Promoting youth and female participation in the delivery of public infrastructure
CoST is one of the leading initiatives promoting transparency, participation and accountability in public infrastructure worldwide. Since joining the initiative, CoST Guatemala has continually embraced and enforced the principles of data disclosure and civic engagement in project delivery. In partnership with USAID, CoST Guatemala launched a series of social audit workshops to build the capacity of young community leaders to monitor infrastructure projects. The practice was two-fold: invest in empowering and training the growing youth generation in Guatemala (with 61% of the population being under the age of 30) and strengthen project oversight and accountability.
The goal of the workshops was to ignite bottom-up community participation in infrastructure, building the capacity of the new generation to work as agents of change in their communities and monitor the levels of transparency and the quality of infrastructure projects being delivered locally. The workshops provided attendees with training on how to use data portals such as the National Public Investment System and Guatecompras, building digital and analytical skills to enable them to better assess project transparency and the accessibility of information. The training also focused on their empowerment and developing partnerships by demonstrating how attendees could best voice their concerns and those of the community and to use the skills developed in an independent manner and in collaboration with procuring entities and contractors.
As a multi-stakeholder initiative, CoST brings different stakeholders together to improve infrastructure delivery. The workshops followed the same spirit and trained the attendees to adopt a constructive approach with procuring entities and contractors. CoST Guatemala also identified and contacted female leaders, encouraging their presence and participation. The selection of the regions considered the impact of climate change and extreme weather conditions (hurricanes and droughts), the risk created to water and food security and the need of resilient infrastructure in these regions.
The workshops combined theoretical and practical activities covering access to project information and data portals, infrastructure transparency as means to ensure accountability and mechanisms of citizen participation. A practical ‘outdoor’ experience allowed the young social auditors to apply the new skills, carrying out project visits and completing a model questionnaire on key project information. The questionnaire was aimed at understanding the level of project transparency, based on the data points of the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard that applies to all procuring entities in Guatemala, and issues of performance identified during project implementation such as poor design and a lack of competitive bidding. Attendees were trained to prepare a final report on the findings of their social audits, this used a similar methodology to the CoST assurance which interprets issues in the project data. Attendees were encouraged to use the reports as a means to begin constructive dialogue between the communities and project stakeholders, and also to stimulate discussions within the communities. To further strengthen the practice, attendees met with the independent evaluators who conduct the CoST assurance process where they discussed how to mitigate challenges in project monitoring and how to constructively engage with authorities. The activities contributed to CoST’s monitoring, evaluation and learning framework, particularly in relation to inclusive infrastructure through the collection of gender-related data. USAID funding to the practice was USD 9,645.39. CoST Guatemala provided in-kind contribution to deliver the training and funding of USD 4,675.32 to the workshop logistics. Since 2020 workshops were held online only CoST in-kind contribution was required.
In 2019, 209 young citizens attended the workshops, 72% of which were women. In 2020, 180 students attended with a 47.77% female presence. The global pandemic brought unanticipated spill-overs. An immediate impact was the need to turn to remote means which posed challenges in involving young community leaders due to digital difficulties. On the other hand, vulnerabilities in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) exposed by the pandemic led to a partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) to improve WASH infrastructure monitoring in San Marcos and Esquipulas Palo Gordo. This prompted CoST to focus on WASH projects in the workshops with discussions on transparency and infrastructure accessibility challenges. A report capturing the attendees’ assessment of the data gaps in the projects is being used by IADB to identify critical areas in project delivery in the sector. CoST Guatemala has since extended the WASH component of workshops to other communities.
Partnerships were essential to fund the practice and to provide invaluable assistance on the ground to map out and access the relevant community groups involved. Good collaboration with the implementing partners also ensured the workshop discussions could reach a wider audience, for example, USAID captured the training in its manual on youth social accountability which now includes reference to public infrastructure monitoring. The workshops helped CoST to identify a more sustainable model to further its assurance process by collaborating with students and universities - a key lesson now shared among other CoST members.
Those trained within the workshops can share the skills developed within their communities. Lessons have also been shared with other CoST members which can use the experience in Guatemala to improve their social accountability activities. The lessons are not exclusive to infrastructure and can be shared as broad social audit practices across other sectors. To further improve infrastructure monitoring in Guatemala and elsewhere, CoST is also working with its partner, Open Contracting Partnership, to explore how their joint standard the Open Contracting for Infrastructure Data Standard (OC4IDS) can more easily facilitate users’ understanding of the data, for example by adding automated dashboards and analytical tools. Data portals using the OC4IDS can be replicated in different countries so long as the digital infrastructure is in place and the capacity to use using the platforms is built. The workshops are a tested approach to build this essential capacity within the communities.
An immediate impact of the pandemic was the impossibility of running in-person workshops, which was mitigated by holding sessions online. A more concerning impact has been the restriction of civic space which has occurred as emergency procurement and social distancing measures have been enacted. Finding innovative ways to build the technical capacity of a wide range of stakeholders to collect and understand project data is important to ensure accountability is upheld during the crisis and beyond. Equipped with the knowledge and motivation to assess transparency and performance issues in projects, the youth trained can now play a key role in coordinating wider public participation and monitor infrastructure investment delivered in the context of recovery packages.
SDGS & Targets
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Deliverables & Timeline
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Departments of Chimaltenango, San Marcos and Chiquimula