Some of the most interesting outcomes from a project may be the least expected. This is the story of how Mwananchi Ghana formed the Media for Good Governance initiative, a network of 75 civil society practitioners and journalists focused on promoting good governance and accountability. Our Ghana coordinator, Glowen Kyei-Mensah, explains.
When 29 media professionals from six regions of Ghana met in January 2012 to form the Media for Good Governance group (MeGG), the Mwananchi Ghana team realised an unexpected outcome of their project. Nowhere in their project objectives could you find ‘the formation of a media network to ensure opportunities for the voice of the marginalised to be heard,’ but that was exactly what this group wanted to do.
The formation of MeGG demonstrates action from the demand side of governance: different stakeholders who are interested in accountability working together to ensure the sustainability of their work. So what made these media and civil society groups come together and what has made the MeGG a long-term dialogue rather than a one-off success?
The goal of Mwananchi Ghana is to support citizens to effectively express their views and interests, and to hold governments to account for their actions at different levels in the governmental system. The project does this by enhancing the ability of three major interlocutors, civil society, media, and elected representatives, to better access, understand and apply information and communication to shape government policies and practices that engage the interests and voices of citizens.
The MeGG emerged from the work of PDA as the National Coordinating Organisation (NCO) for Mwananchi and the 11 grantees. Starting in January 2011 grantee organisations began to form informal partnerships with individual media professionals, who agreed as part of the network not to ask the CSOs to pay the high fees to secure media involvement which are standard practice in Ghana. Each Mwananchi grantee identified several media persons that believed in their organisation’s cause and began working with them to ensure issues of the marginalised were brought to the attention of the general public and duty bearers via local media platforms.
In May 2011, Mwananchi Ghana invited 22 media professionals, individuals that had partnered grantees in their work, to interact with other media professionals from across the country. This was the first step towards the formation of MeGG. The spirit and connection between participants was great and the media persons discussed opportunities to work not only with their local partners but other Mwananchi grantees as well.
Following this success, the NCO began organizing quarterly activities involving grantees and media partners to discuss how they could collaborate and work effectively to enhance public awareness of governance issues. This strengthened the grantees’ skills at engaging with the media and improved their ability to use the media more strategically to showcase their work. Several capacity building programmes were organized at the national level, for media partners to improve their understanding of governance issues in Ghana, including a training to help media and traditional authorities understand and engage with each other more effectively. The individual grantee organisations solidified their relationships with the media and helped to build the media capacity on relevant issues.
Grantees have seen direct and immediate results from the approach taken with the media:
- SocioServe-Ghana trained journalists in developmental journalism;
- Friends of the Nation (FoN), an organisation working with fishing communities in Ghana, built the capacity of local media partners in fisheries laws and regulations;
- FoN has a regular slot on two FM stations (Ankobra Radio in Axim and Goodnews FM in Takoradi) as part of their ‘Our Coast’ programme and appears often on other radio programmes as an expert in fishing and governance;
- Basic Needs have developed a media plan to use the media more effectively to showcase their work;
- Socioserve-Ghana successfully implemented a STAR-Ghana funded election project in collaboration with a local media house, who they connected with through their Mwananchi Ghana work.
Three years into the Mwananchi Ghana project, the MeGG has 75 members in 6 regions of the country. Members are organized under 5 chapters with each led by a Chapter Convener, with a national executive consisting of 8 members to conduct the affairs of the network – see www.megg.com.gh for details.
Although the MeGG was not a planned output of the Mwananchi Ghana project, it is an example of the beneficial outcomes which joining up different interlocutors can have for the sustainability of citizen engagement on accountability issues. The MeGG has been successful so far because it brought together civil society demand for a forum for dialogue with media demand for strong stories touching on real issues affecting Ghana. It is a good example of the importance of building strong individual relationships to increase collaboration, and a good example of how interlocutors can work together to raise the stakes on accountability for ordinary citizens.