what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Drisle; Good governance; Germany; and the art of Depression

The almost cloudless skies which greeted us on our arrival here on 10 August have had a 3 week spell and ended only yesterday. Today has become increasingly gloomy (the grey mist is sweeping down from Piatra Craiului), windy and drissly – ideal weather for catching up on the internet after our entertaining of the last 12 days. The first thing which I encountered was the World Bank’s People, Space, Deliberation website to which I am sent alerts every week or so. Today a blog about some jargon caught my attention. The blog and a couple of generous responses showed blogging at its best – with an interesting new development blog and a couple of papers being offered up.
I got to thinking a bit more about the distinction between the field of democratization studies and the field of good governance studies. With respect to the former, there is a longstanding and well-referenced theoretical literature pertaining to political transitions, and a good number of competing "theories of change," each with its own backers, detractors, and robust line of argumentation.
But the concept of "good governance" is a bit fuzzier when you look at it from an academic point of view. What exactly do we mean by the term? Is it democratization "lite?" Is it some combination of voice, accountability, service delivery and state responsiveness without explicit political competition? If so, what is the particular value that this construct brings to the conversation? And, as is often brought up in conversations within the Bank and elsewhere, what exactly is the "theory of change" (or multiple theories of change) underpinning this work? As far as I can tell, the bulk of the literature relating to good governance is either drawn from subsets of the democratization literature, or is made up largely of donor-conducted or donor-funded research - that is, case studies and other applied research designed explicitly to extract lessons learned and best practices to improve implementation in the field. Perhaps the field of "good governance" is significant then mainly as an applied rather than a theoretical construct - in which case it is no wonder that we often come up against the thorny "theory of change" issue.
All this was buzzing somewhat chaotically through my head when I stumbled across a ten year old IDS paper on citizen voice, Bringing citizen voice and client focus into service delivery,by Anne Marie Goetz and John Gaventa. Despite its age, the paper reads like a fresh attempt to clarify the issue of citizen voice by: a) focusing explicitly on citizen voice in service delivery; b) categorizing "voice and responsiveness" initiatives by type; and c) drawing some preliminary conclusions as to the type of political environment in which such "voice and responsiveness" issues may be likely or unlikely to succeed. The paper contains a wealth of information (albeit now somewhat dated) on various types of service delivery-citizen voice initiatives, and for the categorization exercise alone is of value to anyone seeking to better understand how such issues may be usefully broken down and analyzed. For me, though, the most interesting section is the conclusion, in which the paper frames questions for further research that hinge directly on explicitly addressing the idea of political competition and its implications for citizen voice initiatives - "Many participation and responsiveness initiatives are launched with scant consideration of their , relationship to other institutions and processes for articulating voice or engineering state response - namely, political parties and political competition," the report notes. "The research in this report indicates that political competition strongly influences the way citizen concerns are articulated and the way public agencies respond." However, it goes on to say, the relationship between political competition, voice initiatives and responsiveness initiatives is poorly understood. It is a shame that, ten years on, these statements still seem accurate within the context of applied research on "good governance." Setting aside academic theory, if we are serious about achieving results in this field, it seems we would all do well at the very least to acknowledge these issues head-on rather than hide behind fuzzily articulated concepts
I haven’t had a chance to read the second paper mentioned in the discussions which is Managing pubic finance and procurement in fragile and conflicted settings

I’ve referred before to the great posts which Michael Lewis of Vanity Fair does about countries in the maelstrom of the financial hurricane of the past three years. He has now moved on from Greece and Ireland to the more challenging territory of… Germany with which he clearly has some problems understanding. The comments (which rightly condemn the cheapness of his remarks) are worth reading.
Because of Vodaphone’s incompetent and uncaring policies I can’t upload the paintings which I normally have adorn the blog. But let me refer my readers to a great blog posting about the highly civilised way in which the USA dealt with its last great depression. Sad that contemporary leadership cannot rise to such inspired heights.
And also a link to one of my favourite art galleries in Sofia.

No comments:

Post a Comment