| By Noor Akoum & Elissa Tabet |
We had no idea what we were getting into. Our generation grew up with the resigned despair of our parents – “everything is bad, and nothing will ever change.” When we signed up for the Youth4Governance internship, we expected to learn about the broken system, review some documents, and tell our friends about our “productive” summer. Instead, we found ourselves in the belly of the beast, trying desperately to understand the often-baffling components of Lebanon’s public administration.
People often talk about public reform and discuss policymaking in a socio-political context with an objective lens, and Lebanese youth have tended to shy away for a variety of reasons. Traditionally, slogan-oriented campaigns led by corrupt and neglectful politicians are used to sway the masses. However, these types of movements are not readily embraced by the youth of Lebanon who are interested in making a change.
So, when we went to the Vehicle Registration Office (VRO aka Nefaa) in Dekweneh in mid-June, we didn’t really know what to expect. What we saw, though, was shocking – the lack of basic facilities at the institution, paper archives in complete disarray and a state of general neglect and disrepair. Knowing that this institution is to some degree representative of the Lebanese public sector more broadly, it was quite overwhelming to witness this
Clear objectives guide the process
Our main activities included reorganizing the VRO’s archives to enable easier access to past transactions and files; conducting a field survey examining citizens’ perceptions and experience of Nefaa services; assisting citizens with using the new e-appointments platform; monitoring the iterative data collection cycle and managing the social media outlets.
As we became more familiar with the program, our role in Youth4Governance developed. We were able to not only witness but also participate in on-the-ground public sector reform. In the span of about a month, significant progress was made in rehabilitating the VRO. This involved a combination of manual and digital efforts, resulting in the organization of 87,800 files and over 27,800 data entries.
There were many important duties to be completed. We performed in-depth research and data entry to transform raw data into a survey report. The shift we saw in customer satisfaction following the activation of the e-platform was remarkable and very motivating. Users expressed their satisfaction and appreciation for the platform’s time-saving features and newly established organization. Moreover, a drastic change was noticeable in terms of the facilities and their cleanliness, due to the renovation work that was done. Some of the most rewarding feedback came from the ISF officers working at the VRO, who reported that they found the work environment more orderly and less stressful.
Combining the expertise of professionals with a diverse group of university students, Youth4Governance accomplished what was once thought unachievable. This program allowed us to be assets to our country, which in effect, boosted our civic nationalism. It proved that change can happen with a lot of hard work and commitment. Now we view Lebanon in a different light, no longer a hopeless and flawed country that lacks potential. A small group of college students, barely out of high school, with teamwork and patience, showed that it is possible to make a difference. As Lebanese youth, we are the real changemakers, the future of Lebanon.