10 offers from the “Development Alternative” to do development differently

Isabelle Büchner

Accountable Now

The truth is, the development sector has a big problem: The way development is currently organised, managed and funded is grounded in unequal power-relationships – especially when it comes to the people, communities and local organisations affected by international development work. In order to put a spotlight on this issue, at the heart of Accountable Now’s Strategy Beyond 2018 is the aim to support Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to shift power within and outside their organisation towards the people and communities they work for and with. We try to achieve this by promoting and supporting organisations to implement an approach that we call Dynamic Accountability.


Dynamic Accountability is a systemic approach to CSO accountability that is grounded in processes of meaningful engagement with all stakeholders (affected people, donors, staff, volunteers, local partners etc.). This engagement should aim to be inclusive, participatory and continuously practised and strive to redress unequal power dynamics and help CSOs build mutual partnerships with all stakeholders. As a result, CSOs move beyond traditional hierarchical approaches to accountability where stakeholders are valued as being “up” or “down” the accountability ladder. This power shift is necessary to truly achieve systemic change within and outside CSOs but it can only be achieved through CSOs building equal relationships with all of their stakeholders. In this way, the power-shift becomes a responsibility for all actors in the sector and the people CSOs work for and with will truly become the recognized drivers of the development work that affects their own lives.


Within these struggles for power and redressing power another truth often is ignored: we live in times of Peak Youth. Nine out of ten of the world’s young people live in developing countries. They are present in every community, and yet the power they hold to end our biggest problems is being overlooked.

To bring these two “truths” together we have been part of creating a new programme coordinated by our member Restless Development, called:  “Civil Society Unleashed: A Model for Youth & Community Driven Change”. This programme, led by a consortium called the Development Alternative, is all about shifting power to communities, supporting youth to lead the change they want to see and truly live what we call Dynamic Accountability at all levels of the programme. 


To give you an overview of what this programme is all about we have summarised 10 things this programme has to offer:


Offer 1: The Development Alternative

The Development Alternative consists of a variety of organisations bringing in their unique expertise: Restless Developmentas coordinator and implementer, Integrity Action as technical lead on the model for change, INTRAC leading on MEL, Y Care InternationalWar Child and DOT Lebanon as national implementing partners and Accountable Now to make sure Dynamic Accountability is cross-cutting throughout all our implementation and consortium work.


Offer 2: The Model for Change

Our model for change is youth-led, tech-enabled and based in community engagement. We will train young volunteers to monitor development projects in their communities via Integrity Action’s Development Check app. We will engage 156,000 young people and community members (55% female) to work with duty bearers to identify challenges and underperformance in current livelihoods programme delivery worth £80 million.


Offer 3: Youth Civil Society Transformed 

Youth civil society is only managing to survive rather than thrive. That is the message that is coming out from the consultations we conducted during the co-creation of the programme (summarised in this report). To change this status quo we will convene a Youth Collective with 100+ youth civil society partners and 50+ development partners, co-create a package of support and engage development partners and national governments in 4 countries to better connect and work with youth civil society and young people .


Offer 4: A Youth Collective

In line with the previous offer we want to further improve partnerships between international development actors and youth/youth civil society. We will achieve this by training young volunteers and CSO partners in advocacy techniques, position youth-led action in key national and global influence events and connect young people and youth civil society partners to national and global networks.


Offer 5: Learning for design, influence, and scale

We will be testing, evidencing and ultimately proving our model for change and approaches to make them tangible and accessible for uptake by others. At Accountable Now, we will use this is an opportunity to take a special look at how our approach to accountability (Dynamic Accountability) can work in practice. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with our latest learnings.


Offer 6: A new kind of Consortium

As the Development Alternative consortium, we aim to live up to our name by working equally with each other and young people. By practising the principles of Dynamic Accountability in a cross-cutting way in programming and within the consortium itself, we will ensure youth are actively consulted and involved in every part and at every level of the programme. Additionally, we are implementing mechanisms to hold each other to account and being held to account by the young people we want to work for and with.


Offer 7: Rapid, Iterative Innovation 

Innovation will be central to our programme. Youth are to decide the questions and issues to monitor and to give communities, rather than development actors, the means to decide whether problems have been resolved and change has happened. This will require institutions to not just respond to feedback, but change the way they engage with young people and communities throughout project cycles. This goes beyond the current understanding of downward accountability and beneficiary feedback mechanisms and will support a true shift in power towards youth-led, community owned solutions for change.


Offer 8: Dynamic Accountability

Dynamic Accountability is a systemic approach to CSO accountability that is grounded in processes of meaningful engagement with all stakeholders that are inclusive, participatory and continuously practiced. Dynamic Accountability guides our consortium approach of engaging communities, young people and development actors. Read more about Dynamic Accountability and what it means in practice in our position paper.


Offer 9: Models for Scale

Our model is planned to scale. We will ‘scale-up’ to build on the core model to make it more effective in a particular context. We will ‘scale-out’ to adapt the core model to new contexts and situations. This means the programme will be tested initially in Uganda and Madagascar and eventually rolled out in Iraq, Lebanon, Central African Republic, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Zimbabwe and Zambia.


Offer 10: Youth Leadership

Youth leadership in the Development Alternative’s proposition goes beyond programmatic areas. It speaks to our core values that the Development Alternative cannot demonstrate the validity and conditions for youth leadership if it does not fully practice them itself. Therefore, we will ensure to embed youth leadership throughout the Development Alternative: from young volunteers leading their communities, to global advocacy campaigns designed and implemented by youth. By bringing in two young people into the Development Alternative Steering Committee, we will also ensure to bring in the voice of the youth into the highest governance structure of the consortium.


Did we catch your interest? Or are you working on a similar programme and want to discuss synergies? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via info@accountablenow.org

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