GPSA Knowledge Platform

Social accountability in Water Resource Management and WASH – collaboration and momentum from the World Water Week at Stockholm

GPSA Knowledge Platform forums Discussions with Experts Social accountability in Water Resource Management and WASH – collaboration and momentum from the World Water Week at Stockholm

This topic contains 16 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Aly Elias Lala 3 years, 4 months ago.

  • Author
  • #5733


    Hi everyone and welcome to this E-forum on “Social accountability in  Water Resource Management and WASH  – collaboration and momentum from the World Water Week at Stockholm”.

    My name is Elsabijn Koelman from Water Integrity Network and together with Louisa Gosling from WaterAid, Pendo Hyera from Shahidi wa Maji, Nick Hepworth From Water Witness International, and Lotte Feuerstein from Water Integrity Network, we organized this e-forum to share with you some of the key issues discussed by several organizations, including us, during a session on SAcc in the World Water Week. That session was exciting and fruitful and allowed us to learn from each other and identify common areas of work. However, since only a few of us could make it to Stockholm, we want to continue this discussion and bring more organizations and actors into it, so that they can share their experience on SAcc in water resource management and WASH and feed in ideas and advice to ultimately make this sector as effective as possible. We invite you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to interact with other colleagues and organizations, to share your work more broadly or to raise concerns and questions.


    The e-forum will last two-weeks, from September 14th to September 28th. Each week, we will be raising and discussing a specific question. At the end of the week, the co-facilitators will be summarizing the main points of the discussion and sharing them with you. All responses and contributions are welcomed and we encourage people to react and comment to each other’s posts as, at the end, the most important learning comes from sharing and exchanging among us.

    To get the forum started, we would love to hear from you. We invite you to introduce yourself, who you are and where you work. After, we kindly ask you to reflect on the first question for this week:

    Q1. Social accountability requires new roles and relationships across the sector. What conflicts of interest and challenges do these pose, and how can they be managed?

  • #5745


    I am Kimbowa Richard, working for Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development in Kampala, Uganda.

    The challenge of open discussions by CSOs and communities ranging from freedom of assembly, speech and opinion could be a major hurdle for Social accountability. In Uganda and East Africa, laws that restrict these important ingredients to promote social accountability still linger on>

  • #5746


    Thanks for your input @kimbowarichard! Indeed laws that restrict freedom of assembly and speech may make it tricky for CSOs and communities to speak out and hold their governments to account.

    In the case of Uganda, have you found ways to overcome these challenges? Do other people in this forum have experience with this? What Social Accountability tools or mechanisms may enable CSOs or communities to voice their concerns when it comes to pollution of water sources, poor water service delivery, etc.? Would be great to receive your input!

  • #5747

    United Kingdom

    My name is Bertram Chambers and have been working in a number of developing countries specifically on Food Security and WASH issues.

    A major challenge is creating a platform for populations to openly share their feedback on public services. Unfortunately, in newly emerging democracies a lack of history and capacity prevents this from happening immediately. The question is, how do we empower grassroots organizations and communities in accessing water rights in often complex and fragile contexts?

  • #5748


    Interesting observation, @bertram-chambers! Empowerment is key and so are platforms where civil society can openly discuss and provide feedback about water services delivered.

    A relevant blog posted by WaterAid discusses how women in India became engaged in a slum development platform, and how they were empowered to regain a water supply in the slums. You can read the article here:

    In some countries, feedback systems and civil society platforms are stimulated by local authorities. For example, in Nepal these are regularly used at district level for annual reporting. Local communities engage in public hearings where they can meet face to face with the authorities that provide services and can address their frustration on lack of water services or ask questions about tariffs. In this case, many service providers have actually taken on board the comments from the public and modified some of their services. You can learn more about that in a previous GPSA webinar:

    To the other forum participants: What is your experience with empowering the grassroots in accessing their water rights? In your work, have you come across any challenges in empowering the grassroots or promoting social accountability? How have you overcome these challenges?

    I look forward to hearing from you!

  • #5750


    Thanks to the organizers of this e-discussion for making it possible for us to participate. My name is William; I live in southern California, involved with more than 100 cities which have ‘sister cities around the world, and have just returned from 5 weeks in southern Africa. I am seeking ways to involve new players in helping to achieve successful SDG outcomes over the next 15 years.

    @bertram-chambers questions involving empowering grassroots organizations and communities in accessing water rights falls right into my own interests, of how it might be possible to use the internet, cell phones and the scores of internet platforms, to press forward democratic development.

    • #5751


      @ekoelman in response to your questions, “What is your experience with empowering the grassroots in accessing their water rights? In your work, have you come across any challenges in empowering the grassroots or promoting social accountability? How have you overcome these challenges?

      I was a career UNHCR professional officer. Especially in Bosnia & Hercegovina, but also in a number of other countries with refugees and internally displaced persons, helping displaced persons returned home was all about encouraging trust building between citizens and their governments (at all levels) was key.

      This often required me as a member of the international community to bring together people who did not have a history of working together peacefully. It almost always meant helping the most vulnerable to voice their development problems and concerns where they had not been able to previously. CSOs were so valuable providing training and helping to identify and prioritize needs. I am very thankful for the good works of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) helping people to find commonalities and reasons for working together.

      • #5753


        Dear William @wt48, great to hear from you! Thanks for sharing your experiences and it sounds like you are doing interesting work. Also nice to see your common interest with @bertram-chambers on how to empower the grassroots, especially through the use of modern technology. Have you seen some best practices, @wt48? It would be interesting to read about further examples of how grassroots can use modern technology for increased social accountability purposes.

        You mention that you are looking for new players to jointly help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. What types of players are those and are they also involved in social accountability processes? It might be interesting for you to read an article I wrote a few weeks ago about how social accountability can support water management to achieve the SDGs

        Regarding your work with UNHCR, where CSOs provided training and helped identify the needs of the community, I would be interested to know about what type of training was provided and how the needs were identified? You might be interested in the Integrity Management Toolbox: which is a change management approach that support organizations through an integrity change process that starts with assessing their performance, describing their business model, identifying the most relevant integrity risks, using practical tools for better managing risks, to finally monitoring performance improvements:

  • #5754

    Aly Elias Lala

    Dear friends,
    My name’s Aly Lala, mozambican, I haven’t been directly involved in SAcc in WASH, but I hope to learn from practitioners in the sector. Lessons can be used throughout a whole variety of sectors. In fact, just from reading the discussions above, I already noticed a similarity in concerns such as, the need to build trust; the need to make ROI or association rights fully effective; the need to ensure trust is maintained along implementation; and so on. Great learning. I’m a practitioner at municipal level and district level provision of health services and hopefully – without diverting the focus from WASH – will be able to share experiences in the sector I operate.

  • #5755



    I am a WaSH practitioner from the private sector. Our company, Banka BioLoo, based in India, provides sustainable sanitation solutions through bioloos. The WaSH sector is essentially driven by the government and other entities such as the CSOs and businesses seem peripheral. Unlike the past, WaSH can’t be looked as an act of charity and thereby the donors and governments dole out some water point or a latrine. The sector needs to have market-based solutions that are effective, efficient and long-lasting. A harmonious relationship between the government, civil society and the private sector in the provision of WaSH can go a long way.

    • #5756


      Having spent more than 3 years in Maputo (91-95) with UNHCR, and having Hyderabad as a sister city with Riverside (my home), both @alala and @sanjaykbanka comments held my attention.

      Trust building is all about allowing people to express themselves, and building confidence working together through achieving incremental successful steps forward improving communities.

      Public private partnerships are very important as we move forward where achieving market-based solutions don’t have much history. The World Bank Group has an incredible array of tools that can assist. The WASH tool kit, with its focus on ethics, is one that I wish I had before I retired from UNHCR.

  • #5757


    Welcome to the discussion, @alala and @saniaykbanka!

    @alala, great that you notice similarities across sectors regarding: ”the need to build trust; the need to make ROI or association rights fully effective; the need to ensure trust is maintained along implementation;” In your work, how have you been able to do this? Would be great if you could share your experiences so that we can also learn from you!

    @sanjaykbanka, I think you make an important point when you mention that WaSH service delivery should not be viewed as an act of charity, and should encourage market-based solutions. The relationship between government, civil society and private sector is therefore very important! How have you been interacting with government and CSOs in ensuring that the services delivered are really in line with what the people really want? Are there any social accountability measures in place that have helped during your work?

    To other forum participants: what are ways of building trust between CSOs, government and private sector? How can we ensure that more public private partnerships are encouraged and that social accountability is taken into account here?

  • #5758


    Hi All,

    My name is Alex and I work with WaterAid in Timor-Leste.

    In Feb 2015 the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste stated that ‘..this government wants to establish partnerships where [citizens] will be able to have a more active participation [in government] through what is known as a social audit..’ and followed-up with an MoU between his office and the national civil society forum to undertake social audits. A very postivie development and it has been up to civil society to demonstrate the effectiveness and usefulness of the process for improving goverrnment services. Momentum has built but we are just now starting to see some results through the application of tools such as the Citizen’s Report Card and in the WASH sector WaterAid has supported our CSO partner organsiations to trial Community Scorecards (CSCs) for rural water supply services.

    Through trialling the CSC we have engaged heavily with the National Directorate of Water Supply Services and their district departments in contextualising the tool, as well as with CSOs, ensuring that the process is constructive and owned and that local government staff are receptive to the process and feedback.

    For rural water supply in Timor-Leste, as in many contexts, Community Management is the norm, so community Water User Groups form part of the Service Provider and also to varying degrees the local government in supporting these groups. We have found the CSC has been very practical and effective at identifying responsibilties as well as rights to services, the interface meetings and planning meetings beyond the actual scoring are particularly useful and as always, follow-up is key, so engaging the village leadership and clustering the approach, so one village chief is engaged in following-up with several water supply functioning across their community and is able to leverage local government engagement.

    We are finalizing reports workshops from the trial this month and hope to be able to share more in the future.

  • #5764


    Welcome @alexgrumbley, and thanks for your contribution to this e-forum! Good to hear that tools such as the Citizen’s Report Card and Community Scorecards are being applied by CSO’s in Timor-Leste for enhanced social accountability in rural water supply services.

    We have had many interesting contributions on this e-forum, and several key issues have been highlighted. It was discussed that social accountability can work when there is freedom of speech, assembly and opinion within society. Moreover, the importance of giving grassroots the required capacity and empowerment within fragile contexts was mentioned. Conducting training with civil society organisations was suggested as a way of building their capacity which in turn could empower them to speak out or teach them about their water rights. Still, capacity building is not enough. It was also highlighted that different sectors should cooperate and work together to strengthen the water sector and promote social accountability. This includes the need for public private partnerships and collaboration between sub-sectors throughout the implementation of water projects.

    Having raised these issues, I would like to pose another question which links to some of the previous discussions:


    This e-forum will last until the 28th of September, after which we will wrap up this discussion. It would be great to hear your thoughts and suggestions before then and I look forward to further interacting with you!

  • #5765

    United Kingdom

    Hi Everyone

    The question about how to nurture and support effective social accountability in the water sector is very important.

    In our experience in WaterAid it really needs a shift in the culture and mindset of key stakeholders as well as greater capacity and knowledge about how to support social accountability in practical terms.

    The priority of many stakeholders in the water sector is to strengthen the capacity to supply and provide services. This is seen to be mainly a technical challenge that can be addressed by increasing resources in the sector and building capacity to overcome the many technical difficulties. The sector is full of tools for managing and monitoring services and advocacy to demand more resources.

    The idea of empowering people to understand and demand their rights is not so strong amongst the major stakeholders, perhaps because they tend to come from quite technical backgrounds and are less convinced that ideas of rights and accountable governments will produce results in terms of better and more sustainable services.

    Practical examples like the one Alex has described from Timor Leste and this one from my colleagues in Malawi are important to build a body of evidence that this kind of approach can make a difference. Gradually this can be used to convince all concerned – communities, governments, NGOs and donors – to support this kind of work. If it is possible to really show how, in different contexts, communities have successfully engaged with governments and the result has been more sustainable and equitable services, then social accountability will become more mainstream.

    It is actually quite difficult for organisations that have a long history of “doing” service delivery to stand back and take this approach. Taking time to support communities to be more empowered and able to engage government is difficult when there is a glaring need for drinking water. People who are used to delivering services are also often uncomfortable with ideas of challenging power and shifting power relations between governments and communities.

    To help convince people we need to take care to document the social accountability experiences in a rigorous and objective way, without overclaiming success. We also need to develop clear practical guidance on how to apply the concept and adapt it to different political, social and technological contexts. Good persuasive examples, clear guidance, and a greater emphasis on accountability from the supply side will all be helpful.

    Finally, I hope that this platform will help those of us working in the water sector to continue to learn from social accountability and rights based work in other sectors.

    I look forward to hearing what others think about this important question.

  • #5766


    Hi everyone!

    We have approached the last day of this e-forum and I’d like to make a few reflections and highlight some of your contributions from the past weeks:

    The first question raised on this forum related to new roles and relationships which will be required across the water sector to create more social accountability. We asked you what conflicts of interest and challenges these may pose and how they can be managed.

    Several interesting points were put forward during this discussion. @kimbowarichard mentioned that social accountability may face hurdles in countries where freedom of speech and assembly is limited. @bertram-chambers responded by questioning what platforms citizens can use to voice their concerns or openly give feedback on water service delivery in fragile context. Both these points link to the question of how citizens can be empowered to voice their concerns.

    In relation to this, @wt48 stressed the importance of conducting training at grassroots level. He mentioned that after capacity building exercises, civil society may be better at identifying their needs and even prioritize them. This was echoed by @alala, who stated that besides capacity building, it is essential to focus on building trust within the sector. Enhanced trust and capacity can help build confidence and may allow people to better work together when implementing water projects.

    Linked to this point, @sanjaykbanka and @alexgrumbley were in agreement that in order for social accountability to work successfully, it is key that various sectors and sub-sectors better collaborate. Key sectors that were pointed out here include the private sector, government and civil society organisations. One example, highlighted by @alexgrumbley, showed how community score cards and other tools can be used to better measure what stakeholders expect, need or perceive regarding water service provision.

    To the question about how to nurture and support effective social accountability in the water sector, @louisagosling made a few remarks. According to her, the idea of empowering people to understand and demand their rights is not so strong among major stakeholders. Therefore, in order to mainstream social accountability, we need a greater body of evidence to show that various tools and approaches actually work. Documentation of cases where social accountability has made a difference will be key as well the development of a more practical guidance on how to apply the concept of social accountability to different contexts in the water sector.

    Finally, I would like to thank participants of this e-forum for an interesting discussion. It has been great reading all your contributions!

  • #5767

    Aly Elias Lala

    Hello everyone,
    A few things captured my attention during discussions:
    (i) Freedom of speech and association. This was initially raised by @kimbowarichard. The right to participate and to access information are both enshrined in the Constitution. A rather antique Law of Associations is in place. Usually it does not constitute an obstacle to the approval of associations, except when it comes to the approval of the LGBTI association (pending for years) and to some foundations which the Government feels have diverse political interests to them.
    The Right to Information Law was approved recently and it prescribes clear principles for participation and access to public documents by any concerned citizen. It is really important that its designation is “Right to Information” rather than “Access to Information” or “State Secrecy” law. That makes a huge difference on the way it is to be interpreted.
    However, furthermore, because our system is of Roman-Germanic orientation, often, a Law cannot be really operational until it is regulated, i.e. until regulations are approved. Well, the Law established 180 days for the Government to approve regulations. It’s been almost 500 days since the end of said 180 days and the Government hasn’t approved any regulations so far. So one cannot really use the RoI Law to demand access and disclosure of some documents. So, even in situations where we have a RoI framework (or rather Association Law) Governments can still block citizens to access relevant information. We have not, so far, used any provisions of the law to access information. We rather use a rights-based approach to access it. We have been successful at times and unsuccessful at others. But it is rather more difficult to access audit (including external) information although, sometimes, we have not been able to access basic information such as plans & budgets and execution reports.
    Another problem that adds-up to access to information is the level of disaggregation of the budget data. Sometimes numbers are just too aggregated that one cannot use these numbers for monitoring purposes. This could be resolved by (a) using qualitative information and by (b) pushing for the adoption of budget classifiers which enable disaggregation, but the latter is quiet difficult to achieve. So we work with what we have and complement with qualitative data and other evidence through social audits (results of social audits are then shared in public hearings).
    (ii) Grassroots level training – Part of our approach is to build local civic capacity to engage with public actors. We soon learned that involving both public servants and oversight bodies is crucial to build momentum and – especially – get all three actors (civic + public employees + oversight bodies) to speak the same language.
    Public servants become less intimidated by civic actors’ demands (as they now know the simple things civic actors are demanding for); and oversight bodies fear less to engage with civic actors (as they evolve to rightly believe these actors are there to complement what they do and to build a real bridge between state/oversight bodies and the communities being served).

    You would be amazed at the degree of motivation and empowered citizens feel when they receive training on social accountability monitoring. It is like adrenaline.

    (iii) I also agree that an effective connection amongst relevant sectors and sub-sectors is crucial. Furthermore, a more vertical connection is important: amongst tiers of government e.g. municipal, district, provincial and central levels. Concern Universal’s intervention at one district in the Province of Niassa was able to cause positive change in the water distribution policy in the country given this upstream collaboration. In a country like Mozambique where no subnational legislative powers exist, this is crucial. Otherwise, any positive changes remain local and never go viral.

    Reading the comments and inputs from other participants. I was really happy to learn about other participants’ experiences in the sector. I was especially amazed at how issues faced – and the strategies that have to be adopted – carry many similarities, even when we are talking about completely different sectors.

    Thank you @ELSABIJN for an elegant facilitation.

The topic ‘Social accountability in Water Resource Management and WASH – collaboration and momentum from the World Water Week at Stockholm’ is closed to new replies.

0 Responses on Social accountability in Water Resource Management and WASH – collaboration and momentum from the World Water Week at Stockholm"

How Can I Contribute to the Knowledge Platform

You may contribute to the Knowledge Platform in many different ways: you can send and disseminate your social accountability materials (toolkits, reports, videos, etc.) in the knowledge repository; you can contact, interact and collaborate with other peers and join a global community of social accountability practitioners; you can participate in the different learning and knowledge exchange activities of the GPSA KP such as online courses, thematic forums, webinars and blogs; and you can develop a partnership with the GPSA KP to implement collaborative knowledge activities.

2016 GPSA Knowledge Portal. All rights reserved | Terms and Conditions
To participate in all the learning and sharing activities, you need to be registered Click here to create your account