This was cross-posted at Personal Democracy Media.
The engine room is, in collaboration with WeGov, coordinating some online skill shares for people using technology in transparency and accountability to learn from one another. We’re excited to announce that our first virtual event in this series will focus on the use of citizen reporting to improve delivery of basic services like water, healthcare, education and electricity.
We settled on the topic of service delivery after doing a quick mapping of available resources for transparency and accountability advocates. We, with the help of a couple listservs (especially the Sunlight Foundation’s mailing list for international practitioners and researchers) identified organizations, guides and communities of practice that are currently available. We defined community of practice loosely – as ongoing conversations between people working on the same types of projects that anyone can join to exchange lessons learned and solutions with others. For a variety of more formal definitions, go here [PDF]. We defined resources loosely as well, including events and support organizations, and we drew on the Social Tech Census for a quick overview.
The results of this mapping (all of the resources we spotted are listed in this spreadsheet, if you’re interested in digging in) are intriguing. As you can see in the below visualization, people working on access to information, transparency and accountability in public spending, legislatures, and the extractive industries are comparatively well-resourced.
Service delivery was a particularly important area where we found a surprising lack of resources and communities of practice. There are a number of initiatives doing important and innovative work in this area. In Eastern Europe – Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, and Croatia there are new websites encouraging citizens to report on experiences with publicly provided health services to reward the best services and shame the worst ones into improving. In Africa and Latin America, practitioners have collaboratively mapped the delivery of services for people living in slums. Kenya’s Huduma platform has been recently replicated in Mozambique and Uganda, and India’s I Paid a Bribe continues to be replicated in various countries.
Are these projects actually harnessing citizen participation to improve service delivery? What’s working for them, and what is proving to be a challenge? As a first step towards finding out, we hope to convene about 15 practitioners with a range of experiences. During an hour long facilitated conversation, participants will describe a tactic that’s worked for them and why. Examples include messaging that makes citizen reporting more likely, recruiting volunteers to serve as intermediaries between the offline and online spaces, and finding citizens where they are to survey them about the experiences with service delivery. We will, as coordinators of the skill shares, work with participants to prepare the tactics they want to share beforehand, and, afterwards, serve as a sounding board for those who want to try implementing solutions they heard about from peers. These aren’t one off events, but part of a larger effort to identify and connect emerging tactics and initiatives in this field.
If you’d like to join or recommend a participant please get in touch over email: vila [at] theengineroom.org.