Fellow Since 1999
This profile was prepared when Christian Gruenberg was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Christian has developed a process of third-party coordination and monitoring of public hearings regarding government projects that give citizens the power to stop corruption and wasteful government spending before it starts. Public hearings, which provide a forum for government and businesses to dialogue with the public about bidding processes and social and environmental impact of proposed government projects, are standard components of most democracies. However they are seldom used effectively in Argentina or elsewhere in Latin America where governments, or other administrators of public works, solicit bids and go through the motions of a hearing. In contrast, Christian is transforming these meetings into open, well-managed hearings by creating an external coordinating arm for bringing the different actors involved in the hearing together, educating them about the process, and monitoring and disseminating the results. In doing so, Christian is challenging the commonly-held notion that only judges can fight corruption and instead, is providing real forums for voicing citizen concerns and making governments accountable for their spending decisions. While each successful public hearing is in itself an accomplishment, the sum of these efforts points to a new, low-cost technique for engaging citizens in democracy and rebuilding confidence in government, while at the same time encouraging government officials, citizens and contractors alike to make transparency a priority in the administration of public works. The process also provides politicians and others interested in demonstrating their own commitment to preventing corruption with a space in which to dialogue with the community and prove themselves as partners in democracy.