Bogota Como Vamos: A Project to Promote Accountability
In 1997, Bogota’s Chamber of Commerce, the El Tiempo publishing house (CEET)4 and Fundacion Corona,5 considering the importance of developing an active private sector, jointly created the Bogota como vamos project, with three main objectives: (i) to promote an efficient and transparent government; (ii) to promote a more informed, responsible, and participative citizenship; and (iii) to promote joint projects regarding quality of life. All of these objectives are supported by the political Constitution, which states that territorial entities must have development plans and must be held accountable for their implementation. Our initiative is also related to the proposal made to large cities to promote discussion forums related to the scope of public policies in improving quality of life. The three entities that created this project did so with the belief that the state and society are strengthened when mechanisms for their mutual promotion are created, leading to positive feedback, which may in turn lead to significant improvements in government, in both the medium and long term.
The project is made up of different activities aimed at meeting the stated objectives. In order to promote an efficient and transparent government, the administration is held accountable for its actions, the publication of information is promoted, and monitoring by national experts is implemented. Second, in order to promote a more informed, responsible, and participative citizenship, evaluation reports are issued, polls are carried out, and citizen opinion is made public. Finally, in order to promote joint projects regarding quality of life, efforts and resources are fostered, complementary knowledge is provided, and institutional learning is promoted.
There is a general coordinator for the project, in charge of its leadership and implementation through three strategies: monitoring, communication, and alliances. To carry out the monitoring function, a series of indicators were developed for technical and opinion monitoring. The first type monitors the city’s progress and challenges in the following eight strategic areas: education, health, public security, mobility, economic development, environmental issues, public services, and public areas; these are applied to district administrations to monitor their respective contribution. The second type is aimed at monitoring citizen opinions on different aspects of quality of life in the city, by means of an annual opinion poll stating changes in perception from one administration to another.
The opinion poll is crucial, as it becomes one of the main instruments for citizen participation in the monitoring process. It also acts as an opinion barometer on the government’s management, thus providing an added value versus other monitoring methods. Bogota como vamos carries out additional monitoring based on the issues being addressed by the city at any given moment or on the particular issues mandated by the different governors.
In addition to the eight strategic areas mentioned previously, other issues such as public management, citizen responsibility, poverty and equality, and public finances included in the development plan and citizen agenda are considered. But information alone does not provide the value the project seeks. Therefore, an important component of the program is communication. The citizenship in general, and specifically community leaders, opinion leaders, experts, research centers, and political leaders, can access results of the monitoring process in advance, through various media outlets, such as television and press, periodicals, events, and workshops. The progress and consolidation of the project have been so significant that the information it provides is currently used as reference and consultation material throughout the country.
Developing alliances is another important strategy, contributing to the project’s growth and attracting different social players who are also interested in monitoring quality of life and progress in the implementation of political policies. Currently, foundations, media, universities, associations, chambers of commerce, and, in general, more than 26 institutions committed to the city’s development and competitiveness, belong to our network. Working together is a very positive experience that allows discussion of different and complementary approaches and views on the quality of life and identification of best practices to improve the existing work.
The consolidation of the project in the 10 years since its creation has brought about interesting and valuable achievements that are worth mentioning:
- • Generating knowledge of the city based on objectively implemented and published technical monitoring reports.
- • Defining an agenda in the public opinion related to common problems.
- • Reinforcing the generation of information aimed at obtaining results, not just actions.
- • Holding authorities accountable for their actions.
- • Producing reference information for the design of government programs.
- • Using the opinion poll as an official parameter to measure popularity, management, and trust of the city’s public institutions.
- • Monitoring public policies based on their results.
- • Feedback on public policies based on the reports obtained.
- • Definition of a reference model for control of social processes in Latin America.
These achievements are in line with the initial objectives set by the project and suggested by the entities in charge. They also confirm the fact that the city government, as well as experts and social organizations, takes into consideration the project’s reports, investigations, and recommendations. It has become an instrument for action not only for the government in general but also for a community committed to the future of issues of common interest. Currently there are five cities in Colombia implementing the Como vamos project: Bogota, Cartagena, Cali, Medellin, and
Barranquilla. Similar projects, adapted to each country’s situation, are being considered in other cities in Latin America.
The results of this project show that developing a network of Como vamos cities in Colombia, as well as in other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, should continue simultaneously with the development of a process to evaluate cities.