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Citizen; citizen engagement

Citizens + engagement: moving beyond slogans

Alina Rocha Menocal's picture



Give people the ability to engage, and they will change the world. Or will they?

The massive expansion of political voice and social activism over the past several decades -- ranging from the mushrooming of citizen-led initiatives for transparency and accountability, to the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, and the eruption of protest movements in countries as diverse as Brazil, India, Turkey and Mexico – has generated great enthusiasm about the transformational potential of popular participation.

The reality, however, is more complex than that.

Think back to the Arab Spring and the extraordinary mobilization of so many people who managed to topple one authoritarian regime after another. The streets were theirs, but in most of these countries ousting dictators has turned out to be much easier than building political systems that are more  democratic and open for citizens to engage. While much in demand, genuine spaces for political participation that can bring citizens and states closer together have remained extremely limited.

I recently prepared a module on Citizen Engagement and Development Outcomes for a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on “Engaging Citizens: A Game Changer for Development?”, just launched by the World Bank Group and partner organizations in both Washington, DC and London.