I am feeling so accomplished. I just finished a four week massive open online course (MOOC) on “Citizen Engagement: A Game changer for development?”, conducted by World Bank with partners such as London School of Economics, Overseas Development Institute, Participedia and CIVICU. The beauty of this course is that together with Blog Watch and our network, we have actually done our share of citizen engagement. The final project is ” to design a theoretical citizen engagement initiative to improve policymaking and/or public service delivery in your local community, city or country, and then to creatively express how this might look in the real world through the creation of a digital artifact.”
Let me share my final project called “Bantayan yung Binoto mo” , inspired from the play “Pinatay si Mayor”. Take note that this citizen engagement project is not theoretical . I will actually implement this starting May 1, 2015.
Watch the video I created for this final project to get a summary.
The duty of a citizen does not end on election day. A lot of citizens are very eager to volunteer for voter education organizations by watching the election process, scrutinizing the candidate’s platforms and inviting their community to vote wisely. After the elections, volunteers continue on their daily grind.
This voter education framework is completely wrong because most citizens who become active during the election period do not monitor the promises of the national and local candidates. It must be framed as citizen empowerment and includes the whole cycle. We want our leaders to be accountable and hold them to their promises.
I feel a need to establish a citizen media project with active social media users even after elections are over, similar to the Blog Watch Citizen media project which I co-founded with other bloggers in 2009 and continues to exist today. Similarly, it will be a platform for citizen advocates. These are ordinary citizens, enabled by technology and social media with an online voice that push for reforms, effect social change, and achieve social good. It means taking a stand, often fighting for a certain view on an issue, engaging with lawmakers, movers and shakers, and government agencies.
Blog Watch Citizen Media , VoteReportPH and the #juanvote network will spearhead this citizen media project. Citizen media is the content, citizens produce in Blog Watch. It is high time that we in Blog Watch replicate our citizen media efforts to other citizens around the Philippines. The #juanvote hashtag was used in the 2010 Philippine national election and continues on even after the elections are over. The people behind #juanvote have been active with citizen engagement since 2009.
Target participants are bloggers or social media communities who have been involved or will be involved in #juanvote. They will be recruited through a call for volunteers from a sign up sheet online and offline during bloggers’ events. We will identify bloggers and social media users and invite them to organize a citizen media group in their locality. To inspire citizens to join, the catch phrase “Bantayan yung binoto mo” (Watch your elected officials) will be used. This is just one way of recruiting and inspiring citizens to initiate their own citizen media.
This is envisioned to start in two key cities : Cebu City and Davao City.
How will it work?
After identifying and recruiting volunteers in Cebu and Davao city, they will be introduced to a reporting mechanism which has been tested and used since 2010. The citizen media project will use VoteReportPH (Grassroots Engagement & Election Monitoring ), that utilizes Ushahidi Platform and Frontline SMS. The project will also make use of existing social media networks in #juanvote like livestreaming apps, twitter and facebook.
During the training for VoteReportPH, Blog Watch will add a module for citizen monitoring and engagement after the elections in addition to just reporting the election process. Experience has shown that there is a high participation of citizens during elections. It is our hope that some of these citizens continue on even after the elections. The strategy:
- Citizens will be trained to monitor the elections and will have a checklist to watch out during the election. If there are red flags, report it to #juanvote or VoteReportPH.
- There will also be a guide on how to engage with the elected officials in the national (town hall) and local level (barangay assembly) including how to use various technologies and social media , collaborating with #juanvote social media networks to help amplify the message
Not all who volunteer in the election monitoring will actually do post-monitoring of the campaign promises or actively engage with the national or local leaders. Such challenges can be turned to opportunities. I will share the successful Blog Watch stories on citizen engagement such as our hashtag campaigns (#epalwatch #MillionPeopleMarch #scrapPork) , articles and collaboration with other citizen advocacy groups that have similar engagement practices . The strategy here is to show the benefits of organizing a citizen media project. I have to remind the volunteers that this is one way “ to achieve a variety of development goals – ranging from better poverty targeting, to improved public service delivery, to better and maintained infrastructure, to social cohesion, to improved government accountability.” How? Through our collective online voices and engagement strategy.
To articulate the engagement strategy , I will share the four main components of “The Dragonfly Effect” : tell a story, empathize, be authentic and match the media. Thick and thin tactics combined in long-term engagement plans, require the collaboration of like-minded individuals and communities such as the Scrap Pork Network, Freedom of Media Alternatives and the Citizen Action Network of Accountability.
The realistic timeline for any citizen media to achieve citizen engagement in the local level is 20 years. However, I anticipate a shorter lead time of at least three years for the national level based on my experience in Blog Watch. I will share indicators for the national and local level.
A qualitative indicator for the national level is a change in public policy or an enactment or passage of a law due to citizen engagement. For example , the #scrapPork campaign was a success because the Supreme Court declared the pork barrel as unconstitutional.
For the local level, it is the number of barangay assemblies held every year. Barangays are our “small republics” in the Philippines. The current practice is to meet twice a year. Some don’t convene at all or if they do, its proceedings are conducted improperly. it is only through this Assembly that every Filipino, apart from his vote, can speak out as a sovereign citizen. Only formal deliberations and exchange can produce consensus and agreement.
We have to remember that collective voices of the citizens are responsible for such success .
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