Ethnography and Government Initiatives

Jennifer King

Many people have been asking the question “Is open government working?”. Panthea Lee offers her view on this topic in her article ‘An Ethnographic Approach to Impact Evaluation: Stop Measuring Outputs, Start Understanding Experiences‘.

Lee explains that quantified metrics have their place and I think that they always will.  They are almost always used to justify funding for an initiative or project but these metrics say very little about people and the impact that these initiatives have on them.

Lee continues to say that applied ethnography holds great potential for understanding how individuals experience initiatives like this by understanding the meaning of participation for individuals. This can provide a rich understanding of the initiatives real world-impact as well as valuable insights into the challenges that might have to be addressed. Examples are given where other government initiatives in Rome and India that have benefited from taking this approach.

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