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Archive for May, 2011

I’m thrilled to write that we have 4 masters level students (or recent grads) who have been prepping for the past few months for 8-10 weeks of ICT4D, child participation, and child protection work with our teams at Plan Benin and Plan Cameroon.

My last post here on Wait… What? was an excellent guest post by Paul Goodman (@pdgoodman) who has been working with Plan Benin for most of May to help optimize the Frontline SMS / Ushahidi-based violence against children (VAC) reporting system that we initiated a little over a year ago. Paul is a Masters Level student at the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to on-the-ground ICT4D experience in Haiti, Pakistan and Bangladesh with DAI, he has worked on several USAID funded projects including the Cuba Development project and the Global Development Commons. Paul has also worked in business development and as a press assistant, multi-media editor and freelance photographer.

Jacqueline Deelstra has just completed her Masters at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. She’s worked overseas in the past with Twaweza in Tanzania and Kenya, World Teach in Ecuador and Tostan in Senegal. While at Twaweza, she focused on citizen reporting, village mobile phone surveys, and the use of mobile phones in development and governance programs. Jacqui will be spending her time in Atacora and Couffo, Benin, learning more about the social context and social challenges surrounding the implementation of the above-mentioned Violence against Children Reporting system in Benin, and looking at its contribution to good governance.

In Cameroon, we will be working with Joe Pavey and Rebecca Tapscott.

Joe (@joepavey) is a Master of Communications student in the Digital Media program at the University of Washington, where the program has an emphasis on storytelling and technology. Joe also spent 7 years at Microsoft, where he specialized on new standards of practice for processing and encoding video content. His undergraduate degree is in documentary film production. Joe will support the Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media (YETAM) Project on the technical side, helping youth and local partners in Cameroon to improve video production quality and to streamline the process from editing to uploading. He’ll also work closely with the well-skilled Cameroonian ICT team that is setting up a violence reporting system using Frontline SMS and CrowdMap, based on our learnings from the system in Benin.

Rebecca is a first-year Masters degree student at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, with experience in both development and journalism. She has also worked as an assistant researcher on a story about the Daniel Pearl case, a legal assistant and a production assistant at NPR. She previously completed a 6-month internship with Tostan in Senegal, where she worked closely with staff and program participants to support program implementation and evaluation. She also wrote stories for the Tostan website and blog. Rebecca will support the local partners and youth who participate in the YETAM project, especially with uploading content to the web and growing more accustomed to social media and ICTs in development. She will also be doing research on the traditional practice of breast ironing as an independent side project.

Joe and Rebecca will spend 8-10 weeks in Cameroon with the Plan team. I’m super excited to have Paul, Rebecca, Jacqui and Joe on board, as are the teams in Benin and Cameroon.

Look for some posts from the team on the Plan USA Blog and relevant cross posts here at Wait… What!

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This is a guest post by Paul Goodman, who is spending the month of May supporting Plan Benin’s Violence against Children (VAC) prevention and response project. The post appears on Paul’s own blog and also on Plan USA’s blog.

Elsie, the VAC - Ushahidi Project Coordinator in Benin

I’m working with Plan Benin to support the Violence Against Children project. The team here has established a system whereby victims of violence and observers of violence can send text messages to Plan to report violence in their communities. Plan then processes and maps the messages and works with the government of Benin to investigate the cases. In about a year of operation the system has received more than 80 reports of violence against children. The reports include physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and other abuses including kidnapping, negligence, and so on.

At the beginning of the year the team identified a number of technical challenges that they’re facing using the system, which rests on the foundation of two stellar open source technologies  FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi. Those technologies are the focus of my time here in Benin though along with everything else in life, nothing is black and white.

“Technical” issues are often social, social issues often have no technical remedies, and things become confused. Beyond the division of technical and social, there are many other factors to consider. Thorough problem definition and planning for the short, mid, and long term are necessary to help define expectations, support project evaluation, and improve the chances of sustainability. These themes should be revisited periodically and updated as necessary.

In recent months Plan Benin lost two staff that were key to the day-to-day management of the system. Their departure temporarily disrupted the flow of information through the system but also created an opportunity: with a renewed organizational focus on the system we have an excellent opportunity to revisit the purpose of the initiative, consider the day-to-day functionality of the system, and ask (and hopefully answer) questions about the initiative’s future.

Today I worked with Elsie S., Plan Benin’s Project Coordinator, to chart out the operation of the system. The purpose of the exercise was to clarify the day-to-day operation of the system and revisit the roles and responsibilities of the many actors that interact with this project. Getting a firm grip on all of this information and documenting it for others will make it easier to train staff and partners and build further support inside Plan and within the government of Benin.

Elsie sketching her version of the workflow

A few of the questions we asked and answered today:

– How long should it take for incoming messages to be processed (stripped of personally identifying information, mapped, and so on)?

– What model is best for managing this process? Should the responsibility be centralized at the Plan Benin Country Office? Or should it be distributed to the Plan Benin Program Units (PUs) where the majority of the reports originate?

– How can we modify Ushahidi to support a distributed model, where focal points in the PUs take responsibility and have agency?

– How can we create a shared vocabulary around the various actions within the Ushahidi system? What does “approve” mean? What does “verify” mean?

Me describing my version of the workflow and discussing realistic timelines for different actions within Ushahidi.

In the coming weeks we’ll work with Plan Benin staff to ground truth any revisions to the workflow and modify the system as necessary. We’ll also spend quite a bit of time creating the documentation that will ensure the continuity of operations in the future: reference guides for Plan staff, guidelines for maintaining the privacy of victims, and documentation of the relevant technical aspects of the system.

In parallel, I’ll continue working on some necessary tweaks to Ushahidi including establishing security protocols, enhancing the system’s mapping capabilities (thanks John Etherton for your location highlight plugin and support), and more. In ten days we’ll be joined by Jacqueline Deelstra, a recent graduate of the Fletcher School at Tufts, who will continue these activities and dig deeper on the relevant social issues.

More from Benin soon.

Note: For background and additional posts on child protection, child participation and the VAC Benin project, click here.

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(See this post in English here.)

Estaba hablando con una amiga en el Facebook. Me había contactado porque estaba interesada en participar en el curso sobre las TICs (Tecnologías para la Información y la Comunicación) que había mencionado en mi último post.

Su primera pregunta fue – Y los cursos, los ofrecen solamente en Inglés?

Por ahora, sí, le dije. Pero TechChange está iniciando con los cursos ahorita. Es posible que a futuro ofrezcan cursos en otros idiomas.

OK, dijo mi amiga. Genial. Vamos a esperar esto….

Bueno. Mi amiga habla el suficiente ingles para sacar mucho provecho de estos cursos, pero para poder asistir al curso, hay otros factores que le parecían hasta más difíciles a superar. Y lo triste es que estos factores son internos.

1) Los Pagos OnLine

Ahora, ¿sabes el problema? decía mi amiga, Acá vemos que el costo es de 250 o 300 dólares.

Ah, pensaba yo. El costo es muy alto.

No, decía ella. No es el costo. Es que acá en [su organización] los pagos online están prohibidos. Se consideran una POSIBILIDAD EXTREMA DE FRAUDE.

Ella se reía. Jajajajajaja. Yo imaginé que su risa era de frustración y un poco de amargura.

Pues, mi amiga tiene presupuesto y mucho interés en participar en la capacitación, pero no puede inscribirse porque en su organización, no está permitido hacer pagos online.

Wau, le respondí. ¿Ayuda si yo mando un correo o algo?

No, me dijo ella. Es la política de la organización. No se pueden hacer pagos online, aunque sea mucho más barato y sea lo específico que necesites y no esté disponible en tu país.

2) Apoyo de la gerencia

Bueno y si usas tu propia tarjeta de crédito y pedís que te reembolsen? le pregunté.

Ay no, dijo mi amiga. Nadie nos apoya con esto, especialmente con este tipo de cosas que no conocen y no entienden. Necesitamos este tipo de cursos para el personal nuevo y joven que tiene mucho interés en estas herramientas. Pero es difícil hacer que la gerencia entienda.

De allí mi amiga escribió en letra mayúscula: LINDAAAAAAA TIENES QUE VER COMO PODRIAS APOYARNOS CON ESTO DE LAS TICS! Somos pocos en la organización los que manejamos esto y no nos creen de su efectividad.

Ella continuó. Estamos empezando con esto. Tenemos lo básico y tenemos fondos para capacitarnos, pero nadie ve que es una prioridad. Ay, es muy complejo.

3) El bloqueo de los sitios de medios sociales

Seguíamos hablando. Ella decía o, jaja, y por favor escribir tu blog en otra idioma para que podemos compartirlo. Es importante que nos actualicemos. Por lo menos nos permiten acceso a los blogs.

Lo intentaré, le dije.

Mira, agregó, No tenemos acceso a redes sociales. Tenemos un canal de YouTube que nadie puede ver en la oficina. Alguien hizo un Twitter pero todo el personal esta bloqueado del Twitter. Lo mismo con el Facebook. Ni los gerentes tienen acceso! Tenemos que ir a un Internet café o verlo en la casa.

Ay ay ay.

Yo entiendo que hay riesgos con los pagos online, entiendo que hay personas que podrían abusar de las redes sociales si no tienen restricción en las oficinas, y entiendo que en algunos países hay dificultades con el ancho de banda, pero esta plática me puso triste.

La organización donde trabaja mi amiga es de un tamaño regular, e imagino que ésta es la política en toda la organización. Me pregunto si la organización ha considerado que sus políticas están afectando su habilidad de avanzar en su propia causa y su propio trabajo.

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I was chatting with a friend of mine yesterday evening on Facebook. She contacted me because she was very interested in participating in the TechChange courses that I wrote about in my last blog post.

Her first question – ‘Are the courses only available in English.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but TechChange is just getting started. It’s quite possible that in the future they could offer courses in other languages.’

‘OK,’ said my friend, ‘that’s great. We’ll be waiting for that.’

Now, my friend speaks enough English that she could get something out of these courses, but there are other factors that seemed to her even more difficult to surmount. And the sad thing is that these other factors are internal factors.

1) On-line purchasing

‘Our problem with registering for the courses,’ said my friend, ‘is that they cost $250/$350….’

Hm, I thought, ‘So the cost is too high?’

‘No,’ she said, ‘the cost is fine. But here [at our organization] we are not allowed to purchase anything online. Purchasing on-line is considered EXTREME POSSIBILITY FOR FRAUD.’ Then she laughed ‘jajajaja.’ I imagine it was a bitter and frustrated laugh.

So here my friend has a budget and great interest in being trained, but can’t sign up because at her organization, they are not allowed to make on-line purchases.

‘Wow,’ I said. ‘Do you want me to send an email or something to vet the organization?’

‘Nope,’ she said. ‘It’s just their policy. You can’t purchase on-line. Not even if it’s much cheaper, it’s exactly what you want and need, and it’s not available in your country.’

2) Management buy-in

‘Oh,’ I continued. ‘Can you use your own credit card and then get the organization to reimburse you?’

‘Ay,’ my friend said. ‘No one will support us with that, especially an on-line course of this type of thing that they have never heard about and they don’t understand. These courses would be just what we need for some of our staff who are very interested in getting trained up to use some of these new tools. But it’s so hard to get management to see the utility of this.’

Then my friend wrote in all capitals ‘LINDA, YOU KNOW THIS. PLEASE FIND A WAY TO COME AND HELP US WITH ICTS! We need to know this and no one in our management believes it’s useful to our work.’

She continued, ‘We’re only at the beginning of this. We (staff) know only the very basics. We have funds for training but we can’t get anyone to see that this [ICTs] is a priority. Ay, it’s all very complex.’

3) Blocking social media sites

We kept chatting. She said ‘oh, ja ja, and please write your blog in other languages so we can share it around. We need to be updated on these things. At least we are allowed to access blogs.’

‘I will try…’ I said.

‘Do you know,’ she said ‘We can’t access any social media sites from the office. They are all blocked. We have a YouTube channel but none of us can watch it at the office. Someone created a Twitter account but all staff are blocked from Twitter and Facebook at the office. Not even our managers can access it. If we want to see anything we have to go to an Internet cafe or to have Internet at home.’

Argh.

I understand that there are risks to purchasing on-line, and I understand that some staff might abuse social media if they are free to use at work, and I understand that there are bandwidth issues in some countries, but this conversation made me very sad.

My friend works at a decent-sized organization and I assume this must be the policy across the organization. I wonder if the organization has considered that its policies are cutting into its own ability to advance its own cause and its own development work in today’s world.

Ver este post en español!

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Almost a year ago, I met Ernst Suur (@ernstsuur) for the first time. We bonded in frustration over the irony of not being able to find any on-line courses to study ICT4D. We each did some research and didn’t come up with much, so we agreed I should write a blog post (See: Where’s the ICT4D distance learning?) to see if we could crowd source anything to help us out. We got some great comments with some good resources for the few courses that do exist or the ones that are in design.

We also discovered TechChange, a newish organization looking to develop some on-line ICT4D courses. We all chatted a couple of times and decided to co-host a ICT4D chat on Twitter to see if we could come up with some additional ideas on what kinds of courses people were interested in. (See the chat summary here). I also had a chance to meet with Nick, Mark and Jordan in their DC office to discuss ideas.

So I’m really excited to see that now TechChange has 3 new on-line courses happening this year:

1) Tech Tools and Skills for Emergency Management from September 5-23.

‘This course will explore how new communication and mapping technologies are being used to respond to disasters, create early warning mechanisms, improve coordination efforts and much more. It will also consider some of the key challenges related to access, implementation, scale, and verification that working with new platforms present. The course is designed to assist professionals in developing concrete strategies and technological skills to work amid this rapidly evolving landscape.  Participants can expect a dynamic and interactive learning environment with a variety of real world examples from organizations working in the field including those involved in the humanitarian response to the Haitian earthquake’

Course topics include: Crisis mapping, human rights violations and elections monitoring, citizen journalism and crowd sourcing, and information overload and decision-making in real-time.

ICT tools covered include: Ushahidi, Quantum GIS, FrontlineSMS, Open Street Map, Managing News.

2) Global Innovations for Digital Organizing: New Media Tactics for Democratic Change from September 26-October 4.

‘New platforms of communication are revolutionizing social dynamics by democratizing access to and production of media. From Barack Obama’s youth mobilization efforts to the ongoing uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, this course will examine how new channels of communication are being utilized and to what extent these efforts and techniques are successful or unsuccessful in a given context.  It will also provide participants with strategies for maximizing the impact of new media and train them in the effective use of a range of security and privacy tools.’

Course topics include: the new media landscape, offline organization and change through online mobilization, data and metrics, censorship, privacy and security.

3) Mobiles for International Development: New Platforms for Health, Finance and Education from October 16-November4.

‘The mobile phone is rapidly bringing communication to the most remote areas of the world. NGOs, governments and companies alike are beginning to realize the potential of this ubiquitous tool to address social challenges. This course will explore successful applications that facilitate economic transactions, support public health campaigns and connect learners to educational content. It will also critically engage with issues of equity, privacy and access.’

Course topics include: mobile money systems, mHealth and mobile diagnostics, data management for monitoring and evaluation, many-to-many communications integrating mobiles and radio, and mobile learning.

ICT tools covered include: mPesa, RapidSMS/Souktel, Sana Mobile, Medic Mobile, TxtEagle and FreedomFone.

Modalities:

Each course costs $350 (or $250 early bird price) and runs for 3 weeks. The courses require a time commitment of at least 6 hours per week in order to earn the certificate. There are also plenty of opportunities for those that want to spend more time to engage with additional materials and students can access content up to 6 months after course is over. The entire course will be delivered on-line ‘involving a variety of innovative online teaching approaches, including presentations, discussions, case studies, group exercises, simulations and will make extensive use of multimedia.’

I’ll be attending the 3rd course gratis in exchange for helping TechChange continue to shape the content and curriculum and providing feedback on the features and content. (Thank you, social media. Thank you, barter system!)

Register for any of the 3 courses here.

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Where are the spaces for youth participatory governance?

‘People no longer rely on governments alone to improve governance. All over the world we are seeing experiments in ‘participatory governance’. People and organisations are grasping the opportunities offered by decentralisation and other reform processes to demand more of a say in the public policy and budget processes that affect them. These ways of holding the state to account are often called ‘social accountability’. Examples include participatory budgeting, monitoring electoral processes, using online and mobile technology, and citizen evaluation of public services. These forms of citizen engagement and social accountability are particularly promising for young people, who often face challenges in getting their voices heard in formal policy and governance processes.’

The ‘youth bulge‘ is impacting or will impact hugely in many countries in Africa, but there is limited documentation on youth involvement in social accountability processes in Sub-Saharan African countries. Youth and governance efforts have been ‘largely unsystematic and often constrained by the vague and paternalistic parameters of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (McGee, forthcoming 2010). However this is changing and there are calls for new models, tools and approaches that enable young people to take a more meaningful role in decision-making.’ (call for submissions for the upcoming Participatory Learning and Action Journal (PLA) special issue on Youth and Participatory Governance).

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In March I attended a “writeshop” put on by Plan UK, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to share different youth participatory governance initiatives, reflect on challenges and successes therein, learn how to write better, and finalize articles on the above topic for a PLA Special Issue in December 2011. The special issue will highlight some of the different ways young people are engaging with government to participate in public policy, planning and budgeting processes at local, national, regional, and international levels. Practitioners, youth and government officials from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Lesotho, the US, the UK, Ghana, Germany and Liberia attended the writeshop. (The PLA will also have articles from Cameroon and Somalia).

The first day we did a cool exercise revolving around 4 statements on voice, youth, participation, and governance. I learned a lot from the discussion and I wanted to share it here.

So, what do you think? and why?

Statement 1. The author’s voice will always be louder than the voices of the people he/she is writing about.

Strongly agree ___

Agree ___

Disagree ___

Strongly Disagree ___

Statement 2. Increased transparency leads to increased accountability.

Strongly agree ___

Agree ___

Disagree ___

Strongly disagree ___

Statement 3. It is possible to do governance work without engaging in politics.

Strongly agree ___

Agree ___

Disagree ___

Strongly disagree ___

Statement 4. Citizen led/social accountability processes offer more potential for youth than traditional accountability processes.

Strongly agree ___

Agree ___

Disagree ___

Strongly disagree ___

****

Here’s what we discussed at the writeshop. I’d be interested in what you think about the statements too…

Statement 1. The author’s voice will always be louder than the voices of the people he/she is writing about:

Discussion: The group mostly concluded that it’s difficult for the author’s voice to stay in the background – it will inevitably jump out and become stronger than the voice of those he or she is writing about.

‘Regardless of that, the author has been given an opportunity to project the voices of those that don’t have a platform to speak for themselves, so he or she should take advantage of the opportunity.’

‘Just by choosing what goes into the piece, the writer is already showing some type of bias. One or the other idea or opinion will be louder than the others because it serves the author’s own purpose.’

‘Writers need to think carefully about their approaches as authors and be self-aware of what biases are coming through in their pieces. This is an issue of credibility.’

‘One thing to aim for in our work with youth is finding more opportunities for them to author their own stories, because they can speak louder and stay true to their own agendas.’

‘How many of us here sat down and wrote our submissions together with youth? What are some methodologies that we can use to ensure that youth are writing about their own work, rather than always being written about?’

Note: Some methods for involving youth in the writing process will be covered in the upcoming Special Issue, based on experiences from the group attending the writeshop.

Statement 2. Increased transparency leads to increased accountability.

Discussion: Most everyone disagreed with this statement, saying that there is no causal relationship between transparency and accountability.

‘Many civil society and faith-based organizations really engage citizens, but if you look deeply, that engagement hasn’t translated into accountability.’

‘Including people in governance and keeping them informed about what is happening can lead to accountability. People will start to take responsibility, report about actions. If they are involved, included and informed they will start to question things.’

‘There is not always a causal link between transparency and accountability.’

‘Having transparent information is one thing, but accountability is what you actually do with the information. Having the habit of discussion, questioning is one thing, but ensuring that feedback is actually taken into consideration is another.’

‘Often those in power say “we’ve heard” but they don’t do anything to change. Accountability isn’t only about voice, you need to have opportunities for redress.’

‘Without transparency there is no accountability. This can mean access to information. We need legislation to make access to information possible. It’s a pre-requisite for increased accountability.’

‘There are NGO and donor accountability issues also. Just because NGOs or donors put information on-line doesn’t mean that they are being accountable. There is the issue of literacy, of whether people seek out information, of access to the information in a variety of languages, of what format the information is shared in and the sheer quantity of information. Who really has access to the information they are sharing? Can those who are supposed to be benefiting from NGOs and donors programs access the information?’

‘Another thing is making people and institutions understand why they should be held to account, why they need to be accountable, changing mindsets about why leaders and power holders need to be accountable.’

‘Flooding people with information so that people don’t know where to look for what is relevant to them or posting the information on-line, in a language that isn’t useful to them, is not really being transparent. Often calls for transparency don’t really go far enough. Transparency is about making the information usable and about information demand.’

One of our facilitators (Rosemary McGee from IDS) pointed us to Jonathan Fox at UCLA who says:

‘Transparency can be ‘opaque’ (the dissemination of information that does not reveal how institutions actually behave) or ‘clear’ (access to reliable information about institutional behaviour). Accountability can be ‘soft’ (‘answerability’ – demanding answers from duty-bearers) or ‘hard’ (answers plus consequences). Information dissemination does not automatically lead to answerability, nor answerability to the possibility of sanctions. If access to information is to guarantee the sanctions that hard accountability requires, public sector as well as civil society actors must intervene.’

Statement 3. It is possible to do governance work without engaging in politics.

Discussion: The group was pretty evenly divided between strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree, so the discussion was really interesting.

‘I strongly disagree because government is about service delivery and politics is about the opinions of the people. Everyone is a political animal. There is a difference between politics and partisan politics, though.’

‘Every action has a vision and a political orientation. You can’t change a situation without being involved in politics.’

‘Governance has nothing to do with politics; the government can be left or right; but governance means the same thing. It’s being transparent and accountable to the people; and it’s also about including other stakeholders, NGOs, private sector and responding to the citizens needs. Governance is impartial and non political.’

‘Governance is about how power is exercised. It’s about certain practices and systems – in state, family, community, etc. If you are challenging power, whether policy change or change in practice, whether it’s gender or whatever, you want to address unjust power relations, so at some point you need to confront the polity of those structures. However being engaged in governance is not about partisan politics. There’s a difference between a political party and the issue of politics. If I say I’m in solidarity with children, I’ve taken a political position. Political parties are about obtaining power. But governance is about challenging power relationships.’

‘We need to distinguish “governance and politics” and “party politics.” It’s difficult to say that things will naturally happen based on a structure. But the structures will adjust, they will be used differently according to who is in power. You need to know politics and the opinions of political leaders in order to effectively get your agenda through. You need to understand the political dynamics in terms of what happens in the country, what is the ideology, what is their strategy and what are their plans. If you don’t understand that, you can’t address the issues that you are trying to resolve via governance.’

‘It’s not possible to work on governance and not engage in politics. I work in government. Our mandate ends after 5 yrs. We must go back to elections and the people must give us the mandate again to exercise power on their behalf. This is the only clear mechanism whereby the people can engage in politics. Politics is about opinions and perceptions. People have diverging opinions, those opinions will create debate and that leads to political actions. Whenever there is a debate involved about something, that is politics. It’s not easy to exercise power without debate. To give services to people, to exercise power on their behalf, it’s not easy if you don’t take into consideration the opinions coming from them, they need to debate and the debate then needs to be translated into policies.’

‘The people who are most engaged in governance should not be politically engaged. When you work from civil society on governance issues, you should not have a party affiliation. Because then you will carry a bias. To do good governance work you need to be impartial and unaffiliated with a party, or people will consider you to be biased.’

‘If we look at governance and politics, politics is just a subset of governance. There are actually lots of issues under governance. In governance we expect everyone to take part in how things are governed. We see different political actors. Governance encompasses more than politics, it’s above politics.’

Statement 4. Citizen led / social accountability processes offer more potential for youth than traditional accountability processes.

Discussion: Everyone sat on the strongly agree or agree side of this debate.

‘Citizen led processes offer much more openness to youth.’

‘We need to define citizen-led and traditional accountability processes. Citizen led, social accountability processes are where those spaces are claimed by citizens themselves. Secondly the citizen-led social accountability process tends to be less vertical. There is collectivization of the aspirations of the people who are supposed to benefit from a service or a process. The power relationships are much fairer in that situation. Traditional accountability is like something done within government, something led by World Bank or the IMF. In that case, the state creates space for citizens to participate, information is shared but there is actually not much action taking and questioning because it is the state itself running the accountability initiative on its own behalf. But with social accountability, it’s driven and led by people, by civil society, and there is more questioning and participation.’

‘I was being ethnocentric and thinking as a Westerner about “traditional” as meaning “government and voting,” but I’m realizing that there is a range of understandings of “traditional accountability” processes.’

‘If there is a mainstream more traditional accountability process vs a parallel citizen led process it can be confusing. Often youth are not clear how to link the parallel transparency and accountability that they are creating up to the official structures. There is a lack of connection there. Youth get a lot out of the processes individually, but are they also increasing state accountability?  There is also the concept of traditional accountability. Traditionally led accountability comes from many sides.’

‘There are formal and informal politics. What does it all mean? Based on all of your submissions, we would like to be able to start giving some definitions and an “OK” on all these terms and interpretations. There is a gap in understanding on social accountability, citizen-led accountability and the role of young people in these processes. That is why we wanted to do this PLA Journal.’

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Look for the PLA Special Edition coming out on paper and on-line in December 2011. In the meantime, check out the current editions here, including PLA 59: Change at Hand – Web 2.0 for Development and PLA 54: Mapping for Change – Practice, Technologies and Communication.

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