Closing Feedback Loops: From Engaged Citizens to More Responsive Governments | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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Closing Feedback Loops: From Engaged Citizens to More Responsive Governments

(c) World Bank
(c) World Bank

Recent experiences of citizen movements from around the world have highlighted the urgent need to fundamentally rethink traditional governance models towards a new approach that is based on a more open, direct, and inclusive engagement with citizens. 

The rapid spread of new technologies is transforming the daily lives of millions of poor people around the world and has the potential to be a real game changer for development. Innovations in technology  are empowering citizens to make their voices heard and to better participate in decision-making processes in the governance of villages, cities, states and countries.

But many questions remain: What is the impact of citizen engagement on development outcomes? 

  • Can enhanced transparency be translated into improved accountability and better development outcomes on the ground?
  • Can citizen engagement programs make governments more responsive and improve the delivery and quality of public services?
  • Can Citizen Engagement programs make the development process more inclusive and empower marginalized communities to better participate in decision-making processes?
  • What is the role new technologies are playing? Can ICTs be an accelerator for development and close the accountability gap?

Closing the Feedback Loop: Can Technology Amplify Citizen Voices (1.66 mb PDF)
Strengthening civic engagement in the planning and implementation of development assistance is not a new aspiration. It has been part of the international development dialectic since the late 1960s. However, translating this ideal into reality has proven to be elusive. Citizens also experience challenges to providing feedback due to information asymmetries fear of retribution, high perceived costs relative to benefits, and inaccessible channels of participation. At the same time, the rapid proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) raises the possibility of harnessing increased connectivity to amplify citizen voices in the development process, thus enhancing local ownership, accountability, and results. Technology-enabled citizen feedback poses not only possibilities, but also drawbacks that must be managed. Addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by ICTs requires consideration of not only platforms, but also processes of stakeholder engagement and the enabling institutional environment. This chapter analyzes, to what extent ICTs are capable of ameliorating a “broken feedback loop” in development assistance by strengthening civic engagement in policy dialogue and the delivery of public services to local communities?

The Loch Ness Model: Can ICTs Bridge the “Accountability Gap”? (751 kb PDF)
Can information and communication technologies (ICTs) empower through participation, transparency, and accountability and if so, under which conditions? Theory and practice demonstrate that technologies can empower citizens to hold governments and international donors accountable, but true accountability will only result from recognizing the gap between supply (governments, international donors, service providers) and demand (citizens, civil society organizations, communities) and considering how to bridge it from both sides. ICT-enabled initiatives have contributed to shrinking this “accountability gap,” yet in many cases, it remains open. In this paper, we develop a framework for analyzing how technologies can accelerate efforts to close the gap, which we call the Loch Ness model. We then offer reasons why the gap remains open and put forth recommendations for closing it.

The Role of Crowdsourcing for Better Governance in Fragile State Contexts
Reliant on actionable information provided by the appropriate “crowd,” which itself is identified through a self-selecting mechanism that is informed by a specific set of parameters; crowdsourcing is a collaborative exercise that enables a community to form and to produce something together. Expanding the concept to include not only data collection or product design but also cultivation of public consensus to address governance issues, strengthen communities, empower marginalized groups, and foster civic participation is at the heart of the new crowdsourcing movement. This paper offers a primer on crowdsourcing as an informational resource for development, crisis response, and post-conflict recovery, with a specific focus on governance in fragile states. Inherent in the theoretical approach is that broader, unencumbered participation in governance is an objectively positive and democratic aim and that government transparency and citizen empowerment can increase a government’s accountability to its citizens and correct poor performance, although not without challenges. Whether for tracking flows of aid, reporting on poor government performance, or organizing grassroots movements, crowdsourcing has potential to change the reality of civic participation in many developing countries.

Working Paper: Malawi’s Open Aid Map
In mid-2011, Malawi became the first country in the world to capture the near-universe of official development aid activities at the subnational level in a publicly available, dynamic map. This paper tells the story of Malawi’s Open Aid Map from conception to “proof of concept” to key lessons learned. The first section of the paper traces the evolution of the mapping initiative, detailing the key goals, actors, and processes that led to the collection and geocoding of information on nearly 800 aid projects and 2,900 activities from 31 ODA donors in Malawi. The second section presents the data and illustrates how the data have the potential to be a powerful tool for analysis and decision-making through the presentation and discussion of several types of maps, including those specific to key donors and sectors of aid. This section also discusses what we cannot see in the maps, highlighting critical data gaps and constraints that will inform future mapping work. The third section of the paper in turn offers reflections on the tremendous potential of aid mapping, while noting the challenges inherent to sustaining such work and the need to demonstrate the impact of mapping on aid transparency, accountability, and effectiveness.

Interactive Community Mapping: Between Empowerment and Effectiveness
Interactive community mapping (ICM) is a process that engages individuals in creating a map of their community. By developing improved maps of roads, settlements, buildings, local businesses, and other services, the ICM process aims to help community members, governments, civil society organizations (CSOs), and development partners to harness the collective wisdom and knowledge of these communities and to become drivers of development. ICM is used to assess the needs and concerns of the mapped communities and to tailor development activities accordingly. This paper explores the moving parts of the ICM phenomenon and offers a framework for effective ICM endeavors. It argues that ICM endeavors aim to achieve both process and results-oriented goals:  a) empower and build the capacity of marginalized groups and (b) generate a map that will be used by political and civil society actors to improve service delivery for the benefit of the community.

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