Communication for governance reform

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The role of communication in governance reform processes

Can the strategic use of communication increase the success and sustainability of governance reforms? What types of communication strategies are most effective in this regard? In principle, few would dispute the important role of communication in building consensus, cooperation and support among key stakeholders in the pursuit of reforms. In this sense, communication strategies may prove vital to addressing political barriers in the form of lack of political will among key government leaders, vested interests, lack of citizen demand for accountability, or hostile public opinion. In sum, skilful communication may be the key to translating reform objectives into achieving the desired results on the ground.

Odugbemi, S., and Jacobson, T., (eds.) 2008, ‘Governance Reform Under Real World Conditions’, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
What are the key challenges for governance reform in complex, diverse sociopolitical and economic conditions? How can these challenges best be addressed? This volume argues that successful, sustained reform requires the alignment of citizens, stakeholders, and voice. Reformers must overcome adaptive challenges such as public opinion, self-interested forces and inertia, and this requires skilled communication. Communication links the constitutive elements of the public sphere – engaged citizenries, vibrant civil societies, plural and independent media systems, and open government institutions – to facilitate the national dialogue which shapes informed public opinion.
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Attitude, opinion and behaviour change

Communication advocates argue that the main contribution communication can make to governance reform is to influence the opinions, attitudes and ultimately the behaviour of key stakeholders (including leaders, bureaucrats, and citizens). This is important because all reform requires behaviour change on the part of stakeholders.

CommGAP, 2009, ‘Communication for Good Governance’, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
How does communication support good governance? What can be learned from the experience of the World Bank’s Communication for Governance and Accountability Program? This briefing paper argues that communication contributes to good governance primarily in the area of influence. Skilful communication can increase stakeholders’ support for governance reform objectives, influencing opinion, attitude and behaviour change. Communication tools can also enhance citizen engagement in political systems. It is important to understand both communication processes and the framework for national dialogue in which these operate.
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Strategic communication

Strategic communication – defined as the practice of systematically applying the processes, strategies, and principles of communication to bring about positive social change – has been particularly successful in supporting interventions in the health and education sectors.

GTZ, 2006, ‘Strategic Communication for Sustainable development: A Conceptual Overview’, GTZ, Bonn
What is meant by strategic communication for sustainable development? This publication outlines how strategic communication can be integrated into development policies and projects. Strategic communication ensures the active solicitation of stakeholders’ perspectives. Despite its impact, communication is rarely integrated in development cooperation programmes as a strategic tool. However, cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders depend on it.
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UNICEF, 2005, ‘Strategic Communication for Attitude and Behaviour Change in South Asia’, UNICEF, Kathmandu
How can strategic communication strategies be effectively planned and implemented? This  paper presents a synthesis of the latest experiences in applying communication approaches used in the health sector in South Asia and elsewhere. The approaches studied include mass communication and entertainment education, interpersonal communication, participatory development communication, advocacy and social mobilisation. It concludes that communication programmes need to be responsive to peoples’ wants, needs and desires. Careful communication research, analysis, planning, coordination, implementation, management, monitoring and evaluation are necessary for stimulating social change.
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Basaninyenzi, U., 2011, ‘Case Study: A Communication Approach for El Salvador’s EDUCO Education Reform Efforts’, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
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A guide on building public support for anti-corruption efforts is available:

Byrne, E., Arnold, A. K. and Nagano, F., 2010, Building Public Support for Anti-Corruption Efforts: Why Anti-Corruption Agencies Need to Communicate and How, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
This “how-to guide” aims to help anti-corruption agencies understand how to control the way they present themselves to the public, how to frame their agencies’ work, and how to develop allies in the press and the community at large.
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Communication and political economy

Development agencies increasingly acknowledge that the success of any reform is often dependent on political economy factors – specifically, the incentives, relationships, and distribution and contestation of power between different groups and individuals. Political economy factors can constrain the adoption of global norms in local contexts. CommGAP advocates the use of political communication strategies and techniques as a means of addressing the political economy of reform, arguing that they are a necessary adjunct to technocratic solutions which alone are insufficient to bring about sustainable change. Specifically, they suggest building political will before embarking on public engagement, taking public opinion seriously, adopting a clear and unifying message, and seeking to frame public debate strategically.

CommGAP, 2009, ‘Political Economy Analysis to Action: Political Communication Approaches and Techniques’, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
Why are political communication approaches pivotal to efforts to reform governance systems? This study suggests that reform managers must be able to persuade society. Furthermore, although reform includes technical challenges, the challenges of adaptation require political communication.
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Martinsson, J., 2011, ‘Global Norms: Creation, Diffusion, and Limits’, Discussion Paper, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGAP), Washington DC
What strategies are needed for global norms in development to take root and become part of global and domestic agendas? This study explores global development norms from emergence to implementation. It argues that raising awareness alone is not sufficient to achieve transformational change: implementation and monitoring must be considered equally important to global agenda-setting.
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Singh, A., 2008, ‘Political Economy Reforms: Learning from the Delhi Water Experience’, in Governance Reform Under Real World Conditions, eds. S. Odugbemi and T. Jacobson, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
How do you introduce and sustain change in a society, like India, where there is a strong indigenous tradition and deep-rooted corruption? This research looks at efforts to reform the water sector in Delhi. It suggests that moving from policy rhetoric to its acceptance is always difficult. But instead of simply blaming the system for problems of implementation, it is important to analyse and work with the underlying reality.
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Additional resources are available from the workshop, ‘Political Economy of Reform: Moving from Analysis to Action’, held by CommGAP and the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice in 2010.

Building stakeholder support for reform

Communication can arguably help to build coalitions of influential people, secure political will in the form of broad leadership support for change, and transform indifferent, or even hostile, public opinion into support for reform objectives. Practical strategies range from public interest lobbying, facilitating networks among likeminded political elites, building coalitions, and measuring and informing public opinion.

Designing communication strategies

Cabañero-Verzosa, C., and Garcia, H., 2009, ‘Using Strategic Communication to Build Commitment to Reform’, ch. 1 in Building Commitment to Reform through Strategic Communication: The Five Key Decisions, World Bank, Washington DC
How can strategic communication help build commitment to reform? Strategic communication is a stakeholder- or client-centred approach to promoting changes in people’s attitudes, knowledge and behaviour to achieve development objectives. This chapter outlines a five-step process for designing a communication strategy: (1) identify whose support is critical; (2) identify which behaviours, by which groups of people, will contribute to reform success; (3) use messages that start from the audience’s perspective; (4) choose communication channels based on reach, frequency and credibility; (5) consider how changes will be tracked and evaluated.
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Coalition building

CommGAP, 2008, ‘Coalition Building’, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
How can communication strategies contribute to pro-reform coalition building? This briefing draws on experience from around the world, particularly from Kenya, the Philippines, Georgia and India. It argues that effective coalitions require careful use of communication to foster trust among members while also leveraging diversity – a delicate balancing act. Communication strategies should be sequenced according to each coalition’s particular needs and stage of formation.
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Influencing public opinion

Post, L. A., Salmon, T. and Raile, A., 2008, ‘Using Public Will to Secure Political Will’, ch. 7 in Governance Reform Under Real World Conditions, eds. S. Odugbemi and T. Jacobson, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
How can political leaders mobilise public will to secure political will? This chapter examines communication strategies for securing political will. These involve defining the issue, focusing attention on the issue and affecting policy. Securing public and political will involves a complex interplay of factors; it is advisable to use a number of approaches simultaneously.
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David, R, 2008, ‘Transforming Adverse Public Opinion into Support for Reforms’, ch. 16 in Governance Reform Under Real World Conditions eds. S. Odugbemi, S., and T. Jacobson, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGAP), World Bank, Washington DC
How can governance reforms overcome indifferent or even hostile public opinion? This short chapter outlines six practical steps to help reformers successfully communicate reform messages. It argues that successful advocacy campaigns need a combination of research, reason, reach, resources, record and review.
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A series of technical briefs on communication tools and methods, particularly in the realm of political communication, is available on the CommGAP website.

Dialogue and deliberation

It is often argued that dialogue, deliberation and public participation in decision-making increases public understanding and ownership of reform and therefore its long-term sustainability. Deliberation can also influence public opinion – a recent study showed that informed public deliberation can improve civic engagement and electoral support for good governance (Wantchekon, 2009).

Nevertheless, in order to impact on governance outcomes, public officials need to be willing to be influenced by public opinion. In practice, the line between sophisticated communication which seeks to ‘manufacture’ consent, and genuine consultation, which shows a willingness to engage people and possibly change plans based on their input, can often be blurred (Panos, 2007).

Singh, J. P., 2008, ‘Dialogues as Communication Strategy in Governance Reform’, ch. 4 in Governance Reform Under Real World Conditions, eds. S. Odugbemi and T. Jacobson, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
What advantages can dialogue between society and its government offer over one-way communication? This chapter examines ‘dialogic communication’, or democratic deliberation, arguing that it offers citizens and public officials an opportunity to come together to find solutions to problems. Dialogic communication may be especially helpful for resource-constrained governments in designing public policy measures that find broad acceptance. Political analysis must guide development actors’ use of communication strategies.
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Wantchekon, L., 2009, ‘Can Informed Public Deliberation Overcome Clientelism?’, New York University, New York
How can new democracies restrain electoral clientelism? This study draws on evidence from the 2006 presidential elections in Benin. It shows that if a campaign strategy is based on town hall meetings and policy proposals informed by empirical research, the electorate feels they have greater understanding of policies and candidates. It also suggests that this approach could have positive effects on turnout and electoral support for the candidates involved.
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Smith, G., 2005, ‘Power Beyond the Ballot: 57 Democratic Innovations from Around the World’, The Power Inquiry, London
Which democratic mechanisms might increase and deepen popular participation in the political process? This paper assesses various “democratic innovations” according to their capacity for broadening citizen engagement and deepening participation in agenda-setting and decision-making, as well as their adaptability and cost-effectiveness. It argues that creative approaches can improve democratic engagement, although political resistance and civic suspicion need to be countered through cultural change, well-resourced support and imaginative institutional design.
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Fung, A., 2003, ‘Recipes for Public Spheres: Eight Institutional Design Choices and Their Consequences’, The Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 338-367
How can the quality of civic engagement and public deliberation be improved? This article examines ‘minipublics’ (deliberately convened publics).Educative forums and participatory advisory panels, for example, inform officials of citizens’ interests, values and preferences, while problem-solving and participatory governance minipublics provide richer information about what is and is not working in operations, strategies and project design.Institutional design choices have implications for the character of participation, how officials and citizens are informed, the fostering of citizenship skills, connections between public deliberation and state action, and public mobilisation. Citizens are more likely to gain democratic skills and dispositions where deliberations have tangible consequences for them. Iterated interaction increases both incentives and opportunities for cooperation.
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A policy brief is also available:

CommGAP, 2011, ‘Increasing Citizen Action through Deliberation’, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
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Case studies: using strategic communication in governance reform

Raman, V. and Bhanot, A. 2008, ‘Political Crisis, Mediated Deliberation and Citizen Engagement: A Case Study of Bangladesh and Nirbachoni Sanglap’, IAMCR, Mexico
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Mozammel, M. and Odugbemi, S., 2005, ‘With the Support of Multitudes: Using Strategic Communication to Fight Poverty through PRSPs,’ UK Department for International Development/ World Bank
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Ramírez, R., and Quarry, W., 2004, ‘Communication Strategies in an Age of Decentralization and Privatization of Rural Services’, Overseas Development Institute, London
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Bruni, M., 2008, ‘Participation, Transparency, and Consensus Building in Support of Public Sector Reform: The Case of Nicaragua’, in Governance Reform Under Real World Conditions, eds. S. Odugbemi and T. Jacobson, Communication for Governance and Accountability Program, World Bank, Washington DC
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