A colleague of mine, Joseph Curtin, came up with a simple idea: why not rank, and then track, optimal political reform measures? Building on that core I elaborated a second stage that would begin after the election of a new government, at which point the system would become a way for people to engage with monitoring the progress of governmental implementation of reforms.
(More to follow on: www.reformcard.com, where the Political Reform Scorecard site was launched on 4 February, in advance of the Irish elections. To keep up to date follow @reformcard on twitter and keep an eye out for the #reformcard hashtag.)
(PDF of this document Political Reform Scorecard Proposal) updated 20 January 2011
(A Monitoring and Tracking Framework for Political Reform in Ireland)
“….the Irish political system, as presently constituted, cannot produce good governance”
–MacGill Summer School conclusions 2010
The economic crisis and the upcoming general election provide a unique opportunity to pursue political reform in Ireland. The objective of this project is to develop and publicise an easy to understand scoring system, developed by a panel of independent experts, against which political parties’ reform proposals will be judged. The proposed scorecard will also be used to monitor implementation of reform promises.
The political reform scorecard will enhance communication between three communities central to Irish politics: the public, the politicians, and the independent expert. There is near consensus among political scientists based on detailed analysis of Irish politics that radical reform in many areas would enhance the quality of our political institutions. There is also a strong public appetite for reform. Yet reforms have has not been implemented by successive governments.
Equipping the public with a scorecard for reform will harness bottom up influence to ensure that these reforms become priorities for the next government. Priorities for reform as embodied in the scorecard will also be communicated directly to public representatives and candidates for public office prior to the publication of political manifestos.
The methodology for the establishment of the scorecard is based on the following three steps:
- Identify priority areas for reform;
- Develop indicators to measure each area; and
- Establish a valid scoring system for indicators.
An academic panel of the leading political scientists will establish by consensus priorities areas for reform. These have provisionally been identified as: Oireachtas reform, open government, electoral reform, local government reform, and public sector reform. A series of indicators will be agreed for each area based on best available research. A scoring system will be devised so that a number can be associated with each indicator which reflects the strength of political commitment of a particular party to reform in this area.
Once the scorecard has been signed off by the academic panel it will be circulated, along with an explanatory memo, to all public representatives, political advisers, and candidates for public office, prior to publication of election manifestos. Political parties and candidates would therefore be in a position to incorporate elements from the scorecard into their manifestos.
The assessment of individual manifestos as they are published, as well as a final comparative assessment of all parties’ proposals, will be undertaken. This will be followed by an assessment of the programme for government. The findings in each case would be made public on line, where the rating system would be explained, and by way a series of press releases and press conferences. It will be necessary to invest significantly in a public relations campaign that will secure media coverage, in addition to online discussion.
In the second stage of the project the newly elected government’s performance in implementing the reforms promised in its programme for government will be monitored and assessed. The process will rely on a community of volunteer data activists who will alert the Reformcard.com site to developments and data related to government performance. This will keep the academic panel up to date with new information (e.g. progression of legislation) so that it can score the government’s performance to hold it to account, and will also provide a public resource for shared political data. This may, subject to the work of the volunteer developers involved, include tools such as an interactive legislative progress chart. The Reformcard.com site will establish relationships with open data organisations working in Ireland toward this end.
In addition, a community dimension will be added to stage one. Reformcard.com will host a facility by which the public will have the ability to vote to weight the importance of one area of reform against another. The academic panel will have proposed priority areas for reform, and it is envisaged that the site will host a tool that will enable the public to be able to add their voices in determining which are weighted as most important. The number of public votes will be taken into account when judging the relative weighting of the reform areas so that a handful of voters do not skew the results.
Project architects Joseph Curtin and Johnny Ryan have developed a methodology for the scorecard (based largely on Joseph Curtin’s work on a similar project for the OECD).
A core group of political science academics have committed to the project. They are currently considering design elements of the scorecard as well as sounding out other experts on their interest in participating as members of the academic panel.
We have received offers of pro bono technical assistance in developing the website, as well as offers of assistance in the promotion of the idea from PR consultants.
Members of the Irish online community have volunteered to work on the Internet elements of the project, namely the crowd weighting and the tracking element of stage 2. The project has acquired the rights to www.reformcard.com, and is developing the basis for an online community to engage with stage 2.
A proposed timeline is outlined below (subject to advice of PR consultant):
- Thursday Jan 27: Academic panel membership finalised. The academic panel will nominate a chairperson, and spokespersons for Munster and Connaught/Ulster.
- Thursday 27 Jan: Scorecard proposal (including proposed areas of reform, indicators
and scoring system) and explanatory memorandum finalized by academic panel;
- Thursday 27 Jan: Cover letter to politicians drafted by project architects and circulated to academic panel for sign off (mailing list compiled by project architects);
- Friday 28 Jan: Project architects ensure scorecard design looks professional and attractive; circulate sample to academic panel
- Tuesday 1 Feb: Cover letter, explanatory memo and visualized representation of scorecard circulated to all members of Oireachtas and as many candidates as possible;
- Wednesday 2 Feb:Release day
- Morning: circulate press release (“architects” with PR consultants, sign off by chair of academic panel);
- Afternoon: press conference (present: two members of academic panel, project architects, PR consultant),
Release scorecard on Reformcard.com.
- Late February (date TBC): Further to publication of the six party’s manifestos the academic panel will work independently to apply the scorecard to each manifesto (FF, FG, Lab, Green, SF, and the Left Alliance), including analysis of any background policy documents as appropriate. The academic panel will ideally produce the analysis within three day of the publication of the manifestos, and convey scoring to the project architects. This would include both composite score and the detail of the score.
- Late February/Early March: Scorecards on each manifesto will be issued to the press and posted online in a staggered manner to maximise publicity. Press releases will be handled by a PR consultant, with sign off by the chair of the academic panel and project architects. Speaking notes, as necessary, will be drafted in tandem with a PR consultant.
- Late March/Early April: The academic panel will assess the programme for government. Its scorecard will be announced at a press conference, and via press releases drafted by the PR consultant and signed off on by project architects and the chair of the academic panel.
The new government’s ongoing performance will be tracked using open data and given a quarterly (or other regular time-frame) scorecard update that assesses how well it has delivered on its reform commitments. To be effective these regular updates must be covered by the media, and discussed online (See section 2 above).
Clear lines of responsibilities between the actors involved this project will avoid duplication of effort. We propose that a chair of the academic panel should be nominated by the panel, in order to effectively management a rapid analysis process that allows deadlines to be met. To maximise the public impact of each release this project will have a coherent public communications strategy: communications will be managed by the project architects, informed by the PR consultant, and signed off by the chair of the academic panel. All participants – with the possible exception of the PR consultant – are contributing their time pro-bono.
Project participants are:
- Project Architects: Joseph Curtin and Johnny Ryan;
- Academic Panel: Approximately 10 leading experts on the Irish political system, including Elaine Byrne (TCD); Jane Suitor (UCC) and Eoin O’Malley (DCU);
- Char of academic panel: to be nominated by panel members
- Web Developers: we have been approached by a number of highly skilled coders interested in designing the website;
- PR consultants: we have been approached by several PR companies;
- The public: the PR campaign will attract visitors to Reformcard.com, and an online community of interest is gathering around the project. This will form a basis for wider engagement with the project.
Responsibilities are allocated as follows:
- Overall project coordination: Project architects
- Finalise scorecard: Academic Panel
- Explanatory memo: Academic Panel
- Cover letter to public representatives: Project architects (first draft) & academic panel
- Press strategy coordination: PR consultant
- Press Releases: PR consultant (sign off by academic panel and project architects)
- Media enquiries:
Questions related to evaluation of manifestos, relative performance of parties, areas of reform, and indicators of reform, will be the responsibility of the academic panel – i.e. spokespersons nominated by the panel.
Questions related to project, its rationale, and operation, will be the responsibility of the project architects.
- Web Design: Project architects working with web development volunteers
- Public: content for site, review of progress on implementation, weighting of priority areas for reform
Joseph Curtin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Johnny Ryan (email@example.com)
Joseph Curtin works as a consultant specialising in energy and climate change issues for the OECD, SEAI, and IIEA.
Johnny Ryan is the author of A history of the Internet and the digital future (Reaktion/University of Chicago Press, 2010).
 See Adcock, R and Collier, D (2001), “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research”, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 95, No. 3 (Sep 2001)