Comparatively, there has been much less work exploring the state side of the equation – to explain why and how public officials respond (or not) to citizen demands for accountability.
The research brief from Anuradha Joshi, Rhiannon McCluskey Why and how bureaucrats respond to citizen voice (2018) review the relevant literature on public sector responsiveness and they try to answer the other side of the equation.
Their main conclusions are:
Whether public officials respond to citizen demands depends on several sources of pressure upon them including organisational, professional, elites and citizens. With respect to citizens, the key to whether demands translate into effective pressure is the way in which public officials perceive citizens and their claims:
- The legitimacy of their claims. Regarding legitimacy, there is a higher likelihood of eliciting responsiveness from public officials if claims relate to existing entitlements in law or policy, as well as if claims are broad and inclusive, rather than narrow.
- The credibility of who makes the claims. Ensuring that civil society organisations are neutral in respect to political parties might strengthen their credibility. Also, the degree to which they genuinely represent marginalised groups allows for perceptive public officials to take them more seriously.
- The level of trust between public officials and citizens. Engagement with citizens can transform public officials’ perceptions of citizens’ claims and their legitimacy. Through repeated interactions that demonstrate integrity, they can earn each other’s trust. If this trust exists, public officials will be more willing to ‘stick their neck out’ for citizens.