ICLD Survey Amplifies Voices of 2368 Citizens

In a move towards inclusive local democracy, ICLD has rolled out a participatory survey that helps to empower citizens to shape their local democracy. This initiative, implemented so far in seven local governments across three countries as part of ICLD’s Municipal Partnership programme, has surveyed 2368 individuals, shedding light on critical challenges for democratic development. 

An essential democratic challenge is the fact that most people have never had the opportunity to communicate their needs and experiences of service delivery directly to local policymakers. The disconnect arises from a lack of information provided by local governments on how citizens can make their voices heard and the absence of effective channels to engage groups beyond those with connections or high motivation. 

David, a farmer from Machakos County in Kenya, echoes the struggles faced by many in his community. 

– Sometimes you don’t know where meetings are held or where you can contribute, as local governments usually go through the chiefs. They could use more social media, radio, and communicate in different local languages to reach directly to more people, says David. 

This sentiment is widespread, as only about 1 in 5 people in Machakos have had the opportunity to voice their opinions on local issues and services, mainly through traditional public meetings in their villages. Loice Munyazi, part of an ICLD project group in Uasin Gishu County in Kenya, emphasizes the need for clearer avenues for citizens to express their opinions:  

– Every person has an opinion, but the ways in which they can give their opinions are not clear to them; there are no available avenues that they know of. 

Citizen interviewed by municipality in Kenya. Photo: ICLD

Recognizing the need for better channels of participation and increased outreach to marginalized groups, ICLD has developed a survey focusing on citizens’ personal experiences and satisfaction with services, aligning with the Citizen Report Cards methodology. This methodology aims to generate feedback from service users and initiating reforms of public services. The ICLD CRC-survey can thereby amplify citizens’ own experiences of service delivery and local democracy into input that can shape actions from local governments within the frame of an ICLD-financed municipal partnership project.

Joel Wernersson, Quality Assurance Manager at ICLD, explains:  

– Through this survey, we want to provide a new way to raise citizens’ voices and channel them into recommendations and dilemmas for discussion among policymakers that are part of ICLD programmes. By learning from a representative sample of local communities, we can find gaps in service delivery and identify key areas for democratic development to strengthen equity, participation, transparency, and accountability.  

Results so far from the survey reveals a concerning “participation gap” where women and youth have fewer opportunities than men and adults. In Rufunsa district in Zambia, only 8.4% of youth below 35 reported have had the opportunity to provide input on local issues, compared to 22.1% of those above 35. Additionally, there were clear disparities between young women and men, with an overall sentiment that women don’t have the same opportunities to participate in local politics. This data helps pinpoint where further action is needed from the local government. In addition, the process itself has participatory benefits. Loice Munyazi emphasizes the importance of involving citizens, stating: 

People appreciate our willingness to listen in and are eager to provide their thoughts. The information from the survey is useful for us. But the most important fact is that we have involved them, because it also means that we have a responsibility to give them feedback. 

During 2023, the survey has been implemented across three countries in seven local governments. The responses, collected from a representative sample of citizens, provides input to policymakers to take action and make improvements. As the survey expands to more countries further informing the work of policymakers in ICLD-financed projects and benefiting local communities. This initiative not only breaks the silence but also ensures that citizens’ voices are not only heard but acted upon, fostering a more inclusive and responsive local democracy. 

Project Area
Inclusive leadership and governanceTechnical Services and Infrastructure