Archive for November 2012
This is a guest post by Blythe Fraser. Blythe is the Online Communication Specialist in UNDP’s Bratislava Regional Centre. She curates UNDP’s “Voices from Eurasia” blog.
The message is clear: the post 2015 consultations need to be inclusive (See: Post-2015 Development Agenda: Guidelines for Country Dialogues).
The question is: How can we get beyond the typical meetings and workshops where we invite the “usual suspects,” and reach a wider variety of citizens and perspectives?
Here are just a few ideas to promote citizen engagement, based on the experiences of UNDP and our partners in Europe and Central Asia.
1. Use social media to open up meetings and workshops
Wall of tweets
In the run up to Rio+20, municipalities and NGOs organized a series of discussions to complement a national conference in the capital, and ensure that community voices would be heard in Rio. (See also: From “Big Rio” and “My Rio” to many “Mini Rios”)
Organizers wanted two-way communication that provided a personal and more informal voice to what are often jargon-filled policy debates. So they decided to do live tweeting, and provide an opportunity for anyone who was interested to get involved.
In the municipality of Kolasin, hundreds of citizens participated in real-time via Twitter, and generated some difficult questions.
“In the end, I learned that people want to participate, they want to be involved and they want to have their voices heard. People talk about their worries, and problems, and needs. And this is exactly what we wanted to hear – uncensored, unfiltered, two-way, real-time communication about what sustainable development means to an average citizen.
Milica Begovic, UNDP in Montenegro
Milica also shared what she learned from live tweeting including: how to plan ahead, the importance of a hashtag (#RioMe), how to display tweets at the conference and after for easier post-event analysis, and the advantages of piggybacking on global discussions.
She also blogged before, during and after the event, and made a video of the findings, posted on YouTube.
2. Hold a video contest with a cool prize
Short films made by young people in Ukraine about violence against women
In Ukraine, half the population experiences domestic violence. So, last year UNDP and the EU announced a video contest for young people to engage them on the issue.
Winners got to participate in a movie making camp: In the end, around 100 young people from Ukraine worked with writers, directors and camera people to help them produce short videos on the issue of domestic violence.
“We hoped that difficult topics would become understandable and accessible to other young people.”
Elena Panova, UNDP Deputy Country Director in Ukraine
“Unexpected, timely and wonderful luck! Such a peak of the summer, high point of the creative search of myself…. Everything was foreseen to let us express ourselves…. Awesome!”
Young blogger, Alexandra Golubev
3. Mobilize people to create new models for solving social problems
Social Innovation Camp in Armenia brings in fresh ideas, perspectives.
Mardamej – Armenia’s first social innovation camp – brought together techies and engaged citizens from all across the country to come up with six projects that use web 2.0 technologies, enhance digital literacy of participants and involve specialists across various sectors – all in just 48 hours.
In preparation for the Social Innovation Camp, 11 “itch workshops” were held throughout the country (in Yerevan and beyond), getting people to identify social problems with solutions in mind – while encouraging ideas that challenge conventional wisdom. (See: Got an itch?)
Out of 66 ideas, ranging from pension reform to combating sexually transmitted diseases, six turned into functioning projects (action plan, funding, web-tools and staff).
Something similar took place this past weekend in Ukraine, with OpenIdeas4UA, a hackathon that brings together social activists with dynamic and socially-oriented technology experts and designers. (See: Taking the Open Government Partnership to the next level in Ukraine: come and help us!)
4. Get people to map issues that are important to them
It makes resources easy to find for young people, but for decision-makers too, so they can involve young people and NGOs in planning, strategizing and finalizing municipal and national strategies.
(And surprise! It runs on Free and Open Source Software Ushahidi)
Our colleagues at UNDP in Ukraine are crowdsourcing the topic for their next National Human Development Report. They partnered with a company that has a big web network, and so will be able to reach out to wide audience (easier than starting from scratch). Stay tuned as I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this soon.
Are there any other examples of citizen engagement you’ve done or seen, and want to share?
(For more background on the post-2015 process itself, see The post 2015 agenda explained).
In my previous blog about the post 2015 consultation process “talking to everyone about everything” I mentioned some of the challenges of organizing a truly global open consultation yet coming up with something concise and clear.
The process is now well underway with a number of consultations already taking place and many more planned. The High Level Panel has met twice, most recently in London accompanied by a flurry of meetings and side events.
Claire Melamed from ODI and Chris Underwood both wrote good blog posts that gave a great flavour of the London meetings. Both of them emphasized the need to prioritize in order to get to a manageable set of goals as soon as possible, and both took civil society to task for using their opportunity to talk to the high level panel to delivery a laundry list of diverse issues with each individual NGO promoting their pet cause.
While I agree that it will be important for the High Level Panel, and the processes that support them to ruthlessly prioritize to recommend a manageable set of goals, I think it might be a little unfair to expect civil society, or any other constituency for that matter (and there are many including , private sector, governments, academia) to come together and agree on a set of priorities by themselves. Civil society is an extremely diverse group and many organizations exist to focus on particular issues and so it’s not surprising that given an opportunity the will promote their core issues. There is also often a divide in perspective and approach between local and international NGOs.
That’s why the consultation process (and the role of the High Level Panel) for canvassing views and then prioritizing them is so important. What’s really needed is a process that helps build consensus around shared priorities within and between different interest groups rather than expecting each group to develop shared view. If they can develop a single view, then that’s fine but I think the emphasis should not be on the different actors who need “to get their act together” but on having a good process that binds them together.
And bringing people together usually requires opening up before closing down. In a way the first stage of identifying potential goals is like a giant brainstorming session, at least if we are serious about giving everyone a voice. This means that in the early stages of consultation you should actively look for as many crazy, inconsistent, impossible ideas as possible and without jumping too quickly into assessing their merit. (Even if we know there probably won’t be a goal on preserving mountain ecosystems, microcredit or government statistics systems)
Only when all the ideas are out there is it possible to start prioritizing, eliminated, merging and negotiating to come up with a set of recommendations.
This is important for at least two reasons:
1. To ensure everyone has a chance to have their say, and feel that they are being listened to. This is important given the aim of the process to be participatory and inclusive. It also will also make it much easier later to grow awareness and build broad-based commitment to the eventual goals.
2. To ensure you have as many options on the table as possible from which to choose. Not because all are likely to be chosen ,but to ensure that all are considered and possible synergies between them, or ways to combine them.
I therefore think we need to be careful not to rush to judge and to drop ideas before we have given everyone a chance to say their piece. The process by which this is done is also very important as the High Level Panel and the consultations they draw on will play a key role in both identifying and prioritizing ideas.
So, by all means prioritize, but first give people a chance to have their say and then prioritize based on that and prioritize in a way that brings people along with you.
And to round this off – a quick plug for “The World We Want 2015” the civil society/UN online platform which is hosting a global conversation on the post-2015 agenda where you can have your say and share your ideas, even if you haven’t prioritized them yet.