By Jeff Hall
In one way or another, they have all used a simple version of Jonathan Fox’s “sandwich strategy” to improve accountability at the schools and clinics upon which they depend. This “sandwich strategy” brokers alliances between pro-accountability forces within government and civil society. These alliances work to squeeze out the anti-accountability forces, and ultimately improve government performance.
On October 30, we joined Jonathan Fox at a London roundtable convened by World Vision and the Overseas Development Institute, in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Social Accountability, Making all Voices Count and the Transparency and Accountability Initiative. The big idea? To explore how some practitioners have applied the “sandwich strategy” in their social accountability practice, and how donors can support.
World Vision’s main contribution to this event was to draw upon the experience of “Citizen Voice and Action” social accountability practitioners in our 411 programmes in 43 countries. With remarkable regularity, our practitioners report encouraging success when they’ve pursued deliberative, constructive accountability (or, as the GPSA would call it, “constructive accountability”) that catalyzes alliances and problem-based coalitions between sympathetic government officials, reformist frontline service providers, and the communities they serve. When successful, these pro-accountability alliances overwhelm the anti-accountability forces and government performance improves. For example:
- – In Salvador, Brazil, youth built alliances with a head teacher and a city councilwoman, used score cards and social audits to collect information about school performance, and challenged a local school board to bring a dilapidated school into compliance with government standards. The school, whose walls delivered electric shocks to students on rainy days, is now the pride of the community.
- – In Keembe, Zambia, villagers and schoolteachers used social audits to systematically document the lack of teachers for a reformist district education officer. The school had only 9 teachers and 10 desks for 820 students. After a series of meetings, the education officer successfully pressed colleagues in the district to post 5 additional teachers and deliver 35 desks to Keembe.
- – And in Du, Indonesia, community members rallied behind their elected representative to ensure that a midwife was posted at their clinic, in accordance with local law. Even though the official had not visited the district headquarters for 7 years, the confidence that came from the community’s support empowered him to lobby the district until the midwife was posted.
In these cases and many others, practitioners attribute the success of the “Citizen Voice and Action” model, at least in part, to World Vision’s role as an “interlocutor”, able to help broker the relationships between citizens and government. This brokering role is a crucial part of World Vision’s operating model. We typically invest in a program for a period of 15 years. Because of the long time horizon, we can invest heavily in multi-stakeholder participatory assessment, design and power analysis. Social Accountability programming is embedded within a broader development approach that progressively builds both government and service provider capacity for response.
In this way, World Vision seeks to sharpen the “teeth”, or state capacities for response, that Jonathan Fox says help release communities from accountability traps. At the same time, the “Citizen Voice and Action” model is designed to improve community capacity to act collectively, thus improving community’s “voice”. We have some encouraging evidence of success. We recently deployed RCTs in Uganda which showed that, after one year, communities using the approach were 16% more likely to solve collective action problems. These same communities also saw a 9% increase in test scores.
Naturally, practitioners are not always successful, and the October 30 event helped us identify some of the bigger challenges that practitioners and donors face. For example:
- 1) What strategies can civil society use when a viable reform partner within government is not present? How can this ‘sandwich strategy’ be operationalized in difficult political environments and fragile and conflicted-afflicted contexts?
- 2) Local success is great. But what of the broader system? What strategies are most likely to help achieve “vertical integration” that capitalizes upon aggregated data and social movements to influence the state’s structures and public policies? World Vision has seen some success here, like recent social accountability coalition work that led to the hire of 6,000 additional health workers in Uganda. Unfortunately, “vertical integration” (as Jonathan Fox calls it) remains the exception in our work, not the rule.
- 3) World Vision has the benefit of private funding which often permits greater flexibility and longer time horizons (15 years). Will grant funding ever approach such flexibility, even if the evidence is convincing that long time horizons are crucial to the success of social accountability? In addition, how can donors support iterative social accountability projects without rigid risk and results frameworks?
- 4) There is a neat symmetry between the GPSA and Fox’s “sandwich strategy”: The opt-in nature of the mechanism helps ensure that civil society has at least some government partner who supports accountability work. But the GPSA is a fraction of the Bank’s broader work. How can the “Citizen Engagement Strategy”, the “100% Beneficiary Feedback” goal, and other Bank initiatives help ensure that civil society has a viable government partner to complete the accountability sandwich?
At World Vision we look forward to learning and working with our GPSA partners as we seek to discover the answers to these questions, and more, over the coming months and years.
Director of Local Advocacy, World Vision International
Jeff Hall is World Vision International’s Director of Local Advocacy. In his capacity, Jeff oversees World Vision’s local advocacy, participatory governance, and social accountability work in the organization’s 1600 programmes in 93 countries. In particular, Jeff leads World Vision’s Citizen Voice and Action approach to social accountability. The approach has led to encouraging improvements in health and education outcomes and policy change in dozens of countries. Prior to joining World Vision, Jeff served as a lawyer with the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. He has published articles on the Court’s jurisprudence and comparative human rights frameworks. Earlier in his career, Jeff worked in grassroots development and human rights activism in North America, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. He now lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia.