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Is citizen engagement a game changer for development?

By Dr Baba j Adamu - bjadamu@gmail.com

Toronto, Canada - April 14, 2017

Yes, citizen engagement is a game changer for development.

Citizens are the ultimate beneficiaries of any development and the primary casualties that come from underdevelopment; they should, therefore, be engaged in any form of development from onset since they are the main benefactors and in the best position to guide the best development initiative and final results. Government works best by closing the feedback loop and putting poor people at the center of service provision.

The main difficulty experienced in driving public developments is the lack of accountability by those involved in the decision-making and implementation process of projects. The accountability-triangle provides a way to understand successes and failures along the service delivery chain by analyzing relationships between policy-makers and politicians, service providers and citizens. Through citizen engagement in project identification and implementation, the problem of accountability can greatly be reduced. Citizen engagement is not a technical process that can be replicated independently of context. Context is critical, and, accordingly, citizen engagement approaches need to be tailor-made to their local context. Meaning that, understanding the localized context where developments are needed will go a long way in determining the best way to engage citizens and the extent and capability of citizens to hold the state accountable and make it responsive to their needs.




The digital artifact video has been created specifically with the government, the general public and private investor financiers and all other stakeholders in managing development finances in mind.

Click to view the Digital Artifact video



...Click to go to the main Paper>>

The paper discusses the impacts and issues associated with private involvement in infrastructure development projects through formal public-private partnerships (PPPs).  The analysis suggests that in most cases, the private sector will be most efficient in the construction phase but the public sector will be best equipped to handle the risks associated with ownership. However, it is clear that PPPs will not be viable without a concrete frame work to induce private sector involvement in public infrastructural developments.

The paper clearly outlines the need for a concise framework to provide risk mitigation strategies on Public-Private risk-return objectives in order to attract long-term private-investor financing with guaranteed stable rate of return on investment in line with a country’s economic and legal conditions.

...Click to go to the main Paper>>

Three-Part Framework for context analysis:

1.    Citizen Engagement as interplay of five constitutive elements – citizen-action, state-action, civic-mobilization, citizen-state-interface and information

2.    Review the socio-political factors that influence the effectiveness of citizen engagement processes. They include political-society, state-society relations, civil society, intra-society relations, inter-elite relations and global dimensions.

3.    Framework to assess context: Long versus Short-Route to Accountability. Short-route (citizen-provider relationship) is where the citizens have a direct contact with the service providers. Long-route (citizen-policymaker) means the process where citizens participate in electing policy makers who can fight for transparency and truthfulness or in referendums to determine a more effective policy prescription for their particular context. Given the difficulties in strengthening the ‘long-route’ of accountability, strengthening the ‘short-route’ is often a more effective method of improving service delivery at the local level. Moreover, linking service providers to citizens through community scorecards, citizens are empowered to identify priority issues and provide feedback to service providers. Citizen-provider relationship can further be strengthened by providing citizens greater choice of service providers, empowering citizens to monitor service providers and hold them to account, and by tailoring the service to better meet the needs of citizens. This approach is best in minimizing odds in tendering and procurement processes.


Thick versus Thin participation

“Thick” engagement enables large groups of people working in small groups (about 10 per group), to learn, decide, and act. Thick engagement is intensive, informed, and deliberative and though more likely to be face-to-face, many thick processes now include both online and face-to-face elements. This kind of approach has been widely used in Brazil, Argentina Scotland.

‘Thin’ engagement encompasses a range of activities that allow vast numbers of people to express their opinions make choices or affiliate themselves with a particular group or cause in relatively simple ways. It is faster, easier, and potentially viral. These activities can be incorporated into policymaking processes like monitor elections, circulate health information etc. This approach has been used in Kenya, Brazil, Brooklyn.


Conflict-affected situations

Studies have shown that top-down anti-corruption practices and national level approaches to improving accountability mechanisms have often failed in fragile and conflict-affected situations. In contrast, identifying and supporting local accountability mechanisms, strengthening partnerships, and supporting collaborative governance and capacity building have been shown to be more effective in these contexts. Examples like in Afghanistan, Liberia, Timor-Leste.



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