By Fiona Wakelin 



Municipalities face the music 

Climate change, rapid urbanisation, water and power shortages and the economic effect of Covid which has reduced the tax base – these are the realities that our municipalities are facing. What can be done to help the local government rise to the occasion and respond to these challenges? How do we ensure economic recovery whilst keeping sustainability top of mind?


On 21 July, the Municipal Innovation Maturity Index (MIMI) was launched at the offices of the Human Sciences Research Council via zoom.  This was the result of joint collaboration between the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) to develop a tool which measures innovation in municipalities.



Given the realities facing local government, how will this help?

“The MIMI is a decision support tool designed to measure the innovation capabilities, practices and the innovation readiness of the municipalities to adopt innovations to improve service delivery. The MIMI measures the capabilities of individual employees and municipalities to learn, adopt, implement, and institutionalise innovations that can improve the functioning and  performance  of  municipalities.” – HSRC


At the launch, the DSI Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, called on stakeholders within the national system of innovation (NSI) to partner with government in implementing initiatives that support a capable state:


“I invite all stakeholders to work with us in creating an enabling environment for innovation across the state and municipalities in particular,” said Dr Mjwara.



Generating Maturity

The implementation testing phase showed that MIMI can successfully generate maturity scores for municipalities, and demonstrated the valuable role it can play in facilitating the learning, adoption and implementation of innovation.


“I am convinced that if we can measure, we can understand, manage and lead. I look forward to enrolling municipalities in this strategic intervention aimed at removing barriers to implementing innovation,” Dr Myeni said.


Following the successful testing of MIMI, the target for the national rollout is to reach a coverage of 50% of municipalities over the current Medium-Term Strategic Framework period (2019 to 2024).


“An important milestone for MIMI will be the selection of an institutional host to implement the next phase of the project, including the introduction of innovation awards as a motivating factor for municipalities to improve their performance,” – Dr Myeni.


The development of MIMI is in line with the National Development Plan’s aim to ensure a capable state and local government supported by innovation and technology, as well as the objectives of South Africa’s urban development policies such as the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF), the government’s agenda for smart cities, the country’s response to the New Urban Agenda commitments.



Piloting Municipal innovation 

According to a preliminary report from the piloting of the municipal innovation measurements, 68 municipalities (8 metros, 20 district and 40 local municipalities) were recruited. More than half of these municipalities were ranked at maturity level 3, which means that innovation is managed and officials optimise and evaluate solutions, improving on these for internal benefit. This provided valuable insights into the innovation processes within the participating municipalities.  It also allowed for a continuous assessment of its feasibility and applicability as a tool for gathering information on municipalities’ and municipal officials’ innovation capabilities.


The piloting of the MIMI demonstrated that the index has benefits to deliver to municipalities and this presented a business case for scaling-up and rolling out of this instrument nationally. The MIMI has been developed through several phases since its inception. The results of piloting the innovation measurement index in cities/municipalities show exciting results and present challenges the South African cities and municipalities should confront.


“It is our belief that the tool provides a blueprint of more robust reporting to come in future about innovation practices in municipalities” – Tshepang Mosiea, Director of Science and Technology for Sustainable Human Settlements at the DSI.



Looking forward

“Instilling a culture of innovation in municipalities will require their involvement and participation. The ultimate goal is to improve service delivery, accelerate social transformation, and alleviate poverty in keeping with the ideals of a developmental state that South Africa aspires to achieve.” – HSRC



HSRC Concept Note

Department of Science and Innovation



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