The recent rapid expansion of multi-stakeholders initiatives (MSI) promoting improved governance raises critical questions about the role of these mechanisms in addressing problems of government transparency, responsiveness, and accountability, specifically whether and how they generate on-the-ground impact.
HOW DO WE THINK MSIs CONTRIBUTE TO CHANGE? MSIs, like other efforts to promote change, are built around a theory of change (TOC) about how they will contribute to the achievement of their goals. These proposed causal pathways may be explicitly stated or implicit. How do MSIs in the governance sphere articulate their role in contributing to change? Do they base their theories of change on questionable assumptions, or lack a change hypothesis altogether? TOCs also reflect a specific understanding of the challenge they seek to address. It should not be surprising that a technical framing of governance problems would lead to a technocratic approach to a solution. For example, the framing in OGP of ‘open’ government, with little explicit emphasis on democratic governance, may contribute to an emphasis on open data, e-government, and other technical aspects of governance, which are unlikely to address the core political dynamics that underlie governance deficits.