Call Your Corporator: Bridging the gap between citizens and the government

@ArchanaKR . noticed a widespread lack of communication between citizens and their local governments. “People didn’t know about wards or ward committee meetings. Many of my own peers didn’t know how to report a civic issue in their neighbourhood,” she said. In the wake of the rising need to address the problem, an idea took root in the mind of a young dreamer, a Solve Ninja. She questioned the role of citizens in governance: “Is our vote the only say we have when it comes to our neighbourhood? How do we communicate our problems with our government after we elect them? How do we hold our government accountable to help improve the city’s neighbourhoods?” The answers were obvious. Active citizens demand active governments. She wanted to bridge this gap between the Samaaja (Community) and Sarkara (Government), and she fashioned her Call Your Corporator campaign to do just that.

How to organise a ‘Call Your Corporator’ (CYC) campaign to bridge the communication gap between govt. and citizens? Here is a step-wise guide:

Step 1: Assemble a team of like minded people who are passionate about reporting unattended civic issues in their livelihoods. Listed are a few means to do this:

  • Reach out to close friends from school/college/work, directly or via messaging apps like WhatsApp. Request them to further reach out to their contacts, to encourage people to participate in your campaign.
  • Explain your campaign and call for action via social media channels like X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram (you can post a story or a carousel post)

Step 2: Once gathered, begin the CYC Campaign by first taking note of the following details:

  • Ask campaigners to take a stroll in their neighbourhoods and record prominent recurring civic issues in their localities. Eg. Open dumping, potholes, broken sidewalks, etc. Issues they’d like to report.
  • Your resident Ward Number (Check here)
  • Your Ward office phone number (Check here)
  • Name and number of assigned corporator for respective areas (Check here)
  • Number to be called to report civic issues (Go here and click on grievance)

Step 3: Prepare a script for participants of your campaign to use. A brief description of what questions to ask. (Urban script & Panchayat script )

  • When will the next ward meeting be held?
  • Where is the ward meeting happening?
  • Can citizens attend the meetings?
  • Who all can be part of the ward meetings?
  • What is the role you can play in these meetings?
  • How to report a civic issue?
  • How often do ward meetings take place?

Step 4: To record all responses received and collate them in one place, create an interface on Google sheets or Excel for participant data and the responses they’ve received. (Link to CYC G-Sheets)

Step 5: Now that your campaign has begun picking up speed, you can offer a toolkit with instructions outlining things like:

  • Manner of conduct while speaking to the authorities
  • What to do with information received from them
  • The procedure to follow-up after issues have been reported
  • How to highlight unaddressed issues
  • How to ask for support to resolve issues that remain unaddressed

Step 6: Reach out to as many people as possible to spread word of the campaign and encourage people to participate. Few ways to do this:

  • Broadcast message blasts on WhatsApp
  • Email reminders
  • Social media marketing
  • Word-of-mouth through colleagues, friends, family, etc
  • Engage school and college students using WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter
  • Create digital posters with QR codes to onboard campaign participants

Step 7: Keep track of issues reported and the ones that remain unresolved. To do this you will have to keep a fortnightly check on the issues you have reported. You can draw a map of your neighbourhood and mark the areas where you have identified issues. As and when you observe that they have been resolved you mark them accordingly on your map.

Step 8: Take note of time taken for each resolution. This data can be used to present any discrepancies that may emerge in the constitutional process of conducting ward meetings which in turn is a dialogue between government and citizens.

Step 9: One can diversify the campaign methods and reach out to authorities via tweet storms and social media campaigns as well. Instructions for these are:

  • Create a guide for supporters to follow when they post their complaint on social media (you can use visual aid like Canva, Illustrator, etc to make your guide engaging) Example:
    • Take a picture of the civic issue along with your complaint and create a post
    • Mention the authorities that can be tagged example the municipal corporation, CM office, etc) and a certain common hashtag that can be added to all the posts that are related to your campaign
    • Fix a time period in the day during which your campaigners can storm Social Media. (Example: 2 pm to 4:30 pm)
    • Make sure people are instructed to like, retweet and quote tweet the posts carrying the common hashtag

Step 10: For optimum adoption, collaborate with core citizen groups and resident welfare associations to conduct the campaign once every month (In Bengaluru, we have Citizen Matters, Jhatkaa, Reap Benefit, Bangalore Apartments Federation, etc). You can contact them via social media or contact information given on their websites. This will ensure a constant dialogue between citizens and their local governments which in turn, will reflect in active civic participation in local governance.