Communication for Governance and Accountability

My first two questions respond to the quote found under the “Participation, Transparency, and Consensus Building in Support of Public Sector Reform: The Case of Nicaragua” case study:

“This experience demonstrates how communication can be used holistically in support of good governance, to build coalitions and constituencies around reforms, and to increase citizen demand for accountability and foster participation at the local level” (348).

While transparent communication increases public opinion and participation in a government, does it also prohibit corruption in by offering the public the opportunity to contribute to the reforms?  Or is the purpose to solely convince the citizenship of the government’s current programs?

Does influencing participation through communication strategies increase access to propaganda, or does it regulate for a truthful analysis/identity of the government and its departments?

And in response to the “Gaining State Support for Social Accountability” section of “Accountability through Public opinion…” article, who defines social accountability? And is it determined by the citizens or large international organizations conducting these studies, like the World Bank that published this research?

Nov. 25th Reading Reflections

My group and I are presenting on our case study tomorrow. The topic will be Reddit and the SOPA/PIPA protests. This is just a heads up if anyone is unfamiliar with the topic and wanted to look up some information before class tomorrow. See you then!

“Accountability through Public Opinion”

  1. One of the main takeaways I got from this reading was within the discussion of current state of South Africa’s media as it relates to public diplomacy. It is inferred that the power to continually refine public media participation and engagement rests within the hands of the national policy institutions or “gatekeepers.” I found this discussion analogous to the topic of social assimilation, wherein the dominant culture has the ultimate power of accepting the acculturation of outsiders.  I make this connection because in both cases the delivery of service has little to do with individual influences and much more to do with the fundamental policies. Public participation is inherently limited by the amount of accountability of the state.
  2. On the other side of this issue, however, is the oppositional force of public organizations and individuals to construct platforms and public forums as a means of engaging and influencing public policy. The beneficial developments that are engendered through democratic participation are undeniable and inevitable. This article describes these participatory platforms of having the distinct ability to enhance the quality of public opinions, enable problem solving, and strengthen the relationships between the public and the officials.

“Governance Reform: Under Real-World Conditions” :

  1. Accountability plays a central role in this week’s readings. More specifically, the focus is on the specific mechanisms and practices necessary to ensure and protect the accountability of our governments. Some suggested fundamental aspects of governance accountability include an informed public opinion as well as a public democratic sphere. These institutions are created through overlapping, communicative subgroups and are vital especially within developing countries, where the ‘citizen voice’ holds a great amount of significance. These public spheres foster development and reform through engagement because their existence facilitates a dialogue between stakeholders.

Communication for Governance and Accountability

-Do definitions of “accountability” translate across borders? Whose definition do you trust more— that of international aid organizations, civil society, or governments? Are there differences between how these groups look at accountability?

-How can newly democratizing societies, such as those that underwent the Arab Spring, communicate their needs to their newly-formed governments? How can they ensure that these new governments remain accountable to the people after years of dictatorships?

-How can governments gain the trust of indifferent or skeptical populations? What role do the media, education, civil society, private corporations, religious leaders, etc. play in this?

Role of Communication in Accountability and Governance

The two books from the World Bank promote the importance of communication in international development efforts and in mobilizing civil society to keep their state leaders accountable.

I found it interesting how there is a specific program within the World Bank–the Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGAP)– to promote such efforts. It is especially relevant today, when corruption and oppression caused by the leaders of state governments still persist, preventing the economy and society as a whole from moving forward. The CommGAP program claims that a series of complementary programs involving research and advocacy, training and capacity building, and support would ensure the success of multi-stakeholder efforts to maintain effective governance while protecting the rights of its citizens. All this seems like a difficult task, especially when convincing political leaders to support such efforts. I wonder what sort of incentives there would be for governing officials to not only agree, but practice the principles.

One of the case studies presented by Cecilia Cabanero-Verzosa regarding the implementation of the Philippine Procurement Law also caught my attention. In her piece, she explores the reasons for procurement reform (namely, money being spent unwisely and not for the public’s benefit) and how it was able to pass through successful strategic communication practices; however, the actual implementation is facing some obstacles due to the lack of resources, effective communication between networks, mobilization of civic society, etc. I see this being the exact same case in my current research in laws passed by the Philippine government to protect the rights of its disabled citizens. The one law I’m looking at in particular is a new one passed earlier in the year ensuring that 10% of government goods are to be procured from small businesses owned and operated by persons with disabilities (PWDs). The issue (from my current understanding) is that the law isn’t so clear as to who exactly should be monitoring its implementation. With so many government agencies, municipalities, and actors from the private and non-profit sectors involved, it would be difficult to coordinate without centralized leadership (as seen by the procurement law case study). Another issue is the lack of awareness at the civic level. When I speak to Filipino citizens regarding this law, they have expressed their surprised  that such laws exists. Many are also skeptical because they hear of all these progressive laws being passed, but do not see any sort of real action thereafter. Instead, they view it as a way for the government to show off or save face. I do think that some of the solutions Cabanero-Verzosa had presented are good ones, but to actually convince the “middle managers” to play along is easier to be said than done.

Ultimately, I think that the efforts by the CommGAP program are well-meaning and I can definitely see its potential in furthering development, but I do wonder what the role of culture is, considering that responses may vary depending on the culture and values of the society. For example, it can be argued that some cultures tend to prefer more authoritative leadership figures. How, then, would it be best to mobilize citizens, especially if they do not understand the concept of accountability, holding their governments responsible for protecting their rights. Also, what are their rights and how does one go about informing them?

Reflections: Communication for Governance and Accountability

Since this week’s readings were so dense and long, I’m going to just reflect on three parts I thought were especially interesting. In the Governance Reform piece, Odugbemi talks about public opinion being a key component of good governance and accountability. I definitely agree with this assertion because if we think about a nation, whether diplomatic or authoritarian regime is employed, the role of the government is to manage the people. If civil society is confident and supportive of its government, then the nation will be able to function properly. If not, then it would be detrimental to the nation and anarchy would ensue. It also makes sense when we look at the armed forces of a country, where they are members of civil society but put in position by the government. In other words, there is interdependence between both the public and the government and ignoring this fact would be harmful to any regime. It seems as though some scholars in the field have developed frameworks which outline what elements are needed in order to enable the public, but they have yet to address how to deal with the challenges. Social accountability tools have been developed, but I wonder why both quantitative and qualitative studies have shown a lack of government support for these tools. That would be something interesting to delve into.

In the section about information and communications technology (ICT), Phil Noble lists six big ideas addressing what governments should keep in mind if they are to utilize ICT effectively. Within the last idea, the author claims that the world is a global village and we are all more or less connected with each other. This reminds me of my other class with Dr. Weaver, where I wrote a discussion paper about the idea of a global village and I actually claimed that while it’s nice to think we are a global village, we’re just not there yet. I attributed the main reasons for this being the lack of availability and access to developing nations. If a country is not able to access these technological tools, then in a sense they are immediately eliminated from the “global village,” and then the term becomes nullified. The issue of access and literacy in using these cutting edge technologies still needs to be addressed in order to move towards a global village.

In the Accountability through Public Opinion reading, I thought the section about “Necessary Conditions for Increasing Accountability” was particularly interesting because up to this point, we had not read or discussed this. While the conditions mentioned by Arthur Lupia are valid, it is also necessary to take culture into account. Because even individuals belonging to similar identity groups have different experiences growing up, it would not be appropriate to extrapolate these conditions to an entire group of people. It seems to me that the whole process of taking in images or information is unique to everyone, and therefore it would be somewhat futile to come up with a set of conditions.

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! It’s been a really interesting (and new!) experience blogging for a class, and I have enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts and reflections 🙂

NOV 25 REFLECTION

Hello all!

For our last reflections of the semester, here’s what I wanted to point out-

-From “The political economy of reform: Role of the internal “journalist””, by Sumir Lal

Civil society and media can hold processes accountable through the public sphere, the author states. But the public sphere is increasingly expanding, granting an invaluable role to the “citizen-activist-journalist”. I would like to reflect on this construction, because it makes for an important contribution. Rather than mere “journalism”, or the so called “citizen journalism”, this trifecta grants the citizen and journalist, whether individually, mutually or inclusively, a unique power for social accountability and transparency processes. Its construction holds enormous potential for an inclusive, dynamic framing of news stories; for the democratic diffusion of information; for triggering participatory processes derived from the previous stages of storytelling and information access. Much can be gained in the real world as a result of a well-structured coherence between these “characters” in a single individual. I believe it is not exploited enough, but should be. It makes social participation possible, by mixing the journalist’s capacity to delve deeper into issues with questions, the citizen’s conscience of the need for change, and the activist’s passion for mobilization. An example would be citizen-activist-journalist Glenn Beck (and I point out these characterizations in that order because, although his profession is the latter, it is driven by the former two). Recently, he appealed to his audience to donate money for a foundation whose aim is to battle child slavery and sexual trafficking. The response was astounding.

– From “Journalistic Framing and Media Relations for Marginalized Groups”, I would like to reflect on the responsibility of framing news stories, and also of going beyond them. It is, indeed, a huge responsibility that the journalist should be accountable to. The way in which stories are portrayed have an impact on the outcomes of participatory processes. At the same time, I would like to point out that it is not only the journalist’s framing responsibility that counts- it is the audience’s response to it. In that sense, I believe we should also place attention to analyzing and transforming our frames of how we consume communication. Moreover, we must also ask ourselves about how those news frames are interpreted in different manners by different actors. Ultimately, participatory democracy, action, and mobilization are a result of how the different actors react to the stories that have been framed.

-From the reading I chose to focus on from “Accountability through public opinion”- is the one titled “Is Social Participation Democratizing Politics?”. Precisely, this is the question I have been asking myself throughout the semester. First- CAN social participation democratize politics? If so, in which ways? HOW? WHEN? WHY? That is, what are the necessary conditions for social participation to effectively democratize politics and garner change? Why are some models more successful than others? What are some strategies that can be implement in order to maximize democratization through social participation? What is the responsibility of all the actors, jointly -civil society, NGOs, government, corporate sectors, individuals, media, institutions- in making this process possible, in making the result a reality? Which of these actors has the most responsibility? The individual, who at his own level performs that participation, or its surrounding allies-foes? When does social participation fail in creating more inclusive and participatory environments where networks are used for the collective welfare? Are there any examples we can think of where social participation has been successful, or where it has failed in achieving the goal of a a true democratic nature of politics, and, therefore, economic and social realms? How does the media fit in the model of “social participation”?

It has been a pleasure reflecting on these and other issues during the past few months, and gaining positive insights from people with such diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Hopefully, all these questions will lead us to find answers for our future, at our local, regional, national, and, finally- and this should be the goal- international levels.

Blessings,

Andrea

Media’s Role in Global Development

This week’s readings on development were a fair introduction to what’s going on in the field, though I determined this is not the field for me.  Hah.

I thought Khiun article on health communication-dramatization was a useful reminder that infotainment – presenting ideas in a realized form – is more digestible in an immediately effective way for audience persuasion.  It’s why mass consumerist culture works so well in the market for loyalties.  Media helps shape identity when it is attractive and the audience buys-in, and becomes a willing distributor of the idea.  Infotainment’s challenges are to give the audience what they’re looking for, make them feel good about the actions and want to modify their behavior, and also to maintain their attention as long as necessary to effect attitudinal and behavioral shifts.  Infotainment that masquerades as information almost has a harder time, because there is a different expectation of credibility.  Entertainment-based infotainment is free to claim that it has no intrinsic value other than entertainment if it gets into trouble with its audience or other stakeholders. I’m thinking specifically of CNN vs. The Daily Show.

The China in Africa summary of the forum held in London didn’t have much new to say.  Though it is likely the first and only inquiry of its kind specifically into the Chinese role in media in the sub-Saharan continent.  I thought it was less interesting that they used Egypt as one of their examples, because China’s presence in Egypt does not at all typify it’s activity in the main continent.  More action would be interesting, but it must come from the sovereign nations in the region themselves, and should be held on the continent also.  This report reads like ‘no news here.’  Although one very interesting point was about how the Sino approach to diplomatic engagement with African partners would inherently be very different from the western approach, as both Sino and African cultures are community-based.  I don’t think any African is buying the ‘we’re both misunderstood brothers caught in the western media market’ schtick.  Though it is a valid point.

The methodologies and theories of Development Communication chaffed me; I found them uninformed, neo-imperialistic, arrogant, etc. – though these were the vanguard of the industry, and they were right to pay some attention to communication tools in development, in their way.  Thankfully, the theories continue to evolve, but I do not think that telling the avialable complex, dynamic, disparate continental community in Africa an American story is likely to lead to their development.  Not if they are not going to do what we do.