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Title: The Route Less Traveled: Citizen Monitoring and Bottom-Up Accountability in the Philippines
Authors: Sun, Kathy
Advisors: Widner, Jennifer
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: Recent development strategy has focused on the promise of short-route accountability and social accountability—both of which seek to improve government responsiveness through citizen empowerment. The hope is that such initiatives will promote good governance, improve service delivery, and advance the lives of the global poor. However, there is little consensus in the literature about whether these approaches are viable. This thesis contributes to this dialogue by exploring the contextual factors that influence adoption and performance of citizen monitoring, a form of short-route accountability. I narrow my study to the Philippines, where a combination of ongoing corruption and a vibrant civil society has led to the proliferation of citizen monitoring projects in recent years. Existing research on citizen monitoring has primarily focused on assessing whether such interventions work, and the results have been unsatisfyingly mixed. This thesis, however, contends that the course of citizen monitoring depends on a number of contextual factors. Thus, it reorients the study of citizen monitoring to the question of when and why it works, rather than whether it works. Drawing from literature on citizen participation, collective action, and statesociety relations, this thesis formulates three explanations for the variation in citizen monitoring performance. I hypothesize that higher levels of resources, social capital, and government support will all positively influence the course of citizen monitoring. To examine the role of this study’s community-level variables (resources and social capital), this thesis uses a dataset from the monitoring initiative Check My School, which shows variation in program performance across different communities. I compare these data with community-level data on resources and social capital, in order to see if my expected correlations hold. I find that resources and social capital have a mild influence on citizen monitoring adoption, but to a lesser extent than envisioned. I also find that resources have no impact on citizen monitoring sustainability and performance, suggesting that high-poverty areas can overcome the barriers to collective action. By contrast, social capital does appear to influence project sustainability and performance. Conversations with Check My School coordinators confirm the importance of civic networks, but also raise the question of whether all networks matter equally. Ultimately, I propose that relevant and capable civic groups might prove of greatest value for citizen monitoring initiatives. This thesis then turns to examine the role of government through a comparative case study of three citizen monitoring projects: PDAF Watch, Check My School, and Textbook Count. Though similar in many respects, these three nationwide initiatives differ in their level of government support. The implications of this disparity are staggering, and offer consistent evidence for my government support hypothesis. In the case of PDAF Watch, a lapse of government support put an end to the monitoring activities. In contrast, the government’s heavy-handed approach to Textbook Count facilitated the project’s sustainability and impact. The case of Check My School lies in between, and illustrates the challenges and successes of collaborating with government. I conclude that capable, relevant civic groups are central to citizen monitoring’s viability, but that this is only part of the story. Citizen monitoring initiatives cannot succeed alone; rather, they rely on a public policy environment that is conducive to their operations. The gains of past monitoring programs are commendable, but their continued growth depends on building good governance from the supply side as well.
Extent: 129 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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