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Arts and Minds

Caroline Jaine's picture

My last blog entry back in July was perhaps a sign of things to come.  In it I wrote how the “hearts” bit of so-called “hearts and minds” initiatives was often missing.  I argued that the policy makers viewed arts and culture as a fluffy luxury and often missed their power as a key driver for change.  I was at the time a self-critical policy-maker.
 
So, after 15 years as a diplomat and communications strategist, I have given it all up and embarked on Masters of Fine Arts study in Cambridge, England.  At first it felt indeed like a fluffy luxury, at best a mid-life crisis, but once I entered into what I can only describe as a sublime learning curve, I quickly understood that my art making can easily and effectively incorporate my passions for positive societal discourse, transforming conflict and even diplomacy.  Furthermore my art practice can incorporate a genuinely moving participatory element.

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)

Innovative Solutions to the Collective Action Problem: Participedia

Naniette Coleman's picture

Citizen participation, access to information and action usher in much needed reforms. The process to engage citizens is easy to describe but hard to achieve. So how do you grab and keep the attention of community stakeholders and keep them informed? This week’s answer is “Participedia.”

"Participedia is a wiki-based platform with an ambitious goal: strengthening democracy around the world. The website consists of a user-generated library of examples and methods of participatory governance, public deliberation, and collaborative public action. From citizen involvement in budgeting to oversight groups that ensure better health care and social service delivery, government initiatives that encourage democratic participation demonstrate powerful results." Launched in 2009, Participedia is a project of Stanford University, Harvard University, and the University of British Columbia. Participedia uses the same wiki platform as Wikipedia except they use it to tell democratic reform stories.

A Roadmap to Open Government

Fumiko Nagano's picture

My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.

--Barack Obama, January 2009

From the perspective of good governance, the Obama administration’s efforts at transparency and participation—to make government open to public scrutiny through (easy) access to government information and to engage the public in designing and improving government initiatives—are simply impressive. The President’s first executive action after taking office was the signing of the Memorandum of Transparency and Open Government. This memorandum signaled his commitment to open government based on three core values, clearly spelled out in the Memorandum and on the administration’s website:

Transparency Delayed, Transparency Denied?

Antonio Lambino's picture

Is transparency delayed, transparency denied? How about when disasters, such typhoons or earthquakes, strike? Should transparency and citizen access to information as regards the disbursement of calamity funds be considered a priority? Or should transparency temporarily take a back seat during disasters with all efforts going into emergency response?

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Participation is, clearly, the proper avenue of approach to the study of public opinion, for, in various senses, public opinion is participating opinion. But the legitimation of participation rests on the older, broader, and more philosophical proposition that just governments are governments to which, in some sense, the subjects have given their consent. Like participation, consent is never perfect, and like it also there are variations in forms of consent. Since we can hardly say that nonexistent opinion can be public opinion, we can hardly say that a primitive and inarticulate acceptance of a governing order is really consent."

 

Francis Graham Wilson, 1962
A Theory of Public Opinion

Stairway to Mobilization

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The ultimate goal for working on the demand side from a political communication perspective is the mobilization of the public. We want to drive citizens who lack information and efficacy to being an active public, participating as relevant actors in the public sphere and in thereby in political decision making processes. Here at CommGAP, we base our approach on a range of literature from the study of public opinion and social movements and came up with what we call the "Stairway to Mobilization." In the coming days and weeks we will try to illustrate this concept with practical examples and case studies, but for now lets discuss the theoretical background.

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

On this blog we've seen several posts on the merits of new media in governance - I'm specifically referring to posts from my colleague Fumiko Nagano, from Silvio Waisboard, and from Kristina Klinkforth. All three authors are very careful, or outright dismissive, when it comes to the abilities of new information technology, specifically social networking sites, to aid the empowerment of citizens and to support democracy. Based on research, common sense (and my own addiction to Facebook) I want to challenge my colleagues by saying: On the web, it's all about efficacy and voice.

Sometimes Silence Speaks

Darshana Patel's picture

One of the objectives of CommGAP and this blog is to strengthen citizen voice in the public sphere, particularly of those who are often marginalized in public spaces.  This voice in the public sphere is important for any advocacy effort or social movement and also an essential right for every individual. As one part of the process of building this voice, participation in various decision-making and policy processes is seen as an integral part of development work. In fact, it has been a development buzzword since the late 1970s.  But sometimes participating can be a setback.

Civic Spheres, Open Government

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Last month, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer spoke in an engaging panel discussion on the role of art and architecture in civic spheres at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. He talked about the design of Boston’s federal courthouse: an effort that strove to create a building that was accessible and inviting to the people, so that they would recognize it as a public space—their space—and use it.

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