This publication – manual, I should call it – is a 172-page comprehensive “how-to” guide for assessing as well as developing digital citizen engagement (DCE) programs. The title is somewhat misleading as the guide is written in such a way that it could be used for many more applications – not just DCE. The guide was developed principally for “development professionals who already have some knowledge of the concepts of citizen engagement (CE) and evaluation and who are interested in understanding more about the contribution that a digital approach can bring to citizen engagement and how that contribution can best be evaluated.”
At its core, the guide provides a methodology for evaluating the extent to which digital tools have contributed to citizen engagement and understanding the impact that the introduction of technology has had on CE processes.
Not only does it provide tools for evaluating the impact of DCE programs, it also provides a step-by-step description of how to design, implement and assess the effectiveness of a DCE program. Chapter 4, which comprises 40% of the document, presents a detailed methodology for scoping, designing, planning & implementing, analyzing, and testing and reporting of the findings. For examples, the guide draws from actual studies done in Brazil, Cameroon, Uganda and Kenya.
When evaluating a DCE program, there is a set of interconnected issues and factors that need to be considered, such as program goals, power dynamics and control, who participates, intended and achieved results and choices of technology to use. All of these issues and factors need to be considered and evaluated to ensure the DCE program addresses the right things and achieves the intended results. The guide introduces a very useful construct called a “lens” for evaluating these interrelated components of a DCE program. A lens is a way of looking at the DCE from a specific perspective. Think of it as a criteria. There guide defines five lenses:
OBJECTIVE, CONTROL, PARTICIPATION, TECHNOLOGY and EFFECTS. Table 1 describes what each lens looks at and the action it entails. This multifaceted view afforded by “applying” the lenses will help ensure that important and subtle issues are not overlooked.
Another aspect of the guide that I really liked was that it is replete with resources: tips, examples, readings, DCE projects, software tools. If you’re considering implementing or evaluating a DCE program, this free publication is for you.