Held to Account: Challenges of Governance from the Local to the Global , Janice Gross Stein, October 21, 2002
University Professor Lecture Series, Isabel Bader Theatre, University of Toronto, Monday, October 21, 2002, 7 pm
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Welcome by Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science
Second lecture in the university professor series.
Presented by the Global Knowledge Foundation, Faculty of the Arts and Science, supported by the Elderwood Foundation.
University professor is highest rank, only 30 at U. of Toronto
Represent best teachers and researchers
Janice Gross Stein
Department of Political Science
Director of Munk Centre
Questions at end, because being taped by TV Ontario
Global Knowledge Foundation
Formed in 1997, by students dreaming of a talk by Stephen Hawking.
Became the only public talk in North America by Dr. Hawking that year.
175th anniversary of U. of Toronto
[Michael Goldberg, president of the Global Knowledge Foundation]
Janice Gross Stein
Has written on globalization,, peacemaking, particularly in the Middle East
Advisor, policy, conflict resolution
2001, Massey Lecture "The Cult of Efficiency"
Editor "Street protests and fancy parks, 2002"
Feldsberg professor of peace and conflict
[Janice Gross Stein]
Has known the president of the Global Knowledge Foundation since he was 5 years old.
Today's talk may raise more questions.
Large question of accountability in our society.
Everyere we go today, accountability is the language of our time: family, government, business, international institutions
Old language of responsibility.
In political science 101, used to talk about responsible government, now hear about accountable government.
Roots of the word "accountability"
From rendering of accounts -- an accountancy term.
Reduction of responsibility to accounting language
More and more we talk about accounting, and this shows up in public issues.
Where did accountability come from?
As original institutions have lots their authority - religion, government, schools - we turn to accounts for out ethics.
We translate big questions into accounting problems.
As societies have become interconnected, we're embedded in larger systems.
When something goes wrong, we blame the systems.
e.g. medical error, it's not an individual person, it's a systems error.
Some truth, as systems become more complex.
Focus on systems errors eases the conscience of the individual.
Takes a matter of conscience, into a matter of accounting and better systems design.
In accounting, there's still problems
We're accountable to more than one institution, person, at a time.
Demands are inconsistent, demands conflict.
e.g. school boards in the city of Toronto.
They ran deficits and were told that they weren't accountable.
They said yes, they are accountable to children in school, as well as to government.
Often confuse accountable with responsible.
Have different meanings.
Philosophers, as used in everyday language.
Responsible == an attachment to some sort of moral experience, standards, that we have accepted as our own.
Different meaning than accountability.
More experience is independent of the possibility of getting caught - cheating or not cheating.
Independent of detection
About values - social, religious, personal.
Different from accountable.
Illustration of dilemma: families
Do families seek to bring up an accountable child, or a responsible child?
To whom and for what are parents accountable?
More accountability for children, even when not under direct supervision.
For how long?, e.g. when teenaged children drive while impaired.
Responsible but not accountable?
As we move beyond the family to the community, and from local to global, the gap between responsibility and accountability gets bigger.
In business, most focus has been on the accuracy of information that firms release.
This is a narrow definition of accountability.
Today, firms are accountable to their shareholders.
Customers are not central.
Nor are employees critical, except for their contribution to profitability.
Corporate accountability has narrowed, and time horizion has shrunk.
Short term then means less investment - in employees, relationships.
These narrow focuses of accountability are under criticism.
Employees feel less loyal, and less responsible.
Employers feel less responsible.
Less commitment, less investment over time, and a less capacity to innovate.
Members of the corporate community looking at work: Harvard Good Work project.
Asks: how do people who want to do good work - work both excellent and responsible - resolve the contradictory pressures that lead to success
Physicians, journalists, ...
Early results presented just this week are not encouraging.
Across the professions, in the pulls between good work and success, they choose accountabiliity over responsibility.
As accountability has narrowed, a new concept of corporate responsibillity is rising.
More social responsibility.
Task force by Ed Broadbent, last year.
Corporations asked to think about themselves as corporate citizens.
Look in voluntary and non-public sectors.
Governments are handing off responsibilities off to deliver services
Now a contraction between being accountable and responsible.
Voluntary sector is accountable, as are private and public sector.
But there's a dark side.
To whom is a voluntary association accountable?
The board, who has oversight?
The community it serves?
To those its speaks for?
No clear answer.
Each stakeholder has a different interest.
When we look at the IMF and the World Bank, we see them moving towards uniform standards of performance.
The often don't look to the local constituents they serve.
e.g. reshaping the delivery of health care.
Local NGOs were held to strict measure of performance.
Despite repeated warnings to the bank that they would not be sustainable, because the local infrastructure was not in place.
Local NGOs found themselves trapped.
When speaking with organizations in India, they knew they were trapped.
Without funding, no programs.
If accept funding, have to accept specifications inappropriate for local community.
Accountability as a hammer used against voluntary organizations, which prevent fulfilling the local community.
If we add the question of time horizons (similar to the corporate sector).
If don't specify time, can't be accountabile, because can't measure.
If a voluntary organization has a specific mission, e.g. innoculations, then can measure.
But what about longer-term programs?
More difficult to get time horizons right.
If too short, then accountability competes with responsibility.
Then agencies are forced to abandon programs.
The problems of the local community are similar to the problems in the corporate sector.
If we turn to government, it should be easier.
In democractic systems, we have institutions, e.g. elections.
Political leaders should be responsible, but new language says accountable.
Much more than what the ethics counseller is speaking about.
Turning to private sector has made things even more complicated.
We hear less about responsible government.
Movement towards accountable.
When was the last time we heard about a responsible International Monetary Fund, rather than an accountable one?
Consider religious institutions and leaders
Vatican's response to U.S. statements on clergy.
Said U.S. clergy had gone to far, and that they had not gone far enough in safeguarding the children.
Absent in the statement was the responsibility.
More about checks and balances, about designing better institutions to deal with these ethical dilemmas.
The language of accountability won't take us as far as we need to get.
Need to get beyond accountability.
The responsible self is a function of the values we share.
Three practical puzzles: What language to we need?
Puzzle 1: How do we deal with error, when when make mistakes?
Example of medical error.
Is it enough to deal with it as a systems error, or is there individual responsibility?
If we hold individual responsibility, how do we prevent them from being scapegoats?
U. of Toronto study - if we continue to scapegoat, doctors and nurses will hide their mistakes.
Then how could we learn?
Second puzzle: How do we protect whistle-blowers?
Fate has gotten worse than better.
Some whistle-blowers are punished, discouraging others.
How can we put some protection around whistle-blowers.
They blow whistles because they feel some responsibility.
Third: How do we broaden beyond what we can measure, to what we can't.
We can't measure what we can't see.
But if we don't measure, we run a risk.
We risk becoming a society of accountants.
Accountants are not known for creativity, nor for innovation.
What will the next generation of leaders look like?
They will be risk-taking innovators, with a conscience.
Good Work project at Harvard?
Run by Howard Gardner at Harvard, have a web site.
Currently in first phase.
Nine professions: journalists, corporate sectors, teachers
Found contradiction across all nine professions.
When caught between choice of success and responsibility, chose success.
Surprisingly, the one with the most surprise is journalists.
Will be posing ethical dilemmas for people in the community.
David Olsen, university professor: Accountants who are creative with Arthur Andersen. Real question is about entitlements. Accountability and responsibility is really only important in terms of
Recklessly foolhardy that accountants that too much accounting can be a dangerous.
Point is reverse: the accounting problem was conceived in such narrow terms.
Then able to build in incentives, and build the system to handle.
Better-functioning accounting systems can stifle education.
e.g. universities driven by performance measures can skew the way that teachers think about their responsibility.
Can squeeze out the creativity.
Entitlements are a bigger issue.
The other side of responsibility is rights.
Rights and entitlements similar.
Answer with a question: do rights precede responsibilities, or do the responsibilities precede the rights?
It depends on the institution.
In the family, responsibilities precede rights.
It's hard to think about rights and accounting.
Guya: host of anti-apathy, with beer and music. How should we act? As consumers, we can say we want a refund. What is the role of the citizen?
A huge question.
Story: Federal Department of Heritage, has gone through a transformation, who has gone to a more responsible job.
What does heritage mean to Canadians?
Musuems, concerts, or more?
Didn't start with the question of what are the rights of the citizen.
He started with the question: what is the responsibilities of the citizen?
Do we share some values on our obligations?
Consider doing an evening on what the responsibilities.
A citizen living in the community. How can we get our politicians to be more responsible? Some feel powerless. We may have more power as citizens. Chretien moving in the right direction.
Our political leaders pay a lot of attention to what we say.
Private polling, constantly.
Pay a lot of attention to letters to editors, and op eds.
Struck by ability of members to remember single sentences in op ed.
Yes, Chretien moving in the right direction, but the next is what do we do as citizens.
Relationship between accountability and responsibility. Causal direction from accountability to responsibility. Can we look at the causal direction is the other way? Is this because responsibility
systems were not working well?
Yes, right in one sense,
Focus on accountability developed out of the sense that our institutions weren't working the way we wanted them to work.
But where does this take us? Towards the measureable.
Towards a system that is partially the answer.
The problem is that it's become the whole, for many people.
It's weakening the broader set of responsibilities.
Someone working on corporate accountability: Moral teachings aren't enough. They fail us. When they fail, do we weed them out?
Michael Maris, history professor, dean of graduate school. An alternative to the mechanistic accountants approach and the moralistic approach. Accountability represents an interest in direct
democracy. Recall, transparency. Responsibility represents an older approach to politics, on leaders and hierarchy, leadership as leading by special qualities, i.e. they're the responsible ones.
There is an engagement with systems that don't work as well. But question on the nature of democracy.,
Historically correct. Accountability came from a serious concern with the institutions not working.
But think about the words: direct democracy, recall, transparency. These are parts of accountability.
Still accountability includes more, in terms of values.
Accountability movement has been to narrow, and lose the agenda, and values.
Another advantage of responsible. Accountability is one way. Responsibility is two way.
Thus, citizen's responsibilities, not only leaders responsibilitiies.
Terrence Horvath: former governing council, retired lawyer. Accountability as an objective test, and responsibility as a moral or subjective test. Accountability with fidiciary duty, in contracts
and torts. Last two questioners were dealing from a democratic or historical. Responsibility had to do with duty.
In legal theory, the concept of responsibility has multiple meanings, e.g. liability.
The movement to accountability is a movement to an objective measure, understandable by people.
We tend to measure what we can see, and leave out what we can't see.
We then often leave out some important things.
We could end up with a truncated set of standards.
In lawyer-client relationship, it would be tough to create an objective standard. A lot would be left out.
Today, we're looking for measures.
Why accountability? Change in structure, organization?
Lack of authority (that set standards)
Increased focuse on measurement in our society.
What can ordinary slobs do to influence our political leaders? Political polls, which are quantifiable. Is a political leader who uses a poll to say that he's doing what the citizens want
responsible? Or is the one that says that he isn't responsible.
It's the second.
We elect leaders who will make responsible decisions, that reflect standards and values.
In the 20th century, the greatest catastrophes have come from movements that were morally indefensible.
You wouldn't get to that question is you used the language of accountability. You wouldn't be on the political screen.
Using the language of responsibility brings us to this dilemma.
The dean, leaving you with a puzzle. Government with a report on university accountability. Deans will answer questions from students, faculty, parents, friends, donors. Give some guidance to whom
deans are accountabile and responsible? In addition, do surveys (e.g. Macleans) give us some help on responsibility and accountability?