UMass Boston

Democratic Development

Public Participation and Dialogue for More Responsive Governance


Our democracy-based work is grounded in the belief that more capable and accountable governments are integral to the development of democratic nations.  We aim to foster greater public participation and dialogue in decision-making and increase the responsiveness of national and local governments to human security needs.

Our scholar-practitioners have been working on democratic development in Africa and other regions of the world since 1987. Through our work, we aim to expand and strengthen democratic institutions and practices. Led by Senior Faculty Fellow and Advisor: Malcolm Russell-Einhorn; projects and themes include: 

Strengthening Rwandan Administrative Justice (SRAJ) Project

Research Team: Malcolm Russell-Einhorn, Seth Karamage, Jean Paul Mazimpaka (University of Rwanda Law School)

Themes: Strengthening local government; evidence-based needs assessment for government capacity-building; public participation in policymaking; strengthening formal dispute resolution processes; use of mass media coverage to improve public's rights awareness.

Cross-listing: This project is cross-listed under Law and Justice System Reform. Please refer to that listing for more information.

Public Participation and Responsive Governance

Effective democratic governance depends on robust and well-institutionalized public participation mechanisms that generate valuable data and diverse policy perspectives, increase pressures for accountability, and allow societies to respond effectively to natural and man-made crises. CPDD works with local and national governments to expand and improve deliberative spaces and public participation mechanisms; promote more open, legally-grounded, and evidence-based policymaking processes; establish more effective and socially accountable oversight mechanisms; promote innovative, efficient, and transparent modes of government regulation; and harness accessible technologies to improve governance service delivery.

Conflict Resolution Systems:

Central to democratic governance is the development of effective conflict resolution systems at multiple levels in society. CPDD works with national governments to develop and institutionalize national consensus building mechanisms and strengthen conflict resolution skill sets among relevant system participants, while helping local governments to build appropriate mediation and restorative justice systems.

Media Development

A competent, independent media is one of the cornerstones of vibrant social and economic development. We work to support the creative evolution of media outlets so as to enable coverage of topics and stories that are meaningful to diverse segments of local societies and strongly grounded in evidence and professional ethics. We nurture media development in both conflict and post-conflict environments, helping local and national media outlets to improve impartial and in-depth coverage of politics, the courts, corruption, criminal behavior, and people's everyday lives. In particular, we facilitate engagement between journalists and professional experts with the aim of promoting more in-depth feature and investigative reporting and stirring public debate and dialogue. 

Economic Development and Access to Education

CPDD believes in the intrinsic relationship between the development of democratic institutions and sound economies. We are therefore committed to rural development and market systems development, building on the earlier foundation of Making Markets Work for the Poor (W4P) programs. This agenda is predicated on sound participatory community development initiatives as well as administrative justice and regulatory mechanisms that facilitate access and transparency. In addition, vibrant national democracies and economies necessitate youth access to education so that young people can secure appropriate future livelihoods in an increasingly interdependent world. We therefore collaborate with universities and other training institutions to develop programs that prepare young people for professional participation in a global economy and civic participation in more complex governance contexts and public management systems.

LIBERIA Media, Education, and Workforce Development

CDD Senior Fellow Michael Keating worked in Liberia to build relationships and projects in the areas of media, education, and workforce development. With funding from the U.S. State Department, Keating conducted media training in Monrovia to prepare the local media for the 2011 presidential elections. In the immediate run-up to the elections, he helped establish Together Liberia, a media collective that created a new digital storytelling platform in the country. In collaboration with the University of Liberia in Monrovia Keating conducted an assessment of Liberia's readiness to make use of massive open online courses (MOOCs); and helped create the Liberian Institute for Policy Studies and Research, an independent think-tank in Monrovia dedicated to issues of social policy. These activities were funded by Academics Without Borders and the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia (TDEL).In the summer of 2011, CDD visiting fellow Conzolo Miglozzi conducted an innovative teacher training program at the University of Liberia in Monrovia. Designed in collaboration with the Canadian NGO Academics for Higher Education and Development, the program was widely praised by the faculty-participants. The Liberian Ministry of Education later sought to expand it beyond the pilot. CDD's work in Liberia continued under a U.S. State Department grant for conducting workforce development programs. Keating and the CPDD team again collaborated with the University of Liberia, as well as with media organizations, women’s groups, environmental associations, trade associations, and secondary schools.

WEST AFRICA Media Business Development Niger

Building on its multi-year support for the media in Liberia, CDD expanded its contacts with the media into Francophone countries. Under invitation from the U.S. State Department, CPDD's Michael Keating gave a series of lectures and seminars on media business development to journalists and media managers in Niger, Burkina Faso and Cote D'Ivoire. The goal of the project was to introduce digital media concepts into traditional media houses. As a result, it introduced locally appropriate good business practices and demonstrated how social media could be integrated into the newsroom. Through the project, CDD also built working relationships between UMass Boston and institutes of higher learning throughout West Africa.

SENEGAL Saint-Louis Regional Community Resource Center Sustainability Initiative

With a three-year USAID Education for Democracy and Development (EDDI) grant, CDD partnered with the Universite Gaston Berger de Saint-Louis and its local communities to develop a multi-functional community resource center for the purpose of making the Universite's resources more available to its surrounding communities. In the late 1990s, senior university staff from Gaston Berger visited UMass Boston in the late 1990s under a CDD Partnership for Higher Education project. As part of that program, the Senegalese visitors were introduced to American urban public university-style community outreach, engagement, and empowerment. During subsequent visits to Gaston Berger, CDD fellows continued discussions with their Senegalese counterparts about how Gaston Berger might expand its role and self-image beyond traditional classroom-based teaching and develop more community-oriented social and economic development programs. As a result of these interactions, the Universite Gaston Berger de Saint Louis designed and built a physical building on community-donated land across the main road from its campus. The building space was designed for small business use, a café, an internet café, a business resource center, a women’s center, classrooms, and other functions. The Universite also established mini-bus service from the Community Resource Center/Gaston Berger to Saint Louis, Senegal's old French colonial capital located 15 km west of the campus.