We learned that providing a platform for citizens to freely express and discuss issues that mattered to them, sensitive topics such as Female Gential Mutilation and Peacebuilding came to the surface strongly and uncensored by traditions or state controls. For citizens who could not voice their opinions publicly, Raik Shino proved a much needed safe space for dialogue and sharing opinions to develop a unified vision and solutions for these community challenges in fun, engaging and safe ways. Raik Shino was successful in mobilising public opinion on sensitive and general topics; however, it proved to be difficult to action the collected evidence and data for use in the process of policymaking within Sudan’s previous government due to the rigidity of the structure, a lack of political will and the restrictive views of the government at the time. The Raik Shino platform, although successful, concluded in 2018 - but we continue to channel the lessons learnt to new experiments.
After the Revolution: Nurturing a new relationship between citizens and policymakers
Sudan has recently gone through a national revolution, which resulted in the previous president Omer Al-Bashir being removed from power on the 11th April 2019, marking the end of one historical period for Sudan and the beginning of another. In September 2019 a new civilian led government was announced, but citizen trust in government remains an issue due to previous biases that are embedded in the community. Building citizen confidence in the UN also remains of relevance, considering the UN’s mandate to work and partner with governments. To solve these issues evidence based policies and citizen engagement are crucial.
At UNDP Sudan, this year we initiated the Public Perception Survey in 2020 to gather insights about which development priorities citizens had during the country’s transitional period. These insights will support the new government in developing evidence based policies as well as including the citizens in shaping their own public narrative; however, we first had to get citizens to participate in the survey, which was a challenge due to initial low levels of trust. Therefore, we designed a BI experiment to encourage citizens to participate in the Public Perception survey by designing messages through billboards to nudge them by addressing citizens' biases. The initial learning from this experiment is that area specific messaging can enhance participation since evidence reveals there is bias “ultimate attribution error” towards participants' localities and provinces; however rigorous experimentation will provide more insights towards these bias
Thus the current thinking we are adopting, in a serious attempt to deliver good design by closing the gap between citizens and government, through looking into organic structures, borrow from successful approaches elsewhere and co-designing systems of citizen participation that are adaptive, elastic and purposed for democratisation especially in the transitional period in Sudan.
By doing this, we aim to explore the ontology and epistemology of democracy and experiment with solutions for the problems we encounter. Sharing the work we have done and a glimpse of what we are doing now is our way of echoing the necessity of including people in decision making. And we pin our hopes that our work demystifies the “hows” of mainstreaming positive deviance and outliers as well as defibrillating governance systems of complexity back to life. — Ali Muntasir and Wigdan Seed Ahmed
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