioners, to hint where improvements can be made in terms of autonomy and decentralisation.  

Click here to watch the webinar.