Share resources and tools for strengthening citizen participation

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Share resources and tools for strengthening citizen participation

Are you familiar with any guides, case studies, reports, videos, websites, toolkits, etc that may help practitioners working to strengthen citizen participation in local governance?  Share these resources here by adding a comment below or replying to existing comments!

Video on active citizenship- experimenting in Tanzania

Oxfam in Tanzania has been running Chukua Hatua (Take Action), an innovative active citizenship programme, since September 2010. The programme is taking an evolutionary approach to programming built on a core process of variation-selection-amplification to find out what works as a catalyst to active citizenship. The programme has an emergent model of change designed to work in the complex and ever changing local governance context of Tanzania.

Phase 1 'variation' piloted 6 approaches to active citizenship- election promises tracking, active musicians, student councils, farmer animators, community radio and active leaders, which have been monitored using outcome mapping.

This video, which illustrates the pilots that were undertaken, was produced for the Chukua Hatua learning event in September 2011 during which 'selection' of successful aspects of pilots took place.

Phase 2 has now been designed by integrating 'amplification' of the successful elements of phase 1, together with new 'variations' to address gaps identified by the programme's political economy analysis.

Link to video: (password is tanzania)

Strengthening Citizen Participation in Local Governance

Dear all, this is a very good initiative. The 1986 UN Declaration on the Right to Development stresses on active, free and MEANINGFUL participation of individuals and peoples in political, economic and social development and in sharing benefits resulting from it. I hope this inspirational document will guide this important discuission. For more information and source, please visit

Utilizing the UN Right to Dev't Working Group

Bate wrote:

The 1986 UN Declaration on the Right to Development stresses on active, free and MEANINGFUL participation of individuals and peoples in political, economic and social development and in sharing benefits resulting from it.

Thank you for sharing this, Ayuush!  I explored the OHCHR website and found that the Declaration for the Right to Development has an intergovernmental working group whose mandate is to:

  1. to monitor and review progress made in the promotion and implementation of the right to development as elaborated in the Declaration on the Right to Development, at the national and international levels, providing recommendations thereon and further analyzing obstacles to its full enjoyment, focusing each year on specific commitments in the Declaration;
  2. to review reports and any other information submitted by States, United Nations agencies, other relevant international organizations and non-governmental organizations on the relationship between their activities and the right to development; and
  3. to present for the consideration of the Commission on Human Rights a sessional report on its deliberations, including advice to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with regard to the implementation of the right to development, and suggesting possible programmes of technical assistance at the request of interested countries with the aim of promoting the implementation of the right to development.

It would be great to hear of ways that organizations have utilized this working group to create new opportunities for citizen participation in their countries!  Also, does anyone know how to submit reports to this working group?  It would be great to see instructions on that process.  Thanks!

GSDRC Topic Guide on Decentralisation and Local Governance

The Governance and Social Development Resource Centre has published a comprehensive Topic Guide exploring a number of issues in decentralisation and local governance. The guide includes a good chapter on increasing public participation, and others which synthesise research on monitoring and evaluation, as well as the challenges of including women and marginalized groups, and of the relationship between governance, public-participation and conflict.

The guide is freely available and provides a broad overview of the subject alongside key readings and short summaries of the findings -a good timesaver in getting to grips with the subject! You can link to it here:

Other guides and a number of related helpdesk queries are also available on the website:

Some resources on power analysis

I mentioned power analysis in another thread. Done well, this can help identify entry points and forms of participation at all levels - and is very useful at local level for making judgements, for example about whether to use tactics that work from within or from outside existing structures and processes of governance. It doesn't deliver blueprints, but does get you thinking and questioning and stretching your imagination.

This web site provides one analytical frame to use. It's not the most user-friendly site (they're working on it) but the 'power cube' has some excellent ideas for thinking about different forms of power (the visible, but also the hidden and invisible ones - this is all explained), the spaces where power operates, and the levels (local to global) where it is found. 

Quite a few people and organisations are using these ideas now and finding them useful in focusing activism, designing programmes of activity, doing advocacy or campaigning work - in relation to many areas of activity. For example,here is a useful manual from some work in the UK by the Carnegie Foundation,

Another book I've used a lot to support power anlaysis is A New Weave Of Power, People and Politics by Lisa VeneKlasen adn Valerie Miller. You can get it in downloadable form here:

Re: Some resources on power analysis

Jo, the resources you've sent are amazing. They are just so useful that they will probably help us so much in our future work. 

In fact, what you have taken up as the power analysis has been somethnig that we have been working on as a methodology, first under the name of strategic mapping  (along with CVT, New Tactics), and then network mapping. This idea was first incepted from the New Tactics Project that we were part of as partners to CVT back in 2000s, which led us to the bright idea of using mapping as a tool of analysis of the structures and relations of power in the work of civil society. We applied this idea to the field of torture back in 2006;  However, in this project mapping remained as a tool to just map the state of affairs on torture as of year 2006, and as an inspirational idea as a tool for analysis, but couldnt develop into a resourceful tool for collective work. 

With this observation, we later on tried to apply mapping in a way to facilitate a collaborative & participatory process,  whose objective was to strengthen the analysis capacity of local rights activists in Turkey, using different cases of discrimination; Mapping Discrimination in Turkey - This was designed as a collaborative process of information/network analysis, where seven cases of discrimination on several bases such as ethnic identity, religious affiliation, language, sexual orientation and mental/physical disability, were “mapped”. These maps, by presenting a visual summary of each of these discrimination cases, revealed the interaction of key persons and institutions which played a significant role in these cases and thereby they open up new possibilities for the human rights defenders to develop novel strategies in their struggle against discrimination. 

In both projects, the biggest problem we faced was the lack of practical and conceptual materials to put the idea into practical working formats. Many times, mapping remained an abstract idea, not sufficiently connected to the concrete working situations. This wasn't because the idea was wrong, but because in order to establish that connection we needed to develop practical tools for implementation, and I think the resources you've provided will do great help on that front.  

Tips and advice on power mapping

Glad to have connected you with them, Kerem!

One of the things I like about the power analysis tools is how easily they can be adapted to suit the specific context, organisation, people using them. For example, in Colombia, we were looking at the visible, hidden and invisible forms of power, and we decided that it would be useful to divide hidden power into two kinds, the power that is hidden but legal/legitimate (for example business people lobbying for particular policies whilst on the golf course or in the bar), and the power that is hidden but illegal (such as the drugs trade). Making the distinction made it possible to think in new ways about the issues.

So I would encourage anyone using the approach to power analysis in the resources I attached to be confident in adapting them – they’re great for pushing thinking, and for identifying questions and missing knowledge or information. The thing is not to allow the multi-dimensional nature power to stop our attempts to understand the very real complexities of real life! Choose a starting point and start exploring!  And, of course, remember that you don’t have to do a complete analysis before taking action! Since power is constantly shifting, we probably need to keep coming back to the analysis and revising it in the light of experience and new knowledge.

Change Framework

In October 2009 Fahamu and other partners in civil society collaborated with the Embassy of Sweden to convene a two-day conference on 'Citizenship and Development' under the theme 'Reflections on Change'. The conference was organised to provide a forum to reflect and clarify the content of the change sought in Kenya, to support on-going policy and political reform processes, and to provide space for change agents to reflect on and audit their experiences to deepen understanding on the circumstances of change.

The discussions that took place during the conference led to the development of a Change Framework . This Framework for Change is based on the experiences of Change Conference participants and seeks to guide individuals, organisations or institutions that aspire to positively change Kenyan society. Using case studies and key concepts, the Framework aims to engage users by using a number of key questions to examine their progress towards realising the transformation they seek.

Thank you,


Huduma as a tool for strengthening citizens' participation

Some of you may have heard of 'Huduma ( , a Swahili word that means 'service', which is a citizens' initiative conceptualised by the Social Development Network (SODNET)--a not-for-profit non-governmental organisation based in Kenya. Huduma citizens to amplify their voices by demanding for better services directly from their leaders and other service providers. 

Huduma is both a strategy and a technology tool. The technology component entails the deployment of a web and mobile-based platform that aggregates and channels concerns and observations of citizens (SMS, voice, video etc) directly to authorities for redress. Find more about Huduma at :

More tech tactics/tools for citizen participation & transparency

Thanks for sharing this tool, Yves!  This is a great example of a technology tool being used to connect citizens to leaders and service providers in order to share and receive important information.  Miriam added a comment on comparable tools being used in in the DRC and Cambodia to amplify the voices of citizens.  New Tactics hosted a dialogue in late 2011 on the use of Technology for Transparency.  Many great tactics and tools were added to the dialogue and I wanted to post a part of our dialogue summary here to share with all of you:

The Municipal Government of Seoul, South Korea has developed an Online Procedures Enhancement for Civil Applications (OPEN) system to reduce opaqueness of applications and provide details on areas most prone to corruption. Similarly, Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente (Smart Citizen Foundation) in Santiago, Chile creates various web technologies as a key tool for gathering, organizing, and sharing information. Their applications, among others, monitor the actions of Congress and provide a database for requesting information from the government in a way that is easy for both ordinary Chileans and the government to use. In Kenya, the Eway Foundation is developing "ethical" social media and citizen-journalist projects to address citizen-activism and human rights issues, while in Peru, the Todos somos dateros project and Tak-tak-tak in Russia stimulate dialogue between citizens, journalists and politicians, through various online and public platforms, to facilitate new and improved relationships between citizens and their governments.

A number of Latin American countries have seen the rise of groups of hackers, such as Transparency Hacker in Brazil which draws attention to making government information open, and Escuelab in Peru which is being supported by the Municipality of Lima who is providing data that was not previously accessible to citizens. Desarrollando América Latina is an event that will be held in December to help tackle some of the similar social and political issues facing many Latina American countries and organizers hope to develop innovative applications that will be used to solve specific social problems.

In Germany, LobbyControl monitors and provides awareness and transparency on lobbying locally and on the European level (as part of the broader ALTER-EU alliance). Disclosure of lobbying data is important for providing a better overview on how much lobbying is taking place on different issues, allowing a deeper analysis and to stop misleading lobby strategies. In India, technology and independent mass media has also allowed people to put pressure on the government to act against corruption and be more transparent. To address the government’s indifference, a global online platform, Micro-Leaks, was created for citizens from all over the world to report any issue of public interest, anonymously. The creators believe that from this initial data collection, they will soon be able to pressure the government to start showing visible and verifiable results, to issues of all sizes. Also in India, in Mumbai a number of groups of “activists, geeks, data people, lawyers and techies” hold “datameetings” to discuss how data and technology can be used transparency.

In 2010, CitiVox emerged after its founders along with Mexican activist Andres Lajous used an Ushahidi install to crowdsource election observation in the 2009 Mexican federal elections and it provides technology that has a built-in mechanism for mapping citizen reports and turning those reports into actions. It has been used in Honduras, by police officers using smartphones to report crime, in Benin, West Africa and in Mexico by citizens to report quality of life issues. INFONET in Kenya created the first budget tracking tool in East Africa in 2008 which has grown from just developing technology tools for social change to developing the capacity of civil society, citizens, government agencies and private sectors capacity in the strategic use of Technology.

A case study from India - Lekha Mendha

This does not strictly fall under 'tools' but imo it is a valuable resource anyway.

This is an experiment in citizens engagement in governance that I have been privileged to see first hand over the years. Devaji Tofa, the village leader, is one of the wisest men that I have ever met in my life. The case study, though a touch long, will provide valuable insights into the processes leading to engagement of citizens and the impact of that on their lives. 

I will leave you with a slogan that is emblazoned on every person's heart in the village; (does not roll off so well in english as it does in the local language)

"In Delhi (country campital) & Mumbai (State capital) it is OUR government

In our village WE are THE government."

Case studies on successful efforts to engage citizens

Thanks for sharing this great case study, Makarand, about the Mendha village.  "The Mendha village is a perfect example of what a socially unprivileged but strongly united, and motivated community can achieve following the path of non violence (ahimsa), learning to be informed (adhyayan), and self-rule (swaraj)."  The emphasis on the importance of citizens to understand government mechanisms and the issues/decisions being discussed in local government:

An important lesson that could be learnt from Mendha is the concept of study circles. The villagers strongly believe that decision making powers can only be effective if the mechanism to make informed decisions are in place. Uninformed decisions can be irresponsible and dangerous. Regular informal discussions are therefore a way of life in the village. As the youth now prepare to take on the work from their elders the same concept of abhayas (continuous learning) has been ingrained in them.

This reminds me of a New Tactics case study called Right to Know, Right to Live: Building a campaign for the right to information and accountability:

This notebook shares how Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) has been deeply involved in a collective process which has shaped and influenced the Campaign for the Right to Information in India. MKSS makes the case that without access to information and transparency there can be no genuine participation of all members of society, particularly the poor, in democracy. The right to know and actual transparency of information provides the ability to demand and access rights.

Access to livelihood, wages, medicine and other essentials inspired the workers and peasants in central Rajasthan to protest against the opaqueness of the local government. The Right to Information (RTI) campaign of MKSS is symbiotically connected to an understanding that without information and transparency there can be no genuine participation of the poor in democracy, no ability to demand and access their rights. The Right to Information Act is the result of a collective effort—of organizations and people who battled at the grassroots, in the villages and in urban areas.

I hope you'll find this case study helpful to inspire new ideas in your work!  Please share any other case studies you are familiar with here!

Citizenship and participation

Quite a lot of research was done by the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability that is of interest for this dialogue. One I've found useful is Blurring the Boundaries: Citizen Action across States and Societies, which is a summary of 10 years of research findings from a very diverse set of contexts; available here:

And there's lots more on the website:

Raising Her Voice: useful theory of change

Oxfam BG has a programme of work in 17 countries on women's rights and governance, Raising Her Voice, which recently, as part of a mid-term evaluation, developed a useful theory of change which I thinks shows quite clearly some of the issues that have been raised in this dialogue. You can find it in the document called 'Raising Her Voice MTE summary and theory of change.pdf', in the column of documents on the right hand side of this site:

There's a lot of other interesting material on the site - video and project documents etc - covering a wider range of aspects of governance, much of it at local level.

Resources on Participatory Budgeting


Here are a few resources on participatory budgeting:

72 Frequently Asked Questions on Participatory Budgeting:

Viajando por los presupuestos participativos: Buenas practicas, obstaculos, y aprendizajes:

International Budget Partnership:


Study: local governance & leadership in prolonged crisis (DRC)

In 2007, Oxfam (Novib) commissioned a study on local governance & leadership in Eastern DRC. The recommendations are interesting to read from a point of view of local governance in a prolonged crisis and volatile security environment. The authors strongly recommend making (local) governance an integral part of each programme developed by donor agencies and other local and international actors. In terms of local leadership, they argue that a first step often necessary is to sensitize local partner organizations to good governance and respect of democratic principles within their own organization (practice what you preach). Furthermore, they conclude that NGOs should rather play a facilitating than an implementing role as solutions would remain temporary and without durable impact.

An interesting example of a participatory approach mentioned in the study is the so-called ‘Noyaux de Légitimités’ (pockets of legitimacy) in the North Kivu supported by an Oxfam (local) partner organisation. The Noyaux de Légitimité are grassroots structures that, in the absence of functioning public institutions, took over a variety of representative roles including dispute and conflict resolution within communities. They became a crucial reference group for actions requiring approval of the community. These Noyaux de Légitimité were created in a participatory process with local communities that led to the identification of those community members that benefit from real trust within the community. This was a rather labour and time intensive process as the communities would initially choose the ‘usual suspects’ and dignitary post holders (e.g. priests, doctors, traditional authorities, heads of NGOs, etc.) as their representatives. After several working sessions, the list of people usually changed and included people without a special function, but to whom community members went in search for advice. They drew their authority not from a position but rather from their wisdom and experience.



UN Habitat Guide

For those interested in the implementation of Participatory Budgeting (PB) processes, the UN Habitat developed in 2004 a very interesting guide about this particular topic. This publication is part of the Urban Governance Toolkit Series and it is available for free here. The guide includes seven different chapters. Inside each chapter the reader can find a set of general questions and the provided answers. In total, 72 questions are addressed. The result is a very complete review of the subject, as useful for the starters as for those experienced in the implementation of a model of PB. The practitioner can obtain useful insights about the financial aspects of a PB, the types/models of PB available, the role of the local government, the legal frameworks, as well as to analyse data from range of examples from the Latin American experiences. In definition, the PB is a tool for strengthening civil participation in local governance, so this guide can prove to be useful for those who are willing to design an initiative devoted to the engagement/empowerment of civil society.

Technology in participation processes

An interesting resource for information about Participatory Budgeting is given by this group of discussion. Members can grant access to an eclectic range of topics. This group facilitates information exchange, discussion, and collaboration between people working with participatory budgeting. Participatory budgeting is presented to the subscribers as a democratic process, practiced in hundreds of cities worldwide, in which community members decide how to allocate part of a public budget. One of the main activities that has been performed during the last weeks, is an interesting Wiki page called Participatory Budgeting and Technology. Inside the discussion groups, there is a cluster devoted to the activity of compiling information about the role of technology in PBs. That means, for example, to gather information about software designed to foster the development of PB experiments, something which is presented as ‘PB Software Census’. Again, this remains as a very experimental and incomplete source of information, particularly because this is a project that started not long ago and many things remain to be done. Nonetheless and considering the people involved in the project as main contributors, this is a resource of information to take into account and to follow in the near term by all of those who seek for innovation and want to be prepared for strengthen civic participation processes.

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