GIMPA in collaboration with the US Embassy in Ghana has held a round table discussion on civic activism dubbed ‘Open Government and Civil Society Leadership’.
The programme which was held on Wednesday, May 4th, 2022 at the Greenhill Campus of GIMPA was themed: ‘Transparency and Accountability: Cultivating a Culture of Civic Activism.’
It sought to seek ways to help others to be civically engaged in order to take responsibility for the problems in their various communities.
The event was attended by a team from the US Embassy led by Ms Ginny Elliot, Head of Public Affairs, some faculty members of GIMPA and other tertiary institutions, civil society leaders and PhD students of GIMPA.
Taking participants through the topic, Professor Brain Macharg, the Director of Civic Engagement at the Appalachian State University, North Carolina said much of the civic engagement is derived from the culture and ethics which is a part of the family system unit.
He enumerated four steps that would aid citizens to be civically engaged. He mentioned the first step as volunteerism. According to Prof. Macharg, most American families engage in volunteer activities with their children and this forms the basis of other civic engagements in later life for these children.
He emphasized the need to include civic engagement in the curriculum for students to better their communities. He further called for an alignment between what is taught in school and what is actually practised to enhance the chances of children imbibing these qualities in a more practical way.
‘There will be a mismatch if for instance, we teach equality for all persons in the schools only for the children to realize that in reality physically challenged persons are mistreated because they cannot even access certain places because of their challenge,’ he added.
According to Prof. Macharg, the second step to civic education is through shared enterprise. Shared enterprises include helping the elderly with their load, checking on the elderly, and engaging in communal work, amongst others.
‘Shared enterprise goes a long way to promote civic responsibility and also bring people together, he added.
The third step, he said, was civic infrastructure. For Prof. Macharg, providing the necessary infrastructure to aid people to behave in an acceptable way is very necessary for promoting civic responsibility among people.
‘To what extent do we provide the necessary tools such as bins to prevent people from littering? It is important to provide people with the necessary tools if we want them to behave in a civil way,’ he further stated.
The last step enumerated by Prof. Macharg was social norming. He explained social norming as replacing negative statements with positive ones to entice people or the youth to do the right thing.
‘For instance, instead of telling underage students to stop drinking alcohol, which they would not, you can say 0-4 per cent of school children drink alcohol. This statement could help stop alcohol drinking among students when they realize not many students are drinking alcohol.
After the talk, most participants agreed that it was important for Ghana to draw lessons from the US experience but were also quick to add that those lessons should be localized to suit the culture of the country.
The programme was moderated by Prof. Kingsley Agomor, a Head of Department of the School of Public Service and Governance (SPSG).
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