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Citizen Engagement: A Game Changer for Development

  • Job DurationedX
  • Job Duration5 weeks long, 2-4 hours a week
  • Job DurationFree Online Course (Audit)

Project detail


Government works best when citizens are directly engaged in policymaking and public service delivery.

This social sciences course explores citizen engagement and the role citizens can play in actively shaping public policy.

Throughout the course, you will learn about cutting edge research and theories related to citizen engagement, and examples of ways citizens and governments are working together in new ways to improve their societies.

This course was developed in partnership with many individuals and organizations. We have partnered with top experts from a wide range of fields and countries to present this course, creating a truly global faculty.

We have also partnered with 4 leading institutions – the London School of Economics, Overseas Development Institute, Participedia and CIVICUS – who have taken leading roles in the development of each week’s content.


The overview will provide a course roadmap and explain the rationale behind this course — why this topic, and why now?

Week 1: Citizen Engagement: What It Is and Why It Matters
This week examines the theoretical underpinnings of citizen engagement and how it can lead to better development results. We begin by exploring the definitions and history of citizen engagement, as well as related concepts such as transparency, accountability, responsiveness and inclusiveness. We then look at the concept of the feedback loop, and the differences between intrinsic and instrumental approaches. Next we examine the crucial role of sociopolitical context and the enabling environment, and finally introduce the concept of strategic and tactical approaches to citizen engagement.

Week 2: Engaging Citizens for Improved Policymaking
This week explores the role that citizens can play in actively shaping public policy. We start by examining how citizens participate, analyzing the differences between ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ forms of engagement and asking strategic questions such as who should participate, how should participants interact with decision makers, what information do participants need, and how will participation impact policy decisions. Next, we survey examples of crowdsourcing and open innovation that are helping governments and citizens better interact. Finally, we unpack why citizens participate, moving beyond the mere calculation of costs and benefits described in the rational choice model to an analysis of broader factors that influence participation.

Week 3: Can Engaging Citizens Bring Better Services?
In this week we examine the role of citizen engagement in public service delivery. We first unpack different conceptions of the government-citizen relationship and then explore the ways citizens can serve as active agents of, rather than passive recipients in, the delivery of public services. We then provide an in-depth look at a range of citizen engagement projects in this area by exploring the methods, tools, barriers to inclusion and factors for success of case studies, particularly in developing country contexts.

Week 4: Innovations in Citizen Engagement
Having outlined the role of citizen engagement during policymaking and service delivery, the final week investigates recent innovations in citizen engagement. We begin by examining how recent advances in information and communications technology (ICT) can be used to enhance citizen engagement from a human development perspective, and review some of the most compelling new developments in this area. Next, we explore the reasons why some of these innovative approaches succeed while others fail, and look at how hybrid approaches — those that combine ICT tools with traditional methodologies — are being used in an attempt to maximize development results.

Week 5: Citizen Engagement in Practice
The last module of this course analyzes citizen engagement in practice. We hear from local practitioners implementing different citizen engagement approaches in various sectors including water, health, and education in Ghana and Kenya. They discuss how citizen engagement mechanisms and tools are adapted for their specific country context and sector, examining practical challenges and lessons learned. We also look at Korea’s innovative approach to involving citizens in the audit of public services.

We conclude the course with a review video, as well as ‘call to action’ videos from high-profile leaders in government, civil society and academia and to provide you with tangible next steps to put your knowledge into practice.

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