Syndicate content

June 2010

Teaching a Culture of Transparency

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Access to Information is a big topic these days. It is for the World Bank, with its own ATI strategy kicking in this week, on July 1. It's a big topic elsewhere too: The Philippine Congress just killed a Freedom of Information Bill, the Parliament in Liberia is taking up it's review of a Freedom of Information Act after a two year hiatus, and the New York Times reports on the positive effects that India's Right to Information Law has on the poorest castes.

Legislation, however, is only one side of the bargain. As we have argued many times on this blog, legislation could be mute if there is no culture supporting the law. If governments don't want to reveal information, how is a law going to make them? If citizens don't want to request information, how is a law going to encourage them? It's not only about transparency legislation, it's also about a culture of transparency.

Appreciative Planning Action

Johanna Martinsson's picture

A reader's comment to the blog post, Co-creating the Future:

"We have used the Appreciative Planning Action to get buy-in in reviewing our institution's strategic plan for the period 2005-2010. The consultants reviewed the achievements and challenges faced during the implementation of the Plan, interviewed key stakeholders and organised focus group discussions among key stakeholders. After which they compiled a Draft Report that was presented to the selected key stakeholders in a workshop. The key stakeholders were the staff members of the institution, board of management and opinion leaders.

The APA method was used to obtain information from the selected key stakeholders and corrobate the previous vision, mission and strategic objectives. The purpose was to assist participants to observe that some items in the previous plan that constituted the vision already had been achieved, the mission had become rather vague and required sharpening, and some of the objectives required to be focused in light of the achievements made.

Village Intelligence: There Are No Obvious Solutions

Naniette Coleman's picture

The story was told to me and so I will tell it to you. No, it was not passed down to me by my father or my father’s father but I still think it is a great story. A known story amongst international volunteer corps, it is whispered between friends with wistful eyes and knowing glances. 

 

The Well

 

Kunda Dixit On Little Stations That Can

Sabina Panth's picture

Kunda Dixit is not only a household name among the media savvy, newspaper reading audience of Nepal but also a well-known figure in the international media community.   The Columbia University trained journalist worked for the BBC World Service, in UN and as Regional Editor for Inter Press Service Asia Pacific, before he returned to Nepal and launched Himalmedia, which has become a popular and credible source of information and analysis on democracy and governance issues in South Asia.  Mr. Dixit is also the author of a trilogy of books (A People War, Never Again, People After War) on the Nepal conflict that is regarded as a model for the media's role in post-war reconciliation. 

Recently, Kunda Dixit grabbed the attention of Sina, CommGAP’s program head, when he spoke about the massive role played by community radio in the democratic transition in Nepal.  Sina asked me to follow-up on the story for a blog post, which I did, but decided it is best served if I directly post my online interview with Mr. Dixit, which is as follows:

OhMy...Not

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Think the traditional news business is dying? Consider Japan, says a New York Times article describing the country's vibrant traditional media sector and moribund digital news startups. OhMyNews, a hugely popular South Korean citizen-journalism site that flopped in Japan, is cited as one example of how digital news culture has awkwardly mapped onto a Japanese context. Interestingly, some quoted in the article hypothesize that countries with more deep-seated social and political divisions may take to digital news media more easily than those without.

Killed Bill: Freedom of Information in the Philippines

Antonio Lambino's picture

Global Voices, a website that aggregates news and information from an international community of bloggers, recently posted an obituary entitled “Philippines: Congress Fails to Pass Freedom of Information Bill.”  In my mind, this failed reform is but a lost battle in the larger war waged between patronage politics and good governance.  Winning the war entails much more than enacting a new law; it requires transforming the country’s political culture from one dominated by a web of patronage relationships to one characterized by transparency, accountability, and participation.

I was in Manila during the bill’s final days, and monitored the news with deep interest as a coalition of local and international advocates launched a public campaign in support of the bill’s ratification.  On May 24, 2010, ABS-CBNNews.com and the front page of The Philippine Star, an influential broadsheet, carried a piece entitled “World awaits RP’s (Republic of the Philippines) Freedom of Info Act” by veteran journalist Malou Mangahas.  Here’s a snippet:

“Today starts a series of mass actions by journalists, workers, students, professionals, business and church leaders, and civil society groups in their vigorous push for Congress to ratify the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.  But the world waits and watches, too.  More than just a Philippine story, the 14-year advocacy of Filipinos for Congress to enact the law has become a serious concern of freedom of information advocates, scholars, and members of parliament across the globe.”

Coda on Propaganda by the Deed

Sina Odugbemi's picture

You will have heard that the Government of Israel has agreed to ease  its 3-year-old land blockade of the Gaza strip, clearly in response to the international outcry that ensued when  a raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza turned deadly on May 31. On that day Israeli commandos had killed nine pro-Palestinian activists. In the ensuing dispute both sides claimed they acted only to protect their own lives.

Naturally, I am not getting into the rights and wrongs of one of the most contentious disputes in international affairs, and the interminable 'peace process'. I am interested only in adding a coda to  an earlier post: The Power of Propaganda by the Deed. In that post, I drew attention to a technique available to the underdogs of the world when confronting the powerful. It works as follows:

Murder and Impunity

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The issues of journalism and a free press come to mind these days. With a significant number of journalists attacked in, among other countries, Russia, just in the past few months, we clearly see the dependence of the media system on the political environment in a country. Journalism training is the major form of media development - how to use new technologies, how to write a good feature, how to sniff out a corruption scandal - but is anyone thinking about what happens to reporters in countries where the rule of law is weak? This year alone, 16 journalists have been killed in the line of duty, as the Committee  to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports. Last year: 71. Since 1992, more than 800 journalists have been murdered as a direct consequence of their reporting. Iraq, the Philippines, Algeria, and Russia are the four deadliest countries for journalists.

The Goal is Sacred Space

Naniette Coleman's picture

When Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the World Cup, that beautiful, upper right hand corner net buster, just minutes into the second half, I fell in love. I took to my suburban balcony, danced with wild abandon, and screamed “GOAL SOUTH AFRICA, GOAL BAFANA BAFANA” at the top of my lungs. I celebrated because during the 55th minute, of the first game, of the first World Cup on African soil, we all accomplished something great. No, I did not fall in love with Tshabala or South Africa or Bafana, Bafana per se in those moments. I actually fell in love with the idea of world collaboration all over again.   I fell in love with the idea that if we are all present in one room/stadium and devoted to the same initiative, magic can happen. It was ethereal, and I, I was committed and in love and on top of the world for about 24 hours before reality brought me and all that idealism back to earth. Actually, it was the words escaping the mouths of my fellow Americans during the US vs. England game.

Co-creating the Future

Sabina Panth's picture

Practitioners of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) technique assert that the problem-led diagnostic approach in development planning tends to focus on negativity, which only emphasizes and amplifies negative traits, while, appreciative inquiry focuses on positive features and leverages them to correct or overcome the negative (White, T.H. 1998).  The experts claim that the traditional approach to participatory action research and learning in development (such as, Participatory Rural Appraisal – PRA) tends to focus on searching for and identification of community problems to plan a solution package.  This can create and reinforce a culture of dependency among the locals and make them view their community as a place full of problems, which require outsiders’ help to overcome them. 

Bridge over Troubled Waters: Navigating the Policy Divide

John Garrison's picture

The World Bank has been engaging a wide variety of policy advocacy CSOs on the issues of access, rights, and financing of urban water and sanitation programs over the past five years. Of particular concern to CSOs have been the issues of water privatization, cost-recovery approaches, and lack of affordable water services for low income populations in Bank-financed water and sanitation projects. For its part, the Bank has welcomed this dialogue because it clearly shares with civil society the goal of extending universal coverage to the poor in developing countries and improving delivery effectiveness. Within this context, the Bank has undertaken a watershed process of meetings and joint research with leading NGOs, trade unions, and research centers. The Bank’s most significant civil society interlocutor to emerge during this period has been the Freshwater Action Network (FAN), which is an international coalition of several hundred CSOs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who work on water and sanitation issues.

Quote of the Week: Raymond Williams

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"The basic principle of democracy is that since all are full members of society, all have the right to speak as they wish or find. This is not only an individual right, but a social need, since democracy depends on the active participation and the free contribution of all its members. The right to receive is complementary to this: it is the means of participation and of common discussion. The institutions necessary to guarantee these freedoms must clearly be of a public-service kind."

 

Raymond Williams, Communications (1962)

Introducing: The GSDRC Topic Guide on Communication and Governance

Antonio Lambino's picture

  

CommGAP and the University of Birmingham’s Governance and Social Development Resource Center (GSDRC) have partnered in producing a topic guide on communication and governance.  The guide attempts to capture and summarize for governance specialists and development professionals some of the best thinking and applied research on the contributions of communication approaches and techniques to governance reform initiatives.  Links and references to more detailed sources and full studies are also available.  The site is meant to grow over time, so your feedback and suggestions would be much appreciated.

Benchmark to Monitor Public Services

Sabina Panth's picture

The demand driven accountability approach puts citizens in charge of monitoring public services.  But can ordinary citizens easily access public data against which they can monitor quality of services? What is the reference point against which standards are measured?  Can the government make the required information available? What are the incentives for the government to cooperate?  Citizens’ Charter initiatives attempt to respond to some of these queries.

Whānau Coalition Building: Intra-Group Relationality ≠ Best Practice Transferability

Naniette Coleman's picture

The beads in her traditional red, black and white headpiece rustled in response to her subtle bow.  Although the degree took years of work, it took only a matter of seconds for her advisor, Professor Mark Warren, to loop her Doctoral hood around her neck and drape it down her back. On May 26, 2010, Malia Villegas became one of very few Alaska Natives (indigenous) with a Doctorate.  Stanford educated Malia, co-editor of “Indigenous Knowledge and Education, Sites of Struggle, Strength, and Survivance” Malia, Fulbright scholar and newly minted Doctor of Education from Harvard University Malia is not one out of a thousand, not one out of a hundred or even fifty.  In 2008, there were only 21 Alaska Natives who obtained a PhD from any school at anytime in the United States.  It is safe to say that Malia is perhaps one of twenty-five or thirty. 

The Age of Communication Research

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Communication is something of an ugly duckling in the social sciences – not many people take it seriously and not many people see the immediate relevance of the research. However, the study of public opinion is a good example to outline the immediate relevance of the field – and its future relevance.

Opining at the Speed of Light

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

During a recent discussion on the issue of diplomacy in the information age, hosted by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, I got to mulling over the idea of the transnational public sphere. An interesting recent paper out of Europe by Jens Steffek focuses on the emergence of this transnational public sphere and its ability to successfully pressure public institutions for greater accountability and better governance. I believe new communication technologies have amplified this sphere's scope and scale. 
 
But the question that then arises is this: does the very force that enables and empowers the transnational public sphere also degrade the quality of deliberation upon which it depends to function effectively?  In a globally networked information environment, public opinion can coalesce in the blink of an eye, fed by multiple information sources both credible and non-credible. Can a transnational public sphere truly be an effective force for better governance if it is not backed by genuinely informed debate and deliberation? What separates a transnational public sphere from a transnational mob? 

Bonding vs. Bridging

Sabina Panth's picture

When I think of social capital, I think of a group, an organization or a coalition of groups that hold memberships of common interests, purposes and visions, where there is solidarity, reciprocity and collective strength, and which wields power and resources to forge collective benefits.  Community empowerment, group formation, civil society strengthening, coalition building are integral components of social capital and social development interventions, which are gradually getting recognition for their economic and political potential in serving broader development goals.  But social capital can be highly contextual.  One kind of social capital may be good in one setting but not necessarily in another setting. Therefore, it is very important to understand negative and positive consequences of social capital in designing policy and program interventions.

The Power of Propaganda by the Deed

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The underdogs of the world, all the outgunned of the world, have a technique they can deploy that the powerful consistently underestimate. They can deliberately provoke the powerful, and the powerful take the bait and unleash their mighty forces. The key to the technique is that the underdogs make sure that the depredations of the powerful are caught on camera...and mass communicated.

Connectors: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Naniette Coleman's picture

Trust me, your current business cards probably do not reflect how fearless, bold, and savvy you are. You, my friend, are an organizer-in-training and you probably do not even know it. It really is as simple as organizing a 5 versus 5 fútbol match. You have done that haven’t you? All you need is a small of group friends (reformists), a ball (common focus), agreed upon rules (consensus) and a goal (change). If you have friends, share common, action oriented plans with those friends and agree to do them together you have what many social scientists refer to as an “affinity group.”