The USAID Project’s sharing and free dissemination of its training and technical assistance materials make a lasting impact in Albania
When Greta Kukeli began her degree in Urban Planning and City Management at Polis University, she did so hoping that she would eventually be able to apply her knowledge to practical problems. She had realized that it was not always easy to see a route from learning to application. Fortunately, Polis University offered a solution: as part of her degree, Greta did a team-based project to determine how increases in private land values could be captured with nontraditional financial instruments and used to fund the regeneration of a neighborhood of Tirana, Albania’s capital. The work she did as part of the project was “no longer theory”, she says.
The need for more and better roads, sewers, and other infrastructure presents major a challenge to spatial planning and development in Albania. The country is urbanizing rapidly, but municipalities lack funding for adequate public facilities. Financial instruments for land development offer a way for cash-strapped local governments to capture some of the increase in private land values generated by urbanization in order to finance needed infrastructure. “It’s cutting-edge urban planning,” says Greta.
Much of the research on applying nontraditional financial instruments in Albania was undertaken by the USAID’s Planning and Local Governance Project. In 2015, the USAID Project partnered with the Albanian School of Public Administration to make its training and technical assistance materials available for free use by others dedicated to improving the effectiveness of Albania’s public sector. The materials cover the full range of the USAID Project’s seven years of capacity building, including: public service delivery, project planning and management, tax and finance administration, data handling and analysis, community empowerment, geographic information systems, and urban planning.
The USAID Project’s training materials on financial instruments were prepared with the help of Co-PLAN, an Albanian NGO and USAID Project’s subcontractor dedicated to sustainable planning and development. Co-PLAN employees work with national and local government planners to solve urban development problems effectively and creatively. Co-PLAN staff also teach at Polis University, thus offering students a blend of practical, research, and academic knowledge. “We want to develop well-rounded planners who also have specific competences to address particular challenges in Albania,” says Dr. Godiva Rembeci, Head of the Urban Management Department at Polis.
Urban planning graduates of Polis University work at many municipalities, including Tirana, and in national government agencies and ministries. They bring with them new perspectives and best practice knowledge of sustainable growth and development that originated with the USAID Project. “They are well trained. They’re the next generation, the future of Albania,” says Prof. Dr. Sherif Lushaj, Dean, Faculty of Planning, Environment and Urban Management at Polis University.
The USAID Project’s training materials are free for nonprofit use intended to build public sector capacity. Beneficiaries of the USAID training include mayors, local elected officials, municipal and ministerial staff at all levels, public utility managers and employees, the Project staff, citizens, representatives of community organizations, and Peace Corps volunteers.
Urban Planner Greta Kukeli says the USAID Project-produced documents not only “help in understanding the territorial planning law and its instruments, but also give a concrete methodology on how to apply them.”