By Madina Aliberdieva

I have recently returned from the Grantees Workshop organized by the GPSA programme at the World Bank, in Washington DC. This was one of the rare moments when donors and grantees learn to work together for effective collaboration. This is especially relevant when we consider the challenges that GPSA had to overcome to get started the grants implementation.

The GPSA seems to have developed a well thought-out approach for strategic social accountability, by 1) making sure the selected grantees have what it takes (and they certainly do!) to implement social accountability projects in their countries; and 2) creating the necessary conditions for learning and development through the GPSA’s Knowledge Component.

Both seem fairly straightforward at glance. However, as we proceeded in our deliberations during the workshop and heard some of the other participants, I realised that our projects will require us to challenge and overcome some deeply rooted dynamics, assumptions and behaviours in our countries. This also includes challenging our traditional approaches to working with the most vulnerable populations. While striving to empower the poor, the focus should not only be on them, but also on finding ways to ignite the interests of all stakeholders, especially the decision makers, to take the voices of citizens seriously, despite their prevalent reluctance to accept changes. We, as GPSA grantees, should therefore contribute to building and enabling an environment for constructive engagement between the government, service providers, civil society organizations and the community at large. And this is how the ‘magic’ will happen!

The ‘magic’ of GPSA social accountability programmes will only take place when all stakeholders, donors, grantees, partners and beneficiaries develop shared goals and strategies and productive working relationships. Of course, the key ingredient will be to engage every actor in reflective participatory processes, without limiting it to establishing artificial ‘social contracts’ between those who have power and those who don’t. And I think this is what Roby Senderowitsch, the GPSA Programme manager, was trying to convey at the very beginning of the workshop with these simple questions: What is the problem in your country? So what? What is next? Why would the important stakeholders want to engage in your project? What is ‘in it’ for them?

The workshop provided an excellent opportunity to exchange and hear about other GPSA grantees’ experiences. I got the chance to facilitate a session in which I heard stories from around the world of successes and failures; however I never heard a story of giving up!

The issues my colleagues are facing in their social accountability projects are often quite similar. For some of them, the challenge lies in working in contexts of highly centralised states; while others have to face the challenges that decentralisation processes bring along. We looked at how many of these processes can flow more smoothly in order to achieve the main goals of our projects. Also, we realized how the World Bank’s unique relationship with governments through its existing investments creates a comparative advantage that our projects should profit from.

Boosted by the enthusiasm and energy of the GPSA Programme team and the determination of all the participants, who conveyed such deep insights into social accountability, my hope is to continue to build on the positive experience of the Grantees Workshop and the GPSA Forum and to gather similar support at the national level to ensure that the Tajikistan Water Sector Improving Accountability project, funded the GPSA grant, maximises the benefits of better integration of the civil society voice for greater development results. Today’s realities – severe donor government cutbacks, economic crisis and increasing socio-economic needs – teach us that we simply cannot afford failure and must learn how to get the absolute value for every dollar invested to fight poverty.

This blog post was written and edited by Madina Aliberdieva. The views and opinions expressed here are purely the blogger’s own. It does not reflect the opinion of her past, present, and future employer(s). For questions about this blog post, please contact [email protected] 


Deputy Country Director at Oxfam

Madina has over twelve years of experience in private sector, development and humanitarian assistance sectors, working at the headquarters’ level in Canada and the US, combined with the field experience in Eastern Europe and Central and South Asia. Following her graduation from a Master’s of Science degree in International Development and Rural Extension Studies, from University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, Madina started her career in refugee crisis management, humanitarian assistance and disaster management. She first worked with Focus Humanitarian Assistance North America, affiliated to the Aga Khan Development Network, and in 2009 she joined Oxfam GB, where she held various senior management positions, ranging from managing the disaster response and climate change programmes, to rural livelihoods and drinking water and sanitation. Madina‘s role as Deputy Country Director at Oxfam involves engaging in advocacy and campaigns work at the national level.

Currently Madina is managing the Tajikistan Water Sector Improving Accountability project funded through the GPSA grant, which focuses on improving social accountability in the water supply and sanitation sector through the development of improved service performance standards and the promotion of citizen participation in service performance monitoring.

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