In many places, public services are funded and then not delivered, or delivered poorly. Health clinics, as only one example, may suffer from staff absenteeism, reduced operating hours, long wait times, and poor patient-clinician interactions. There is limited accountability for their performance and as a result, problems continue unchecked.
Community empowerment projects seek to create local accountability. They engage citizens with the idea that power lies with the people who are best positioned to monitor service provision, both because they are local (and can observe) and because they stand to benefit the most from improvements.
But does community-driven development work? That is, do services improve?
At last week’s LabStorm, Feedback Labs hosted Damien de Walque, co-author of the research paper Information is Power. In this paper, the authors find in their study of primary care health facilities in Uganda, community driven development (CDD) projects alone had no impact on the quality of care or health outcomes. On the other hand, if the same CDD project was coupled with information about the clinic’s staff performance– a report card with comparisons to other health facilities and the national standard–then there was significant improvements in health care delivery and health outcomes in both the short and long run.
For stronger citizen engagement and really “closing the feedback loop” for public service delivery, perhaps we need to provide citizens performance information.
But what kinds of information? Are all types of information powerful? What unique attributes might make information more or less meaningful and actionable? These are questions that Feedback Labs continues to ask and test through its ongoing experimentation.