In Kenya, devolution is yet to deliver on its promise of a public participation revolution that drives better and more equitable service delivery. Only 38% of Kenyans are aware of county meetings and only 15% attend them (Transparency International, 2016). The Policy on Devolved System of Government (Government of Kenya, 2016) acknowledges that the quality of public participation is low and has not been optimised due to low civic awareness. Improving public participation in line with the laws and spirits of Devolution is a national challenge, but also an opportunity.
Seeking for solutions to improve public participation, the Urban Institute conducted a study evaluating different approaches to civic engagement as part of AHADI, a USAID-funded initiative to support devolution in Kenya. Africa’s Voices deployed our own approach to civic engagement – the Common Social Accountability Platform (CSAP) – in Siaya County. CSAP leverages Africa’s Voices’ interactive radio methodology to place citizen perspectives in conversation with decision-makers to build large-scale and inclusive dialogue on critical issues in the county.
In consultation with the County governemnt, Africa’s Voices designed a four week season of interactive radio shows with a twofold objective: (a) to gather citizen feedback on achievements under the County’s 2018-19 Annual Development Plan, (b) to increase opportunities for responsive and effective decision-making by authorities based on citizen feedback.
The results of the pilot were presented to the Government of Siaya in August 2019 and will be used to inform new and innovative civic engagement strategies for county governments across Kenya.
2296 people who sent 5490 messages participated in a large-scale, inclusive and sustained public dialogue. 78.5% of respondents said the radio shows improved their understanding of County decision-making processes, while 77.2% said they thought the interactive radio public dialogue made them feel more included in decision-making.
I like the AVF method of running interactive programs, it allows the radio host to guide discussion between the audience and the guest without any of the parties being unheard in the process. The fact that the audience views are collected for free allows for participation from marginalized groups like women, the old, disabled etc. The method is also built around the bottom up approach where views are mobilized from the lowest units where the audience comes from and translated into a huge regional debate.
When issues are discussed publicly, it awakens those involved. I therefore think there has been a change.
A lot of issues raised during the radio shows are things we also get reports on in the office. This is making us now to begin re-thinking about our strategy as regards public participation.