As asserted by Jeremy Bentham nearly two centuries ago, “[I]n the same proportion as it is desirable for the governed to know the conduct of their governors, is it also important for the governors to know the real wishes of the governed.” Although Bentham’s historical call may come across as obvious to some, it highlights one of the major shortcomings of the current open government movement: while a strong focus is given to mechanisms to let the governed know the conduct of their governors (i.e. transparency), less attention is given to the means by which the governed can express their wishes (i.e. citizen engagement).Continue reading
As much as I would like to offer a simple definitive answer to the question, I have to say instead that it depends; particularly when democratic institutions and processes are being established and corresponding norms, values and practices are evolving. This view is based on 20 years working at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to increase organized citizen engagement, as a means of deepening democracy so that governments deliver a better quality of life for citizens. This work has provided a number of lessons regarding the relationship between citizen engagement, transparency and government accountability.Continue reading
Unlike the others in this series who have been working on the ground to implement transparency policies and initiatives, I have not. My background is in political science, so I’m going to do something that political scientists often do. I’m going to theorize and I’m going to offer a typology.
Though we tend to talk about accountability as if it is one thing, I think there are actually three types of government accountability that we care about: preference accountability, character accountability, and performance accountability. And each of these has its own relationship to citizen engagement. By better understanding this, we can better understand the citizen engagement – transparency – accountability nexus.Continue reading
The term civic engagement can be defined in a variety of ways. For the purposes of this conversation let’s say it consists of someone’s involvement in matters of public concern. Let’s also say that citizen engagement refers specifically to the involvement of individuals as opposed to civil society organizations.
What are the different ways that citizens engage? How does the shape of their engagement influence the shape of any government accountability that might come from it? I’ve noticed a few different types of engagement - and each type appears to have different repercussions for accountability. Here are three:Continue reading
As we begin to think about how to evaluate the impact of technology-driven transparency policies, we are keenly aware of the need to be honest and open about the challenges of implementation. This post is an attempt to practice the transparency we believe in by discussing one of the most formidable challenges facing organizations engaged in this work: Getting people to care. Our jumping off point here is a recent post from the engine room about 11 new initiatives that recently received an award from the Transparency International People Engagement Programme. As laid out by the engine room’s Susannah Vila, the challenges facing all of them sound remarkably similar.Continue reading
A few weeks ago, our colleagues at the World Bank Institute held a highly informal and very motivating discussion on opening... View ArticleContinue reading