CommGAP held a 3-day training program for senior government official undertaking reform programs on the role communication and participation can play in their reforms. Thirty government officials from 15 countries in Africa and Asia participated. The value of a group like this is that they offer real world experiences in having undertaken reforms that have been successful or have failed and can offer lessons on what needs to be done to make reforms happen.
To me the training pointed out and the comments reinforced the perspective that the role communication plays in the reforms is equal to or greater than the policy work, yet the funding and support for governments in the area of communication or to make sure that the reforms get implemented is virtually nonexistent.
To take the issue of procurement reforms, communication can play in role in ensuring that the reform programs actually happen, but the larger role is making sure that they are accepted by managers and others responsible for implementing these reforms. Most funding ends at the approval and very little moves beyond this aspect of a procurement reform program. Yet over and over again the government reformers in the room insisted that their greatest need was in support on the communication side to the point where one minister cornered a senior operational person and stressed that they did not need any more economists on the reform, but needed more communication people.
Another issue they raised was that in contrast to doing these reforms (whether procurement, civil service, utilities, etc.) say even five years ago, the politics has become the main driver of whether or not they get through. The point was again made time and time again that the politics had to be settled first before the rest of the reform could go through. Contrast this to the way most of these programs are developed - policy (often without consultation) first, plan developed then go outside with the proposal and face the political firestorm!
The last lesson I believe is the huge demand that countries have for this type of support on the communication side the deep lack of capacity in developing countries to provide it.