Governance / Integration across government bodies
Case Studies
Policy Areas


The enabling environment for city governments is influenced by multiple levels of governance. Integration in government refers to the coordination between multiple departments or public-sector organisations in providing a public service or programme. Such integration is essential to develop a shared long-term vision for economic development across government bodies and sectors and to ensure effective delivery of public services. Collaboration has a number of benefits, including the provision of more comprehensive services at the local level, promotion of joint cultural and economic development, strengthened relationships between local and national governments, improved local governance through modelling and information exchange, opportunities for integrated planning, increased access to skills, knowledge and services, better use of available technology and better use of capital and other assets.[1]

An integrated approach to urban planning emphasises the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, by:

  1. aligning vertical development priorities across different levels of government
  2. encouraging horizontal coordination between departments and public-sector institutions
  3. promoting inter-municipal or territorial coordination.

Working in partnership with higher levels of government is required to improve the governance of local governments. Vertical coordination across different levels of government may be achieved through representative institutions at the central government level working with local governments to offer capacity development and cooperation. Special purpose vehicles – partnerships formed for joint project planning and implementation – can also be used. In addition, central governments may provide vertical funds, which are funds earmarked for programmatic planning. For example, in France, the Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie, an inter-ministerial agency focused on environmental and energy research and policy, has developed a funding programme to assist municipal areas with the development of a Bilan Carbone emissions inventory.[2]

Horizontal and cross-sectoral coordination between departments and public-sector institutions is a necessary approach to dealing with public problems effectively.[3] This may be achieved through informal cooperation or local government directives. Cross-sectoral departments, such as planning and statistics departments, can be allocated the responsibility of facilitating multi-sectoral cooperation. Lastly, shared digital platforms, such as GIS-based platforms, should be made accessible to all departments to foster a culture of open data and information sharing.

Intermunicipal or territorial coordination can be facilitated through inter-municipal agencies that provide coordination among municipal organisations, often called strategic alliances. Sectoral governance boards support service delivery across municipal borders to ensure fair cost distribution and service efficiencies. The benefit of this approach is that it achieves the advantages of amalgamation, such as economies of scale, streamlined business processes and improved service delivery, while preserving local democracy. An example of such coordinating bodies can be found in the Romanian water sector, where regional water utilities servicing several municipalities are governed by inter-community development associations representing all the relevant municipalities.

Resource implications and key requirements

Integration among government bodies demands a certain level of administrative, human and IT-related resources. Technical resources may be necessary when a government body needs to integrate functions or processes that they did not previously use. Integration necessitates limited financial resources, although this depends on the specific integration package. It also provides opportunities for costsharing among administrations. For example, Alba Iulia, a city of 74,000 people in Romania, introduced a pilot smart city project in 2018 developed jointly with the national government and more than 20 private companies. The open data platform under construction will provide useful data to aid decisionmaking and foster evidence-based analysis.[4]

Implementation obstacles and solutions

A major barrier to government integration is the tendency to think in a ‘silo’ approach, which is difficult to break out of.[5] There are several other barriers to cooperation, such as an emphasis on the status quo, processes that bring everyone together but reinforce silos, processes that set similar goals and use the same data, and decision-making driven by quests for funding.[6]

The success of integration depends on high levels of commitment and resource-sharing. Successful cooperation strategies need to be based on an understanding of the collaboration cycle, strong leadership capacities, an understanding of the balances between risks and rewards, a culture of innovation and an emphasis on the desired outcomes and impacts.[7] Collaborating parties should take a design approach to cross-sector collaboration and should adopt flexible structures.[8]

It is important to start change management efforts early in the process of planning and implementation. To this end, during the planning stage, it is advisable to develop a thorough plan for change management. Lastly, a phased approach to government integration can be more manageable than a direct cutover approach.

A practical form of integrated governance framework is illustrated by the Urban Nexus, a concept developed by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) in cooperation with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). At a variety of scales, this framework integrates services across systems, sectors, social relations and behaviours. For example, the city of Hanover in Germany used the framework to guide the integrated planning and construction process of the environmentally friendly district Kronsberg, improving the provision of affordable housing and social cohesion in the metropolitan area.[9]


[1] Institute of Public Administration (2012), “Strategic collaboration in local government”, Local Government research Series, Report no. 2, January 2012.
[2] J. Corfee-Morlot, L. Khamal Chaoui, M.G. Donovan, I. Cochran, A. Robert and P.J. Teasdale (2009), “Cities, Climate Change and Multilevel Governance”, OECD Environmental Working Papers No. 14, OECD.
[3] S. Howell (2012), “Local authorities must break down silos to deliver better public services”, The Guardian website, September 2012.
[4] Global Platform for Sustainable Cities and World Bank (2018), Urban Sustainability Framework (USF), First edition, Washington, D.C.
[5] OECD (n.d.), “Breaking out of silos: Joining up policy locally”, F. Froy, OECD website.
[6] D. Norris-Tirrell and J.A. Clay (2010), Strategic Collaboration in Public and Nonprofit Administration – A Practice-Based Approach to Solving Shared Problems, Routledge, Abingdon and New York.
[7] Institute of Public Administration (2012), “Strategic collaboration in local government”, Local Government research Series, Report no. 2, January 2012.
[8] J. M. Bryson, B. C. Crosby and M. Middleton Stone (2015), “Designing and Implementing Cross-Sector Collaborations: Needed and Challenging”, Public Administration Review, Vol. 75 (5), pp. 647-663.
[9] ICLEI and GIZ (2014), “Operationalizing the Urban NEXUS – Towards resource-efficient and integrated cities and metropolitan regions”, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.