Accountability in Liberia: Creativity, Innovation and Potential

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By Yasmin Anis, Accountability Lab Summer Resident. It has been a whirlwind of a first week since I landed in Monrovia. As with any new place, you attempt to take in your surroundings while your brain frantically compiles a group of initial observations. These then begin to transform into broader themes you discover about the place you are now experiencing.

And the biggest thing that has struck me in my first week here, after being in at least 10-15 meetings, is the fresh and creative outlook that everyone we’ve met has had. Also striking is the commitment to positive change- not only from young Liberians, but also from some of their foreign counterparts who were initially only meant to be here for a short time and chose to stay on for years because of the potential they saw within Liberia.

We had the chance to sit down with people working in all sectors- tourism, media, music, technology, education, youth and development- to talk about how these relate to accountability. And the sense that I got is they all are looking towards a brighter future for Liberia. They are all concerned about the sustainability of the work they are doing and how to create something that will affect change within society.

Most importantly is that everyone is willing to talk, to brainstorm on new ideas, and to think of creative ways to collaborate. We met with the founder of Barefoot Safaris, for example, one of two tour groups operating within Liberia. When we arrived at the meeting I found myself sitting opposite a fresh-faced young American girl, who had arrived in Liberia five years ago for a summer internship and ended up staying to open a tour agency. The following day I found myself sitting in front another young woman who had arrived in Liberia a few years earlier just for the summer, and has been here ever since managing the most famous rapper in Liberia. The stories are endless, but the message is the same across the board: Liberia has a lot to offer and huge potential.

The lasting impact, though, has come from the Liberians I’ve met. They have witnessed their country go through civil war and its devastating aftermath, yet they are still open, welcoming and willing to talk about their country. Perhaps the best example of this is the head of the reporter’s association of Liberia, a young journalist who still managed to show up to his meeting with us despite having just heard that he might have a warrant out for his arrest simply because he dug a little too deep with a story on the Liberian government. Nevertheless, he showed up, calm and collected, and discussed with us the serious challenges surrounding the media and freedom of information. Determined, he explained to us he knew he was doing the right thing and had no intention of stopping anytime soon.

After a little over a week on the ground I’ve discovered a secret that everyone working here already knows: the potential in Liberia is great and the Accountability Lab is excited to be part of reaching it. All this and I have yet to meet the filmmaker who wants to train journalists in documentary-making to create an accountability themed film festival; nor have I met the newly-elected student leaders who are interested in working with us to roll out the TELL SMS reporting program. Liberians clearly understand the importance of accountability- I hope I can catalyze that process over the next few months.

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