Thursday, June 23, 2011

Empowering citizens to lead public governance reforms in developing and developed nations

One of the assumptions often applied to government funding for aid and governance reform programs is that the funding must be granted to established corporations, NGOs or not-for-profits that have hierarchies, governance structures, offices and methodologies for achieving outcomes.

It only makes sense - when investing government money into development activities there needs to be ways to mitigate risks and ensure accountability.

Surely a well-established organisation, with structural integrity and processes, must be well-equipped to manage and deliver change outcomes.

A ten-year research study from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC), has found that the assumption that an established organisation is better equipped to deliver governance reform is just that - an assumption.

As reported by Nick Benequista in the website of the Institute of Development Studies, the Citizenship DRC's report, Blurring the Boundaries: Citizenship Action Across States and Societies (PDF):

"argues that "the 'good governance' agenda that has persisted in international development since the early 1990s is itself due for a citizen-led upheaval."

Benequista's article, How a citizen-led approach can transform aid to governance, points to over 150 cases highlighted on the Citizenship DRC website where bottom-up citizen-led initiatives have been effective in achieving governance change in different countries, circumstances and on different issues.

Perhaps this is an area we need to explore more of in Government 2.0.

How can we rebalance the relationship between governments and citizens through development funding to achieve better outcomes.

Is giving money to established organisations the best approach, or do governments need to listen more directly to citizens and listen less to intermediaries.

With the emerging knowledge and experience in this area around the world it will be interesting to see whether Australian governments are willing - or able - to reframe their approach to development.

To finish with Benequista's words,

The good governance agenda of the 1990s has already overstayed its usefulness. The question now is whether what comes next will finally give citizens the role they have been demanding.

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