Newsletter | Volume 14 | May - July 2022
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
DPFs Continue to Connect with District-level Stakeholders and Beneficiaries
Throughout the quarter, twelve DPFs arranged their May, June, and July monthly coordination meetings, and in Kushtia, Natore, Panchagarh, Jamalpur, Nilphamari, and Bage`rhat, DPFs arranged online training on Social Accountability Tools for civil society leaders. Thirty civil society leaders who were not previously involved in P4D activities in each district participated in these trainings which were supported and facilitated by the Cabinet Division.
Additionally, DPFs arranged Stakeholder Meetings in each of the 12 DPF districts to engage district-level stakeholders, including Deputy Commissioners, on selected themes for better and more effective service delivery. Lastly, a ToT on Digital Literacy Training for Master Trainers was organised in 21 districts. Two participants were selected from each P4D MAP group and District Policy Forum. The training was organised to help local leaders improve their digital office skills in order to align with the new realities of working online. The focus of the training was on how to effectively use online platforms for arranging and participating in video meetings and virtual training.
5th Online Social Awareness Campaign Comes to a Close
As part of P4D’s ongoing social awareness raising campaign on the Social Accountability Tools, we ran our 5th Social Awareness Campaign over the last two quarters. The campaign started on 10 March 2022 and ran until 15 June 2022. During this campaign, we reached approximately 7 million unique accounts, which is 1.19 times higher than the previous campaign. Shares, conversions, and engagements also increased significantly. The results improved largely because of improved content performance based on metric analysis from our previous campaigns. We also began to target people in our 12 DPF districts during the 5th campaign which resulted in more condensed and specific targeting.
During this campaign, we published 52 posts in total, including infographics, photo graphics, CSO stories, PSA videos, and animation videos (104 posts including the Bangla and English versions) as well as posts on the Virtual CRC. Moreover, we published four short new animation videos with our recently updated characters that identified key features of the social accountability (SA) tools and a motivational call to action video targeting citizens on using the SA tools. Overall, the content in the campaign adapted a mixed method of awareness raising and calls to action. Our goal was to attract our audience’s attention through fresh and interesting content and generate deeper awareness of the tools among the target population.
During this campaign, we continued to run like-ads simultaneously to grow our online following. This resulted in thousands of additional followers, which has helped us improve our organic reach. With this expanded follower base, our follower ratio has tilted once again to being more male-dominant, however, both our male and female followers have increased.
As this is our penultimate social media campaign, we will apply learnings from key takeaways for our upcoming 6th and final campaign. These include:
Videos and photo graphics get a greater response compared to other content. However, the content with characters has gathered more positive feedback from the audience, and it has helped the social media campaign stand out to the target audience.
The posts with brief text and linear communications achieved better results. However, people have enquired more about how to access the social accountability tools and shared challenges they’ve faced while looking for help after becoming aware of the SA tools through direct messaging and in comments. This indicates that more elaborate and comprehensive explainer videos and infographics than our current content could satisfy their needs, increase followers’ trust in P4D, and build loyalty to our digital platforms.
Continuing to post on shared media (Facebook and YouTube) and targeting our audience (using cookies/pixels/tags) on our owned platforms (website and VCRC) can lead to better results and a deeper understanding of our audience based on RMEL evidence.
Mini DPF Success Stories: Public Hearing in Bagerhat Helps Resolve Public Interest Issues
Public Administrations in P4D’s twelve districts are arranging public hearings with the support of our District Policy Forums. As a result, citizens can access a platform from which they can speak about local issues and work collaboratively with community stakeholders to find solutions. So far, public hearings have taken place in each of the 12 project districts. These hearings are creating a meaningful place for citizens to participate in the democratic process as each dialogue allows for a direct connection between the public and local administrators. As a result, many people are becoming accustomed to a culture of public participation and social activism that focuses on utilising social accountability policies and citizen rights. Here are some stories from Bagerhat:
Citizens Access Social Safety Net through Public Hearing
Ayesha from Bagerhat, abandoned as a young girl, was adopted by Monoyara Begum who is
a struggling widow herself. Ayesha has grown to be a meritorious student who wants to be self-sufficient and independent when she grows up, however, she’s faced many challenges. In an effort to register Ayesha under the local Social Safety Net programme, the headmistress of her primary school, Ms. Asma, spoke at the public hearing event hosted by District Policy Forum (DPF) in Bagerhat on 12 December 2021. In response to her statements, the local administration immediately issued 3,000-taka in cash support for Ayesha and allotted a widow card for her adopted mother. This is one example of how P4D’s DPFs across the twelve project districts are helping citizens exchange meaningful dialogues with the local administration and civil society organisations (CSOs) that directly benefit them. Ms. Asma fulfilled her duty as an active citizen by informing the administration about the hardship of people in her community. If citizens use proper channels to express their opinions and needs to the governing bodies, the local government can take the necessary steps to improve the quality of life for people in their jurisdiction. Public hearings like this one not only provide a platform for citizens and local officials to exchange ideas, but they will help ensure social justice moving forward.
Upazilla Websites Get an Update
Local government websites are full of useful information for citizens to understand and access public services. Despite the wide-scale use of smartphones and the internet, civil society representative Mr. Shamim noticed that many Upazilla and District websites in Bagerhat were outdated. In an effort to improve public service delivery, Shamim raised the issue at a public hearing organised by local government and civil society representatives. The DC (Deputy Commissioner) of Bagerhat took the matter into consideration and instructed responsible authorities to update the websites as soon as possible. The DC also called a meeting with the District Unnayan Samanyay Committee (District Development Coordination Committee) and requested their advice to implement the next steps. Being a member of the Committee, the President of Bagerhat District Policy Forum (DPF) raised his concerns in the meeting. The committee's input and consultations with citizens and government officials helped resolve the problem quickly and effectively. Thanks to civil society representatives raising important issues such as ensuring accessible information from local government websites, protecting public interest has become a focal point at public hearings like this one. The websites are now being updated at the Upazilla and District levels.
Monitoring School Management Committees (SMCs) in Bagerhat
At the same public hearing, another DPF (District Policy Forum) member, Mrs. Afroza Ahammed, claimed that some School Management Committees (SMCs) were not fulfilling their duties to ensure better education. Moreover, the Education Office was allegedly not monitoring committee activities, causing a lack of accountability and oversight of the school management committees. Hearing the complaint, the DEO (District Education Officer) took the necessary steps to monitor the SMC meetings. Assistant Director of District Education Office, Md. Abu Hanif, visited Khasherhat Secondary School to monitor activities and reminded the SMC about their duty to fulfill their responsibilities. The DEO ensured they will continue to monitor in order to improve SMC performance across the district.
Education in Bangladesh has been improving over the past decade, and many stakeholders have proactively collaborated to educate the next generation. SMCs play a crucial role in ensuring well-rounded and comprehensive education for students, however, without proper monitoring and evaluation, they may lose direction and efficiency in managing school operations. Bagerhat DPF members are working with local government bodies to advocate for quality education in order to provide youth with the knowledge and skills they need to help develop the district.
Recognising the Media’s Role in Ensuring Social Accountability: The NIMC Media Award
Following P4D’s and the NIMC’s final journalist trainings in May, which brought the total number of NIMC journalist trainings on strategic communication to 27 (21 for district-level journalists, 2 for female journalists, and 4 for audio broadcasters), the NIMC hosted a Media Award Ceremony on 31 July 2022. At the event, 20 journalists were recognised for their contribution to promoting social accountability through their work on the National Integrity Strategy (NIS), the Right to Information Act (RTI), Citizen’s Charters (CC), the Grievance Redress System (GRS), and the Annual Performance Agreement (APA).
The event and competition were the culmination of the two-year partnership between the NIMC and Platforms for Dialogue, and this final component of the activity’s design was to encourage local journalists to apply the skills they had learned and to continue their good work in promoting accountability on news outlets. In total, the jury, composed of members from the NIMC, Cabinet Division, and a few senior journalists from Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar (Bangladesh Radio), reviewed 300 submissions. After a comprehensive evaluation, the jury identified 20 awardees including 4 journalists in the video category, 7 journalists in the print media category, and 9 journalists in the audio category.
200 senior and mid-level journalists from both print and electronic media attended the ceremony, as well as Special Guests including Mr. Md. Mokbul Hossain PAA, Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Mr. MD. Shamsul Arefin, Secretary Coordination and Reform, Cabinet Division, Ms. Ayesha Akther, Joint Secretary Cabinet Division and the Project Director of P4D, Mr. Tom Miscioscia, Country Director British Council.
Bangladesh, and Mr. Hans Lambrecht, First Secretary (Team Leader–Education, Human Development & PFM) of European Union Delegation to Bangladesh.
During the event, participants emphasised the important role journalists play to promote good governance and accountability in the country and thanked P4D for including journalists in their training programme. Ms. Ayesha Akther highlighted the key role journalists can plan to further strengthen governance mechanisms in Bangladesh. She also thanked the NIMC for their dedication and hard work. Mr. Hans Lambrecht expressed his optimism about the training outcome and shared his hope to see more journalists committed to promoting social accountability tools at all levels of the country's media outlets. Tom Miscioscia stated how important it is for journalists to promote the effective engagement and participation of citizens and civil society in government decision-making and accountability mechanisms in Bangladesh. He also thanked the NIMC for being such an important partner for the British Council in Bangladesh.
Later the event was publicised on different media outlets including newspapers, portals, and TV.
BPATC Completes Capacity Building of Civil Servants on key Social Accountability Tools
This quarter, the BPATC continued their training/workshop programme for government officials on the key SATs including the Citizen’s Charter, Right to Information, Grievance Redress System, and National Integrity Strategy. In May and June 2022, BPATC organised five district-level trainings on the key SATs (Social Accountability Tools) in Jamalpur, Bandarban, Panchagarh, Natore, and Bagerhat with a total of 250 participants including 35 females. They also organised one policy workshop on implementing the SATs with 22 senior and mid-level civil servants including 6 female civil servants on 9 June 2022. With these trainings, the BPATC concluded their agreed deliverables with P4D. BPATC provided training in three different categories - 1) training new civil servants (part of BPATC’s foundation training), 2) training on district administration, and 3) policy workshops with senior government officials. In total 1,308 civil servants participated in the various BPATC trainings and workshops.
Wrapping Up an Online Learning Exchange, In Person: Certificate Award Ceremony for Government Officials
In partnership with the Cabinet Division, P4D had planned a capacity-building programme in the Netherlands on the Citizen’s Charter for government officials and relevant staff members in the Cabinet Division. In light of the pandemic, however, the activity was adapted to be conducted online. The learning exchange aimed to help civil servants gain insight into the process of implementing the E-Citizen Charter and the Burger Service Code in the Netherlands to improve both transparency of government operations and the quality of public services for citizens here in Bangladesh.
This June, following the online learning exchange conducted between May 31 to June 14, 2021, twelve mid to senior-level officials from the Cabinet Division, Dhaka Divisional Commissioners Office, Transport and Highways Division, Local Government Division, Health Services Division, Ministry of Labour & Employment, Department of Agricultural Extension, Dhaka Electric Supply Company Ltd (DESCO), and Department of Livestock Services finally received their certificates of completion from P4D’s European Union Delegation Programme Manager of Governance, Ms. Tanja Nader and Honourable Chief Guest, Mr. Md Shamsul Arefin, Secretary, Coordination and Reform, Cabinet Division, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
The Certificate Awarding Ceremony was held on Tuesday, 14 June 2022, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dhaka. In addition to issuing certificates to the participants, trainees shared insights about their experiences as well as their future plans to incorporate their learnings from the workshop. Mr. Md Shamsul Arefin, Secretary, Coordination and Reform, Cabinet Division, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. Programme Director of P4D Ms. Ayesha Akhter, JS, Cabinet Division, Mr. Arsen Stepanyan, Team Leader, P4D, and Ms. Tanja Nader, Programme Manager- Governance of the European Union, participated in the event as special guests along with the awardees and other P4D project staff.
National Thematic Forum: Advancing Policy Dialogue to the National Level
In May, P4D started the formation of National Thematic Forums (NTFs) on three core themes: Quality Education, Child Marriage, and Community Clinics. During this process, NTF members were selected totaling 874 participants, of which 33% are female. The NTFs have two groups each: a Core Group which constitutes the executive group and a General Group which is made up of other participants from our 12 DPF districts. The total number of Core Group members is 144 and General Group members total 730.
P4D arranged three online introductory meetings, one for each thematic group, to build a common understanding of the NTF’s goal and the roles and responsibilities of the Core Group members between 29-31 May. This also gave Core Group members a chance to familiarise themselves with each other.
Following these introductory steps, a face-to-face planning workshop was held on 18 June in Dhaka, and follow-up Core Group meetings were held online between 26-28 July. During these planning sessions, NTF Core Groups shared and finalised the NTF Work Plan through December 2022, presented the Coordination Mechanism for each NTF, and conducted team building exercises. In the coming quarter, follow-up NTF Core Group meetings will be held in Dhaka to prepare key components of the National Policy Dialogue before they are planned to take place in December 2022.
Creating Momentum Across Project Areas
As P4D ramps up activities to complete our project mandate, different areas of the project are finding ways to build momentum and create synergies between result areas. To achieve this cross-component collaboration, P4D works in close partnership with the Cabinet Division, Civil Society Organisations, and National Institutions. Our goal is to bring these groups together to engage citizens and civil society in decision-making and accountability mechanisms.
During year 5 alone, P4D engaged more than 18,000 individuals in civil society capacity building, mobilisation, sensitisation, and advocacy work in our project districts. These participants include community members who benefited from social action projects (SAP), members of MAPs and district policy forums (DPF), local and district-level government officials, media, educators, youth from project communities, and other stakeholders.
More than 1,600 government officials benefited from the project's Year 5 capacity-building interventions. Beneficiaries included district and national-level officials, SAT focal points, and information officers. Activities delivered with support from four civil service training institutions and the Cabinet Division covered stakeholder engagement, social accountability tools, and strategic communications. The project closely coordinated the selection of participants with the CD to ensure the participation of officials whose role was critical for the activities' success.
Recently, with the planning of National Thematic Forums (NTF), P4D is engaging government officials, local leaders, and civil society actors to better coordinate and manage big policy issues with input from NTF members. These members, who come from partner CSOs, MAPs, and DPFs, bring local-level knowledge and experience to national policymaking. This will not only ensure that first-hand knowledge is considered in these policy discussions, but it is also creating a bridge between our earlier local-level interventions and the national dialogue on these issues.
There are many more examples of how our activities have begun to overlap, building momentum and creating alignment toward our project’s focus. More importantly, however, is that these synergies are providing tangible opportunities for citizens, government, and civil society to engage with each other in meaningful dialogues to find solutions for some of the country’s most important issues.
Project Exit Strategy Working Group Begins Brainstorming How to Incorporate Sustainability in P4D Activities after Project Closes
As P4D beings to wind up activities for the final stretch of the project implementation period, we formed an Exit Strategy Working Group (ESWG) in May to ensure we reach key program targets and create an avenue for project sustainability. The group is focused on creating a strategic design to outline how project activities will be phased out, and when appropriate, handed over to an in-country partner who will maintain P4D’s project activities once we close our doors.
Eight staff members from the project team were selected to be part of the ESWG, and together with senior managers, they collaborated to draft the plan outlining activities, action items, a responsibility matrix, resources needed, and a timeline. The ESWG held several brainstorming and planning sessions including a two-day comprehensive planning workshop in June where initial ideas were shared with the senior management team and British Council colleagues. Ms. Jessica Magson, Director of Programmes, and Mr. Toufiq Hasan, Assistant Director of Cultural Engagement, from the British Council also participated in the planning workshop.
The ESWG has finished drafting a foundational action plan and will continue, if necessary, to fine-tune the exit strategy in line with the project and stakeholder needs.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Platforms for Dialogue and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.