Jaime Junior, Advocacy & Community Education Coordinator for the Disability Network in Wayne County Detroit, outlines four ways governments can earn legitimacy.Share article
Season 2, episode 1 of the #ReimaginingGovernment podcast focuses on earned legitimacy. Jaime Junior shared what legitimacy in government means to her and four ways it can be earned.Share article
“Legitimacy in government, to me, means transparency. It’s the willingness to step out of that policy box, and it’s about being open to what needs to happen in order for you to deserve your purpose as government.”Share article
🎙️ Reimagining Government
For a government to be legitimate, it must have its people's trust. But, many communities across the globe distrust their government. Season 2, episode 1 explores how governments can earn that trust and legitimacy. It is a gradual process that requires time and dedication. So, where do we start?
Jaime Junior is the Advocacy and Community Education Coordinator for the Disability Network of Wayne County Detroit, a non-profit organization specialising in community services, resources, and advocacy for individuals with disabilities. In addition, she's the former Community Coordinator for the City of Detroit's Office of Disability Affairs and is currently the reigning Ms Wheelchair Michigan 2023.
Jaime's role at the Disability Network, combined with her personal experience living with cerebral palsy, gives her credibility and drives her to be a strong advocate and educator. Her experiences make her the perfect guest for the first episode of our Reimagining Government podcast's second season.
The episode focuses on earned legitimacy, exploring how governments can rally their efforts to engage with communities meaningfully and build trust. During the conversation, Jaime shared what legitimacy in government means to her and four ways it can be earned.
What does legitimacy in government mean to Jaime Junior?
This was one of the first things we asked Jaime and was a crucial way to open up the discussion around legitimacy in government. She said:
“Legitimacy in government, to me, means transparency. It’s the willingness to step out of that policy box, and it’s about being open to what needs to happen in order for you to serve your purpose as government - which is making it better for the people.”
Four ways to earn legitimacy in government
Jaime shared four ways she thinks governments can earn the right to govern.
Understand the needs of the people you're serving
One of the most important ways to earn legitimacy in government is to understand the individuals you serve. So, who are they? What are their needs? And what are they looking to you for? Jaime summed it up perfectly in the episode:
"Earned legitimacy requires leaders to understand the needs of the people they're serving and the uniqueness they bring to the community. I think sometimes, in government, at least from my experience, we tend to focus on the path that might meet the needs of the greater majority. But what I find is when you create a system that works best for the marginalised individuals in society, you generally make it better for all."
Use lived experience to support communities and influence decisions
Jaime also spoke about the importance of lived experience and how it can be used to support communities and influence decisions. She said:
"The Disability Network of Wayne County Detroit is a centre for independent living. And centres for independent living are run primarily (51%) by individuals with disabilities that use their lived experience to learn, educate, and assist other individuals with disabilities."
Our co-host for the episode, Naja Nelson, added:
"In addition to previously working alongside Jaime, I actually got to work with an individual named Christopher Samp, who serves as the Director for the Office of Disability Affairs. And I think him having that lived experience really informed a lot of the ways in which he approached community engagement.
For example, one of the things he made an effort to do in community-based sessions was making sure there was always a translator there and making sure American Sign Language (ASL) is available. But I think for people who don't have that lived experience, such as being deaf, it could impact how they might create a space for residents to join them."
We spoke to Christopher Samp in episode four of the first season of Reimagining Government. To listen, use the player below:
Look for who is missing from the conversation
To earn legitimacy, governments need to meet the needs of everyone in the community. So, they need to listen to as many voices as possible and reach out to include marginalised groups in the conversation. Jaime said:
“Something I learned early on is the idea of activity-based learning (ABL). So, always be looking for who's not in the room, and always be looking for who's not represented. Even as you're mapping resources, look at the fact your community members are one of the largest assets you have.”
"I think you can do some intentional outreach to invite them (all groups). I'd be interested to ask:
Do you know this is happening? Are you choosing to not come? If so, why is that?
Maybe there's some information that could be useful to know. Maybe I'm not creating an inviting environment. Maybe the space isn't accessible. Maybe they didn't know it was happening. Maybe we haven't publicised it well. Before asking people to come, understand why they might not."
Always take on other perspectives
Taking on perspectives outside our own allows us to empathise better and forces us to think about how we respond to things. It's crucial that government leaders and decision-makers work alongside the communities they're serving.
Jaime spoke about her experience working with Christopher Samp:
"Christopher Samp is a Deaf person. I am a person with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair.
Our presence (in meetings) created an atmospheric shift because we forced others to think about a perspective other than the one that they had as an able-bodied individual who didn't have difficulty communicating."
The full conversation with Jaime is available now on all major podcast listening platforms. Listen below or click here:
🎙️ Reimagining Government
For a government to be legitimate, it must have its people's trust. But, many communities across the globe distrust their government.
Season 2, episode 1 explores how governments can earn that trust and legitimacy. It is a gradual process that requires time and dedication. So, where do we start?