GaRI is exploring a new model through its theory of change; to act as a district consultant, and work on a demand basis. The 5 GaRI JFs, including myself, are testing out some areas where GaRI could build this consultancy expertise. Ryan and Guillaume are looking at Internally Generated Funds (IGF), which is the district taxation system. Akid is working on Evidence Based Decision Making (EBDM), an approach which uses relevant data to prioritize district plans. Gaelan and I are both working on information flow, accountability and feedback; Gaelan is at the Area Council level, while I am located in a Municipal Assembly.
One important point that I have not yet mentioned about Yendi: The district is known for its legendary chieftaincy conflict. My knowledge the story is limited, and it is still a pretty touchy subject in the area. It stems from a feud between the Adani and the Abutu families. A few years ago, an Adani chief was murdered, resulting in a conflict situation. The municipality has come a long way since then, with a strong push from exterior sources partnered with the Municipal Assembly. Today, you would not know that the area had this history. The real effects of this conflict are now seen in the form of apathy. For reasons that I will be exploring through my work, residents of Yendi are engaging at a minimal level with the Municipal Assembly.
The Yendi Municipality is currently in an optimal position. It is equipped with high capacity staff, and has achieved excellent scores for the Functional Organisational Assesment Tool (FOAT), resulting in relatively high funding. Yendi actually expects to exceed its revenue target for 2012, leading to a massive infrastructure push throughout the district.
Today, I sat in on a presentation that was being given by the Planning Unit for a M.Sc. class visiting from the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. Near the end of the slideshow, in the “Lessons Learnt” section, were two points:
“Community participation is key to success and sustainability of development projects” and
“Participation of stakeholders is key in the development planning process”.
Underlying these points is once again one of the big current challenges for the Assembly; apathy. Community engagement is the foundation behind effective government function, and is one of the main factors keeping Yendi from reaching its higher potential.
A great few words that Binnu told me over the phone on Tuesday night keep ringing in my head. She said “You will never end up having enough information to feel comfortable starting something, so you just need to do it” – something along those lines. So here I am, finding myself diving into an idea that was outlined as a possibility in my Terms of Reference, and held in high interest by the Coordinating Director: the creation of a Client Service Unit (CSU) as the Assembly.
This unit can have multiple functions; none of them are officially stated anywhere, so I am exploring what some of these options could be. Currently, my ideas for the CSU are the following:
– A full time reception service, where constituents can call at any time with questions, concerns or comments about what is happening at the Assembly;
– An official complaint process, so that constituents have the power to place a complaint about anyone working within the Assembly if they feel any disrespect, ignorance, etc. on their part;
– A public relations unit that focuses on assistance in the planning and implementation of public events, as well as producing public outreach items such with pamphlets, poster boards, newsletters, etc.
This coming Tuesday, I will be presenting my ideas to the Assembly, and looking for input and feedback on their part. From there, I will be establishing a work plan with my partner and the Director.
I must admit, there is somewhat some irony with the fact that I am working in community engagement. There are certainly times where I have been very apathetic about what was happening in Canada, particularly within government. So working here, seeing the very reasons why fighting apathy is so important for the advancement of service delivery, accountability and general good governance is coming as a deeper lesson to myself as well. It’s silly that it took me a trip across the world to really let this sink in!