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As citizens in many democracies seek greater participation in public debate, international civil society organisations (ICSOs) are seeking a new model for advocacy: one where supporters become fuller participants in priority-setting and tactics, and where leadership demonstrates accountability to those participants on an ongoing basis.

“People power”, unleashed and expedited by newer technologies, can help ICSOs scale their impact – through crowdsourcing projects, for instance, that harness the input of thousands of unconnected individuals, or through networked campaigns that disseminate not only information but also campaign leadership across hundreds of small groups and thousands of miles.

Last month, I was privileged to help lead a workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe, for activists in the Publish What You Pay coalition, focusing on how data can get citizens a better deal from their oil and mining sector.

Through the "Open Data Extractors" project, campaigners from across the global coalition learn how new laws in the EU and the US are unlocking payment data from companies that dig for oil and minerals around the world.

When financial stories make the news, they usually come with a villain attached. People love the “Who” in the fight against corruption. Banks like Goldman Sachs become the Darth Vader of the financial crisis. Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson gets ousted when his offshore deals appear in the Panama Papers.

It’s much harder, however, to tell a story about systemic problems—the “What” and the “How.”

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