Skip to content

Finding Legitimacy


The relationship between people and government is at breaking point.


Understanding what legitimacy means today


Are we experiencing a crisis of legitimacy?

Are we more polarised than ever?

How important is trust in maintaining legitimacy and how do we gain that with one another while grappling with complex challenges?

Understanding what building and maintaining legitimacy means today through the eyes of citizens and understanding what governments can do to strengthen their relationships with citizens matters more than ever.

Getting this right matters, or it will become increasingly difficult for governments to function or work well for people; all the more important in a world where working together can improve and even save lives.

Download the Human Government report

What does legitimacy mean to you?


So many of the people we spoke to said they don’t feel they can talk to their government.

That’s why we, at the Centre for Public Impact, have embarked upon a worldwide listening project. We want to know, what does legitimacy mean to you?

Three ways you can get involved:

1. Tell us what you think

2. Discover what we’ve heard

3. See what governments are doing

Finding a more human government


0

citizens we’ve spoken to


0

experts from government and academia

0

countries so far

Government Legitimacy in North America


We envision a United States where the relationship between the public and the government is restored. Where governments listen to and understand residents, serving in ways that truly addresses the ever-evolving needs and priorities of the people.

Explore government Legitimacy in North America

1. Tell us what you think


Have your say


This is an ongoing, global research project – we need your input, feedback, views and opinions, wherever you are, and whatever type of government you live under


CPI works with governments around the world, to support them in engaging with their citizens and producing better relationships for better outcomes. We particularly help government, the wider public sector and their partners hear unheard voices and those who depend most on vital services listening and responding well.


Join the conversation

Visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter – use the hashtag #FindingLegitimacy and tell us what legitimacy means to you.

Share your views


We’d like to know how you feel about legitimacy.

You can get in touch with your views on what legitimacy is, what it should be or could be, or how much of it you feel your government has.

Share your responses to these questions, or tell us anything that comes to mind when you think about Legitimacy.

“What does Legitimacy mean to you?” #FindingLegtimacy
“Addressing legitimacy should be as important to governments as setting their budget.” #FindingLegtimacy
“Can government show empathy? How?” #FindingLegtimacy
“How does trust and fairness play in part in building legitimacy?” #FindingLegitimacy

2. Discover what we’ve heard


We’re speaking to citizens, experts, academics, civil servants and politicians all over the world, to find out what legitimacy means to them.

It’s an on-going conversation, and it’s too soon to make any firm conclusions about legitimacy, but we’re finding that many of the views we hear fall into five emerging themes – each as important as the other – that describe people’s feelings about government, and ways in which governments can grow their legitimacy.

  1. Work together with people towards a shared vision

  2. Bring empathy into government

  3. Build an authentic connection

  4. Enable the public to scrutinise government

  5. Value citizens’ voices and respond to them

The five emerging themes


1. Work together with people towards a shared vision

Do people feel that they have a stake in a government? Do they feel any sense of common purpose?

“There’s currently no notion of where to go.”

Participant at the citizen conversation in Mexico.

Making Mexico's government more legitimate

2. Bring empathy into government

What dominates public services and processes: departmental structures or people’s needs?

"Government feels uncomfortable hearing how indigenous people were hurt."

Participant at the First Nations conversation in Canada

Read more about our conversation in Canada

Build an authentic connection

How are individual government representatives and institutions perceived by citizens? Do they speak the same language and can they connect with people emotionally?

Participant at the youth centre conversation in Brixton, South London

Listen to Jamal from Brixton

4. Enable the public to scrutinise government

What mechanisms exist to allow the public to understand easily what government is doing, why, and who makes decisions? Are these processes as inclusive and accessible as they could be?

“Legitimacy is strong when there is transparency about what processes the government uses to reach its decisions.”

Participant at the citizen conversation in India.

On course for #FindingLegitimacy in India

5. Value citizens’ voices and respond to them

Is consultation just a box-ticking exercise, or is there a general willingness to listen to people’s voices and turn them into action?

"Voters want governments to show they care about them and have listened to their voice."

Ben Page
Chief executive of Ipsos MORI

CPI in conversation with Ben Page

3. See what governments are doing


Many governments – local and national – civil society organisations and people worldwide are already working hard to develop a healthy ongoing relationship.

Here are some examples of what can be achieved…

Legitimacy Champions and People's Panel


This project would not have been possible without the support of our legitimacy champions, and People’s Panel who have helped us deepen our understanding of what legitimacy means to people across the world.

If you are interested in becoming a legitimacy champion yourself and hosting a conversation in your country, please get in touch.

We’d love to hear from you.

How you can be a part of it

Featured conversations


One of the toughest questions for governments today relates to their legitimacy – how to think about it, how to solve it, how to understand it and how to strengthen it.

We want to find out what constitutes a strong relationship between government and citizens and how this affects public impact.

We are interested in what creates and sustains legitimacy: in government systems, policy processes, and frontline services. And we wanted to give a voice to those people that often do not get heard: citizens from all different backgrounds, ages, and across all parts of the world.

Read our recent research on how government can rebuild the relationship with citizens.

Join the conversation

Have a public impact story to share? Get in touch to let us know. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Get in touch

Finding Legitimacy


Are we experiencing a crisis of legitimacy?

Are we more polarised than ever?

How important is trust in maintaining legitimacy and how do we gain that with one another while grappling with complex challenges?