Batapa-Sigue: Post-election citizen engagement

Batapa-Sigue: Post-election citizen engagement

IN THE Philippines, the electoral season is always the peak of citizen’s involvement and participation. The aftermath is another story. A post-election citizen engagement is as important if not more important than how leaders engage with their constituents during the election period. Citizen’s participation is crucial to the success of every government in the modern world.

Innovative leadership means being strategic in all aspects, especially in communicating with one’s constituents and stakeholders, both internal and external. Leaders with the desire and commitment to constantly engage with the people they serve create more meaningful programs since they can work with their citizens from designing these programs up to its evaluation. Let us observe the different types of strategies our newly elected officials in the local governments of Negros Occidental and Bacolod display as we move forward. Let us closely monitor the different platforms and tools they will deploy to actively collect citizen’s suggestions and feedback. Advocacy and activeness for public issues must never stop after elections. We need to work closely with our leaders to effect real change. Otherwise, change would end up merely as a campaign slogan.

Engaging with citizens is one of the most critical steps to innovating government policies and services as emphasized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its Embracing Innovation in Government: Global Trends publication (2017). To maximize the potential for innovation through citizen engagement, the research recommended four strategies for governments. I would like to share the full discussion below.

First is to develop government-wide engagement strategies. Governments should develop a strategy with clear objectives to promote open government and citizen engagement, and to show that they are government priorities. The OECD (2009) Principles for Open and Inclusive Policy Making provide guidance for countries in designing and implementing an effective framework for citizen engagement, including coordinating engagement initiatives across governments to avoid consultation fatigue and creating a coherent approach. The principles also stress the role of accountability, including efforts to report back to citizens regarding the impact of their input.

These strategies would help ensure that processes for citizen engagement are replicated throughout the public sector in a consistent way that will promote trust among citizens. Public officials from central and local institutions, as well as key actors from civil society and the private sector, should be involved throughout the entire process to ensure a comprehensive approach and buy-in. This strategy should include considerations for building up the capacity of public employees to interact with and hold citizen-centered conversations with the public, and for interpreting and acting on what they learn.

The second strategy is to arm public employees and citizens with tools to connect and establish dialogue. Government leaders cannot simply tell civil servants and citizens to talk to one another. They must also provide tools to allow this two-way dialogue to take place. These tools can include technological solutions for asynchronous electronic discussions and include dialogue tools to assist with in-person discussions. Simply providing physical space to bring people together for conversations can also help.

The third recommendation is to build evaluation into the innovation process. Governments should consider the need to evaluate innovation projects during their design. This includes identifying specific monitoring and evaluation activities and tools that translate into easily analyzed information that will support the expansion of innovation by showing benefits.

The fourth suggestion is to take feedback into account and reconnect with citizens. Governments must endeavor to build formal mechanisms to ensure that feedback from citizens is considered and acted on, as appropriate, and that citizens are made aware of how the feedback was acted upon. Credibility and trust are diminished if governments are perceived to be listening only to appear inclusive of citizen views, but not to really take into serious consideration their suggestions.


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