Demonstration effect

The first 100 days are critical because these show to all the brand of leadership a newly elected officer has, his or her leadership style, converting campaign promises to executive agenda, delivering on the promises and giving a feel — a sense of how the next three years would look like. The first 100 days is a period of setting the tone. In a three-year cycle, if the learning curve of the elected leader is high, he or she can accomplish a lot so that consolidation, planning and implementation are prepared and rolled out evenly. 

Some local government executives have become irritated with certain colleagues of theirs who do their jobs in earnest. These officials would often say they look bad because they are compared to the so-called performers. Others would even go so far as to say that some are trying to do their jobs for show, what with the proliferation of social media platforms. “I look bad when compared to him,” said one. “Why does he get coverage and why does he do things openly?” another pointed out. Others would say that a certain local mayor is overexposed. But that again shows a bad understanding of new media.

Setting aside critics and showing what President Rodrigo Roa Duterte did in his first 100 days is how demonstration effect was used to show to all that this is a new era of public service, giving impetus to an enhanced service delivery at the frontlines of governance. PRRD wanted people to feel immediately that there was a government and that the government would provide the services the people had been yearning for. Of course, there is the flip side of the coin, where issues have been raised, from the war against drugs to corruption.

The first 100 days are critical because these show to all the brand of leadership a newly elected officer has, his or her leadership style, converting campaign promises to executive agenda, delivering on the promises and giving a feel — a sense of how the next three years would look like. The first 100 days is a period of setting the tone. In a three-year cycle, if the learning curve of the elected leader is high, he or she can accomplish a lot so that consolidation, planning and implementation are prepared and rolled out evenly. If the elected public servant is strategic, he or she has only the second year to implement and deliver considering the third year is preparation already for reelection. He or she has to plan and execute fast and, barring any hitches, the hard projects need to roll out by the second year. Which means the first year is direction-setting, finalizing plans and funding the activities.

If the learning curve is low, it will take the leader six months to make sense of things, another six months to finalize plans, and the rollout will be done only in the second year. Which means the needed reforms are delayed and accomplishments are few by which the constituents can gauge if the leader is worth his mandate. These days, local government executives are expected to lead immediately and aggressively. No ifs and buts. No excuses such as having no funds left by the predecessor. Run with it because time is of the essence. Accomplishments have to be felt and seen for the narratives of the second term are all based on it.

Demonstration effect refers to the “behavior of individuals caused by observation of the actions of others and their consequences.” According to the Financial Times lexicon, it is the idea that “people expect or want to buy or have things because they see that other people are able to have them.” The term is particularly “used in the areas of economics, political science and sociology to describe the phenomenon that development in one location or context may act as a catalyst for emulation in another location or context.”

A strategic mind would therefore need to understand what demonstration effect is. One need not do everything in the first year. One merely has to show what he or she can do. To clean a city is not just a figure of speech, one would need to be seen as scrubbing it — a communal task; collecting the garbage regularly; sweeping roads and alleys; putting order when there was none; clearing main thoroughfares; and the like. Doing all these things is part and parcel of public order. Government is first felt in the frontlines and by instilling public order. Streets that were dark need to be lighted up. Police who have never been seen in communities, unless there is a crime to investigate, are seen doing patrols. There is less mayhem and more order. There is more discipline and less anarchy.

Remember former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani? Giuliani was the 107th mayor who cleaned New York using the broken windows approach in battling urban decay. This theory suggests “police can make cities safer by cracking down on minor crimes like vandalism, which the Big Apple definitely did in the 1990s.” Giuliani insisted that police should enforce seemingly minor “quality-of-life” laws such as those outlawing public drinking, littering and jaywalking. That public servants should smile more and care more for residents. Within several years, Giuliani was widely credited for making major improvements in the city’s quality of life and lowering the rate of violent crimes. Show, don’t tell.

The broken windows theory stems from two criminologists, George Kelling and James Wilson, who suggested that minor disorder, like vandalism, acted as a gateway to more serious crime. By focusing on smaller offenses, often referred to as “quality of life” crimes, Kelling and Wilson thought violent crime and other less desirable issues would decrease. Add community policing and a local chief executive can lower crime rate and restore order just by performing their mandated tasks.

Demonstration effects “describes the fact that developments in one place will often act as a catalyst in another place.” So, when one mayor shows to all how common sense leadership is and what open leadership means, it was not to show off or to be better than the rest. It was a realization that doing is better than studying, and analysis/paralysis has no room in local governance because people are waiting for change to take place, not at the end of one’s term but at the very beginning, not in the second term but in the first 100 days.

The race for the next 100 days is on. Who can deliver more? Whose leadership can be felt? Who can change a municipality, city and province to a friendlier and caring locality where lives are made better? Who can deal with squalor, decay, homelessness and turn around the same are being watched more and more. After all, if only 20 percent of 81 provinces, 145 cities, 1,489 municipalities and 42,045 barangay move and do their work, the country would be much better. If there is less corruption, more dedicated public servants and elected leaders then governance would have attained its economic worth for the country. Some say it is wishful thinking, but hope springs eternal.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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