- Recent events in our world are making us painfully aware that the institutions on which our societies are built are under threat. On-going efforts in a number of countries around the world, including attempts at muzzling the press, gimmicks by a president to delegitimize the outcome of an electoral process, the hijacking of parliaments in some countries, the use of deadly force against peaceful demonstrators and efforts at voter suppression all point to the dangers that society and institutions are increasingly facing in our modern world.
- Furthermore, the rising incidences of insecurity, poverty, hunger, injustice, systemic racism and gender-based violence, just to mention a few, are not fortuitous, but are rather signals that the institutions that are or were meant to guard against such are no longer functioning at their optimal levels. Ditto for failures in public procurement, declining standards in the regularity and quality of urban basic services and in collapsing municipal functions.
- The institutions that are meant to ensure that these services are provided or which were designed to protect our freedoms are now either becoming increasingly moribund or experiencing severe existential threats or are being exposed to severe bashing and or subversion, some subtle and some, frontal, brutal and unrelenting.
- The phenomenon of institutional bashing appears to be spreading all over the world from Asia, North America, South America, Europe to Africa, and if current happenings in God’s own country are anything to go by, would be seem to be gathering momentum and exercising a strong fascination for an increasing group of persons, converts and democracy iconoclasts.
- The aberrations mentioned above produce effects that lead to democratic backsliding, a backsliding that could then set off a vicious cycle of institutional weakening with deleterious impacts on a broad range of other institutions and this with major multiplier effects and compounded negative externalities and a number of social malaises.
- If these malaises can be blamed on weakening of institutions, what then are institutions? These non-random musings are prompted by a genuine desire to explore the concept of institutions, to unearth its meaning and the key assumptions that populate its vast and ever-expanding literature.
- These ramblings are structured thus – they start with an examination of the meaning of institutions and then move on to a consideration of the functions of institutions in society. From here, focus then shifts to threats to institutions and the ramblings end on what responsible citizens can do to check the attack on institutions.
- One needs to acknowledge from the outset that the literature in the area poses major challenges and which unless navigated with caution could represent conceptual landmines that stand in the way of shared understanding. Taking a leaf from North, all scholars in the field talk of rules of the game but most of the literature is quite fuzzy when it comes to giving concrete examples. For some, family is an institution, for some others, marriage. For some, Governance is an institution, for some others the constitution and the system of election are. People like me in search of clarity could thus be wrong-footed in this maze of definitional unclarity and inadequacies.
- Perhaps scholars need to come together to speedily address and resolve this unclarity. In such an effort, the definitions of sociologists, economists and administrators must be assisted to find common grounds both in content and in examples that they provide.
- For now, one can work with the following definition – Institutions are the formal and informal rules and norms that organize social, political and economic relations (North, 1990). Institutions are ‘the underlying rules of the game’. They are not the same as organizations.
- Organizations are ‘groups of individuals bound by a common purpose’. Organizations are shaped by institutions and, in turn, influence how institutions change. Some social scientists view organizations as the material expressions of institutions. Some see social groups such as government bodies, tribes and families as institutions. Some identify ‘primary’ or ‘meta’ institutions to be the family, government, economy, education and religion. North, 1990: 3, 5; Harper et al., 2012: 15.
- Key features of institutions are the following – They are brought to life by people and organizations (North, 1990; Leftwich & Sen, 2010).
They provide a relatively predictable structure for everyday social, economic and political life. Institutions shape people’s incentives (or calculations of returns from their actions) and behavior. They establish a predictable, though not necessarily efficient or uncontested structure for human interaction (North, 1990: 6).
Some argue institutions shape but do not necessarily always determine behavior (Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 9).
They lead to enduring patterns of behavior over time but they also change. Institutions are constantly being reformed through people’s actions (Giddens, 1984). Institutional change structures the way societies evolve (North, 1990: 3). However, institutionalized behaviors can be hard to change.
They produce positive or negative development outcomes. This depends on the kinds of relations and behaviors that institutions enable, and the outcomes for the enjoyment of rights and allocation of resources in society (Leftwich & Sen, 2010).
Institutions are both formal and informal. Formal institutions include the written constitution, laws, policies, rights and regulations enforced by official authorities. Informal institutions are (the usually unwritten) social norms, customs or traditions that shape thought and behaviour (Leftwich & Sen, 2010; Berman, 2013). Development practitioners have tended to prioritise formal institutions, viewing informal ones as separate and often detrimental to development outcomes (Unsworth, 2010).
- In practice, formal and informal rules and norms can be complementary, competing or overlapping (Jütting et al., 2007: 36; Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 17). Whether they are relatively more strong/weak or inclusive/discriminatory is likely to depend on context (Unsworth, 2010). In some cases, informal institutions undermine formal ones; in others they substitute for them (Leftwich & Sen, 2010: 17; Jütting et al., 2007: 35-36). Informal social norms often shape the design and implementation of formal state institutions (Migdal, 2001; Jütting et al., 2007: 7).
- Let us note the following – Institutions should not be mistaken with buildings or physical structures. They rather refer to a set or series of rules, practices and procedures which govern the smooth functioning of societies. Institutions involve rules and norms, but some of these rules and norms are almost imperceptible and rely on a series of layered conventions and assumptions to maintain order and harmony in society. Concerning the link between development interventions and institutions, DFID argues that development interventions are more likely to succeed if they promote improvements at the wider level of institutions. (Without institutional reform, for instance, poverty alleviation programmes can fail – a basic truth that explains the glaring failures and indeed the poverty of most of poverty alleviation programmes in a number of third world economies).
- Family, marriage, government, banks, religious organizations, social clubs, parliaments, schools etc are all institutions. One can argue a certain biologism when examining institutions and their functions. Marriage as institution, for instance, functions to ensure social stability, reproduction and production. Places of religious worship function as defenders of morals, morality and social ethics.
- The age grade system in Igbo society is an example of a social institution that is society specific. The KKK is not an institution but an organization but the rules and norms of white supremacy and racial privilege on which it is built and sustained are aspects of an institution of systemic racism.
- The police and the criminal justice system are institutions designed to save society from anarchy, the rule of brute force and to ensure the protection of the weak.
- Banks, investment houses, the stock exchange are all institutions meant to sustain economic growth by ensuring greater predictability and protection in financial dealings and flows. The civil society, the industrial unions, the town associations are all institutions all designed to permit greater citizenship participation and ownership.
- In the domains of governance and politics, one comes across a vast array of institutions, each with a number of functions and some with overlapping functions, rules and norms Some scholars have isolated three sets of political institutions – these are the State, Rule of law and institutions that make for accountability.
- The state is defined as a structure that holds the monopoly of legitimate violence. In this view, the state represents a concentration of power and capacity for enforcement. The modern state is impersonal, best run on merit and talent and by an efficient bureaucracy. Rule of law represents an institution that allows for the power of the state to be held in check. According to Fukuyama, the rule of law is a constraint on the executive and embedded in a separate independent judiciary.
- The last in the tripod of political institutions are accountability mechanisms that cover issues such as procedural and moral accountability and responsibility.
- We can also say in a wider conception of institution that the judiciary is an institution, so are the legislature and the executive and these three need to be kept separate in good governance is to survive and thrive. The press is an institution, sometimes even called the fourth estate of the realm and is also vital for good governance.
- These four institutions must be kept separate to preserve societies from the menace of tyrants and dictators.
- Institutions thus have functions in society –
They operate to safeguard society.
They make for normalcy and for ensuring that all keep within agreed and often unwritten norms
They define expectations, responsibility and establish accountability based on agreed division of labor. Institutions are interlinked such that one weakness in one can lead to weakness in another and in several others. While some are society specific, some have rules and norms that are universal.
- Institutional development is a complex process which draws from and build on local realities. The dynamics of institutional change are complex. Creating institutional change is a slow difficult process and some times involves changes in cultural beliefs, norms and assumptions. Such change can often meet with resistance. For this reason, it is important from the outset to establish the development outcomes of any proposed institutional change.
- It is critical to distinguish between the organizational changes and the changes in the wider institutional framework needed to achieve these outcomes. Organizational problems are usually visible and tangible while those to do with institutions may be invisible but determine how people operate in society.
- Institutional interventions (those that deal with institutional problems) can be divided into two areas: policy reform and improved service delivery. Organizational interventions, on the other hand, can be at three levels: structure, systems and human resources
- Successful interventions (be these at organizational or institutional levels) require the active participation of all the stakeholders in diagnosing the problems to be tackled and deciding on the actions to be taken. They also require the following i) Accessing important sources of information and research material to inform both the institutional and organizational appraisal ii) Identifying the key people in implementing the intervention along with their roles and responsibilities. iii) Designing an effective strategy and programme for implementation of the planned intervention, and taking action if a programme becomes stalled and iv) Putting effective evaluation and monitoring systems in place so that there will be clear evidence that the goals of the intervention have been achieved.
- Threats to the solidity to democracy that these three institutions contribute to begin to surface when topics like benevolent dictatorships, authoritarian modernizers and well-meaning authoritarianism are allowed to creep into the public discourse.
- Tyrants are very fond of such notions and they encourage the uptake of discourse that promote and justify them to creep and seep into the public domain. Things like benevolent dictatorships and authoritarian modernization are unsustainable and their presence in public discourse should be seen as red flags.
- For one thing, models inspired by such notions eventually build the cult of the strong man, and such a strong man is usually insensitive to and non-receptive of feedback.
- Such developments are red flags, and once these begin to appear, institutions come under threat – both in terms of solidity and stability
- Essentially such institutions are concerned with making power responsible and ensure that decisions taken by the executive serve the common good
- The rule of law therefore represents norms of justice that are applicable to all without exception
- Standard orthodoxy holds that social progress depends on the solidity of institutional arrangements
- Some development theorists have argued that development is impossible in the absence of strong institutions, that institutions safeguard development and make them sustainable.
- Some others have also argued that you do not really need institutions for development to occur, that institutions involve too many transaction costs and that development, any way, brings institutions in its wake. The questions that then emerges is a chicken and egg one – which came before the other. A related and often ignored question is that of the trade-offs involved.
- Each one of these two possible views implies a view of development – both in terms of its social drivers, the role of people participation in it and the whole question of sustainability. Though views on development may vary and clash, there is a strong consensus among development practitioners on the role of good governance in promoting development.
- Such an emerging consensus is now leading scholars and practitioners to devote more and more time to understanding those institutions that combine to enable societies to have all the benefits of good governance.
- Good governance is about public service that is efficient, effective, responsive, transparent, accountable, consensus oriented and participatory. These qualities of Governance all add up to contribute to society’s social capital. Social capital forms the structure on which most other capitals – economic, financial, knowledge, intellectual, legal – are built
- Tyrants and dictators whether of the left or from the right are the greatest threats to the stability of social institutions, and thus to good governance and ultimately to the sanctity and the rights of the citizen. A system of checks, balances and rules are usually put in place to keep such institutions functional and thriving. Dictators and tyrants do their best to undermine the functioning of such institutions.
- They try to do this by undermining and weakening institutions through a number of egregious acts that threaten and eventually undermine and subvert such institutions. They do or try to do through several strategies viz
• They de-legitimize such institutions. They trivialize such institutions
• They underfund such institutions.
• They influence and corrupt the leadership of key societal institutions
- Other antics include the attack and demoralization of the judiciary and legislative institutions.
• Parliament is bought over with generous and its members are seduced to soil their hands with generous gifts.
• Anti-corruption agencies are converted to instruments for personal vengeance and attacks against opponents.
• The corruption of anti-corruption agencies is a major feature of the demise of institutions
- Other institution bashing moves include the following:
• some Institutions become co-opted as willing hatchet persons whose primary assignments and ultimate deliverable is the discrediting and eventual drowning of existing institutions.
• The police and other law enforcement agencies are perverted.
• organs of government, especially the judiciary are bought over and soon begin to deliver judgements that put their whole integrity and the credibility of their judgments in doubt.
- As these processes are unleashed on an indifferent or tolerant society, one begins to notice that the strong man who arrived as a liberator and reformer is gradually morphing into a tyrant. Most times, this strong man/woman rides in on a wave of public disenchantment with existing social stasis which he exploits to wrest extra-judiciary and legislative powers. He or she demonizes the leaders of institutions that they cannot buy over. Suddenly elections are decided by the courts and judges appointed by the strongman/woman. Soon justices, judges and magistrates court the friendship of their strong man/woman who eventually curtails their powers and tenure according to his/her whims and pleasures
- The strong man/woman unleashes a campaign of harassment and terror against such any institutional leadership that is bold enough to speak out. The strong meddles, pesters and slowly and subtly hijacks the organs and institutions of the state and converts these to attack dogs, rottweilers and agents of terror
- He perverts, through a series of accretions, the ethos and functioning of some institutions. The long-term objective is the hijack and personalization of Institutions of the state.
- New structures with hazily defined functions but limited accountability to the public are soon spawned. Constitutional provisions are ignored or spurned. A gradual attack on civil liberties with the complicity of an emasculated and perverted judiciary soon commences and pucks up speed. Civil society and the press are muzzled. Laws limiting freedom of expression and are rushed through to legitimize new and emergent forms of illegitimacy
- Soon a new norm, corrupt in intention, warped in its formulation and odious in its outcomes starts being installed. Decency is dismantled progressively and existing institutions soon begin to lose their internal autonomy. The structure and composition of some state institutions are soon changed by such usurpers. When institutions are forced and rushed through such changes, they begin to lose their credibility in the eyes of the public. They also become weaker. Weak institutions allow for further weakening and social abuse.
- Because institutions are organically linked and exist in some form of hierarchy, a weakening of one institution transmits some weakening to other institutions engaged in similar civic protection functions. For example, a weak legislative invariably leads to a weak judiciary, which in turn leads to a weakening of institution concerned with the protection of civil liberties
- One of the greatest threats to the autonomy of institutions is their personalization by such power usurpers. Features of such usurpation and perversion/hijack of functions of public institutions is their use to settle personal scores and not for the service of the people. Sadly, such selfish exploitation of the functions of public institutions is accompanied by the acquiescence of the public in the loss and suspension of personal liberties. The justification and rationalization of this loss of personal freedoms is usually done by invoking the idea that this is being done for a superior public good.
- Strong ambitious individuals are a threat to institutions of state. Insensitive individuals are the worst enemies of institution. Dictators hate institutions. Institution bashers hate institutions. Tyrants work to weaken institutions. Such persons can achieve these feats because of the lethargy and indifference of the public.
- The dismantling of institutions thrives in a situation where the public is lethargic Institution dismantling thrives in an atmosphere of stakeholder and citizen indifference. Africa has had more than its fair share of such institution dismantlers. In this regard, a reading of Michela Wrong’s “In the footsteps of Mr. Kurtz; living on the brink of disaster in Mobutu’s Congo” is most revealing and instructive. Mobutu was the institution dismantler par excellence.
- Often times, such dismantling is done in slow imperceptible stages such that by the time the public wakes up, a lot has been lost and is difficult to pull back. Such usurpers usually sell themselves to a gullible public as messiahs who have come to redeem society and restore its sanity. A cult of the person is carefully cultivated such the strong individual is easily allowed to usurp functions and roles that are not his/hers.
- Selfish individualism and an absence of social cohesion breeds anomie and criticism which then encourage institution dismantles of rashness and further knavery. Civic timorousness encourages usurper temerity. Fela said it well -“I no wan die”, “Papa dey for house”, “I wan enjoy” – are all attitudes which lead to societal indifference.
- Responsible citizens must all unite to resist the dismantling of institutions of democracy. They must overcome divisions that usurpers try to exploit. The common divisions that such usurpers appeal to are those of Creed and Breed. Such usurpers also appeal to Greed existing in society to recruit an army of followers who they use to advance their selfish and socially destructive purposes.
- Andrew Marantz in an article in the New Yorker of November 16 2020 identifies the key risks that institutional violators and power grabbers who I prefer to describe as progressive institutional rapists pose to democracy. Marantz goes on to describe how the actions of such persons can lead to the norms and rules of institutions growing weaker over years or decades without people noticing. He also points out that there often are decisive moments of contestation and confusion that such violators and authoritarian power grabbers stoke and exploit to steal power and damage institutions. Maurice Latey, in Tyranny, A Study in the Abuse of Power makes similar observations.
- When institutions are destroyed or perverted, the destroyer becomes stronger and the larger society gets weaker following the rapid loss of freedoms – society must therefore come together to challenge, resist and pushback. Your personal freedoms and liberties depend on such resistance as these institutions are the bulwarks for the defense of personal freedoms.
- Options for resisting such erosions of the protective power of institutions include strategic non-violent activism and civil resistance for security, rights and access. John Lewis’ concept of good trouble should inspire all civil rights defenders here, whether these be individuals protesting the perversion and conversion of agencies and institutions for citizen protection to instruments of citizen persecution, extortion and exploitation. Good trouble is a good way to protect those institutions that were meant to protect us from abuse. Silence is not an option.
- Acquiescing in the dismantling of such protective institutions therefore amounts to selling your liberty and freedom. Rights and freedoms must be defended.
Noel Ihebuzor 18/11/2020
Useful sources on institutions
DFID Guidelines on Promoting Institutional and Organisational Development (2003a) provide an overview of institutions and institutional change.
Leftwich and Sen (2010) define institutions and their policy implications for donors.
Giddens (1984) explores the role of structure and institutions in society.
Harper et al. (2012) explain different understandings of institutions.
Helmke and Levitsky (2004) summarise the literature on informal institutions.
Jütting et al. (2007) summarise key issues on informal institutions and development.
North (1990) provides a seminal definition of institutions and institutional change.
Unsworth (2010) explores the interaction of formal and informal institutions. – « Inclusive institutions on the development agenda, How institutions shape development outcomes »
TLC = Tender Loving Care =
Slow soft touches
gentle all over
until one sinks slowly
into liberating relaxation
complete unwinding follows breathing changes
deep and slow
deep and shallow
rapid and brief
brief and rapid
soon muscles, body
and tone relax,
Today’s first reading on Wisdom struck a deep chord in me. It was not so much in its listing of the benefits of Wisdom or in its presentation of Wisdom as a woman as in the fact that the readings challenged one to reflect deeper on the true meaning and indicators of Wisdom.
What then is wisdom? Is it knowledge? Is it accumulated knowledge? Is it applied knowledge used for problem solving purposes? Is it intelligence, good sense, proper discernment, ability to navigate moral and social dilemmas, pragmatism, context dependent decision making, love of God born from fatalism, accommodation of neighbour driven by instrumental transactional considerations?
What then is this wisdom? Is it cognitive intelligence with a strong lacing of emotional intelligence? How would Igbo, my mother tongue help in getting me to the conceptual clarity that I seek? The Igbos have the following words that relate in some way or the other to the word WISDOM. They are Ako, Uche, Izu, Amamihe, Mmuta, Nwota, Echiche oma….. Which of these best translates wisdom? Or is wisdom nothing else but the breath of God’s spirit blowing in us and showing us the way to true and enduring values and choices?
I do not have answer but I can identify the absence of Wisdom whenever I come across it. The absence of Wisdom manifests itself by its lack of humility, by the presence of hubris caused by hamartia, by arrogance, by pride, by gross insensitivity, insolence, absence of empathy and emotional intelligence and excessive self focus. These vices were part of Donald Trump’s undoing – a reality which reminds us that victory is always in the long run with those who possess wisdom and who seek after her. Theirs shall be the fruits promised in Galatians 5: 22-23.
The geography of food shows the peculiarities and patterns of food production and consumption across the world or in particular territories. It tells a tapestry of stories of the individuals or communities where they are found and consumed. Food is a key component and marker of any culture.
Peculiar food types are found in particular places and are promoted by persons embedded in such places. The geography of food is largely determined by the type of plants and animal species prevalent in particular areas. The spread of plants and animals across the world is largely dispersed according to the climatic realities of various territories. Available food sources determine our cuisine, support our health needs and impact economic, socio-cultural and religious activities.
Plants-based foods begin their journeys to our plates as seeds. Considering that seeds are essentially whole plants or animals covered by a seed coat, it is correct to say…
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We have entered the era of Nature-based colonialism. Call it the Green Colonialism. The gloves are coming off. The climate crisis in the world is being approached as a mere unfolding change, as business opportunities and not as an emergency that requires drastic action. Nations are comfortable to spend decades on talks and pretend they have ample time to procrastinate or deflect actions. However, this is not a time for propping up fictional ideas and carbon mathematics as though the cycles of Mother Earth are ordered according to some calculus or algorithms.
The climate COP25 held in Madrid is drawing to a close as this is being penned. Not much progress has happened at the negotiations. Indeed, the technocrats who are saddled with actually negotiating the various clauses of the Paris Agreement’s rule book could not conclude work on a number of articles and pushed them over to be…
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Let us begin by saying that colonialism is not yet history in Africa, or in the world. The global trade architecture has been in place for centuries and has been engineered by transnational corporations and international financial institutions as the chief guardians of neocolonialism and institutionalised thievery. Their interests are assured through the preservation of these mechanisms.
Transnational Corporations (TNCs) grew out of deep colonial roots. They are products of imperial geopolitics whose levers they hold, manipulate and tilt to suit their profit-making propensities. They have succeeded thus far because of careful modes of manipulation, erasure and replacement of imaginations as well as histories. The strength of neocolonialism lies in the perpetuation of coloniality.
Coloniality, for those not familiar with the concept, has been described as “the living legacy of colonialism in contemporary societies in the form of social discrimination that outlived formal colonialism and became integrated in succeeding social…
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God was not in the thunder, he was not in the noise, nor in all the razmataz…..no, He was in the calm whisper of the gentle breeze! Message? Our God is around us and if we find Him not, it is because we are because we are looking for Him in the wrong places and looking for wrong signs of His presence.
He is to beheld in and with and through faith. Peter did and walked on water. When he allowed his faith to desert him, he started to sink.
May genuine faith that finds expression in simple acts and in moments of reflective silence be ours today and always.
NOEL IHEBUZOR AND BILKISU KAMADI
u WHAT IS ADVOCACY u WHY DO WE ASK?
u WHAT DO WE ASK FOR?
u TEN PRINCIPLES OF ADVOCACY/ACTION LETTER u ADVOCACY TOOLS WE CAN USE
u SAMPLE LETTER OF ADVOCACY u HOW DO WE ASK
WHAT IS ADVOCACY?
uWhat is advocacy? Key features of Advocacy
A series of political actions, conducted by interested citizens and stakeholders
to transform power relations.
Purpose is to achieve specific changes that benefit a defined population Advocacy is targeted at decision makers
and is a deliberate targeted process for influencing decision making and policy changes
WHAT IS ADVOCACY?
u What is advocacy? For example,
|a set of organised activities designed to influence|
Save the children, a children focused organization defines advocacy thus – Advocacy is
ü the i policies rand actionsi of iothers lto achieve positive
in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to:Have their voice heard
WHAT IS ADVOCACY?
uWhat is the purpose of advocacy?
u Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to:
Ø Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them. Ø Defend and safeguard their rights.
Ø Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives.
WHAT IS ADVOCACY?
u What is so distinct about advocacy? Eg, how is advocacy different from….? u Lobbying?
u Public relations? u Sensitization?
u Community mobilization? u Social marketing?
u Awareness creation? u Fund raising
Use Group work and discussion approach
WHAT IS ADVOCACY?
u What is so distinct about advocacy? Eg, how is advocacy different from….? The following questions can help us in finding what is distinct about advocacy
u What is the target audience of Public relations campaigns? of Sensitization exercises ? of Community mobilization? of Social marketing? of awareness creation? of Fund raising campaigns
u What are the goals and what activities are carried out for each of these u What power relations are involved
Again, use Group work and discussion approach
WHAT IS ADVOCACY?
uAdvocacy? ??? Three Questions uWhat do we want to change ? uWho can change it?
uHow can it be changed – what action is needed?
These three questions are central to all advocacy efforts
What change do we want? What is going wrong?
uProvide strong, unambiguous evidence
What must change?
uBe very clear about what must stop, what must change
or what alternative solution should be adopted
You can do it!
Who can make that change? Who has the power to make the change?
uBe clear that they can actually make the change
Who are our allies and opponents?
uBe clear about who we work with and who we have to convince
You can do it!
How can we make them change? How are we going to win?
uPick the most effective tactics for your target uProduce a clear and effective plan of action
How will you know if the change has happened?
uProduce a clear plan for advocacy monitoring and evaluation
You can do it!
WHY DO WE ASK?
u For social change u To get committed u To galvanize action
u To move policy change u In our case, girl child
What do we ask for?
u Girl child enrollment u More kids in school
u Complete fee abolition
u Engagement of more female teachers u Better school infrastructure
u More inclusive school architecture
ACTION LETTER and Policy briefs
are the most frequently used advocacy tools
STEPS TO WRITING AN ADVOCACY/ACTION LETTER
u Identify yourself as a constituent. Politicians are only compelled to respond to constituent mail u Use evidence that is live and relevant
u Be brief and simple. Try to keep the letter to one page or two at the most
u State and report your position. Always state your position in your opening paragraph and again in the closing paragraph u Personalize your letter. If using a form letter make changes to it and make it your own.
u Personalized letters carry much more weight
u Be polite and avoid ultimatums and rudeness. Everyone responds better to praise then criticism. Rudeness does little to create change
u Do not enclose additional material. These are rarely read.
If you have an excellent resource you wish to share, mention it in your letter and offer to send a copy if desired
STEPS TO WRITING AN ADVOCACY/ACTION LETTER
uDo not exaggerate or lie. Stick to facts and personal experiences. Fabrications could ruin your credibility uMake sure your message is timely.
uMonitoring and tracking
uWho monitors must be ( objective, impartial, accurate and informed uSend a copy of your letter to your local policy makers/CEOs/managers uAcknowledge any response
u Your name and address u Date
u Name u Title
u Salutation (Dear ______ )
u 1st Paragraph: Let the reader know what your concern is.
u 2nd Paragraph: You need to let the reader know the importance of your concerns and any impact the concern may have on the community.
u 3rd Paragraph: Thank your reader for taking the time to read your letter and make sure you re-state your concern. Provide a way for him to respond to you letter. Always add that you look forward to hearing their response on the issue. Now they know you expect an answer.
u Sincerely, u Your Name
u Your Address u Phone number u Email address
HOW DO WE ASK?
· Be brief
· Bold but politely · Be Confident
· With evidence
· With best practices example
· Use some ego massaging · Build rapport
· Arouse interest
· Appeal to enlightened self interest · Build empathy
Use emotional intelligence
Interest in increasing the effectiveness of actors and duty bearers in the public domain has continued to grow since its beginnings following the launch of the movement in new public management (Hood, 1991; Gruening, 2001). The advantages claimed for a New Public management (NPM) approach in governance include the following – greater efficiency, greater focus on performance and results as well as their objective measurement, improved use of resources, these including human, financial and material resources. Hand in hand with these developments in public sector management has been a call for greater value for money in the use of resources appropriated by governments in the provision of basic social services such as Basic Education, primary health care as well as water and environmental sanitation. Members of parliament have important roles not only in ensuring that budgets are approved and appropriated for the provision of such basic social services but also in seeing that the approved budgets are utilized in manners consistent with the best practices in public finance management (PFM). Such roles ensure that cost savings, cost efficiencies and service maximization are achieved in the use of public resources and assets.
It is such development thinking that informs the support that development partners working through relevant ministries continue to provide to the training and sensitization of law makers in Nigeria. UNICEF, for instance, has supported the design and development of a training manual for the training and sensitization of law makers from the state houses of assembly who are members of house committee on education. The purpose is to aid in their understanding of the processes primarily around the UBE act as well as other education documents/plans as a necessary step strengthening their capacity to provide required legislation and oversight for the education sector.
The training/sensitization programme has two objectives:
- to facilitate an enhanced understanding of the education sector and its recurring challenges.
- to acquaint law makers on the role they should play to protect education especially at the basic level through legislation and oversight.
Basic Education is the foundation of all education. If the foundation is weak, then the entire edifice risks instability and possible eventual collapse. It is therefore important that this substructure of education is solidly built. Secondly, basic education caters for the education for all at the base. It is thus the level of education with the greatest egalitarian relevance and appeal. It is the level of education that any one with an interest in inclusive education will first to need to tackle and get right. A society with an interest in stimulating economic growth through investment in education will also need to invest in basic education as it has been shown to have multiplier effects of all other aspects of education and uptake of basic social services. All the thinking above inform global interest in universal basic education as one lever for vital socio-economic transformation.
The UBE programme in Nigeria has its parentage in a number of human rights documents and development program thinking. Most human rights declarations make the important distinction between those who have rights holders and those whose custodial, constitutional and social functions are to ensure that those rights are met. Such persons are known as duty bearers. There is now evidence that the capacity and ability of duty bearers to effectively discharge their obligations to duty holders is a function of several factors –
- Understanding and appreciation of those rights
- Importance and significance of those rights
- Awareness of and Empathy with the plight of rights holder
- Sense of Solidarity with rights holder
- Level of Education and information of the basis of those rights
- Knowledge of what to do and who to partner with to further those rights etc
In furthering the actualization of the rights of rights holders, duty bearers carry out a number of linked functions which include
- Service provision
- Service supervision and monitoring,
- Advocacy and awareness creation,
- Alliance building and networking
- Standards setting
- Compliance monitoring
- Law making
- Mentoring, etc
Though all these functions are important, perhaps the most important is that of supervision. Supervision ensures compliance with agreed standards, proper resource utilisation, service provider conduct and presence, effective service delivery and waster minimisation. This is true whether we are dealing with duty bearer functions in the areas of water and sanitation, housing, leisure, recreation, nutrition or education. Indeed, in basic education, supervision by duty bearers leads to greater value for money and to ensuring that public resources set aside for or dedicated to basic education are optimally utilized.
Of all duty bearers, members of the house of representatives, especially those in committees charged with oversight functions for Basic education, have a critical role to play in the sustenance of BASIC EDUCATION. They can carry out these roles in several ways, some of which have been mention in passing earlier in our general consideration of the roles of duty bearers in the provision of universal basic education. With specific regard to this subsector of basic social services, members of the House committee can get involved in the following ways
Advocating with the Executive for improved budgets for basic education
Insisting on improved public finance management as it concerns basic education at all levels of the value chain
Moving bills for basic education management, administration and or improvement, be these in the areas of minimum standards, Teacher hiring and firing, Teacher Incentives, Teacher Qualifications, Conditions for PRESET and INSET
Monitoring resource utilization in basic education
Lobbying, influencing and mobilizing other policy makers, the executive, the private sector and other social influencers for necessary policy changes that would advance all aspects of basic education be it Access, Retention, Quality and Completion.
To carry out these many functions, such House committee members need to equipped through exposure to a learning package which blends elements of sensitisation and guided learning experiences to acquire certain skills, affects and capacities.
The rest of this paper describes the steps taken in the design and development of this special programme for house committee members of basic education. It describes the processes adopted as well as the considerations that informed them.The development described below was carried out by a group of educators, teacher trainers, educational planners and administrators working together as a team. The emphasis here is on team work.
Step 1 – identify the essential core and content of the learning package.
To do this, the team had to answer the question – for a house member to lobby effectively for universal Basic education, to monitor Basic education provision, to provide oversight for basic education provision, to make laws for basic education, to move bills for basic education, to become an advocate for basic education, what does he or she need to know? Questions like this represent some form of indirect needs assessment. As is now well accepted, needs assessment is a necessary first step in the design of relevant learning experiences and packages. Carried out in the form of a brain storming exercise by the design team, this exercise yielded the following three core knowledge needs/areas of vital learning
These three core learning areas were examined and debated until consensus was achieved that they constituted the necessary, sufficient-Adequate and relevant tripod on which the learning package for House committee members could be built. It is important for us to remind ourselves here that necessity, sufficiency-adequacy and relevance are the prime determinants of correct choices in curriculum design.
Step 2 Conduct a task analysis and work breakdown of each of the elements of the legs of the tripod
The team agreed that the next step would demand that each leg of the tripod be now broken into its constituent parts. For this exercise, the writing team broke into three groups, with a group working on one of the tripods. At the end of the exercise, a plenary was conducted and the following sketch outlines were agreed upon for each of the three arms of the tripod.
Policy framework for basic education – National Policy on Education (NPE) 2013, normative framework for basic education provision
- The National Policy on Education (NPE) – policy thrust and specification and prescriptions by level
- Normative frameworks influencing and guiding educational provosions- The Universal Declaration of Human rights, The UN Convention Rights of the Child, The African Union Charter on African Child, The UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Ssustainable Development Goals (SDG)
- Data speaks – the importance of data in education planning and what current data says for each state
- Key issues in Basic Education – Access, Participation, Retention, Completion, Quality and their indicators, Net versus Gross enrolment
- Contending issues in basic education – Equity, Inclusion, Inclusion, Gender, Costs of Basic Education, Benefit of Basic Education, Externalities of Basic education, Out of School Children;
- Things that make for quality education – learner, instructional, administrative, school plant, and environmental factors
- Quality indicators in basic education delivery
- Quality versus non – quality indicators in Basic Education
Nigeria and Universal Basic Education Programme (UBEP) – some history and Context and How UBEP works
- National and global antecedents of UPE and UBE
- The Regions and Education Ordinances
- UBE Legislative framework.
- Education indicators
- Education plans and levels – strategic plans versus operational plans
- Effective schools – their attributes and things to look out when monitoring basic education
- How to make schools effective
- Obstacles in the implementation of Basic Education and Strategies to overcome them.
- Example of successful implementation of basic education act from a comparable country and what this means for Nigeria
Functions of House Committee on Education with regards to Universal Basic Education
- Committee members and their roles and responsibilities to the basic education sub-sector
- Skills required to discharge these roles and to function effectively
- Revisit to core indicators that would guide the discharge of the roles and responsibilities of house committee members
Constitute each of these tripods into a learning session and develop learning outcomes for each session
At the end of this session, participants should be able to:
Members of the Education Committee have among their numerous functions the responsibility of oversight of education matters. This responsibility involves ensuring a variety of outcomes in education through monitoring, supervision, advocating, lobbying for bills and laws by consultations, communication, negotiation, consensus and relationship building.
At the end of the session, House Committee Members should be able to:
Develop the learning package in line with steps 1-3 above
Subject the output of step to peer review, critique and validation.
Validation of this training document was done through a live presentation with lawmakers from four states. Reception was positive and indeed enthusiastic. The writing team however also learnt a few lessons from active engagement and participation in the process for strategic planning and Programme implementation
Some lessons were learnt in developing the training materials. These include the following:
importance of team work
importance of context sensitive learning materials development
importance of peer review
the sobering truth that effective curriculum building as an interactive process
the fact that effective curriculum development is an iterative process
importance of stating clear and realistic learning outcomes
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