Open Government in Education: Learning from Social Audits in India
This study looks at the first social audit of education undertaken in India, under the aegis of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). It was conducted as a pilot project across ten states of India. Social auditing is a powerful method for increasing open government, which relies on citizens as the primary agents. It is built on the principle that information increases engagement of citizens and helps to establish their priorities. Based on this, citizens can act as effective monitors of their entitlements.
The study reviews two of the ten sites where social auditing has been implemented to learn from the different stakeholders what the achievements and challenges were. It argues that for such citizen-led monitoring to take place, tools and processes of engagement, as well as platforms for citizen-government interaction, are required. These are the elements that the social audit methodology strives to provide. In addition, as many communities may not be equipped to initiate and sustain such processes, a facilitating organization or agency is necessary, at least in the initial period, before social auditing can be institutionalized. In order to close the feedback loop, follow-up with the government is also essential.
The analysis underscores the importance of citizens having direct access to information and to platforms that allow them to dialogue with the State. It demonstrates that accountability can be established through such processes and that they can lead to empowerment of marginalised social groups, such as women. However, they require investment in time and resources to get started and then to keep on going. A commitment from government agencies to pursue strategies that facilitate access to information and citizen engagement, as well as provide follow-up are, therefore, the core requisites for a successful social audit. At the same time, a non-confrontational approach that favours building bridges and working collaboratively with government actors also plays an important role in making social audits work.