In more than ten years Norway and Sweden has used the municipality compass. In the process of alter and develop the instrument Denmark connected to the work in 2009. Research institutes as well as representatives from municipalities was also involved in the alter process. During the process it became obvious that we had so much common, the same challenges and experience that we could share.
From 2011 we use a common instrument, share experiences and compare results. There is a unique formal agreement which stipulate the three countries collaboration with the same evaluation tool and a benchmarking procedure. We do this with the help of an open database, with networking and with direct support to the local governments in the municipalities.
Sweden has performed more than 130 evaluations since they started in 2002. Norway more than 50 and Denmark started evaluating first in 2010 and had reach approx ten municipalities.
Criteria’s and headlines
The criteria chosen in the municipality compass portray the municipality as a service producer under democratic control. Citizen participation and citizen satisfaction are therefore overarching criteria against which the municipality is assessed. Another general set of criteria reflects the value placed on the service production and the learning capacity of the municipality. In order to serve the citizens effectively, the municipality must know what the needs and demands of the citizens are, and it must be able to determine whether actions and policies adopted actually contribute to the satisfaction of those needs. And that systems and processes are well functional. A third value is placed on if the organization is a good place to work in. A good place of work is, of course, primarily an instrument for realizing the two sets of values mentioned above. But it is of such vital importance in this respect that it deserves special mention. The fourth criteria focus on the municipality as a community development agent or community partner. This criteria focus on partnerships with civic society/voluntary associations, cultural groups, local business/industry and international partnerships.
The criteria in the municipality compass are those that were applied for the Bertelsmann Prize 1993 that was awarded to municipalities for outstanding performance (Bertelsmann Foundation 1993). The criteria and methods were developed by a cross national group of experts and scholars. The methods have been somewhat modified for a Nordic setting but the data are, on the whole, comparable with those produced in 1993.
The questions we ask are sorted beneath eight headlines which all are reviewed and valued. The headlines are:
1. Public accountability and democracy
2. Accessibility and customer orientation
3. Political governance and control
4. Leadership, responsibility and delegation
5. Results and effectiveness
6. The municipality as an employer
7. Quality systems
8. The municipality as community builder
Each headline can give 100 points so the total score can be 800.