Access to pertinent public data is crucial to inform and mobilize citizens in demanding better governance. Experience shows, however, that the process involved in garnering public data is arduous and often confronted with strong resistance. To begin with, the planning and execution of government programs and budget are seldom performed in a transparent manner and even when the information is made available, the technical use of the language and the procedures involved in the execution make it very difficult for a lay person to decipher and analyze them. Problems are also encountered with incomplete or badly maintained records of public expenditures and service delivery. In addition, the officials who are in charge of managing the programs are cautious in releasing the records for fear of consequences from the disclosed information. In spite of these constraints, methods have been developed to promote transparency in the planning and implementation of public programs and budget through what has been a long process of information gathering and advocacy campaigns.
The second day of the workshop on 'Implementing Effective Country Level Governance Programs', Cape Town, South Africa was marked by a sectoral turn. The substantive reflections and lesson-sharing of the day focused on the implementation of governance and anti-corruption programs at country level in sectors like health, education, transport, energy, and extractive industries. Now, these sectors are very different, but what is fascinating is that with regard to good governance the issues and challenges are amazingly similar. Let me explain.
I am writing from Cape Town in South Africa, where about 90 governance specialists from around the World Bank are attending a workshop on the theme: "Implementing Effective Country Level Governance Programs". The aim of the workshop is to review the implementation of about 17 country level governance programs funded by the Governance Partnership Facility (GPF). The donors, also represented here are the governments of Great Britain, the Netherlands and Norway, through their development agencies.
The One World Trust, with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), has created an interactive, online database of tools to help organisations conducting policy relevant research become more accountable.
Processes of innovation and research are fundamental to improvements in quality of life and to creating a better society. But to realise these benefits, the quality of research alone is not enough. Organisations engaged in policy-relevant research and innovation must continually take into account and balance the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders: from the intended research users, to their clients and donors, to the research community and the research participants. Responsiveness to all of these is crucial if they are to be legitimate and effective. In this, accountable processes are as important as high quality research products.
Recently featured in the news was a 35 USD version of Apple’s iPad that the Indian government hopes to mass produce by 2011. India also hopes to bring the unit price down to around 10 USD. If successful, this initiative could bring an affordable, mobile, multiple application device within reach of lower income families in poor countries. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria expressed the opinion that a fully-functioning 10 USD computer “could change the world” similar to the way in which satellite dishes and mobile phones have in the past. I think implicit in Zakaria’s point is the belief that information and communication revolutions have the potential to increase productivity and enhance human development. But this potential rarely leads to an actual breakthrough. Due to a host of factors in addition to price (see, for instance, Michael Trucano's post), what might perhaps be called “socio-technological epidemics” tend to be few and far between, especially in poor countries. There is a difference, of course, between a predominantly commercial success and one that really contributes to development results.
In my blog posts, I have been introducing some tools and techniques that are being tried and tested to instigate citizen-led, demand-driven good governance practices. In this post, I wish to analyze the processes that are involved in working towards that goal. In other words, what are the basic minimal requirements that need to be in place to initiate and realize demand-driven accountability? Where is the starting point? What are the constraints or opportunities that support or hinder the movement? The purpose of this analysis is to draw out ground realities to understand the effectiveness of the practice to make better policy and program decisions.
In liberal political and constitutional thought, the passions are feared and often decried. The constant appeal is to reason: rational thought, rational debate, and rational solutions to problems. Even in the work that we do in CommGAP, the ideas we are committed to include:
1) Rational debate and discussion in the public sphere (inclusive and democratic) focusing on the leading challenges facing the political community; and
2) Informed public opinion arrived at through a process of open debate and discussion, where relevant information is available to citizens, and all sides to the issue are fully canvassed by proponents. In all that, the appeal is to reason.
Writing anything on “project design’ can be hazardous. For, development contexts are diverse, actors and sectors are varied, and design can take innumerable forms. Nevertheless, this non-prescriptive note may help Bank teams engaged in designing new lending operations as they rethink the rules of the game.
Designing a development project is, in many ways, akin to constructing an edifice. Just as a building requires a solid foundation together with flexible structures to withstand shocks, a project also needs firm foundations -- based on government policy, the institutional context, and the cultural milieu – as well as a flexible superstructure that can adjust when things change. Cast any project design in stone and the changing context will soon render it obsolete!
The development path is strewn with uncertainties, not all of which can be fully anticipated. Just as natural disasters, insurgencies, early elections and so forth can derail things, so too can the cobwebs of bureaucracy, technical revisions, policy changes, implementation impediments, and change in leadership, alter the context.
Wharton Professor Galit Sarfaty just published a paper on changing norms in international institutions, using as an example the advance of the human rights agenda in the World Bank. The study describes the process of how new norms are adopted - or not - in large organizations and how different factions negotiate their positions. It's well worth a read and spells out the difficulties of reforming organizations and establishing new norms.
- world bank
- Wharton School of Economics
- University of Pennsylvania
- Turf War
- Socializing Norms
- Organizational Reform
- Organizational Culture
- Organizational Communication
- Norm Change
- International Organizations
- Internal Reform
- institutional diffusion
- human rights
- Galit Sarfaty
“Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance” by Atul Gawande seems an unlikely place to find governance reform ideas and development inspiration but I found both therein last week. The book was recommended by a dear colleague who knows of my interest in organizational change. An accomplished non-fiction writer "Atul Gawande, a 2006 MacArthur Fellow, is a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.” He tackles the “universal struggle to perform well” through the eyes of a surgeon. Along the way we are introduced to countless examples of organizational seizure, organizational change and the people at the center of these operations.
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Culture and Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Tufts University
- The New Yorker
- positive deviance
- organizational change
- MacArthur Fellow
- Institite of Development Studies
- Harvard School of Public Health
- Harvard Medical School
- Centre for the Future State
- Atul Gawande
- An upside down view of governance