« civic blogs | Main | markets, schools, and hypocrisy »

October 29, 2007

social accountability and public work

(En route to Baltimore) "Social accountability" means various techniques for getting citizens involved in monitoring government. The World Bank has published a booklet called "From Shouting to Counting" (pdf) that provides examples. In Uganda, the government provides detailed information about how it actually spends its education funds, disseminating the data by radio and newspaper. At the same time, control over education has been somewhat decentralized. Armed with detailed information, Ugandans are able to demand efficient performance from their local schools. In more than 100 Brazilian cities, the municipal government empowers large, basically voluntary citizens’ councils to allocate a proportion of the municipal budget through a process called Participatory Budgeting (PB). And in Rajasthan (India), a non-governmental organization began demanding public records and holding informal public hearings to uncover waste and corruption.

I suspect that it would be wise to embed social accountability in a broader concept of "public work" (see Boyte and Kari, 1996). Here's a table to clarify what I mean:

  Social accountability as a stand-alone process Social accountability as part of "public work"
example Project in Malawi in which citizens are recruited to audit public spending Project in the Philippines in which citizens monitor the distribution of school textbooks and (when necessary) physically move them to schools
major analogy Citizens as legislators or jurors Citizens as voluntary workers
nature of power Zero-sum: more for citizens means less for the state. Thus power must be granted by, or seized from, the state Potentially expandable: by working together, citizens create greater capacity
intended outcomes More efficiency and less corruption in the administration of a government program. Defining and addressing a community problem
state and civil society Two sectors that exchange information and negotiate Lines are blurred: government employees are seen as citizens
options when problems are uncovered Legal remedies (lawsuits, calling the police); public disclosure and shaming Legal remedies and public disclosure; direct voluntary action to remedy the problem
accountability By government, to citizens In principle, by everyone to everyone
recruitment Representative sample of citizens is recruited for the task of monitoring government Members of an association take on a voluntary task. They also develop the next generation of active members
preconditions Legal rights of assembly and expression; formal system for accountability Legal rights of assembly and expression; active voluntary associations

October 29, 2007 7:12 AM | category: democratic reform overseas | Comments


Site Meter