Author: Gavin van der Linde
In the world of municipal decision-making, especially for smaller municipalities, there are difficulties making expensive and far reaching infrastructure decisions because of a lack of internal resources and expertise in all the required fields. Because of this, Council and staff depend on consulting engineers and other external consultants for recommendations and direction.
Generally a problem is identified and a single solution is sought based on a desired outcome and current knowledge. Often a single solution is recommended for a single problem. However municipalities don't have just one problem, rather they have a whole slate of interdependent systems that form the municipal ecosystem. Each part in some way interacts with many or every other part in this ecosystem.
A liability in one part can potentially be used as an asset in another. But this requires an element of "Systems" thinking and integration not usually considered when trying to solve a single problem. When requesting a solution from an external consultant they look at the isolated problem presented to them and find viable solutions within their area of expertise.
Integrated decision-making for enhanced value
In reality, it would be way more efficient in the long term to consider every problem within the context of the entire Municipal System, understanding how each system may affect every other part. This type of integrated thinking together with a focus on sustainability, can help municipalities plan more effectively for the future and save the municipality money which can be used to increase service levels to the tax payers.
Smaller municipalities, which is almost all municipalities in Manitoba, have many challenges to face in the future. But at the same time they are also the most flexible and innovative level of government. They have unique opportunities to explore and implement sustainable and innovative solutions to relatively complex municipal issues.
Moving beyond the single solution and towards a circular economy
At SCC we work together with municipal partners to look for opportunities to take a more sustainable systems approach to problems in the evolving municipal circular economy.
All communities deal with waste products, some which are hazardous and cost municipalities a lot of money like sewage, sludge, garbage, recycling and composting. Many of these waste streams contain valuable resources which are waiting to be recovered and reused in the most beneficial way. Those expensive waste streams contain non-renewable resources like nutrients, phosphorous, energy and fertilizers.
Turning waste into a value-added end product can save money and even produce a revenue stream for the municipality.
We are always exploring new ways to help smaller municipalities plan for a more sustainable future within municipal circular economy realities.