Why Ecuador is giving awards to public servants

Opinion: Roll out the red carpet - here come the public servants

This article was written by Cristina Burgos, Executive Director, and Carla Martínez, communications officer at Corporación Líderes Para Gobernar, a civil society organisation promoting better public governance in Ecuador. For more like this, see our government innovation newsfeed. 


Civil society does not usually have a positive view of the public sector in Latin American countries. To change that, we founded Prácticas Ejemplares Ecuador, an innovative program that has allowed the recognition of more than 137 public projects in Ecuador.

Four years ago, our organisation Corporación Líderes para Gobernar decided to shine a light on public policies and projects that had a remarkable impact in citizen’s wellbeing. We wanted to make it visible and recognise innovative and efficient projects that are developed in public administrations of Ecuador, in sectors such as: education, health, gender equality and environment, among others.

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Prácticas Ejemplares Ecuador (Exemplary Practices Ecuador) has become a window for public managers to demonstrate the quality of their work in the execution of public policies in favour of citizens. However, low trust in government is not only a problem in Ecuador. We hope that the civil society in other countries can be inspired by our experiences, to also shine a light on the best practices in government. From the civil society it is important to highlight exemplary practices in the public sector and motivate their institutionalisation.

Countering scepticism 

We have encountered great scepticism from the public when seeking to recognise what works best in the public sector in terms of efficiency and innovation. This is because news and opinions on the public sector are not always positive in our region.

That is the reason why we have decided to cling to our proposal, communicate what was important for the country and show that the public sector is fundamentally important and fertile ground to generate changes and positive impact on citizen’s life. We want to start a discussion about how to see more positive attitudes on this topic.

In the year 2016, against the current, we convened Prácticas Ejemplares Ecuador for the first time. We had the support of the media, private companies, multilateral organisations and the know-how of the organisation Ciudadanos Al Día de Perú, which holds a contest very similar in that country.

This contest was a new initiative that caught the attention of public opinion. At the end of the call, we received 58 applications from central government institutions and local governments. We had managed to motivate the participation of public managers.

The best of the best

The spirit of Prácticas Ejemplares Ecuador is to guide civil society to recognize this type of projects. We have an independent jury composed of more than 50 citizens specialized in each category. In the year 2016, we recognized “Edúcate”, a tele-education project, focused on adults. In the Environment category, we endorsed a municipal program that promotes the protection of natural areas in Quito, mainly in the Cloud Forest, which is considered a Biosphere Reserve.

We achieved a positive dialogue in the public sector around an award, an acknowledgment, which was symbolic, that highlights an exemplary project that deserves to be recognised and a potential replication in other territories.

Later, in 2017, we traveled around the country looking for public practices that deserved to be showcased. We managed to double the amount of calls and received around 109 applications, of which the Symphony Orchestra of Children and Adolescents from Guaranda (an Andean city with 65,000 inhabitants) deserves special attention. This project offers scholarships to both vulnerable children and young people. It also trains them in how to play an instrument and use this knowledge to develop a career and a way of living.

“And the award goes to…”

The award ceremony organised by Prácticas Ejemplares Ecuador welcomed many influential personalities and political figures such as mayors and ministers, who arrived to receive the recognition for the project. Nonetheless, we made it clear that the recognition was mainly for the project and not for a political connotation.

The contest has made it possible to revalue public management, generating conversation about the exemplary nature of the public service to improve the life of the communities

The winning projects are developed by employees who work at the public sector and are specialised in technical positions. Their teams are committed to their community and have the right knowledge of the problems and potential solutions for their cities and governments. As evidence of this, we can highlight one of the winner projects: Plan Rupay in Cotacachi (city with 41,000 habitants) which proposed to reduce the forest fires, with the collaboration of Quichua-speaking community leaders. This project was emphasised by its intercultural component and a broad participation in risk management.

Along the way, Prácticas Ejemplares Ecuador have received the support of the academy, which has been a very important contribution. As a result of this; Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja has been doing research in order to document the practices and facilitate their replication. To the date, Prácticas Ejemplares Ecuador has eight Case Studies of recognised public projects.

Watching good things grow

In 2018, the contest had 139 nominated projects. This represent an increase of 136 percent compared to the first award in 2016. As an example, we can highlight “Sara Mama” a project by the Public Private Partnership category, which started in a woman’s community that produces an Ecuadorian ancestral drink called “chicha de jora”. This project had the support of its municipality for the production and commercialisation. “Sara Mama” empowers women in Cotacachi and shares the Andean culinary tradition. 

In the category of Gender Equality, “Irreverent Women” was recognised as a practice that encourages the recognition of female figures who have contributed to the history of Ecuador through radio narrations.

In this edition, the municipalities were the protagonists of the contest. As an organisation, this allowed us to identify the potential of this level of government for training and training of public officials in another line of action of the organisation.

In June 2019, we will launch the fourth edition of the Exemplary Practices Award Ecuador, a contest that has become a window to bring good news about public management. In addition, it has made it possible to revalue public management, generating conversation about the exemplary nature of the public service to improve the life of the communities. — Cristina Burgos and Carla Martínez G.

(Photo credit: Unsplash)

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