In this article, we look at four cases of key historical policies in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania to examine how states engage with citizen voices.
The policies all took place in contexts of political change and major junctures of democratisation. We identify three kinds of moments when the state listens: hearing moments, when it engages with citizen voices but does not change the way it acts; consultation moments, when it engages with citizen voices through two-way dialogue, resulting in one-sided action; and concertation moments, when coalitions between reform-minded officials and politicians and organised citizen voices engage in two-way dialogue and action for accountable governance.
Concertation moments occurred when there was a shared sense of urgency and a common goal across state and non-state actors, and despite different understandings of accountable governance. But concertation moments are also laborious and temporary, part of larger, ever-changing policy processes, and often states revert to consultation or hearing.