Finding Legitimacy

About the work

Many of the biggest challenges of our time cannot be solved by governments acting alone, but many citizens feel less connected to government than ever. In these unpredictable times with more opportunities than ever to communicate, governments are wrestling with big questions. How can governments help citizens to lead better and healthier lives? How can we find new employment for someone when their role is replaced by new technology? How can communities work together with public services to help make changes that benefit people?

To address big questions like these, governments around the world depend on their citizens to help decide priorities and make things happen. Legitimacy is one of the three Public Impact Fundamentals and by legitimacy, we mean the reservoir of support government requires to achieve public impact.

While many talk about legitimacy in terms of personal approval for leaders or whether a government is legitimate or illegitimate (rightfully in power or not rightfully in power), we’re instead interested in what creates and sustains legitimacy: in government systems, policy processes, and frontline services.

Say hello to our #FindingLegitimacy champions

We want to find out what legitimacy means to people in different parts of the world, how it looks, and what governments can do to build legitimacy.

We are interested in understanding how to improve the quality of the relationship between government and citizens in order to build the reservoir of support that governments need to deliver public impact. Meet our Legitimacy Champions who will be bringing together diverse groups of people – from taxi drivers to senior civil servants, experienced journalists to teenagers – in order to gain a better understanding of what legitimacy means to people across the world today.

This is an important global question that affects everyone.

We want to hear opinions and ideas from people with many different perspectives and from all around the world. Our conversation will be:

  • Inclusive – we want to hear from a range of voices from all over the world
  • Constructive and collaborative – we are ready to play our part in helping to make legitimacy stronger
  • Open-minded and diverse – we are expecting challenges, diversity and surprises in our conversation, and will not be lead by our pre-conceived ideas of what legitimacy means

Where you come in

To start the conversation, we invite you to read and respond to our new discussion paper. What do you think about the elements we attach to a government’s legitimacy: trust, fairness, values and democracy – how much do they matter?

Case studies

We would like to hear about how legitimacy is working where you live, send us your stories and case studies about how government and public services worked with people to improve outcomes.

Hold a conversation

Ask us how we can help you hold a conversation about legitimacy or let us know where and when you are discussing it. We’d love to hear your answers and stories in response to questions like:
  • What does legitimacy mean where you live?
  • What can a government do to help strengthen its legitimacy with citizens?
  • Who needs to be involved in the conversation about legitimacy?
  • What have you seen working, or not working, to help a government strengthen its legitimacy?
  • How can government prepare for the future of legitimacy and what does that future way of building legitimacy look like?

If you have answers or ideas – or can think of more questions we should be asking – join the conversation @CPI_foundation using the hashtag #findinglegitimacy or email us at

Read the report

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