The New York Times recently published an article about the experience of Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission, whose existence is being threatened precisely because it is so very good at doing its job of fighting corruption. Sound like a conundrum? Hardly.
The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) is one of our valued partners in the work on communication for governance and accountability. Very relevant to our own work on media development, CIMA just published a report on "Monitoring and Evaluation of Media Assistance Projects." Author Andy Mosher, formerly of the Washington Post, interviewed Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) practioners in major US donor and implementation agencies to find out what is being done - and what is being done successfully - to assess the impact of media development projects. Representative of his question is a quote from one of his interviewees: "Where are we driving this truck?" According to what I read in the report and what I heard at its launch this week in Washington, I'm not sure we even know how to start the truck.
Technical specialists like to name social problems using the language of their disciplines, and of whatever narrow policy community they belong to. What they often forget is that to secure broad support within the relevant political community how you define the problem that you are asking society to focus on and do something about matters. It matters a great deal. In fact, it can be the difference between getting the attention of legislators and broad publics or having your issue ignored.
For a live example consider the current efforts to implement health-care reform in the United States, something that presidents have been trying to do for about 50 years. Let's ask: What's wrong with America's health care system? What needs to be fixed? In other words what is the definition of the problem?
"Public opinion represents a consensus, which emerges over time, from all the expressed views that cluster around an issue in debate, and that this consensus exercises power."
-- Cutlip, S M, Center, A H and Broom, G M (1994) Effective Public Relations, Prentice-Hall International Inc, 7th edn.
A CommGAP colleague and I recently spent a week in Kampala, Uganda, to attend a workshop with communication and media research teams from 14 African and Asian countries. These country teams make up the BBC World Service Trust’s Research & Learning (R&L) Group, headed by Dr. Gerry Power, who also manages an expert group in their London head office.
More than 15 development-oriented projects were presented during the workshop, including media productions, capacity building and training efforts, and public information and advocacy campaigns.
A reader's comment to the blog post Keeping the Money Where It Belongs:
I think you are very much on the spot here. Building up trust is key for using existing channels to report bribery. This needs to come with making anti-corruption institutions sufficiently independent and provide them with the necessary power to prosecute cases.
Civil Society offers such as Transparency International's Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (http://blog.transparency.org/2009/06/03/paid-a-bribe/) can fill the void only in a very limited manner.
Many of us become more convinced in our views on any given topic by bouncing them off of our sounding boards, whose worldview often mirrors our own. Feeling validated through these interactions, we march on with our perspectives unaltered. Troublingly, if we allow ourselves to interact only with our like-minded peers, these interactions can and do lead to viewpoints that are fixed, sometimes to the dismissal of all other alternative perspectives. This is the topic of Cass Sunstein’s article, “To Become An Extremist, Hang Around With People You Agree With.”
A reader's comment to the blog post The Culture of Media Development on Both Sides of the Atlantic:
Thank you Ann-Katrin. It was a pleasure to host the meeting in London to
discuss the media development toolkit.
I wanted to comment on your analyis that Europeans are more comfortable than
Americans with the notion of long term subsidy of the media. I largely
agree, although I think the dynamics of why this is are changing.
The Right to Information (RTI) truck leaves the city of Pune, India and makes it way through all the neighboring towns and villages at a slow but steady pace. The main features of this truck are the placards hanging outside of it. Written in the local language, Marathi; they explain what the Indian RTI Act is and what it can do for citizens. The truck makes stops in local meeting places such as markets and town centers to educate citizens about RTI through videos and written materials.
RTI is considered to be widely used in the state of Maharashtra where this truck operates. On a recent trip, I understood just how prolific RTI in Maharashtra is.
"When you fight corruption, it fights back. It will likely have greater resources than you, and it is led by those who operate outside the law and view the fight as life and death for their survival."
Visiting Fellow at St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford; Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development; and former Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria.
Many (some say all) organisational, institutional or government communications efforts are about influence and/or behaviour change. A point often missed is that communications cannot be a bolt-on activity that happens in isolation from other actions. If you are generally “making friends” with your audience, it will be a lot easier to influence them – as J.S.Knox writes “You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time.” Time and time again I come across well-educated policy formers, peace builders, and frontline campaigners who are attempting to build a strategy for their work without including an element of strategic communications from the outset. There is a need to grasp that every activity you are engaged in will influence (there is no such thing as “not communicating” – everything sends a message). So, the way the phone is answered, your level of cultural awareness, the tone of an email, the policies you promote, and physical campaigns (e.g. military/peacekeeping/law enforcement activity) will all have an impact on your effectiveness to communicate other messages.
There are seminars you attend and you leave both depressed and inspired. Last week, I attended a seminar on the rules of the game - how things really work not how they are supposed to work - governing two sectors in an African country: forestry and wild life management. As with any kind of gritty political economy analysis, you learn how corruption networks work in a particular context, how they reach to the very top, and how intractable they are.
Imagine you have walked back home from your local town market on a jasmine-scented Saturday morning with a bagful of the season’s harvest. In Northern California in the summer, that bag will probably contain some heirloom tomatoes, hothouse cucumbers, red bell peppers, Meyer lemons, and mint sprigs. As you sit to rest your feet, your mouth starts to water in anticipation of how these provisions will taste. They are meant to entertain guests over supper later in the evening, but you simply cannot wait and decide to steal a sampling of small pieces of each item.
Transparency International’s 2009 Global Corruption Barometer, published last month, details the results of an opinion survey on the public’s perceptions and experiences of corruption and bribery around the world. The report contains many interesting findings, but the ones I found particularly notable were the following:
"... we must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans. ... In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples' lives. ... Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions."
President of the United States
in a speech to the Ghanaian Parliament in Accra, Ghana, on July 11, 2009
A reader's comment to the blog post A Riot of Global Norms:
You raise an extremely relevant question. An interesting example is the European Union, where the consensus-building process may appear painstakingly slow, but once a norm has been adopted by all countries, it applies to 450 Million citizens across the 27 EU countries. In fact, more often than not, EU norms even serve as a reference for other geographical zones. Could this apply to norms in the area of governance? I do not know, but what is clear is that over the years this process has created a specific culture. As much as everyone may grumble against the "Eurocracy", we all follow the rules because we know participating is the best chance we have to get our voice heard.
Robert de Quelen
A reader's comment to the blog post The Culture of Media Development on Both Sides of the Atlantic:
It has been very interesting to read the various Blogs regarding the development of media in conflict and post-conflict situations. Here at the Centre for Communication and Social Change at The University of Queensland, Australia we have been actively involved in a range of initiatives which seek to support the use of media and communication processes in development.
Part of my job is to give advice to teams working on different projects and initiatives in the broad areas of governance and accountability regarding what I like to think of as people-related challenges. And one of the commonest threads running through the initiatives I look at is the challenge of transplanting global norms. Think for a minute about the norms around good governance, around work on anti-corruption. In almost every case, initiatives involve a set of global norms that experts want developing countries to adopt.
Our work on a media development toolkit for governance advisors in donor agencies has reached another stage - last week we took our consultations to London to talk to a wide range of media development experts from Europe. This completes the major part of expert discussions that we conducted to develop a toolkit on how to increase the effectiveness of media development projects.
"The four major collective concepts commonly invoked in public opinion research - the general public, the electorate, the attentive public, and the elite or active public - correspond roughly to a continuum from mass to public. ... each of these four collectives - whether formally considered a public or not - can play a significant role in the formation of public opinion. It is in this sense that the search for the public is likely to be in vain. ... It is in the interaction among these groups – as they form and change over time – that answers are likely to be found concerning the collective formation and impact of public opinion."
in Public Opinion (1992)
The outbreaks of political turbulence around the world have prompted me to re-visit Edmund Burke's masterpiece, Reflections on the Revolution in France ( 1790). In the work, Burke attacks the French Revolution. I remember that when I had to write a term paper about the work in a class on the History of Political Thought in graduate school, I fully expected to hate the Reflections and to debunk it. But it amazed me, and impressed me. First, its eloquence is overpowering. Even now as I leaf through my old copy, the grandeur of the language still moves the spirit. Second, you cannot but be impressed by the prophetic power of Burke's analysis of the French Revolution. For he wrote the Reflections in the early days of the Revolution, yet he was able to correctly predict its path - the deepening violence, the collapse into dictatorship. Now, as a school-boy fan of the French Revolution that got my attention.