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How to monitor the common good

Educating to defend what belongs to everyone by 5 calls to action. Discover our path to empowering young leaders of monitoring communities to protect democracy from corruption.


Embrace your right to know

Self-monitoring is the first necessary step to fight the risks of corruption. However, it is not enough. To counter misconduct, it is also important to take care of the common good.

One way to do so is civic monitoring, a form of participation and engagement that every citizen can put into action. 

To begin a journey into civic monitoring there are a lot of different actions that a young citizen can take, and the first one is understanding what their own desires and needs are (see call to refl-action 2), embracing their own right to know.

The right to know is a twofold concept: it is a right, which complements the basic set of human rights and duties that must be assured to everyone, but it is also a tool for transparency that makes it possible to obtain the public information we desire.

Indeed, if we want to safeguard the common good, we need to have a deep knowledge of what it is; if we need to know what the common good is and how it is managed, we need to get access to information about it. 

National and international laws recognise our right to know as an individual right with a collective importance and purpose, and they underline how important it is to prevent corruption and preserve our communities’ democratic vitality.

Collect the data

Monitoring is a challenge: it requires passion and a clear goal, but also know-how and skills.

That is why it is useful to have a method, which can be adapted according to the group, the topic, the context, and the time/energy at disposal. 

From reflection comes action. Retrieving data and information about collective needs and desires is what we call monitoring the common good. How you find the data you are interested in? Who are the stakeholders? How do you analyse and summarise the data obtained? How to do you disseminate the results?

An efficient monitoring action passes necessarily through a good dataset, possibly through a monitoring report, and sometimes through an access to information request: data, in fact, sometimes may not be public yet. You have the tools and the right to ask for them, requesting that the authorities make them available.

Let the data ask civic question(s)

Collecting and processing data for your monitoring action should not lead you to produce answers, but to formulate questions.

A journalist would say ‘Let the data speak’; we would rather say ‘Let the data ask civic questions’: starting from the data, you should be able to identify the main core of the problem, that is, elaborate a central question about it. We call this a ‘monitoring question’, i.e. a question of public interest to be addressed to public authorities (whether national decision-makers, politicians or local administrators) who have been entrusted by citizens with the power to manage the common good.

These kinds of ‘monitoring questions’ are useful for obtaining public information, focusing public attention on the identified problems, calling to act for a positive change, and founding a monitoring community. Discover how to do it!

Act with your monitoring community

You are what you think, but you are also what you do: so, once you have found your monitoring community, take action!

From now on, our monitoring path becomes interactive and multi-level. At this point, it turns into a joint venture of empowerment and activism that addresses two types of targets: the public decision-makers at the national or local level, to whom the monitoring question is addressed; but also all the people positively or negatively affected by the dynamics monitored. 

You can communicate with both these targets, with the right tools and through the proper channels.

When dealing with public authorities, always remember to address the right interlocutors, seriously and coherently, in realistic and collaborative terms based on the knowledge acquired so far. After this, monitor the answer (or the lack of it): even silence is a message in itself!

When it comes to reaching out to the citizenry, unleash your creativity! Here you enter the field of campaigning, where you can combine multiple online and offline tools to reach the attention of your audience and gain support for your cause. And maybe involve even more people in your group.

Advocate for better rules

A path of civic monitoring always aims at safeguarding the common good: and to do so it is necessary to detect what is “broken” and try to fix it. Together.

Up to this point, your community’s monitoring path can be considered exhaustive, though not necessarily concluded. Your group of young people has so far moved within the field of civic engagement; the next two steps, on the contrary, transition into the field of activism. These last two steps are optional, because moving forward implies going beyond the monitoring action.

Nevertheless, they present a great opportunity for  young people: starting from their own daily dimension, they can promote a concrete change that impacts everyone’s life. Young people can generate change in national politics, even more frequently than adults.