We talk repeatedly about transparency and civic engagement in our work, and often emphasize that it’s only when governments have the will and capacity to respond to citizen' demands that signficant social change takes place. Improving citizen action and government responsiveness always lies at the nexus of political institutions, local incentives, and power dynamics. Add to this the use of digital technoloy - ubiquitously by citizens, less so by institutions, and you see the need for very smart project design that takes all these factors into consideration. However, projects are often influenced by donors who not always understand how these systems work together. In a positive sign, a new funding mechanism requires strategic design and evidence of government and civil society collaboration up front.
The new 45-million Making All Voices Count fund is supported by USAID, DFID, SIDA, OSF and Omidyar and is implemented by Hivos, IDS and Ushahidi. The first round of proposals are due by November 8, 2013.
The promotional video highlights technology applications. While we work and and applaud tech-focused concepts of innovation, we hope the fund will focus broadly on structural innovations that increase citizen voice and government responsiveness. From our vantage point, we think that local government strategies (a la Code for America) will be more immediately promising than engagement with national legislatures and ministries. We also see that citizen-centered solutions will still require robust organizations - especially new forms of organizations and collaborations.
We hope that many of our local partners in the 12 target countries will apply!