Saturday, May 31, 2014

Public Policy and Public Participation

by Antonio C. Antonio
September 24, 2013

“Public Policy and Public Participation Engaging Citizens and Community in the Development of Public Policy” (link: is a very interesting article.  It has the most comprehensive definition, classification and analysis of what Public Policy is all about.  Please allow me to highlight some salient features of the article while adding my little comments and other relevant information supportive of the article:

INCREASED AWARENESS – Public Policy planning, with the increased awareness of the actual stakeholders and civil society, has become more complex and dynamic.  Our awakening to participatory democracy was triggered by the EDSA Revolution of 1986 and the institutionalization of the principle of “people empowerment” by the Fidel V. Ramos administration.  The awareness level and desire to get involved has increased further with the “daang matuwid” tagline of the present administration… which has given rise to civil society’s wish to get more involved in crafting Public Policy on a traditional ill of governance: Graft and Corruption.  Inclusion of the citizenry and civil society in crafting Public Policies has become a “must.”

INCREASED PARTICIPATION – The article mentioned, as a natural order of things, the eventual increase in the level of participation of the citizens and stakeholders.  It also emphasizes on the social and economic inclusion of all members of society.  The EDSA Revolution, people empowerment and “daang matuwid”, as Public Policy statements, not only increased the level of awareness in Public Policy processes but also increased the want and desire of the stakeholders to participate in crafting Public Policies.

EXPANSION OF PUBLIC POLICY COVERAGE – The definition and extensive use of terms such as: (1) Collaboration; (2) Community; (3) Horizontal Issues; (4) Interest Group; (5) Policy Analysis; (6) Policy Community/Policy Network; (7) Public Consultation; (8) Public Participation; (9) Stakeholder; and, (10) Public Policy itself seem to indicate that the article recommends the encouragement of a wider field of coverage of issues and a more structured approach in the formulation of Public Policy.  Our political structure brought about by the Local Government Code, encourages participatory governance.  Local Government Units (LGU) were given more autonomy and latitude in identifying issues and concerns of their respective constituency.  This gives impetus to a “bottom – up” direction in the transmittal of Public Policy issues and concerns.

ENGAGING PROFESSIONALS – The article recommends the inclusion of program managers and consultants, planners, researchers, communication specialists, policy analysts, and advisors.  Professionalizing the ranks is a most welcomed idea… they are most knowledgeable in this particular undertaking.  I could only add another item… the academe.  Often, perspectives from the academe are pure in their adherence to theoretical principles that (sometimes) are being overlooked in the name of professional expediency (… the regard for what is advantageous rather than what is right).

RETOOLING PUBLIC SERVANTS – The article emphasizes a big picture/systems view; the need for public servants to work for the broader public interest; and understanding of the processes and techniques of both policy development and public participation; and the commitment and skills needed to collaborate with other government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGO), stakeholders and citizens.  Enlisting the support and participation of the professionals should also be a measure to retool public servants... it’s an opportunity for public servants to imbibe the work ethics of professionals.  When parallel lines are drawn between public servants (people working for government) and private sector employees, the difference will always be in the field of efficiency.  Retooling “less efficient” public servants to be at par with the private sector is, therefore, critical if they are to “gel” with the “more efficient” professionals.  This could come in the form of additional and public policy-focused training programs, seminars, symposia, fora, etc.

EDUCATING THE CITIZENRY AND STAKEHOLDERS – The article made numerous references to the participation of the citizenry and stakeholders in the development of Public Policy.  But this should be an educated participation and contribution.  Stakeholders will only find themselves “wasted” on the wayside simply because they cannot cope with the discussions and participate intelligently.  Some degree of education should also be provided to a representative segment from the stakeholders.  They, in turn, could cascade these information to the people in their respective communities.

COMMUNICATING PUBLIC POLICY – This should go hand-in-hand with educating the citizenry and stakeholders.  The inclusion of professionals, the academe, civil society and better tooled public servants will not at all be sufficient.  The ultimate beneficiaries of sound Public Policy are the citizens and stakeholders.  It will be ideal if, in all stages and phases in developing Public Policy, they are in the loop.  Transparency is very important in this undertaking even when Public Policy development is often contemptuous and laced with bickering.  This will foster better understanding between policy makers and policy beneficiaries.

Just my little thoughts…

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