A unique case of deliberative polling in the Butalejja and Bududa districts of Uganda's Mt. Elgon region, members of the public spoke about the local issues of resettlement and land management. The initiative stands out for its success in contributing to development policies.
Problems and Purpose
Butalejja and Bududa of the Mt Elgon region have faced recurring issues of landslides and floods. Authorities have faced issues with not communicating warnings effectively and further face issues with the misuse of land by civilians. Despite the current government policies in place to prevent such issues, it has been deemed that the lack of success in communities adhering to policy is due to there being “...asymmetry between community and government expectations regarding risk mitigation policies, rendering key policies unsuccessful and warnings unheeded” (CDD, 2015). This ‘asymmetry’ is largely due to the lack of education resources in the Mt Elgon region, but mostly the lack of effective communication that has consistently strained the relationship between citizens and local government.
Thus, the need to implement safety precautions for locals as well as also help citizens gain a better understanding in order to improve government initiatives can be fulfilled through the innovative steps of deliberative polling. The deliberative process is ensuring civilians are being offered not only a fair, representative voice but also an informative response rate through two ways. The first is that it intends to educate the voters who are participating in the polls to help come to more informed decisions as they are lacking the means to do so. Followed by the second effective trait in this case for using DP is that it gathers random samples, qualitative data and utilizes this, ensuring a vast amount of participant response rates, as well as enhancing the chances of fair representation to governments on policy issues.
Background History and Context
In July 2014, Professor James S Fishkin, the Centre for Deliberative Polling (CDD) of Sanford University, USAID and the ‘ResilientAfrica Network’ (RAN) of Makerere University, contributed to facilitate the first ‘Deliberative Polling®’ (DP) project in East Africa. "Helping citizen’s make informed decisions", it was a unique case of deliberative polling in the Mount Elgon Region in Uganda, where members of the public were prompted to give their say on regional issues regarding ‘Resettlement Management, Land Management, and Population Pressure’. Deliberative Polling® is a consistently developing innovation that has been adopted in over 70 countries since 1994 (Fishkin, 2015). Professor S. Fishkin established this method of opinion polling as a trademark innovation that is copyrighted to his authorisation only. Associated with Stanford University, the Centre for Deliberative Democracy (CDD) is the official partners and advocates of Fishkin’s Deliberative Polling method since 2003. Since the first deliberative poll being conducted in the US, in 2003, DP had only been adopted in only developed countries, until recently. This case study is the first case of using Deliberative Polling in Uganda, a developing country, and is a promising account for how DP has garnered attention for using innovative tools further as an effective means for increasing public participation.
Yet, it is a broadly discussed subject where the ‘deliberative’ in democracies being the significant element in which communication of ideas and concerns are being inadequately addressed according to Young (1996). Despite deeming itself as a democratic republic state, the Ugandan government employs a unique hierarchical structure as opposed to the other states that DP has previously operated in. Since its independence in 1962, the Ugandan state has suffered from strenuous counter-political movements.
Thus, the alternative, ‘deliberative democracy’ has furthered the ideas of Fishkin’s Deliberative Polling® as a means of ensuring deliberation is a fairer process when contributing to policy making in countries, even Uganda.
The first deliberative poll to that considered governmental affairs was a deliberative poll in 1999, following the first deliberative questionnaires that helped Texan customers consider the viable options of energy providers. The case that followed can be considered one of the most influential as opposed to the latter cases of DP since this poll concerned a constitutional change via referendum voting. Deliberative polling intercepted as a discussion prior to the referendum in which voters had been informed of the effects and implications of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote to leaving its ties with Britain and becoming a Republic. As found, the voting results after the discussion went from “16 point increase in the Yes vote, from 57 to 73 percent” (CDD, 1999). However, despite the discussion results that was yielded from a random sample of the 347 respondents, the referendum was rejected by a 10 percent difference and although the significant increase in change of opinion after the process, it was “it does seem abundantly clear that the proposal to make Australia a republic would have passed, if the whole electorate had learned and thought more about the issue” (Luskin et al., 1999).
However, this essentially brings the distinct change of subject matter when concerning the preceding case concerning energy providers to the deliberative process case that concerns government and policy affairs. The facilitators and organisations investing their time and money, in the Deliberative Polling process imply it is an evolving innovation since its first case.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
In this case of Uganda, the initiatives were supported by three organisations. The Centre for Deliberative Democracy (CDD), the Stanford University research department, which is directed by Professor James S. Fishkin, has provided the outline and procedures for the case study as well as producing and publishing its results. Makerere University School of Public Health is also one of the many universities that is part of the innovative scheme, The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), which is funded through USAID (The United States Agency for International Development). USAID had granted a fund of $137 million over a five-year period to help develop the RAN innovative schemes (USAID, 2015).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
This project itself precedes similarly from many other DP cases as well as differs extensively, from the random selection of participants in the allocated districts to the public consultation process. Like many other DP cases, this case proved successful in its efforts in gaining participants to participate in the deliberative process, gaining 427 local participants from Butalejja and Bududa of the MT Elgon region, achieving a 94% response rate. The moderators were also recruited and trained from both the CDD and RAN and consisted of 30 members, 15 from both Bududa and Butalejja. They all had a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and were fluent in the local language (CDD, 2014).
Methods and Tools Used
This is a case of deliberative polling, broadly defined as a unique form of political consultation that combines techniques of public opinion research and public deliberation to construct hypothetical representations of what public opinion on a particular issue might look like if citizens were given a chance to become more informed. As a method, it involves polling before and after participants have the opportunity to become informed on other perspectives and engage in discussion  .
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The deliberation structure of the project ran the course of several days in which questionnaires were conducted before and after a day workshop followed by a deliberation period with government officials and RAN representatives/moderators (Shiau, 2015, CDD).
During this deliberation period, the process ran from initial interviews for all participants, followed by an educational video whereby many requested to see an educational video for the second time. After the interviews, questionnaires for the prioritisation of policy implementations was conducted before the plenary session with experts and government officials took place. These questionnaires were conducted again and showed a slight shift (CDD et al Report, 2014, p6-9).
In addition to the CDD, the RAN had adapted concepts from the Global Innovation Index Framework (2013) and was adapted to a framework structure created by Tulane University. It was used to direct the outcomes and effectiveness of the innovation process through effective ‘contextual analysis’, ‘resilience dimensions and adaptive strategies’, ‘resilience interventions’ followed by ‘monitoring and evaluation’ (ResilientAfrica Network, 2014).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The outcome of the overall results are indeterminable, since they are yet to be thoroughly analysed. From vague conclusions, the shift of opinion after the deliberation process was still a significant one. From previously having to reinforce the many policy initiatives in place to now having established the key and necessary changes. As mentioned before, the main justification was to establish a rapport between locals and government officials in which policy could be effectively instilled. “Bududa, there was a significant increase in the view that the government will take the respondent’s views seriously, rising from 61% to 73%” where as in Butalejja, the same response was “at 75% before and at 70% afterwards” (CDD et al Report, 2014, p. 9). From the results, it was a varied response, showing just how distinct the notion of government efficacy is in a developing country.
Although who influenced the agenda setting was not decided by the participants as it was “...developed by an extensive advisory group of stakeholders, NGOs, academic experts and government officials. Their work built on previous focus groups and key informant interviews in the two districts” (ResilientAfrica Network). It was from the means to voice concerns and attempts for resolutions by participants and since then deliberation sessions seemed to show “...a window into possible barriers to policy acceptance” (CDD et al Report, 2014, p10).
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Michels (2011) has established key elements of what is supposedly the correct model for establishing a deliberative democracy, where “the individual voices of citizens can be heard, rational decisions based on public reasoning can be made, and the legitimacy of decisions increased" (p. 279). Applying this model to the same principles used in Deliberative Polling, the first instance of the voice of citizens being heard was done through the plenary session where experts and government officials had addressed citizen concerns and showed a significant change in results that participants were being heard from the final questionnaires. The educational videos followed by a second playing suggested just how decisions were being considered and deliberated amongst participants. Through an educationally informed decision process, followed by deliberation, have increased the ‘legitimacy of decisions’. From this analysis, Fishkin has met this criterion and has done so successfully in incorporating these deliberative principles.
The credibility of the sources provided were both useful for discussing innovative mechanisms and facilitation but severely lacking in data analytics. With the support of renowned organisations like USAID and Professor James S. Fishkin, there was also a lack of media attention for such a distinct event from secondary media sources. The sources used were all provided by the main organisation’s websites and were collectively published in reports. Despite this, there was but a few sentences on the funding of this project, discussing the cost of facilitation by moderators; although this was a grant funded project, the cost of processing and facilitating deliberative polls may be of concern for future investors, specifically in developing countries.
To conclude, reinforcing both Michels (2011) alongside Fishkin, whom encourages the discourse between deliberative democracies to which effective communication is to be the main focus, the same application of criteria has been both unsuccessful and successful in attempts to implement more innovations in a developing country. With a significant change in public opinion as demonstrated in the results, despite the reservations of government efficacy to respond to participants’ responses. Despite this, this particular deliberative polling project itself has shown just how beneficial a democratic innovation it is, the use of deliberative polling is what gives democratic innovations the incentive to alter the course of public participation in Africa, as demonstrated in this case. Moreover, this case study is a unique and promising case, from using similar methodological practices in other DP cases, it is still increasingly unique for its attempts to not only increase participation, but effectively place motions for a government-citizen rapport that is severely lacking. Deliberative polling has shown how democratic innovations are providing incentives for developing countries such as Uganda to reinforce and implement the requirements necessary for policymakers and the public to engage in political affairs.
Centre for deliberative democracy, (2014). A Report on the Projects in Bududa and Butale Districts, Uganda. [Online]. Stanford University. Available from: <http://cdd.stanford.edu/2014/a-report-on-the-projects-in-bududa-and-buta... [Last Accessed 17 April 2015].
Centre for deliberative democracy, (2015). Deliberative Polling® on the Referendum to make Australia a Republic. [Online] Stanford University. Available From: <http://cdd.stanford.edu/1999/deliberative-polling-on-the-referendum-to-m... [Last Accessed 20 April 2015].
Centre for deliberative democracy, (2015). Deliberative Polling®: Africa. [Online] Stanford University. Available From: <http://cdd.stanford.edu/polls/africa/> [Last Accessed 17 April 2015].
Centre for deliberative democracy, (2015). Executive Summary Deliberative Polling® in Uganda on Resilience Issues in the Mt Elgon Region. [Online] Stanford University. Available From: <http://cdd.stanford.edu/polls/africa/2014/dp-uganda-executive-summary.pdf> [Last Accessed 17 April 2015].
Centre for deliberative democracy, (2015). Innovating for and with the communities in the Mt. Elgon Region, Uganda. [Online] Stanford University. Available From: <http://cdd.stanford.edu/polls/africa/2014/dp-uganda-results-disseminatio... [Last Accessed 17 April 2015].
Fishkin, J.S., (2003). Consulting the public through deliberative polling. Journal of Policy Analysis & Management. 22 (1), 128-133. [Online] Available from: Wiley Online Library. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.10101/abstract> [Accessed 17 April 2015].
Grey, S., (2009). Deliberative Polling. [Online] Participedia. Available from: <http://participedia.net/en/methods/deliberative-polling> [Last Accessed 17 April 2015].
Luskin, C., R. et al., (1999). [Online] Stanford University. Available From: Centre for Deliberative Democracy <http://cdd.stanford.edu/2005/deliberation-and-referendum-voting/> [Last Accessed 20 April 2015].
Michels, A., (2011). Innovations in democratic governance: how does citizen participation contribute to a better democracy? International Review of Administrative Sciences. 77 (2), 275-293. [Online] Available from: Sage Journals. <http://ras.sagepub.com/content/77/2/275.abstract#cited-by> [Last Accessed 17 April 2015].
ResilientAfrica Network et al. (2014). Higher education solutions network ResilientAfrica Network. [Online]. Available from: <http://www.ranlab.org/download/RAN_Resilience_Framework.pdf> [Last Accessed 20 April 2015].
ResilientAfrica Network, (2015). Deliberative Polling® in Uganda on Resilience Issues in the Mt Elgon Region. [Online] Uganda: ResilientAfrica Network. Available From: <http://www.ranlab.org/deliberative-polling-in-uganda-on-resilience-issue... [Last Accessed 17 April 2015].
Shiau, P., (2015). Helping African Citizens Make Informed Choices. [Online] Stanford University. Available From: <http://oia.stanford.edu/news/helping-african-citizens-make-informed-choi... [Last Accessed 17 April 2015].
USAID. (2015). Makerere University ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) : Connecting to Accelerate Global Development. [Online]. Available From: <http://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/15396/Makerere_Fact_S... [Last Accessed 20 April 2015].
Young, I., M., (1996). "Communication and the other: beyond deliberative democracy" in Benhabib, S., Democracy and difference: contesting the boundaries of the political. N.J: Princeton University Press, pp.120-135.
Lead Image: Deliberative Polling in the Bududa and Butalejja Districts of Uganda/Center for Deliberative Democracy https://goo.gl/p5ZGtG
Secondary Image: Deliberative Polling in Uganda/ResilientAfrica Network https://goo.gl/rQcvhc