The potential for new technologies to bolster feedback loops is game-changing. Over the past two decades, a growing body of research suggests links between ICTs and economic growth, social development, and higher levels of democratic participation.
Public consultation is an essential component of a well-functioning democracy. Governments at all levels (municipal, state, federal, etc.) should consult with residents and meaningful engagement can enhance citizen’s ability to affect public policy development and decision-making in their communities.
‘Elections do not produce responsive government,’ argues the cover of Democracy for Realists by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels. The authors argue that the notion that elections compel elected politicians to follow the will of the people – or at least respect the policy preferences of the majority of voters – is a legend.
As Vice President of Development and Impact at vizzuality, I help connect-the-dots between our environmental and social impact clients and our project teams who design and develop engaging digital tools that tell stories through data.
“Feedback is great but if you just lived and breathed it – it’s hard to hear.”This insight from one of my clients perfectly captures a major barrier to closing feedback loops. Hearing feedback is hard. Accepting the feedback someone gives you, really considering it and then incorporating it into your actions, is a scary and deceptively difficult thing to do.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The iconic pronouncement attributed to Henry Ford is often quoted to support the idea that customers don’t really know what they want.
In today’s complex world strategy needs to be built around questions, not plans. Plans are fine when you already have all the answers and it’s just a matter of organizing resources to execute. But we do not have answers for many of the complex questions we face in aid and philanthropy. Closing feedback loops means accepting we do not have all the answers. And to do that, we need new approaches.
Market development programmes operate in highly complex environments. This isn’t new insight. We spend countless hours and resources analyzing markets. We attempt to create systemic change through behaviour change. We meticulously monitor our progress and (usually, always) prematurely demand results. We acknowledge the need to experiment – to learn better about what is happening ‘on the ground’ and adapt our interventions accordingly.
A few weeks ago, the Olympic swimming heats were playing on the TV in the lunchroom of the OpenGov Hub. I walked past to get something from my desk and on my way back realized, to my mild consternation, that in the seconds it had taken me to walk to and from my desk, a distance of no more than 10 feet, the lead swimmer had swum more than 50.
Maria del Camino Hurtado September 2, 2016 This post was originally published on USAID Learning Lab and is reposted here…