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Citizen Engagement


  • Citizens play a critical role in advocating and helping to make public institutions more transparent, accountable and effective, and contributing innovative solutions to complex development challenges.

  • The goal of the 2014 World Bank Group Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Citizen Engagement in Operations is to improve development results. We want to better understand what we are already doing, and identify what types of engagement contribute most to results, so we can develop a coherent approach to citizen engagement, for the Bank and for our clients.

The World Bank Group is committed to become a better listener and accelerate progress in the fight to end poverty and boost shared prosperity in a sustainable and inclusive manner. Engaging citizens and mobilizing communities can help bring greater transparency, accountability, and social inclusion, thus improves development results. Engaging citizens is especially important during times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic as effectiveness of the response efforts can often hinge on behavior change at the micro-level. Informing and receiving feedback from citizens in  real time can provide insight into how the crisis is affecting communities and enable real-time course correction and fixing problems in fast evolving situations as well as post-crisis.

Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Citizen Engagement

The Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Citizen Engagement in WBG Operations was developed to more systematically mainstream citizen engagement through including beneficiary feedback in WBG-supported operations. The Strategic Framework defines citizen engagement as the two-way interaction between citizens and governments or the private sector within the scope of WBG interventions. This approach gives citizens a stake in decision-making in order to improve the intermediate and final development outcomes. The approach to mainstreaming citizen engagement in WBG-supported operations is guided by five principles: 1) it is results-focused, 2) it involves engaging throughout the operational cycle, 3) it seeks to strengthen country systems, 4) it is context-specific, and 5) it is gradual.

The Strategic Framework builds on the WBG’s experience in multi-stakeholder engagement, citizen participation, and open and inclusive governance, as well as experiences from citizen engagement efforts around the world. The framework assesses lessons learned, and outlines methods and entry points to provide a more systematic and results-focused approach for the WBG.

Growing evidence confirms that under the right conditions, citizen engagement can help governments achieve improved development results. The framework includes a comprehensive review of existing literature that found positive links between citizen engagement and improved public service delivery, public financial management, governance, and social inclusion/empowerment.

Evidence also shows, however, that the outcomes of citizen engagement are highly context specific and sensitive to government and citizens’ capacity and willingness to engage. Effective engagement is also affected by social, political, economic, environmental, cultural, geographic and other factors, such as gender dynamics. In practical terms, the World Bank’s citizen engagement mainstreaming commitment means that all Investment Project Financing (IPF) operations financed with IBRD loans or IDA credits must meet three requirements:

  • Project design must be citizen-oriented, i.e., having at least one mechanism to engage with beneficiaries in the specific context of the project;

  • Projects’ results frameworks must include a beneficiary feedback indicator to monitor citizen engagement throughout project implementation; and

  • Projects must report on the beneficiary feedback indicator by the third year of implementation. 

Our progress to date The three requirements are being monitored, on a quarterly basis, for projects approved since July 2015. To date, we have made the following progress:

  • 99% of our investment project financing approved in Fiscal Year 2019 had a citizen-oriented design. This represents a significant progress from the baseline of 60% in Fiscal Year 2014. Citizen engagement mechanisms included in project design refer to, for example, grievance redress mechanisms that enable beneficiaries to present complaints about project activities, consultations and satisfaction surveys throughout project implementation, participatory planning and monitoring (including social audits and community scorecards), and community-driven approaches. 

  • 94% of our investment project financing approved in Fiscal Year 2019 included a beneficiary feedback indicator in the results framework, compared to the baseline of 27% in Fiscal Year 2014. Often, the measurement of indicators is disaggregated by gender. Beneficiary feedback indicators can measure, for example:

    • How grievance redress mechanisms are contributing to the project, either through the percentage of grievances received by the project that have been addressed within a specified timeframe, or through the periodic publication of reports on grievance redress mechanisms and how issues were resolved.

    • If consultation outcomes and beneficiary feedback are being integrated in project design and implementation, through the percentage of beneficiaries who feel that project investments reflect their needs, or beneficiaries’ satisfaction with specified project dimensions.

    • Beneficiary collaboration in project decision making, implementation or monitoring, through the number of citizens and/or communities involved in planning, implementation and/or evaluation of project activities; community contributions to the total project cost; beneficiaries’ satisfaction with the collaboration process; the establishment of arrangements for community engagement in post-projects sustainability and/or operations; or the publication of findings of citizen-led monitoring.

  • 70% of our investment project financing approved in Fiscal Year 2016 reported on beneficiary feedback indicators by their third year of implementation, compared to the baseline of 20% of projects approved in Fiscal Year 2014 that reported by their third year of implementation.

Strengthening country systems One of the guiding principles of the Strategic Framework is to strengthen country systems for engaging with citizens within the scope of WBG operations. The scope of such support needs to be agreed upon with client governments, and it varies by type of operation.

For example, a Development Policy Financing (DPF) can facilitate the adoption of national legislation on participatory budgeting or procurement monitoring, while an Investment Project Financing operation can contribute to building effective feedback and recourse mechanisms to improve service delivery in specific sectors, or empower citizens at the local level to participate in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of development interventions.

The WBG is also integrating citizen engagement in Country Partnership Frameworks. Several countries have adopted Citizen Engagement Roadmaps that set country-level objectives and priority actions on citizen engagement. These instruments are context-specific and allow the tailoring of citizen engagement goals to countries’ constraints and opportunities.

Oversight of the Strategic Framework The World Bank’s Social Development Global Practice oversees the implementation of the Strategic Framework. In addition, ongoing opportunities for exchanging experience with civil society organizations and other partners provide valuable feedback for the implementation of the framework. Engaging Partnerships for Citizen Engagement

  • The WBG undertook consultations at global and country levels with diverse stakeholders, including CSOs, governments, think-tanks, research institutions, foundations, bilateral and multilateral organizations, to elicit input into development of the Strategic Framework from February to June of 2014.

  • In addition, an  Expert Advisory Council (EAC) was formed to guide the development and implementation of the framework. The members of the Council – experts from civil society, academia, government, private sector, foundations, and development partners – were selected based on their knowledge, experience, and ability to represent a range of global and country perspectives. Ongoing work to define the next iteration of the Bank’s strategy for citizen engagement includes exploring the Bank’s relationship with diverse external stakeholders including the Council, which was reconstituted in 2019.

  • CSOs are an important development agent and the Bank has historically benefited from different types of partnerships with them, engaging them operationally to improve development outcomes, and eliciting their input into Bank policies and programs. An important channel for engaging CSOs is the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) established by the WBG Board in 2012. The GPSA aims to expand opportunities for civil society organizations to work together with their governments to solve governance problems, especially in the delivery of services, and to improve development outcomes using social accountability mechanisms including citizen feedback. Some 54 countries have opted into the GPSA, which has supported over 32 operations in 40 countries. It provides  grants to CSOs and supports them with capacity-building support, along with monitoring and evaluation, knowledge sharing and learning. The GPSA’s Global Knowledge Platform is a repository of diverse knowledge resources for social accountability practice, and a source of knowledge sharing and joint learning as well as practitioner networking. Building on its experience of the past eight years, the GPSA is leveraging the lessons learned to support coalitions of CSOs to provide tailored responses during the pandemic. These lessons point to the need to invest in at least three aspects to enable effective and coordinated immediate and medium-term.

Source: World Bank



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