Does better governance improve service delivery? Evidence and lessons learned from the Guinea Faisons Ensemble project
Guinea’s path toward good governance has been slow. Years of colonization, followed by decades of authoritarian leadership, left it with weak institutions and without strong democratic traditions. In 2006, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) identified poor governance as the key obstacle to the country’s stability, democratic growth, and economic development. In response, the USAID Mission in Guinea developed an innovative strategy linking sectoral service delivery with good governance reforms. The Mission hypothesized that without governance reforms, other traditional development programs would be stunted in both their impact and their sustainability. Thus, from 2007 to 2013, RTI International implemented the Multi-Sectoral Interventions to Advance Democratic Governance in Guinea project, known commonly in French as Faisons Ensemble (“With Many”). Faisons Ensemble worked to improve both governance at the local level and the delivery of core services in health, education, agriculture, and natural resource management. The project adopted a collaborative approach to citizen–government relations, arguing that government and citizens have more to gain by working together than against each other. In effect, the approach nurtured the emergence of a mutual accountability ecosystem in which key stakeholders held each other accountable to work together to address priority issues.
This paper documents some of the results achieved by Faisons Ensemble and attempts to establish how governance impacts have contributed to improved service delivery. The research data described in this paper indicate changes in governance practices and improvements in service delivery in the targeted communes (local governments). Many citizens recognized a clear demarcation of “before” and “after.” For example, project communes opened Council sessions to all key stakeholders and involved citizens in identifying local issues and priorities for development. In return, civil society actors supported the efforts of their local government and provided feedback on governance activities. In addition, service delivery improved in the targeted sectors as citizens began taking a more active role in oversight, and as government officials were trained in their roles and responsibilities. The research we highlight indicates that governance programs such as this one, which focused on promoting change at the community level, can achieve significant results even in the absence of a favorable national level enabling environment. It also demonstrates that approaches that focus on strengthening capacity and raising awareness—with a view to empowering local communities—can be effective. Lastly, Faisons Ensemble showed that every sector matters to the development of local communities. As stakeholders work together to promote broad-based development, they become increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of all the challenges they face.