For me, one of the most fruitful aspects of ‘field trips’ such as last week’s visit to see Oxfam’s work in the Philippines is the exchange it sets up in my head between the academic literature and debates I’ve been ploughing through in the UK, and the reality of our work on the ground. A good trip confirms, improves or adds to your thinking, and occasionally shows you that you have got it all wrong. This was particularly true on this occasion as our staff and partners in the Philippines are both real thinkers (one guy passed a long car ride by listening to a lecture on Hegel on his laptop ‘for fun’) and activists (more on that tomorrow). The quality of discussions in a Manila seminar on active citizenship and food justice was truly impressive – nuanced and open minded, with no sign of the dogmatic, fissiparous Left I saw on my last visit in 1998 (when I had to give the same lecture twice because different fractions refused to sit in the same room). First some (relatively minor) new insights from all these interactions:
One of my favourite Oxfam projects is Chukua Hatua (CH) in Tanzania, which is using an evolutionary/venture capitalist theory of change to promote accountability in a couple of regions of the country. CH is now looking for a new coordinator, because the wonderful Jane Lonsdale is moving on – if you fancy taking over, check out the job ad (closing date 20 July).
Talk of ‘Evolutionary theories of change’ all sounds very abstract, so here are six specific examples of the kinds of change the project is bringing about.
Oxfam is publishing a fascinating new series of case studies today, describing its programme work on local governance and community action. There are case studies from Nepal (women's rights, see photo), Malawi (access to medicines), Kenya (tracking public spending), Viet Nam (community participation) and Tanzania (the ubiquitous Chukua Hatua project), and a very wise (and mercifully brief) overview paper from power and governance guru Jo Rowlands. Here are some highlights:
“Governance is about the formal or informal rules, systems and structures under which human societies are organised, and how they are (or are not) implemented. It affects all aspects of human society – politics, economics and business, culture, social interaction, religion, and security - at all levels, from the most global to the very local."
Since Mongolia shifted to a multi-party political system and market economy in the early 1990s, it has become a young and vibrant democracy. Debates among politicians, policymakers, civil society organizations, political and social commentators, and other stakeholders are now an integral part of Mongolian society. These happen through local newspapers and on the TV channels, at citizens’ hall meetings, as well as during cultural events, particularly in rural areas as nomadic herders gather for such event and authorities take that opportunity to communicate with them.
However, these debates may not always be particularly effective in getting to a consensus. Indeed, the heritage of the socialist system can still often be felt: public authorities, particularly at the local level, see communication as a way to disseminate and diffuse information through a traditional media approach. There is much to do to transform communication from a one-way dissemination tool to an instrument for two-way engagement.
- East Asia and Pacific
- Public Debate
- Local Media
- consensus building
- Information Dissemination
- One-Way Communication
- Two-Way Communication
- Decentralization and Local Governance
- Coaltion Building
- Stakeholder Analysis
- Governance Reform
- Local Governance
- Public Consultations
- community participation
- Communication for Governance
- social accountability
- Decentralization Reform
- public actors
- civil society organizations
- Political Commentators
- Social Commentators
The Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) is the centrepiece of a broader program to strengthen accountable forms of local governance across Bangladesh. The LGSP provided matching grants and capacity building support to Union Parishads (UPs), which is the lowest tier of rural local government bodies. The project was initiated in July 2006 and in the final year (FY11), it has covered nearly 97% of the 4500 UPs. Each year the UPs are audited, and those that receive a clean audit received an expanded block grant. The LGSP is the first project of its kind in Bangladesh that supported systemic, country-wide reforms in the system of local governance.
In India’s 2 million villages, public meetings at the village level called Gram Sabhas (GSs) have provided a structured, institutionalized space for dialogue between the local government and its citizens. In a recently released paper on the topic, Vijayendra Rao and Paromita Sanyal have coined these GSs as “state-sponsored” public sphere. In fact, these meetings are mandated by national legislation.
In India, these public meetings not only offer a space to dialogue and feedback between citizens and local power holders, they also pair it with real decision-making on how to manage local resources for beneficiaries for public programs. This is the most striking feature of the GSs. While the government provides data on families living below the poverty line that could be eligible for local resources, the GSs are required to have these lists ratified by those attending the meeting. Citizens can directly challenge the data in “a forum where public discourse shapes the meaning of poverty, discrimination and affirmative action.”
A post from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), somewhere in the heart of the medieval section of this deeply multicultural city. I’m here with a team organized by the World Bank Institute (WBI), working with local partners on preparing a capacity building program for low income municipalities on increasing citizens’ participation in local governance. Colleagues from the WBI facilitated sessions on participatory budgeting and citizens’ feedback mechanisms. Two of us from the World Bank’s Development Communication Division contributed a few modules on participatory communication as a cross-cutting issue in enabling and sustaining citizen participation in local governance.