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Inspiring Innovation through New Technology and Citizen Engagement

Mark Robinson |

Making All Voices Count (MAVC) was launched at a big event hosted by USAID in Washington DC on 5th December attended by representatives from governments, NGOs, the private sector and technologists.

This $45 million Grand Challenge for Development is based on a unique partnership between USAID, DFID, Sida and the Omidyar Network. It is designed to support innovative solutions and harness new technologies to strengthen a global movement for open government, accountability and transparency. The goal is to amplify the voices of citizens and enable governments in new and emerging democracies to listen and respond. The key focal areas are supporting innovation, building evidence on what works, and scaling-up successful approaches. MAVC also aims to catalyse global attention and action around these issues. It is inspired by the Open Government Partnership in creating a mechanism to support citizen feedback and promote government responsiveness.

The launch event provided high level government endorsement of the MAVC objectives. High profile speakers included Raj Shah, Administrator USAID, Samantha Power, Senior Assistant to President Obama, and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. British Ambassador to the US Sir Peter Westmacott also addressed the meeting with a special video message from Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening. Key themes were the huge opportunities created by new technology to enable citizens to demand better government at scale and for emerging democracies to demonstrate that by being responsive they can help build trust and strengthen legitimacy.

The Grand Challenge for Development will begin accepting proposals in Spring 2013 for applications to promote innovation in open and responsive government using new technologies. The fund will be concentrated in a small number of emerging democracies in Africa and Asia.

The focus in MAVC on supporting citizen efforts to build government accountability and responsiveness is not completely new. It complements a range of existing initiatives to promote citizen feedback on government performance centred on budget analysis and natural resources governance. Placing web and mobile technology at the heart of innovations will strengthen transparency, speed up transactions between governments and citizens, and enable successful initiatives to be taken to scale. But technological solutions are not sufficient in their own right – they need to be anchored in movements of citizens to demand more open government and making data and information accessible to enable this to happen.

Not all initiatives designed to apply technology in the service of more open government will be successful. Innovations in this field need to be grounded in the willingness to take risks and learn from failure. Evidence on the effectiveness of transparency and accountability innovations in support of open government remains limited. This is why MAVC aims to build better evidence on what works and to share the results of these innovations to inform better practice and inspire creative solutions.

Watch the video clips on http://makingallvoicescount.org and Twitter feeds on #allvoicescount and #mavc to be inspired.

Image credit:  Making All Voices Count Launch4958 from USAID_IMAGES via Flickr