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GPSa Knowledge Platform

What, How, and Why to monitor and learn from social accountability projects?

GPSA Knowledge Platform forums Discussions with Experts What, How, and Why to monitor and learn from social accountability projects?

This topic contains 43 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of jose jose 2 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #668
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear social accountability community,

    Welcome!

    I am delighted to introduce the inaugural e-forum convened by the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) to take place between April 14th and April 30th.

    We are bringing together social accountability change makers from across the globe to share their experiences and learn: how tracking our social accountability actions on the ground can help the GPSA community be more strategic, get better at what we do and course-correct when relevant. The e-forum will enable participants to ask questions, seek insights to face challenges, share insights about their work, and learn collectively how to improve social accountability practice through learning, monitoring, and evaluation.

    Key issues for the first e-forum may include, but are not limited to:

    How can we use learning, monitoring, and evaluation to ….?
    • Make social accountability strategies politically savvier;
    • Identify when and how approaches applied in other countries or sectors can be effectively adapted to our own context;
    • Correct our planned course of action in real-time;
    • Translate successes and failures for our project into learning opportunities for the social accountability field as a whole;
    • Convey to others what we have learned and how we improved.

    And, in turn, what do these objectives mean for how we develop our learning, monitoring, and evaluation approaches from the beginning?…

    Read more in the following documents:

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  • #672
    Profile photo of Jonathan Phillips
    Jonathan Phillips
    @jonathanphillips

    Hi everyone!

    I’m excited to meet you all and looking forward to many insightful conversations on how we can improve social accountability through learning. My name is Jonathan, I’m a PhD student studying political accountability at Harvard University, and I’m looking forward to discussing your experiences and thoughts on the questions Florencia posted.

    Florencia posted two resources to introduce the draft of the new GPSA Theory of Change and Results Framework (a revised version of the document will be out soon): (i) a deck of slides, and (ii) the draft results framework document itself. These are great starting points to think about the questions Florencia posed.

    A key pillar of the GPSA’s Theory of Change is that social accountability strategies should be informed by the political context and stakeholders’ incentives. Learning how these political factors impact GPSA project success is crucial and there are two innovative ways we are encouraging this: (a) rewarding GPSA projects for using learning to justify course correction (as opposed to hiding failure under the rug or penalizing it); and (b) using structured comparisons to build and share knowledge about when, where, and how certain types of social accountability interventions work.

    We hope that this will enable us to collectively learn more about how political context shapes the success of social accountability initiatives. As the change agents on the front line we really value your contributions and are eager to learn from your experiences! Please do share any initial thoughts you might have on how to develop effective learning, monitoring and evaluation strategies on this thread!

    Best,

    Jonathan

  • #722
    Profile photo of Anowarul Haq
    Anowarul Haq
    @anowarulhaq

    Hi Everyone,

    I am delighted to be a part of this forum.

    I do hope that we can reflect on our work on social accountability, learn from each other and develop further with more effective and sustainable way forward strategies.

    Looking forward for an interactive community on social accountability.

    With the best,

    Anowarul

  • #723
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    Greetings from Malawi!

    I am glad to be a part of this forum. Looking forward to interacting with members of the Social Accountability community.

    It will be good to learn from each other as we may be coming from similar political contexts and would be great to share and learn how others are ensuring the success of the project.

    Kind regards,

    Yvonne

  • #724
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear Anowarul and Yvonne thanks for breaking the ice! Looking forward to meeting others. Regards Florencia

  • #725
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear All, to get us started please check out a 1-page visual introducing Al Bawsala’s GPSA project in Tunisia.

    You’ll see that Al Bawsala works in a context that is not yet fully decentralized, the budgets
    of the municipalities are still decided in the national level (in the ministry of interior).

    This creates political and strategic challenges for the project: What does it mean for a social accountability project that budgetary decisions made in the national and central level influence the local budgets?

    It’d be great to hear whether your projects faced this challenge and how you are navigating the politics.

    Florencia

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by Profile photo of Florencia Florencia.
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  • #728
    Profile photo of Ons Ben Abdelkarim
    Ons Ben Abdelkarim
    @ons-ben-abdelkarim

    Hi everyone! Greetings from Tunisia!

    I’m really glad to be part of this forum and thanks Florencia for sharing our experience with other members.

    First of all, I’m Ons Ben Abdelkarim, Secretary General of Al Bawsala, a tunisian NGO working on accountability, and as you can see in the document posted by Florencia, we are dealing with huge challenges in our project. I hope that we’ll be able to learn from the different experiences and contexts!

    Looking forward to hear from all of you.

    Best

    Ons

  • #729
    Profile photo of Anowarul Haq
    Anowarul Haq
    @anowarulhaq

    Hi All,

    While going through the document posted on Al Bawsala’s GPSA project in Tunisia, it reminds me the same challenges that we face in Bangladesh for participatory budget work with local government. Although Union Parishad Act 2009 has made ward sava (ward assembly) and open budget consultation mandatory for the Union Parishad (local government), the budget finally depends upon central government’s allocation under “Annual Development Plan”. The allocation process for ADP is bureaucratic and depends upon the Union Parishad chairman’s ability to manoeuvre the process (not always depends upon UP’s ability to facilitate the participatory planning process). So the political will of the state to decentralise the budget allocation process and to empower the local government for fostering local planning are equally important in participatory budget process.

    The good thing is that Local Government Division of Government of Bangladesh has introduced “block grant” allocation to the Union Parishad, which can be accessed directly by applying to the Local Government Support Program (LGSP) funded by World Bank. This is a performance-based grant allocation process and has certain criteria (e.g. the UP should demonstrate that participatory planning is in place, open budget sharing is happening, ward sava is used to prioritise local needs) in evaluating UP’s proposals. This is creating opportunities for the UP to access resources for addressing local issues with less bureaucratic hassles and also creating spaces for the local people to participate in local level planning. There are certain limitations of the project too. The success of the “block grant” depends on UPs ability to implement the project and citizen’s ability to monitor the progress. The capacities vary from UP to UP, so also the results. We do hope that Bangladesh will learn from LGSP and Union Parishad will have more options and control over accessing resources in coming days, but, again, for this, we need strong political will from the state and our GPSA project (implemented by CARE Bangladesh) should contribute to this agenda. For more information on LGSP, please click on the following two links:

    http://www.worldbank.org/projects/P124514/bangladesh-local-governance-support-project-ii?lang=en

    http://www.lgd.gov.bd/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=30&Itemid=89&lang=en

    Hope that this is useful for Al Bawsala’s GPSA project in Tunisia!!!

  • #730
    Profile photo of Jonathan Phillips
    Jonathan Phillips
    @jonathanphillips

    Thanks Anowarul!
    This is a great comparison between the CARE Bangladesh and Al-Bawsala Tunisian cases. Has anyone else experienced similar challenges in working with important roles for both local and national government in budgeting? How did you respond in your social accountability projects?

    Anowarul, knowing that the local participatory process might be affected by national budgeting processes, how did this alter your approach to social accountability? Did you adjust which part of government you targeted or the type of social accountability tool you used? Since the LGSP grants varied across UPs (local governments), how did you plan and learn to adapt to those UPs that had more budget autonomy compared to those that were more dependent on the national government? How did the incentives and responsiveness of government officials differ in municipalities that accessed the LGSP grants compared to those that did not?

    Looking forward to your thoughts.

    Jonathan

  • #731
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Our colleagues from Tunisia and Bangladesh are talking about a factor outside of most social accountability projects’ control (a part of the context): the scope of authority national and local governments have over budgets and policies.

    This is a political factor that in the short-term our colleagues can’t change. But understanding who sets budgets and makes other key policy decisions is still crucial because it impacts the allocation of budgets and, ultimately, the delivery of public services. Since who sets budgets determines who should be swayed/can be held accountable, this contextual factor will also influence whether these social accountability projects are able to deliver on their project objectives.

    So as social accountability practitioners we should also consider whether the strategies and components of our own projects are adapted to navigate these contextual political relationships.

    But what does all this mean in practice?

    Imagine you are working to improve service delivery in the health system. The system is legally decentralized – each district has on paper the power to decide how to allocate the budget. In theory, civil society should then be able to work at the district level to improve the allocation of resources and build accountability.

    In practice, however, the national government buys and distributes the medications, appoints doctors, etc., leaving the District to simply implement national decisions.

    You want to work with civil society to drive change:
    *If your social accountability project has limited resources, is working at the district level your best bet to influence decisions?
    *If you have the resources to work at the national and district level simultaneously – as many GPSA projects do – how do you make sure national and district level social accountability tactics reinforce each other?

    If a visual helps unpack all of these words, click here and check out pages 5-7.

    This health example can be relevant to projects in other sectors, as in the case of our colleagues.

    We know this kind of political reasoning is tough. We also know it is easier said than done, but at some point we need to start reflecting and adapting our tactics to the political context. These are the kinds of questions and reasoning that the GPSA theory of change and results framework aim to encourage(check out the outputs in the slide attached). One way in which the GPSA encourages political reasoning is by rewarding and “NOT penalizing grantees that correct their course of action as a result of improved understanding of their political circumstances and the political economy context of their problem of interest”.

    Can you point to experiences you’ve had tracking and adapting to the budgetary and policy responsibilities of different levels of government? How about other aspects of the political context outside of your control? For instance, how do you plan for and adapt to electoral cycles?

    Can you think of other burning political questions?

    Regards, Florencia

    PS. Attached is a slide with the GPSA draft theory of change. There are additional resources about some of these issues, too.

    A review about what we know about the politics of decentralization (Decentralization Reforms political economy).
    A short think piece summarizing how a group of colleagues reflected how centralization of decision making should inform strategic choices of a national in a social accountability project in the education sector in The Philippines (Strategic Dilemmas & Context Guerzovich & Rosenzweig).

    A short think piece reflecting why community based organization cared to learn and act on its learning about the impact of centralized decision-making in the health sector in Guatemala (Flores etal-Learning-across-localities).

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  • #735
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Two additional resources:
    A review about what we know about the politics of decentralization (Decentralization Reforms political economy).

    A document discussing models and tactics for doing budget work across levels of analysis (Stratified_Advocacy).
    Florencia

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    • #739
      Profile photo of Florencia
      Florencia
      @florencia
      Argentina/Brazil

      Check out: “How to Adjust Your Advocacy Strategy When the Government Fights Back or the Context Changes” Webinar Recording from our colleagues at the International Budget Partnership.

      Yogesh Kumar, executive director of Samarthan and Albert van Zyl, manager of Learning and Knowledge Development at IBP discussed the key steps and considerations in planning and implementing an effective advocacy strategy, including reading the political landscape and documenting the impact of the tactics used along the way. Kumar and van Zyl drew on lessons from the IBP case study “Samarthan’s Campaign to Improve Access to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India.”

      http://internationalbudget.org/what-we-do/training/webinar-series/

  • #738
    Profile photo of Anowarul Haq
    Anowarul Haq
    @anowarulhaq

    Hi Jonathan, thanks for raising critical points. You all know that there is no short cut solution to address the centralised budget allocation processes as mentioned by Florencia that it is a political factor and politicians need to resolve this. What we are attempting here in Bangladesh is creating evidence that if participatory planning process is strengthened and the local government has resources for this, it creates more impact in poverty eradication. The popular way to undermine this by politicians and bureaucrats here in Bangladesh is that there is no meaning of providing more resources directly to the Union Parishads as they don’t have the capacity to carry forward projects and, therefore, it will spread more corruptions. In our working Unions, we pay focus on building capacity of Union Parishads on participatory planning with a pro-poor and inclusive vision. In other words, we provide technical assistance to the UPs to demonstrate that they are capable of running projects at their own involving communities and that contributes to the overarching goal of central government of poverty eradication. We are working with civil society organisations at national level to use these evidences in policy discussions and debates for more decentralised resource allocations and enhance more “buy-ins” from politicians.
    The other issue we consider is to build capacity of local government is generating more revenues of their own. What we have learnt from other governance projects than GPSA is that when people have trust in local government, they pay tax. So, the local government needs to demonstrate that revenues collected from the locality are spent for the “local goods”.
    The good thing about the LGSP is that it is creating positive competition amongst UPs as the grant is performance-based. The incentive for the local government representatives is that if they show the evidences of participatory planning and citizens engagement, they are preferred to receive larger allocations from LGSP, even from central government through Annual Development Plan as they acquire more bargaining skills supported by good work.
    What we also facilitate is to create space for UPs to learn from each other, which is known as “horizontal learning”. So the good practices are replicated by the UPs which are not so advanced in “participatory inclusive planning”.
    In a nut shell, the target of GPSA project is to focus on showing evidences that integrated social accountability process brings positive changes, but not to pay a lot of focus on changing the present resource allocation process. The civil society organisations will pick the evidences up with the politicians and policy makers for more decentralisation. You must remember that the size of GPSA fund is too small to deal with policy issues along with creating evidences with social accountability processes.

    To further understand of CARE Bangladesh’s integrated social accountability process and how it creates impact on poverty eradication, you can click the following link:

    http://www.carebangladesh.org/publication/Publication_6665122.pdf

    With the best,

    Anowarul

    • #801

      Hi everyone, I am very happy to finally participate in the forum. I expect to learn from all of you. I isn’t easy to Thanks Florencia for the documents. I must say I found this one on stratified strategy particularly interesting.
      thanks

  • #740
    Profile photo of Chris Roche
    Chris Roche
    @chris-roche

    Hi everyone my name is Chris Roche and I work at La Trobe University in an emerging new Institute for Human Security and Social Change. I am very interested in the questions of social accountability and in particular how they are evaluated. I have written a couple of pieces with a colleague Linda Kelly for the Developmental Leadership Program http://www.dlprog.org/, one paper is called ‘the Evaluation of Politics and the Politics of Evaluation’ and the other ‘Monitoring and Evaluation when Politics Matters’ which I attach.

    One of the collaborating agencies in this work was the Asia Foundation. One paper which maybe of particular interest to others given the discussion above might be a paper by Laurel Maclaren entitled ‘How Civil Society Organizations Work Politically to Promote Pro-Poor Policies in Decentralized Indonesian Cities’ http://asiafoundation.org/publications/pdf/895. This paper uses an innovative power mapping methodology to examine how civil society organizations have taken advantage of the increased opportunities created by decentralization to influence local policy outcomes in urban areas of Indonesia, focusing on the cities of Semarang and Pekalongan.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by Profile photo of Chris Roche Chris Roche.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by Profile photo of Chris Roche Chris Roche.
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  • #745
    Profile photo of Jonathan Phillips
    Jonathan Phillips
    @jonathanphillips

    Hi all,
    Anowarul makes a great point about how we can use learning to improve political engagement. By documenting the capacity and successes of the local governments (UPs) Care Bangladesh are able to provide the long-term evidence and ammunition to argue in the national conversation for decentralization of resources (http://www.carebangladesh.org/publication/Publication_6665122.pdf). This is a great insight into the GPSA’s theory of change (http://gpsaknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Draft-GPSA-TOC-April-14-2014.pdf): calibrating and differentiating tactics to make the right demands on the right public actors who have the authority and responsiveness to introduce change.

    Chris’ case study on Indonesia (http://asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/OccasionalPaperWorkingPoliticallyinIndonesiancitiesJune2011.pdf) is a great example of targeting social accountability mobilization at the municipal level because that’s where resources are allocated and where key decisions over the allocation of public services and pro-poor policies are made. Their strategy has two key tactics:

    (i) building the technical capacity to make credible input to policy that is useful to policymakers and can’t be ignored, and

    (ii) building the political coalition to put pressure on politicians and create an electoral incentive to pursue pro-poor policies.

    Either tactic on its own would not have been enough, but in combination they were able to support local change.

    However, the case of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (http://internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/LP-case-study-Samarthan-summary.pdf Florencia mentioned also illustrates when working at the local level is not enough: Since the design of the program was contributing to many of the problems of local mismanagement, improving the long-term functioning of the program meant influencing state and national policymakers. To do so Samarthan had to adjust their tactics, making more use of the media to create political pressure and using robust research findings from their social audits and budget tracking at the local level to convince higher-level technocrats of the need for reform and mobilize political allies. This multi-track strategy operating at each layer of governance was able to take advantage of learning at each level and proved much more effective in improving outcomes.

    In each of these cases, activists used their knowledge of the political process to design a strategy that would increase accountability.

    What are the key elements of the political process that mattered in these cases, or in your own experience? And what opportunities and challenges do you envision to follow these leads?

  • #747
    Profile photo of Chris Roche
    Chris Roche
    @chris-roche

    Jonathan I agree that it is often necessary to have multi-track and mutli-level strategies. One of the challenges of this from a monitoring and learning perspective is how to assess the linkages between these levels, how they are changing over time, and the degree to which they are promoting changes in policies and practices.

    One of the more promising examples of where I think this has been done well is in the multi-country study on social accountability organized by the Centre for the Future State (CFS), based at the Institute of Development Studies at
    Sussex University see here for more detail on their methodology http://www2.ids.ac.uk/futurestate/capacity/pdfs/Comparative%20and%20Multi-Level%20Methods%20final.pdf.

    It seeks to identify changes in relations between civil society and state actors at the municipal
    policy making level, and between civil society actors and local providers of public services at the
    community point of policy implementation. These changes are often linked in part to national-level
    reforms of the public sector, including the types of choice and voice reforms advocated by international institutions
    .”

    • #750
      Profile photo of Florencia
      Florencia
      @florencia
      Argentina/Brazil

      Dear Chris,

      Thanks for sharing these insights and the paper reflecting how to research health and social assistance work in Mexico City, Delhi and Sao Paulo.

      I particularly appreciate the paper’s reflection about designing comparative analysis, which according to the GPSA results framework it is gap in our knowledge the Partnership will address (for all those asking why comparative analysis check out outcome 3 on page 17 here). I’m sure many of our colleagues are asking why Mexico City, Delhi and Sao Paulo would be comparable and enable us to learn anything meaningful? Also, recall a form of this question was introduced in the Al Bawsala case we shared a few days ago.

      In page 3, much as the GPSA results framework encourages all to do, the papers analyzes what makes these cases relevant to explore their expectations about the impact of decentralization-pluralization-participation reforms on collective action. Factors many of us would think are the most relevant ones, such as geography, are not necessarily relevant to answer all of our questions. Learning sometimes requires trade-offs: authors of the paper prioritized picking comparable cases across cities as opposed to highlighting the best cases of reform in each city.

      I agree that multilevel analysis is challenging. At the same time, I’d like to highlight the opportunity we have to push the social accountability frontier forward without reinventing the wheel. On the one hand, the GPSA project implementation will create much experience to learn from (we are at the starting point). On the other hand, systematic research about multilevel politics has made much progress since the article was published in 2006 (For those interested in methods see e.g. here).

      Perhaps, the questions we need to consider is the field ready to take advantage of the opportunity despite the likely risks and costs? And what steps we all need to take in our work to move from words to deeds?

      Best
      Florencia

  • #748
    Profile photo of Helena
    Helena
    @helenaconcern
    Mozambique

    Dear All,
    Greetings from Mozambique
    Mu name is Helena Skember and I work with NGO Concern Universal. The whole Concern Universal Mozambique team is very excited to be a part of this forum and to learn from your experiences.
    All the examples mentioned above are very relevant to Mozambique context, we work at different tiers of governance and one of the important components is to lobby for more effective systemic integration between district, municipal, provincial and national levels, by providing evidence about the consequences of not doing so and encouraging best practices and champions within the governmental side..

  • #749
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Helena, Great to hear from you!

    I’d be great if you could share more about your project with everyone.

    What are your plans for the GPSA project? What sector are you working on? Do politics in the sector create opportunities and challenges?

    What kinds of tactics (beyond lobbying) are you planning to work at the district, municipal, provincial and national levels? Do you think you’ll face the same or different challenges in each level?

    Best and thanks for sharing!

    Florencia

  • #751
    Profile photo of Helena
    Helena
    @helenaconcern
    Mozambique

    Dear All
    In Mozambique we work in monitoring of health sector with emphases on maternal and child health, budget decentralization and on humanization of health service delivery. Our work is based on field realities and continuous promotion of dialogue between demand and supply side stakeholders, through constructive evidence-informed criticism and best practices promotion. In general, Mozambican constitution provides a lot of space for engagement and interaction, however although the space is there, the government doesn’t always make it easy for stakeholders to participate. Within SAKSAN we will be working mainly on 3 levels: district, provincial and national, with some action at municipal level as well. The challenges are different at every tier, sometimes we find that the lowest – district level is the easiest to work with – as at the district level in the remote areas there is a lot of solidarity with civil society and the government officials see civil society as partner that can help channel their operational problems to the central government. The national level is in principle open for collaboration but often out of the touch with the field realties. One of the main problems is in the calendarization of the activities and decision level mechanisms: districts plan their activities without knowing their budget figures and when they get information about their real budgets they realize they gave planned in vain. Moreover there are some challenges in responsibilities – for example District level Health services are directly under responsibility of Provincial Governor whereby Provincial Health Departments has dual responsibility – in first place to the National Ministries and in second to the Provincial Governor. It makes the relationship very complex and political
    This is just a brief overview. Our researcher Aly Lala will provide more information on this topic

  • #753
    Profile photo of Jonathan Phillips
    Jonathan Phillips
    @jonathanphillips

    Hi Helena,
    This is a fascinating case of complex coordination across government which I’m sure others have had experience with too. It would be great to hear your colleague Aly’s follow-up, and perhaps others could gave their insights on these questions from their own experiences:

    Where national and local government is poorly coordinated, how do you engage constructively to build social accountability? Who do you talk to and try to influence? Is it most productive to work with each level of government separately, or are there opportunities and tools that can promote increased communication across levels of government? How do you monitor government performance when it’s not clear who is responsible for public service weaknesses?

    Please do share your thoughts and practical experiences!

  • #785
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear All, please check out a 1-page visual introducing Care Bangladesh’s GPSA project. It illustrates how Care Bangladesh expects to engage different stakeholders to reflect on and learn about concrete questions that matter to improve their social accountability strategy.
    Regards,
    Florencia

  • #790
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear all,

    Here the CARE Bangladesh one-pager attached (I forgot to do it in my previous post). As mentioned, CARE Bangladesh’s strategy is incorporating two key elements. First, it is already using political economy analysis in some of the Union Parishads it will work on. Second, its project considers using learning for improving and correcting its social accountability strategy. I wonder if other colleagues could share their experience on using learning to improve their strategies?

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  • #792
    Profile photo of Janet Oropeza
    Janet Oropeza
    @janet-oropeza

    Hi to all! My name is Janet and I am from Fundar, a Mexican CSO working to advance substantive democracy. I would like to thank you all for a very interesting discussion and for all the materials that have been posted (now we have a wealth of resources to consult). I think many topics have been covered in this discussion and all of them are truly critical (theory of change, political and context analysis, learning as a strategy to correct projects as opposed to a penalizing practice, comparative analysis to learn what works and why on social accountability, etc.)

    I would like to comment on some of these issues from Fundar’s experience, in hope that it can enrich the discussion. For nearly 15 years, we have implemented social accountability projects in Mexico in various sectors (health, justice, energy, etc.). Our theory of change is the outcome of two different elements, a) the analysis we make of the political context and b) the strategies we are capable of implementing. Fundar’s theory of change has a bottom up and bottom down approach. On the one hand, we engage with policy makers (in the executive, legislative and judiciary branches at the national level mostly because it is at this level that budget allocations are made) and try to influence them trough advocacy or through more confrontational approaches. On the other hand, we engage with community based organizations, citizens, and the media and try to empower them and also to get to know through them how the situation in the ground is (for example, if people at the community level are getting their medications when they attend the public health clinic). Our two-tier theory of change has proven successful so far.

    Regarding political analysis, as an advocacy organization, we have come to realize that we need to analyze the context periodically and adjust our strategies. 2013 and 2014, for example, had been years of structural and constitutional reforms in Mexico (education, transparency, electoral, energetic, etc.). The reforms have come at a fast pace and, even with our best intentions, we sometimes are not able to catch up with all of the reforms, therefore, we have had to decide which reforms to follow or try to influence.

    Finally, with regards to learning and reflection as a strategy for improving our strategies, we usually reflect at the end of the each project’s phase of implementation when we are writing the reports or documenting the experience. We draw lessons from each project implemented, so as not to repeat the same mistakes and improve our future projects; however, reflecting about the project within the life or implementation of it has been difficult for us. As a personal reflection, I must say that not many of the donors adopt the GPSA approach to learning. Often, donors penalize mistakes rather than providing incentives for organizations to use this learning for improving their project strategies. For this reason, I consider CARE’s Bangladesh example as very insightful and do hope that keep us all informed about how the project and especially the learning part evolves.

    P. S. I am providing these two links of Twaweza, an organization working in East Africa, that has a novel approach to learning. These two videos were presented at the Second TALEARN’s Workshop held in Indonesia last March 2014:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSnQ6gFGyZc
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO3BMiYHq_0

    Regards,

    Janet

  • #802
    Profile photo of Chris Roche
    Chris Roche
    @chris-roche

    Thanks everyone for some very interesting inputs and questions. A couple of thoughts:

    a) As Janet suggests much of this work often involves a kind of ‘pincer movement’ (see Fig.2 of this paper by Aruna Rao and David Kelleher http://worldbank.mrooms.net/file.php/349/references/rao-kelleher_Gender_and_development_chapter.pdf). And some of this as Janet indicates can require ‘more confrontational approaches’ in certain circumstances depending on the power relations between groups and local political economy. Does the draft GSPA Theory of Change adequately capture that possibility? It seems to emphasise ‘constructive engagement with executive decision makers’ and ‘collaboration between CSOs and State Accountability Institutions’, despite the results framework power-point suggesting that adversarial strategies may be necessary. Whilst constructive engagement may be effective in certain circumstances, is there not evidence to suggest that this will not be sufficient in many cases? And who determines what is deemed to be ‘constructive’ or ‘collaborative’ engagement?

    b) One of the reasons I think the 2006 Centre for the Future State study is helpful in our quest for more effective monitoring and learning about social accountability is the potential for organisations to adapt relatively simple methods to help answer some of the key questions they have (or at least reduce uncertainty about them!). For example there are a number of well known participatory evaluation exercises that can enable local organisations and communities to track changes in their well being over-time, as well as the degree to which their organisations and collective action are evolving (http://www.participatorymethods.org/task/plan-monitor-and-evaluate). If this kind of monitoring is combined with simple network/power mapping analysis (of the type undertaken by the Asia Foundation in the paper on Indonesia I provided the link for) and some straightforward process tracing (which can also be done with stakeholder groups using outcome mapping type process http://www.odi.org.uk/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/7815.pdf), then it becomes possible to explore patterns of how changes in policies and practices, changes in organisations, networks and collective action and change in people’s lives are related.

    The advantage of these sorts of approaches I think are a) they enable front line practitioners and their partners to analyse their work and learn and adapt as a result b) they provide an important foundation for other reviews, evaluations or studies which might be required c) they allow the linkages multiple levels of work to be teased out and correlations and patterns between these levels to be identified.

  • #803
    Profile photo of Victoria
    Victoria
    @victoria
    Moldova

    Dear All,

    Thank you for all the comments and resources posted.

    I am working with the Independent Think-Tank Expert-Grup, based in Moldova. Expert-Grup is a CSO specialized in economic and policy research. As part of its institutional mission, EXPERT-GRUP contributes to economic and social development of the country and promotes innovative policy solutions. Since 2007, the EXPERT-GRUP is engaged to promote greater fiscal transparency and policy accountability in many policy areas, including education.

    EXPERT-GRUP has been selected as a finalist of the first round of project proposals of the World Bank’s GPSA, to implement the “Empowered Citizens Enhancing Accountability of the Education Reform and Quality of Education in Moldova” project.

    We are in now in the 1st year, second quarter of project implementation and are just at the phase of selecting our regional partners. You can see details about the project here: http://expert-grup.org/en/proiecte/item/916-responsabilizare-sociala-pentru-reforma-educatiei-din-republica-moldova (English).

    I have two questions:

    1) For Anowarul from CARE Bangladesh:
    “What we are attempting here in Bangladesh is creating evidence that if participatory planning process is strengthened and the local government has resources for this, it creates more impact in poverty eradication.” Question: what are the means you use to promote the participatory processes?

    2) Of the participants in the forum, have you had experiences in applying Social Accountability tools in education sector? If yes, what were lessons learned?

    Looking forward the continuation of the discussions.

  • #804
    Profile photo of Jonathan Phillips
    Jonathan Phillips
    @jonathanphillips

    Hi everyone,

    Chris raised a great point about the overall strategic choice that civil society organizations must make between ‘collaborating with’ and ‘confronting’ government. Civil society clearly has a strong obligation to maintain its independent voice and raise public concerns. From my perspective, one of the great advantages of the GPSA is that partners are working with governments who have already signed on to the objectives of boosting social accountability and agreed to the framework. Here, the opportunity is to build a longer-term strategic partnership for accountability.

    For CSOs to invest in that partnership they will need to use tools which generate trust in their relationship with government and build positive accountability relationships. Sometimes that means foregoing what might seem the safest, most visible, or most `independent’ tool of public critique and confrontation for the harder and riskier work of tackling those problems in conjunction with public officials. The GPSA is such a great opportunity to support this collaboration because it provides the institutional framework to provides guidance and assurance to each side and a platform for collaborative problem-solving.

    So a focus on collaboration is really about broadening the toolkit and adopting a longer-term perspective that can lessen the need for future confrontation by establishing a positive working relationship in tackling social accountability hurdles. When government inevitably falls short on some counts that doesn’t mean sweeping failings under the carpet, but it does mean discussion and engagement with public officials directly, sometimes in private forums, to learn about the challenges and assist in trying to solve them. In GPSA countries governments have already demonstrated that they value this kind of support because they have already committed to using GPSA partners as mechanisms for improving their own public functions. Provided that partners engage with the right people at the right level, confrontation should no longer be the default option – collaboration can be much more effective in many circumstances.

    What do participants think this collaboration might look like in practice? When is it likely to work best? Do you have examples of effective collaboration with public officials working better than confrontation?

    Best,

    Jonathan

  • #806
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear all,

    Great and diverse insights! I have a big challenge to try and weave them together to help us continue the conversation during the last few days of the forum and beyond.

    I wanted to start with Janet’s account of how Fundar approaches its work in Mexico. Oversimplifying, the key role of engagement at the local level is to provide information so that Fundar as a national civil society group can be an informed and credible influence at the national level where decisions regarding the budget are made. Their strategies may be confrontational or cooperative depending on the time and place of their advocacy. As Janet said, Fundar are looking to change budget decisions through this approach. . If Fundar were tackling a different problem/sector, say education like the Expert Group or sanitation as other colleagues, their political economy analysis is likely to lead them to engage at different levels in order to influence the accountability process that is specific to the sector.

    We have a number of examples, but I’ll add one more. I’ve just come back from a field trip to develop a social accountability for health strategy in a Latin American country. Asking these strategic political questions helped the team to understand what is feasible, but we needed to drill down further: the entire health sector is too big to reform with limited resources (power, money, time, etc.). What specific problem within the health sector would project partners like to tackle? . If we want to deal with the deficit of health professionals in remote areas, we could follow Janet’s example because decisions in this country are made at the national level. If the target of the intervention is to ensure that resources allocated to the health sector actually make it to health centers, partners should focus more on the points in the accountability chain where these resource decisions are made and where things can go wrong. Since the system is partly decentralized and some regional governments receive revenues from natural resources industries, this means engaging with the regional and local political authorities and health agencies, among others.

    In short, the insight is to develop a strategic approach taking into account where you are most able to have impact on your objectives. As Janet said, sometimes we are facing too many problems/opportunities for reform so it is crucial to pick and choose where to focus, taking into account our own capabilities and the feasibility of the work. Our intentions may be great, and we always want to do more, but we need to strike a smart compromise to have a shot at accomplishing something and generating momentum that can enable further change in the future.

    This is a segway to Chris’ questions about the GPSA’s theory of change and the emphasis on collaboration. My take is that the GPSA has taken the view that there are many ways in which a civil society organization can promote social accountability, but it cannot fund it all. So the Steering Committee has zeroed-in on a specific type of approach (collaborative) which it thinks can make the most of the GPSA’s existing resources and institutional set-up while also addressing a gap in the approach that civil society organizations typically take. The focus on collaborative strategies is a strategic decision made by representatives of a range of organizations (the steering committee), many of whom already support and implement more adversarial social accountability mechanisms.
    Adding to Jonathan’s comment: Check here for an argument about the usefulness and meaning of the collaboration/confrontation categorization in social accountability. A forthcoming version of the results framework develops the ideas and justification further. Additional documents, e.g. the application forms, also spell out the concrete components of a GPSA-style collaborative approach.
    Best
    Florencia

  • #843
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear all, I just wanted to flag that tomorrow April 30th at 10 am EST Albert van Zyl (IBP), will present a research paper on “How Civil Society Organizations Close the Gap between Transparency and Accountability”. More information on the webinar here.
    Best, Florencia

    PS. Victoria: Albert will discuss insights from 21 case studies, including some in the education sector (Tanzania, South Africa, Argentina)

  • #844
    Profile photo of Anowarul Haq
    Anowarul Haq
    @anowarulhaq

    Thanks Victoria for your query – “what are the means you use to promote the participatory processes?” In CARE Bangladesh, we have developed an inclusive local governance model that uses participatory tools to work with communities and local government to work together. The first step for us is to conduct a power analysis in the Union level (the lowest governance structure in Bangladesh) and identify the marginalised communities that are resource poor because of weak existence in power net. Local Government representatives also participate in the analysis. Then, in the marginalised communities, we facilitate local collective actions to address local issues that may not require external assistance (e.g. Community Led Total Sanitation) for enhancing collective solidarity. In the process, local leadership evolves and we nurture the leaders to represent communities in different forums. On the other hand, we work with the Union Parishad (elected Local Government body) to analyse poverty and marginalisation (e.g. gender, ethnic, class) from where the Parishad develops a vision of development. The main attention for us is to trigger “mindset change” of the representatives, so that they become sensitive to poverty and discrimination and committed to address.

    Then, CARE Bangladesh facilitates a process so that the leaders from marginalised communities interact with the UP representatives in the participatory spaces, such as Ward Sava (Ward Assembly), pre-budget discussion, project implementation committees, Union Development Coordination Committee. These interactions make the UP accountable to the marginalised communities, create opportunities for the local leaders to raise issues that require local government’s attention, but also create space for the UP representatives to share their limitations. All these are already in the UP Implementing Manual following Union Parishad Act 2009. We receive more co-operataion from Local Government Division (LGD), Government officials at sub-district level and also from UP, as we are as siting to strengthen what the UPs are supposed to do by themselves. To explore detail of our approach, you can click the following two links:

    <http://www.carebangladesh.org/rs_pdetail.php?publishid=97&gt;
    <http://www.carebangladesh.org/rs_pdetail.php?publishid=100&gt;

    The next step is to introduce social accountability tools (e.g. social audit, Community Score Card, UP Self Monitoring), so that the local leaders can make the UP accountable on the commitments and quality of the implementation.

    Finally, we also facilitate a forum of natural leaders from the marginalised communities at Union-level so that they can collectively advocate on the common issues around poverty, gender and marginalisation with the Local Government. We build capacities of the forum to be skilled on budget analysis, selection of issues and negotiation.

    In CARE Bangladesh, what we have learnt is that it is very important for the civil society organisation to build trust with the local government that the initiative is not about questioning the credibility of Union Parishad, but to assist them to be more effective. Adopting participatory decision making assists them to do their work more efficiently and in return, people will have more trust on the UP and the tax revenue will increase (an incentive for them). Fortunately, Local Government Division of Government of Bangladesh has introduced “block grants” and “performance-based grants” for the Local Government to use for local planning. The more effective and participatory the UP is, the more the allocation will be from these grants. This also creates a good incentive for the Local Government representatives to adopt the integrated model. Finally, as we connect the leaders of the marginalised communities through the forum, the largest “vote bank” is mobilised. UP representatives cannot ignore them, as it can destroy their future opportunities with the vote.

    For the communities, the greatest incentives is if they see that their participation in social accountability mechanism contibutes to tangible results in their livelihoods and addressing local pressing issues, which should ultimately contributes to poverty eradication and addressing marginalisation. This is why CARE Bangladesh is interested in this model. To us, lack of good governance is an underlying cause and if we address it, this should contribute to poverty eradication.

  • #845

    Dear Colleagues,

    In Mozambique we have similar experiences when it comes to subnational level work in social accountability. In Mozambique subnational will mean provincial (the highest at this level), district (directly under the provincial government’s structure) and municipal (these are bodies with financial and administrative autonomy).

    Municipalities were first created in mid-nineties aiming at deconcentrating competencies to more decentralize level aimed at getting public services to citizens. They have their own Municipal Assemblies who, despite not being local legislative bodies – there is only one legislative body in the country: Parliament at central level – it approves municipal by-laws, approves Plans & Budgets, approves annual reports, and exercises oversight on the performance of the Municipal Council (the executive body).

    Municipalities, however, lack the capacity to collect sufficient resources at their level and depend largely on central level transfers (for current and capital expenditure (works and roads) mainly) and the revenues they collect still represent a tinny tiny part of their budget.

    In the other hand, at the time the budget proposal starts to be prepared municipal councils initiate the process without being aware of the ceilings for the following FY. They, thus, prepare following year’s budget based on the previous year budget (a MTEF approach would never work here, making it practically impossible to use a program based classification and significantly reduce the possibilities of undertaking monitoring as per needs (and services) of municipal communities, as it becomes rather difficult to link budget activities with actual development / improvement programs.

    Not being aware of the budget ceiling for the following FY brings additional issues:
    (i) the budget has to be reengineered at the beginning of every FY to adapt it to the actual ceiling;
    (ii) communities lose faith in participative processes, as one never knows if needs forwarded during consultation events will actually be taken into consideration. For every need that is not inserted into the plan the next planning process is further undermine in terms of effective participation.

    Because municipal assemblies are not legislative bodies, they lack the power to change this through the creation of By-Laws as the legal framework for financial administration, for municipal financial management, the PFM calendar at both national and municipal levels are all decided by central level Parliament and regulations approved by the Council of Ministers (Cabinet). The role of municipal assemblies to exercise oversight is further undermined by the lack of access of audit reports information and a strong politization of municipal processes and decisions.

    This said, there is a small room for influencing policies and (partly) decisions at local municipal level because municipal governments are not fully socially accountable and oversight bodies are not effectively fulfilling their role to do so. The strong dependence on central level does not help also, but there is little now we can do about this.

    The approach we have used is to train local civic groups (SAMComs – Social Accountability Monitoring Committees) in social accountability tools, but also involved representatives from municipal councils and municipal assemblies, to enable alignment in terms of objectives and to build a partnership between SAMComs and municipal bodies to further smoothen implementation.

    We then share the lessons learned and challenges faced with provincial and central level dialogue forums (e.g. Development Observatories and a Governance Group of CSOs than we are engaged in). To further influence systemic change, we also have an advisory board which has composition from the donor agency, but also from, Parliament, from the Ministry of State Administration, from the National Association of Municipalities in an attempt to influence change through these entities, but the challenge is still far from being countered as policy and legislative change is rather a long process to achieve. We need to ensure gradual buy-in of the importance of Social Accountability itself among the members of the steering committee in the first place. However, sharing lessons and challenges with stakeholders at central level has proven to be unlikely to produce quick gains in terms of influencing policies and relevant laws. Its rather a process of establishing strong partnerships and linkages that enable all tiers of government to communicate properly – and the latter has been rather harder and slower to achieve.

    We have now started out activities in our GPSA-funded project SAKSAN (social accountability knowledge, sharing and networking). This one has focus on Provincial Level (2 provinces) and in the health sector, with specific emphasis in the provision of ARV-T and MIS related to ARV-T (antiretroviral treatment).

    We have started the baseline exercise this month and initial findings indicate similar challenges at this level. Its only that this time health units have a double subordination, one to the Provincial Government and another to the Sector Ministry level. This brings additional issues when it comes to deciding priorities and allocating resources. All drugs are procured at central level but there are regular stock outs as a result of poor uncoordinated planning. Quality (including validity) of generic drugs also appear to be a problem.

    Although there are consultative councils at district level, health co-management councils, community health councils and development observatories, engagement around the issues above mentioned in the health sector is very limited. For us this – using existing dialogue and monitoring mechanisms – will be an important tool to exercise monitoring and to share relevant findings. We also expect to channel these findings and the results of provincial level engagement to central level (Parliament, National Development Observatory, et cetera) together with the findings from other social accountability interventions at municipal level as issues are similar and of broader systemic nature and resolution.

    Aly

  • #846
    Profile photo of Arif H. Khan
    Arif H. Khan
    @arifkhan

    Hi folks, This is Arif H. Khan from Manusher Jonno Foudation (MJF), Bangladesh. I’m really happy to be in the forum. Seems interesting discussions are going on. Hope to learn more from your experiences.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by Profile photo of Arif H. Khan Arif H. Khan.
  • #848
    Profile photo of Victoria
    Victoria
    @victoria
    Moldova

    Florencia, thank you for the remark, I will also participate in the webinar.

    Anowarul, as well, many thanks for your reply! It is very useful to learn about the steps you are applying in communities to boost participation.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by Profile photo of Victoria Victoria.
  • #854
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear colleagues

    Today is the last day of this first GPSA E-forum. We wanted to thank all who contributed (and those who chose to observe this time around).

    We took on a big and difficult topic and slowly started to learn about other’s experiences, exchange insights, and share challenges.

    It’s great to see that despite the diversity of the group, we can find common threads while keeping in mind differences.

    In the next few days, we will share a summary of the E-forum. We hope to identify other issues and continue this conversation soon!

    Be in touch,

    Regards

    Florencia

  • #855
    Profile photo of Chris Roche
    Chris Roche
    @chris-roche

    Thanks everyone for an interesting exchange I think this e-forum has touched upon some really important issues and challenges for learning about social accountability processes including amongst other things: understanding and implementing multi-level linkages and strategies; building appropriate configurations of actors across sectors and levels; selecting and/or balancing collaborative or more adversarial strategies depending on the political economy and risks & rewards involved; the importance of mobilisation and collective action in order for information, social accountability tools to effectively trigger social change; and of course how do we best assess and test our assumptions and strategies in ways that are both rigourous

      and

    at the same time enable citizens, participants and agencies to learn and adapt as they go. Quite an agenda!

  • #856
    Profile photo of Janet Oropeza
    Janet Oropeza
    @janet-oropeza

    Thanks Florencia for a great forum, discussion and moderation. And also, thanks to all because it was really interesting to read all your experiences and contributions. A great deal of materials were posted, I hope I had time this year to go through all of them :)

    P.S. By the way, a little bit late, but I would like to attach and share with you Fundar’s Theory of Change

    Regards,

    Janet

    Attachments:
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  • #1153
    Profile photo of Florencia
    Florencia
    @florencia
    Argentina/Brazil

    Dear all, please find attached a short document summarizing this forum.
    Looking forward to the next!
    Florencia

    Attachments:
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    • #1163
      Profile photo of Chris Roche
      Chris Roche
      @chris-roche

      Great Job Florencia in producing a very neat summary!
      Chris

  • #2894
    Profile photo of Adamu
    Adamu
    @abduladamu
    Nigeria

    I am very delighted to join the GPSA Knowledge platform and eager to learn about tools and strategy in social accountability.

  • #3654
    Profile photo of Marine
    Marine
    @marineperron
    Mexico

    Prueba

    • #3655
      Profile photo of jose
      jose
      @jose
      mexico

      asd

      • #3657
        Profile photo of jose
        jose
        @jose
        mexico

        iop

  • #3656
    Profile photo of Marine
    Marine
    @marineperron
    Mexico

    prueba 2

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