Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech

Roundup: why people participate in politics and tweet storms, problems with generalizing research, throwing statistics out with the bathwater



Political Mobiliztion

People who enjoy participatory governance at work tend to be more politically active. This according to analysis of European Social Survey data on 14,000 workers across 27 countries. The researchers make a compelling argument for why workplace democracy leads to political engagement, instead of the other way around.

People are driven to join online firestorms by their moral compass and desire for recognition. More specifically, moral indignation and larger online protest size both incline people to believe they agree with protests. This from experiment and content analysis (“N=663 active social media users through a commercial online panel in a large Western European country, being nationally representative regarding age and gender (Mage=42.01, SDage=12.91, 54% women; 26% high school diploma). Participants received a cash incentive”).

Brain scans are better predictors of voting patterns that people’s voting intentions, according to an experiment (n=62) using EEGs of brain activity, implying that political activity is driven by self identification which people may not articulate.


Advocacy should target specific politicians, at least when dealing with  South African politicians in urban municipalities in the first year of their term. This from MAVC-supported research released last week. My quick review and critique on methods and generalizability here.

Case studies

Adaptive and political programming:
A working paper analyzes cases of thinking and working politically in large, single contract aid modalities (facilities), offers a number of very specific recommendations to donors (incentives at outcome, not input/output level; assess decision-making rather than outputs; emphasize bilateral policy over activities; etc), and finds that adaptive programming is the hardest part. Meanwhile, Global Integrity released a policy brief on it’s 6 localizing governance case studies (also described in last week’s roundup). TL;DR: research on adaptive programming finds that adaptive programming is important.

Random e-gov
A review of literature and Dutch service delivery suggests that enthusiasm is critical for the diffusion of e-government within countries.  Tuetonic digital democracy projects are prioritizing innovation at the expense of participation and subjects of the monarchy of Oman find that governance via Twitter is “empowering.” #nocomment. You can also read last week’s research on e-government in Qatar and how the Greek government is moving from e-participation to m-participation programming.

SH*t gets real
The Engine Room released a report on Responsible Data in Open Contracting, the latest issue of Interactions has a focus on media in societal transitions and democratization, including articles on Turkey and Egypt, and some governments are re-purposing transparency and accountability rhetoric to clamp down on civil society, the T/A Initiative report has details and recommendations


“Uncertainty laundering”
Nature polled prominent statisticians about how to fix statistics. They suggest: abandon our obsession with statistical significance, explicitly presenting false-positive risks, transparency of analysis plans and results, change disciplinary cultures. No small feat, the overall impression of reading these is that we’ve let ourselves become glamoured by the esoteric rigor of what is essentially an arbitrary science, and there’s no clear or easy way out. Yup.

Measuring countries
Anti-Corruption Day was last week, and saw the release of 2017 Index on Public Integrity, accompanied by a discussion on the methodological differences between perception and de jure indicators, and how to think about different comparative indices (though the author is from IPI, so has a dog in that fight). Meanwhile, there’s a useful critique of the OECD’s use of simplistic indicators to compare government performance in its Government at a Glance project, but gives the project credit for trying to improve with each iteration.

Tools for advox:
There’s a new book Political Metaphor Analysis, which has some useful strategic insights for advocacy (fx: when, how and why to call Brexit a divorce), and Beautiful Rising is a new toolbox for creative activism featuring collections of stories, tactics, principles and theories. Meanwhile, @tyclimateguy writes on how NGOs can strategically tap into their own big data analytics. on how AI will reshape M&E (including facial recognition for metrics on event participation, yikes).

For the titles

Add Comment

Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech