Doing open government work for an invisible citizen is a common feeling amongst open government influencers. This is especially true in young democracies, transitional societies, and contexts with low citizen engagement. It forces an open government influencer to ask: are citizens engaging? Why or why not?

When working in an environment where it is acceptable to not feel responsible for societal outcomes, open government influencers need to have a general overview of the different methods for raising citizen awareness and engaging citizens. It is important to become familiar with the contextual, political and historical nuances of the communities, along with the relevant regulatory frameworks, provisions and government structures in place.

In this way, open government influencers can be critical thinkers who can build evidence and use data to support proposals. They can facilitate citizen-centered discussions and be positive and passionate about the role of the citizens in the broader development agenda.

Common Scenarios

In an environment where civic duty is lacking, there are two main sets of factors to consider: motivations and attitudes of citizens, and spaces, tools, and legal frameworks that affect citizen behaviors. Specifically, common scenarios illustrating a lack of civic duty are:

Scenario 1: Citizens are not motivated to act because they..
  • Expect others to bear the responsibility
  • Believe that “nobody will listen”
  • Do not trust government and its institutions
  • Are not aware of their rights and power
  • Do not understand political engagement, and do not have access to learning more about it
Scenario 2: Citizens do not act because there isn’t space, tools or laws that encourage it due to...
  • Attitudes that “it is too technical for citizens” and therefore no offer is extended for participation
  • Ineffective development and use of communication channels for engaging citizens
  • Few opportunities to provide feedback on engagement mechanisms and initiatives