Cozumel is a small island with a large amount of tourist activity. Its local government lacks the administrative capacity to effectively manage the environmental impacts of Cozumel’s many visitors.
Our partners, BIOS and Karewa, set out to address these issues and strengthen the accountability of local government, especially with regards to environmental protection. BIOS and Karewa aimed to spark citizen engagement around open contracting and tax forgiveness, thereby improving how public resources are used. We also partnered with GESOC and the Mexican Access to Information and Data Protection Institute (INAI) to provide support to BIOS and Karewa, continuing the efforts we have carried out in the last three years around Following the money.
BIOS is a civil society organization (CSO) based in Mexico that works with governments and other CSOs to promote legal and technical compliance in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public policies affecting the environment.
Karewa is a CSO based in Chihuahua, Mexico with the aim of preventing corruption in the procurement and contracting processes of the governments. Karewa regularly facilitates workshops with citizens to boost participation around the public spending process through monitoring contracts and accountability. They have obtained funding to replicate their open contracting tool in 15 additional municipalities across Mexico – including Cozumel, with Bios – with support from our project.
Global Integrity leveraged our Data Use & Impact service to help Bios and Karewa, as well as partners at INAI and GESOC, to test out advocacy strategies for demanding accountability in the use of public resources, with the goal of both strengthening accountability in Cozumel, and generating lessons to inform their work in other Mexican municipalities.
Specifically, in Cozumel, we worked with Bios and Karewa to:
- Identify challenges partners might address when replicating the open contracting tool developed by Karewa;
- Map the stakeholders in Cozumel relevant to those challenges;
- Develop a strategy, with a clear timeline and goals, for overcoming those challenges
- Design a light touch learning framework;
- Focus on building direct partnerships with other key stakeholders;
- Conduct user workshops to identify areas of interest and need among local users; and ultimately,
- Open and promote use of data by local activists.
BIOS and Karewa built partnerships with other local actors in order to support citizens in understanding how to obtain and comprehend public information.
“Our transparency project with Global Integrity reaffirmed the need for networking and seeking collaboration between sectors to solve public problems,” said Manuel Polo Sánchez, Executive Director of Bios. “On the one hand, we achieved an alliance with Karewa, which strengthened our knowledge in terms of public spending. On the other hand, it was a challenge to be able to translate such technical and complex topics into easily understood information and implement the project in such distinct contexts as Cozumel and the municipality of Chihuahua. The challenge eased, however, as the population started showing interest in the work and, little by little, making the platform their own.”
Municipal authorities in Cozumel are now engaging with BIOS to collaborate on the improvement of the design and implementation of budget programs, as well as monitor spending. BIOS also developed a number of partnerships with local CSOs and journalists in order to identify irregularities in government contracts and budgeting.
“Citizens in Cozumel now have better access to information on how government decisions are made and how public resources are spent,” said Sánchez
For Global Integrity, our work with Bios and Karewa reinforced the idea that tools are merely a medium for achieving goals. Clearly defining expected results, and then tailoring tools and processes to help partners think through engagement, communication, and evidence presentation is essential. When we do this – start with partners, and problems – we do a better job of helping our partners make progress towards impact, and towards establishing sustainable local processes that will continue in the future.
We look forward to continuing to work alongside Bios and Karewa, as well as INAI and GESOC, providing insight and suggestions for furthering conversations and formalizing partnerships with municipal authorities.