Posts Tagged ‘empowering’

Online dialogue on Empowering Citizens to Fight Corruption

25 August 2010

[Photo: Youth festival organised by Transparency International Bangladesh]

I wanted to invite you to join me at an online dialogue on Empowering Citizens to Fight Corruption from August 25 to 31, 2010 to fight corruption on all levels organised by New Tactics and Shaazka Beyerle of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC).

The dialogue will…

…explore how campaigns have empowered and mobilized citizens to counter corruption in their communities. Citizens working together are gaining powerful results. This is a space to learn about and share experiences in these kinds of campaigns as well as share your ideas, resources, and stories.

Though not widely known, over the past 10 years there has been a grass-roots, bottom-up “eruption against corruption” to borrow a popular slogan from the Fifth Pillar movement in India. Citizens can and are fighting to curb corruption in their communities and countries. They are organizing and strategically using nonviolent actions such as: civil disobedience; petitions; vigils; marches; sit-ins; Right to Information laws, demanding information; monitoring/auditing of authorities, budgets, spending and services; social networking and blogging; coordinated low-risk mass actions; creation of parallel or independent institutions; social and economic empowerment initiatives; street theatre; songs; humor; and public pledges.

Join the discussion here.

Not all of the discussion will focus on technology based-tools and 2.0, but the discussion will definitely give a great insight into powerful examples of campaigns and how citizens have been empowered. Both areas are increasingly closely linked. No social media campaign without a personal element. No campaign without an opportunity for citizens to become active and take part.

Now, this is actually a good moment to refer to a great post by Ken Banks at Kiwanja where he quotes Bill Easterly on how students might help end poverty. He says:

Don’t be in such a hurry. Learn a little bit more about a specific country or culture, a specific sector, the complexities of global poverty and long run economic development. At the very least, make sure you are sound on just plain economics before deciding how you personally can contribute. Be willing to accept that your role will be specialized and small relative to the scope of the problem. Aside from all this, you probably already know better what you can do than I do.

I think this is great advice.

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IACC conference started today

31 October 2008

The 13th IACC conference started with a panel on corruption, peace and security. Let me reflect on a couple of issues mentioned during the session.

13th IACC

13th IACC

One of the panellists that got me thinking was Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International. She highlighted that a Transparency International list of countries with high levels of corruption would look very similar to an Amnesty International list of countries with high levels of human rights violations. Human Rights can be important tools fighting corruption, especially the right for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and are an underutilized legal framework to fight corruption.

Already in this opening plenary it becomes clear that it there is an essential need for the right of citizens to be involved, the right of victims for a voice.

Khan said, and here I see a link to this blog: “The best tool to fight corruption is an empowered citizen.” As I had argued earlier, social media is about empowering people.

This “social transparency”, being accountable towards the citizens, demanding leaders, politicians, to account to what they do, can be supported by the use of social media.

Another issue raised was on stolen money that, as Mark Pieth, Chairman of the OECD working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions stated, must be hidden somewhere. More transparency, especially within global financial flows is urgently needed, as also Transparency International pointed out in its resolution of this year’s Annual Membership Meeting ahead of the 13th IACC.

It would be great to use crowdsourcing concepts to identify flows and assets of CEOs or politicians. To match the money with the people. As Pieth said, if dictators find it more difficult to hide their bounty in financial centre, this contributes to corruption. Maybe if they find their mansions and Maibachs posted on the web, people will become aware. A map on google un-hiding the villas by political leaders.

A question to the panelist asked them, what each one of them could do to fight corruption. So here are just some initial thoughts, if you have any ideas, I’d be interested in hearing and reading them here!

What can you do to fight corruption?

Making the citizens voices heard

25 October 2008

Paolo Mefalopulos had some interesting thoughts on the need for a different concept of communication in the context of development on the blog of the Communication for Governance and Accountability Programme of the World Bank:

If good governance is largely about strengthening citizens’ voices on the demand side, which in turn will also help enhance accountability and transparency on the supply side, it is clear that the traditional conception of communication – transmitting messages through given channels to “target audiences” – is not enough to achieve the intended results. What is needed to strengthen citizens’ voices and enable their active participation is a space where individuals feel safe and stimulated to be part of the processes leading to change.

As I highlighted in an earlier post, social media is about empowering people. Using the tools and concepts of web2.0 means that we have to change the way we traditionally interact with each other.

Let me give a practical example of using a wiki for producing a report on an issue. Traditionally, a person, or a group of persons will draft the report and send it for feedback to the people selected to ask. The feedback comes back to the group and gets incorporated in the document on the basis of what the drafting persons find relevant. Although the process might be very open and transparent with regards to what has been included and what not, in the end the decision will always be taken on the side of the drafting person.

Using a wiki, this process will be opened by inviting the same group of people, but potentially more, to edit the document. With everyone being able to make changes and reverse changes in a “safe space” the discussions become more transparent, but also less controlled. This de-centralising of control and empowering of each participant in the discussion can be frightening to the ones that are used to lead a discussion. It also does not necessarily mean that the process will be more productive. But it will increase the engagement and the committement of all participants and may question established perceptions and points of views of issues.

Now think how long it takes to change a process such as this one in your organisation. It becomes clear that adapting these processes to an even broader audience such as the citizens of a country will need time. But with the tools developed and looking at the videos on youtube, the images on flickr.com and the groups and causes on facebook.com, people starting to make us of them, it may not take as long as we may think.

Changing the fight against corruption

2 October 2008

One of the key questions of the workshop will be how social media can change the way we fight corruption. We’ll have some interesting answers and examples, but as a general note a couple of directions can be distilled already.

Fighting corruption becomes:

1) Collaborative and crowd-based. It is much easier to link up with people and groups working on the same issue, and gather them in a bigger anti-corruption movement. But this is only one aspect to it, as it also has an effect on joining up with individual activists, a task usually difficult for bigger organisations, as well as for people to organise themselves. The dream is the old metaphor of the many little fish that eat the big fish. Also crowdsourcing as a tactic can be one of the options, especially when looking at datasets made available under the umbrella of transparency or interpreting data collectively (as an example see how mysociety.org asks their users to match up each speech with video footage), or in investigative journalism or for community-based reporting, as reflected by the NY Times and the People, Spaces, Deliberations-Blog.

One of the consequences, overseen sometimes, is that organisations will loose control over how people organise themselves and communicate externally, but also internally.

2) De-centralised. De-centralised action and organisation forms will be developed where necessary. One example is how global protests where organised on 4 February under the moto “A Million Voices Against FARC” via Facebook. Manifestations were organised all over the world. Especially under restrictive regimes, where civil society is challenged when organising itself, social media can be used to organise, meet virtually and work together without being together. Google maps can be used as a great tool to track and plan actions.

3) Empowering. Social media can empower people that want to change things. It becomes bottom-up by giving voice to the people affected most. By contributing their experience, easily done via blogs, twitter, or a wiki, they can become part of the movement and give faces to the issues. I have referred to this in my previous post.

Some of the traditional limitations of the fight against corruption that lie within the political environment of a country, such as a restricted civil society, can be overcome using social media. While knowing that new limitations such as lack and cost of access to the internet and mobile devices remain.