Sustainable reform through collaborative approach
It is common for civil society organisations (CSOs) and groups campaigning for reforms to identify challenges with government systems and governance processes then suggest possible solutions. This can only bear fruit with governments that are willing to listen, and collaborate. Increasingly, such campaigns rarely achieve set goals as at when needed, consuming more time and resources in instances where any result is achieved.
So, do collaboration work? Can organisations and people advocating for change work collaboratively with government to achieve desired changes or reforms in line with the wishes of the larger population? It is difficult when reform campaigners and civil society organisations begin trying to work with government, even though not an impossible undertaking.
The difficulty is in part driven by the fear that the organisations’ credibility will be questioned by the very public they serve. There is also a problem if a lack of the capacity required to collaboratively work with government exists, as well as the moot point that governments change, more so with officials in selective posts who are changed at the whims of their principal.
Collaboration works best when governments’ institutions are led by reform-conscious officials who will be more receptive when solutions are not merely mooted, but implementation frameworks and partnerships are simultaneously offered. It is that tangible leap from saying “this is the problem” to adding, “these are the exact steps we could take together to eradicate it” that puts the action in collaboration.
Reforming government through collaboration comes with organisational risks and is not – and should never be – an opportunity for financial gain from government.It is pertinent to seek donors; avoid the exchange of money, especially between governments and your organisation. Early planning during programme design with donors and funding partners is essential. CSOs must carefully design programmes in such a way that it will meet Donor conditions.
This approach, of collaboration and working for the people with the right government champion can lead to positive and lasting reforms that outlive government officials. Once initial success is achieved, it wins over individuals initially opposed to the reforms and opens the gate for more to be done. Stanley Achonu is the Operations Lead at BudgIT and coordinates Open Alliance Nigeria – a group of CSOs working on Open Government Partnership. He writes from Lagos.