Supporting local action by strengthening local and global coalitions to improve governance and reduce corruption in resource-rich countries, while contributing to their sustainability.
“The Governance Action Hub exists to collaboratively explore and expand the frontiers of what is possible in governance reform.”
-Dr. Mario Picon, Director, Governance Action Hub
For the international development community, the importance of addressing the governance challenges of resource-rich countries, in the face of the energy transition, cannot be overstated, considering that if current trends hold, 50% of the poor in the world will live in resource-rich countries by 2030, up from 20% of the poor in 1990.
Due to global and local demand, non-renewable natural resources, from coal to oil and minerals to gas, represent an opportunity to improve the living conditions of people, by supporting development and growth.
Yet, that same resource wealth is seen as a curse. In too many cases, resource-rich countries are characterized by fragility, conflict, endemic corruption and state capture, with poverty widespread. The correlation between resource wealth, poor governance and high levels of corruption has been widely documented and much has been written about the consequences of this relationship for growth and poverty, as well as health, education, and nutrition outcomes.
Climate change represents an additional challenge for countries with economies dependent on non-renewables. However, energy transition processes also face obstacles due to poor governance and state capture by elite vested interests. A focus on a Just Transition is needed in producer countries, particularly among oil and gas producers, which should no longer rely heavily on fossil fuel extraction. Such Just Transition will need to be sustainable and inclusive, addressing the negative impact on communities dependent on hydrocarbons or other industries damaging the environment and providing incentives for the rise of renewables and other cleaner industries.
Tackling these challenges requires engagement between government, private sector, and citizens. However, local stakeholders in resource-rich countries engaged by Results for Development over the last few years consistently note how social contracts in resource-rich areas are fragmented, as reflected in low levels of trust overall and low confidence in the possibility of change. In such environments, efforts to promote dialogue are thwarted by a sense that participation is transactional and often used by companies and governments to simply access local resources; corruption and poor governance have in many ways been normalized; and a cycle of persistently low social and economic outcomes is created.
In this context, initiatives to improve governance in resource-rich countries and beyond have been focused on enhancing transparency, accountability, or participation, mainly through technical solutions, and often with limited attention to local dynamics. The subnational level has been particularly overlooked.
We believe that to confront these governance challenges, local and global actors need to find better ways to collaborate. An environment is needed in which citizens, government and the private sector can work in coalitions, identify common goals, and explore new ways forward while respecting differences in perspectives and building trust for improved development outcomes. Such an environment will result in overall better governance systems.
The Governance Action Hub has been established to explore and expand the frontiers of what is possible in governance reforms through the strengthening and sustainability of coalitions for change around natural resources.
Over the last few years, as part of the Leveraging Transparency to Reduce Corruption (LTRC) initiative, R4D and The Brookings Institution led a series of activities to explore the future of natural resource governance (#futureofNRG).
First, and together with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) and the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI), LTRC organized an expert dialogue that proposed concrete priorities for the field. Among these, there were calls for building broader coalitions for change and improving the coordination between local level action and the global initiatives and organizations that can support them and spur accountability.
A global survey was subsequently launched to gauge the views, expectations and priorities of people either working on governance in resource-rich countries, or in other topics impacted by it (such as environmental protection, human rights, or corporate investment). The survey showed a clear gap between the governance reform priorities identified by respondents and the expectation of those reforms being implemented.
In their analysis, the authors argue that this common “reform pessimism” translates into an overly cautious and unambitious approach to reform when, in reality, what is needed is more audacity and bold new approaches.
In this push for more audacity, we recognize the need to identify and build complementarities between different fields, and between diverse types of stakeholders. In resource-rich and non-resource-rich settings alike, we see a knowledge gap on how to build effective coalitions for systems-wide change, particularly at the local, sub-national level.
This is the gap the Governance Action Hub fills.
Our learnings and engagement with partners over the last few years have shaped the purpose of the Governance Action Hub. We envision actors with different agendas, being from civil society, the private sector, or the state, working together despite their differences and despite complex and persistent governance challenges from local development processes to the energy transition.
We pursue this at both the country and global levels.
At the country level, the Governance Action Hub facilitates local action around common goals and challenges. We broaden the reach of existing or recent dialogue processes and collaborative platforms. We promote inclusion and support the elevation of those voices and perspectives in the design, and their engagement in the implementation of policies and interventions. The Action Hub prioritizes work at the subnational level in the countries where it works.
We also support solutions proposed by local stakeholders to generate demonstration effects that can be then adapted or scaled up, and foster coordination between national and international partners for radical collaboration and impact.
At the global level, the Action Hub aims to progressively build a global community that promotes exchange and cross-learning between and among local and global level actors, leveraging new voices and connecting actors with different perspectives and experiences.
Areas of focus for the Action Hub are defined through engagement with local stakeholders to understand their needs and priorities, with close consideration of context and local systems. We believe that what drives success of collaborative approaches is:
- Identification of common, concrete, time-bound interests and objectives,
- Co-creation process of solutions to common challenges associated to those goals, and
- Showing results, particularly quick wins that build trust in the process among participating and non-participating actors, consolidating local ownership and agency.
Examples of themes we will be exploring under the Action Hub are:
- Implementation of regional development plans;
- Better use of extractives revenue for better health, education, and nutrition outcomes; and
- Securing pathways to a just energy transition at the local level.
We approach governance as a system. This requires acknowledging, when discussing reforms, the coexistence of formal institutions, social norms, politics, and a plurality of perceptions and aspirations of local stakeholders. We use system and co-creation approaches to understand context; collective intelligence to actively engage and draw on a plurality of stakeholder perspectives; and development entrepreneurship approaches to incentivize ownership and support agency.
We seek to support an environment for local agents to generate context-relevant ideas while connecting those ideas and innovators with the governance and anti-corruption global community.
R4D’s role in this program is that of a broker. This involves:
- Support for country-led change. Change agents know that spearheading systemic change is an inherently political process — to be successful, it must be responsive to local challenges and priorities, it must include diverse stakeholder input and innovations must be tested in an iterative way. Our role is to support local actors with the resources and knowledge they need. By doing this, we support the emergence of local coalitions for change with enhanced knowledge and capabilities.
- Share knowledge and expertise. Local change agents want to access global experts and models of what seems to be working in similar contexts to theirs. We also know that research and evidence in this field can be strengthened through action learning across different contexts. The potential for two-way, horizontal learning through our approach is considerable. Our role is to support the creation and exchange of practical knowledge about how to improve systems, while also supporting practitioners to apply what they learn.
What do we mean by using a systems lens?
To align analysis, decision-making, and management with how complex and adaptive systems behave. It implies:
- A holistic perspective, while keeping concrete, actionable goals in focus.
- Understanding the key relationships shaping how individuals and organizations interact.
- Accepting uncertainty and complexity, working in adaptive, flexible ways.
- Recognizing that different people have legitimately different perspectives.
- Awareness of the resilience and adaptability of systems.
- Working in interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral ways.
- Coalitions can navigate plausible pathways to change while also building democratic resilience and trust in the process,
- Solutions cannot be pre-defined and require exploration and testing to assess plausible pathways,
- Solutions require local leadership but can be supported by external actors, and
- Sustainability and scale are possible through active efforts to anchor solutions in local systems.
We aspire to foster a virtuous circle of improved governance (including better control of corruption and state capture), more trust & collaboration between actors at various levels, and better development outcomes. To do this, our strategy in each country or for each problem tackled will be tailored to context, risks, opportunities, and local priorities, but with a focus in concrete action. Our projects will reflect a mix of the following interrelated functions:
- Collaboratively creating or strengthening existing participatory spaces and networks that promote and sustain local coalitions for change.
- Supporting local action to tackle concrete challenges by brokering existing knowledge and networks so local actors can adapt their goals.
- Encouraging exploration and testing of solutions proposed by local participants to the challenges they identified.
- Finding ways to anchor innovations in local systems for sustainability and local ownership.
- Making connections and fostering complementarity between local and global actors for impact, sustainability, and cross-learning.
A Global Learning Journey
Many organizations at country and global levels are experimenting with bold, novel approaches to collective action, but the opportunities to learn from each other and join forces remain elusive. The Governance Action Hub global community will crowd in those calling attention to emerging insights and informing a new generation of efforts to foster governance reform through collective action. We hope to find other individuals and institutions who are willing to contribute their action-research so that we can all learn through a series of local level pilots about how systems change happens across contexts.
This global community will also support cross-learning between and about our country projects over time. We hope you will join us on our journey, sharing innovations with a broad community. We do not claim to have all the answers, or the perfect plan for this platform. We want to build it together with you, so it responds to the needs of those fighting for better governance, less corruption, and better development outcomes.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any questions, please feel free to submit them to us at GovActionHub@r4d.org.
1. Will the Governance Action Hub involve the creation of a physical space or Hub in each country where you work?
In each country, we will explore the best alternatives for embedding the systems change process fostered by the Action Hub in collaboration with local stakeholders and the international community, placing change agents at the center of everything we do. The preference is to build on existing collaborative spaces and local organizational capacity to avoid duplication. In each location, we will assess if there are other initiatives or institutions that are well placed to host the process triggered by the Action Hub or support it sustainably through, for example, financing using extractive revenues or international cooperation.
The Action Hub approach is a response to the interest we have identified through our ongoing work with local and global experts. It draws on recent research across a range of disciplines and aims to create a global community of practitioners and thinkers that can share thinking, experimental work, and learnings to improve the impact of governance and anti-corruption work in extractive settings. Within this global community, demand for experimentation will come from local stakeholders, either recommended by global partners or identified through our Call for Innovation. In addition, the global platform seeks to amplify stories of change told by local stakeholders themselves and will provide an additional channel through which to identify demand for support. By being responsive to local challenges and priorities, including diverse stakeholder input, and testing solutions in an iterative way, we can increase our chances of success in spearheading systemic change.
3. At a time when international development is moving towards localization and shifting the power to the Global South, why is an international NGO such as R4D leading this work over local organizations?
At R4D, we believe local organizations need to be the drivers of change. R4D is committed to shifting the power and resources in global development to local coalitions of actors who are best placed to navigate change, with the support of flexible resources and tailored knowledge. In alignment with that belief, the Action Hub reinforces and provides an enabling environment for localization.
For local stakeholders, the Action Hub builds and promotes agency by bridging knowledge gaps, bringing local voices to the forefront of development strategies, and increasing confidence in the process by offering space and opportunity to test and implement ideas generated by local stakeholders. The creation of effective local coalitions makes it easier for donors, international finance institutions, and the international community to play its role as an external actor that can support local processes with resources, providing direct funding to a broader range of local organizations. The Action Hub will facilitate information flows, offering a space for global and local ideas to be tested in response to local demand from existing organizations. Pilots will be led by local stakeholders to support and strengthen local processes and strengthen local governance systems.
For extractive companies committed to good governance and anticorruption and the private sector more generally, these collaborative platforms provide an organic way to participate in and support efforts to strengthen governance in their areas of influence, reducing business and reputational risks, and offering incentives for companies less concerned with good governance. The collaborative platform offers companies a space led by an international, neutral third party that is not transactional in nature. Over time, we expect the Action Hub’s work to increase trust between the different types of stakeholders in each place where we work, by promoting alliances around common goals.
4. How do you avoid duplication of efforts? Aren’t there other communities, including EITI Multistakeholder groups (MSGs) operating in places where you plan to work? Aren’t there other programs that can bridge knowledge gaps?
Our role is not to compete with existing efforts in each country or space, but rather to articulate existing and emerging efforts, while strengthening or complementing them. Specific activities will only be decided after engaging local stakeholders, government, and international cooperation initiatives; altogether identifying gaps, bottlenecks, and challenges.
Our strength is our ability to bring diverse actors with local knowledge, global knowledge, and flexible financial resources together to solve concrete challenges. We actively explore with stakeholders the frontiers of what is possible in tackling concrete challenges. Promising pilots can then be taken by government or the international community to be replicated or scaled up.
If there is an existing collaborative platform, we discuss with its members the challenges they face, the limitations of the platform, and look for ways to support an ecosystem for that effort to be more effective.
The Action Hub is the result of learning from our experience in country work done under Leveraging Transparency to Reduce Corruption (LTRC) and its TAP-Plus Approach to Anti-Corruption in the Natural Resource Value Chain, while also building on global knowledge and policy in the anti-corruption field from SOAS-ACE as well as USAID’s Anticorruption Policy (2022). In addition, we draw on recent research on local systems change from a variety of disciplines as well as evidence on the potential of coalitions for change and examples of how learning-centric approaches, such as human learning systems, can support systems change. Notably, the Asia Foundation’s Coalition for Change, the Accountability Research Centre’s Sandwich Strategy, and the Centre for Public Interest’s Human Learning Systems, all put local actors in the driver’s seat, navigating local contexts to find technically sound and politically feasible solutions to local problems. problems.
While consensus between stakeholders makes collective action easier, most communities are characterized by diverse opinions and interests. Effective collective action requires agreement on specific goals, which can be temporal or narrow in definition. Coalitions are action-oriented groups that bring diverse actors, including powerful insiders, to support a specific goal and require unity around a specific vision but not complete consensus.
At the global level, the Action Hub elicits alliances for learning and action between global and local stakeholders, recognizing that collaborative platforms provide a useful forum for collective problem-solving, testing new thinking, and learning from each other. We are cognizant that not every stakeholder in the platform will believe in the process simply because the space exists. That trust will need to be earned through concrete action that translates into perceived value for the participants and for other stakeholders that may not initially join precisely because of the limitations of past participatory processes.
In some cases, like emerging work in Moquegua, Peru, the type of solution implies significant coordination among different types of stakeholders, with implementation involving civil society (notably, a local university), companies, and the regional government. But the nature and scope of those projects will vary from project to project, and from country to country.
Working with complexity requires understanding the context and making parallel bets around plausible ways forward. Design thinking principles can be helpful to test out assumptions and try different ideas before taking them to scale. This testing is an important step in ensuring that solutions are well tailored to local realities and feasible, also considering including diverse interests and incentives. Over time, we would like to see this empowerment process of local stakeholders take on its own dynamic by forming local ecosystems of knowledge and practice, with companies, government, or international cooperation offering regular incentives to local stakeholders to test solutions to new challenges, using similar principles. We see governance and anticorruption as complex issues that require a constant process of adaptation and learning, as incentives and interests shift, new relationships form, and systems adjust.
At R4D, we believe it’s critical to coordinate action and strengthen the capacity of local partners and change agents to continue work after project funding ends. To uphold our commitment to provide cohesive support and ecosystems of expertise in the long term, the Action Hub will approach sustainability in three ways.
i. Embed the approach in local institutions so the activities of Action Hub can, with local leadership, continue beyond financial or technical support from R4D. We will work with local partners early on in identifying and preparing organizations for this.
ii. Actively engage with and inform organizations able to replicate and scale up processes or learning to emerge from the Action Hub’s work.
iii. Actively pursue business development opportunities throughout implementation. We have started an active identification of potential funders for different lines of work.