The Accountability Lab and the Ford Foundation co-hosted a discussion on April 29 around how young people and agile organizations in East and West Africa are ensuring accountability and trust within responses to the coronavirus pandemic. We extend our gratitude to Michael Katagaya (Evidence and Methods Lab), Nerima Wako-Ojiwa (Siasa Place) and Odeh Friday (Accountability Lab Nigeria) for participating in a dynamic conversation. AL’s Learning Director Cheri-Leigh Erasmus moderated the webinar and sums up a few of its key points here.
Participants from across Africa joined in a robust discussion the ways in which organizations have had to amend their work to address the crisis, but also the innovative approaches arising through it all. The discussions (listen to a recording here) unearthed a few key take-aways.
Young people need to be prepared to enter accountability conversations: We cannot take for granted that the existence of conversations on holding governments accountable for service delivery, upholding human rights and spending resources with integrity necessarily means that young people will participate. Youth-focused organizations need to retain their focus on civic education and dissemination relevant information in accessible formats to pave the way for young voices to be included. A good example raised was Sema in Uganda that engages young people consistently on a number of issues – both digitally and via the country’s public offices.
The ‘last mile’ matters: It is impossible to talk about the importance of debunking rumors and disseminating accurate information without acknowledging the digital divide. Organizations are building new grass roots partnerships as communication avenues, using community radio and dissemination of hard copies of critical information to ensure that youth in under-resourced or less-advantaged areas are reached where social media and other high tech interventions won’t work. Rather than the last mile, in a context where reaching excluded citizens is a priority, we prefer to think of this as the first mile. For the Lab’s Coronavirus CivActs Campaign, for instance, staff and volunteers are working hard to distribute the bulletins via Whatsapp, community radio stations and broader community groups to ensure that all communities, regardless of their digital footprint, receive the information.
Use existing frameworks in accountability efforts: While many of us are rightfully concerned about the closing civic space that comes with numerous governments’ pandemic mitigation strategies, it is important for organizations and activists working on accountability to rely on existing frameworks such as OGP action plans, national frameworks on access to information and international human rights conventions as foundations for accountability.
There are some silver linings: As the pandemic unfolds, organizations are finding new ways to stay connected internally and to reach their target communities. While there are many challenges to overcome in this regard, some are also seeing the benefit of facilitating broader conversations virtually and being able to reach multiple communities simultaneously. This creates a lot of potential for collaboration, amplifies voices and co-creation of solutions to problems affecting communities that are spread out. Organizations have started using existing platforms such as FB Live for town hall meetings, and WhatsApp groups to reach broader, more inclusive audiences.
These approaches will change and innovate in different countries as people adapt further to the affects of the pandemic. We’re interested in keeping a conversation moving on these issues, so let us know what changes you or your organization might be going through? What are your silver linings? Continue the conversation online with us at @accountlab on Twitter.
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