The Accountability Lab works to encourage a world in which resources are used wisely, decisions benefit everyone fairly, and people lead secure lives. They joined us in a LabStorm to consider their latest challenge: opening Mobile Citizen Helpdesks to engage citizens and the government in feedback loops in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Representing more than 44% of the country geographically but only 5% of the population, the area is politically run by tribal chiefs with the backing of the Pakistani government. The Accountability Lab asked LabStorm participants to reflect on the following question:
How do you build an environment of accountability when citizens may be marginalized, hard to reach, and feel an intense loyalty to their local politicians?
Here’s what the group suggested:
- Identify the alternate information systems. Working in Balochistan means working with limited infrastructure and many political groups, so the Accountability Lab needs to carefully consider how to best reach all the varied populations. LabStorm participants suggested working with alternate information systems to best engage the communities. For example, women may not be comfortable speaking in most environments without a male family member, but there are certain all female spaces where a surveyor may be welcomed, such as a hair salon. An emphasis was placed on identifying who and where the best conveners for data exchange are for various groups.Citizen Helpdesks often close their feedback loops via local radio stations. To increase their reach, LabStorm participants suggested several options for sharing. One included assessing local use of technology. While internet may be less widespread, communities in the area often use Bluetooth technology to share files quickly. This practice could be harnessed by the Accountability Lab as well to share information.
- Consider the framing. LabStorm participants posed the question of how disruptive the Accountability Lab team would like their work to be from the start. Would it be simpler to make inroads in areas that may maintain the status quo but be an overall gain in trust or should there be an effort to engage riskier topics and groups from the start? For example, one strategy may focus on tackling smaller issues that are simpler to resolve while another may involve the creation, as one LabStorm participant put it, a “micro-whistleblower environment.” Both strategies will enact change but will affect the decisions the team makes.
- Work the angles. Regardless of disruption levels, many LabStorm participants suggested working closely with the tribal leaders. Working with the government to provide tribal chiefs with strategic credit for the positive work that is being done in their communities as well as the resolution of challenges discovered via feedback loops will build in victories for them as stakeholders. This can be done through both via formal and informal information systems.
Do you have experience in establishing feedback loops within complicated and remote political environments? We’d love to hear from you! Email [email protected] or comment below to share your thoughts.