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Closed governance versus open governance

Public affairs can be closed or open. When they are closed, decisions are taken by professionals and experts, under the management of professional politicians and overseen. Elected representatives might oversee them, but there is no way for the general public to get directly involved. The general public has very little information about what is happening.

When public affairs are open professionals and experts still important, but the general public is involved in every step. When services are planned, people are consulted and sometimes even allowed to make decisions. There is a lot of transparency about the final decision so people know exactly what was decided. When services are being delivered, there is transparency about what is happening- people can find out about who was hired and which companies were retained. When the performance of services is being assessed- people get accurate information and the final assessment is based in part on feedback from the public.

For the last 30 years, countries all over the world have been trying to make governance more open. For example, in India, cities have pioneered a system of “Citizens’ Score Cards” where public services are scored by the the general public and decision-makers have to take their scores into account when planning for the future. In Brazil, municipalities have introduced “participatory budgeting”, where parts of the municipal budgets are written directly by the public. In the developed world, too, countries are trying to make decision-making participatory and transparent- for example in New Zealand, which leads the world in developing ways to make civil servants accountable for their performance. While no country has been able to make public life completely open, no totalitarian regime ever truly tries to make public life open: being closed is a necessary part of control and oppression.

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Open governance in TAMKEEN

There are many definitions of good governance. But for TAMKEEN, good governance is open governance- it is transparency, accountability and participation in public decision-making and in the delivery of services. TAMKEEN has built open governance into its process in several ways. Through its Governance Basic Package of Services, TAMKEEN offers several projects for the Governance sector. These are mainly projects to build the capacity of emerging local councils in different ways, e.g. their ability to manage their financial affairs. When communities are developing projects, TAMKEEN also encourages building communities to connect and coordinate with other stakeholders, such as City Councils and Governorate Councils. This is also a way of strengthening governance.

However, for TAMKEEN the most important aspect of Good Governance is TAMKEEN is open, transparent and participatory in how its process is managed. For this reason, TAMKEEN ensures that

  • The TAMKEEN Committee consults extensively with stakeholders when developing projects and communicates final decision
  • The TAMKEEN Committee provides information to people about project progress and decision-making
  • The TAMKEEN Committee involves people in assessing the performance of projects
  • The TAMKEEN Committee has to go to people and ask them for their views of on their performance, therefore making themselves accountable to their communities

These activities are the heart of good governance in TAMKEEN.

TAMKEEN  promotes good governance through a “learning by doing” model. Rather than lecturing communities about what good governance means and why it is important, TAMKEEN uses a grant cycle in which good governance is an essential part of every single step.


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