By Erika Baranda, Project Coordinator for the Global Standard for CSO Accountability, Accountable Now
In times of shrinking civic space, credibility, legitimacy, and accountability of civil society organisations (CSOs) is more important than ever and building trust, participation and co-creation with local stakeholders are key if CSOs are to develop resilience and impact. In this regard, the sector needs a concerted effort to improve collaborative responses to challenges faced by organizations and people they work with and CSOs need stronger accountability frameworks and practices to ensure that peoples’ wishes, contributions and changing needs on the ground remain the real drivers of CSO-led decisions.
Transitioning to Dynamic Accountability
We the Global Standard, as a collaborative of civil society organisations, aspire to become more proactive in our approach to accountability in order to make it dynamic through continually improving the dialogue we have with our stakeholders to clarify how best we can work together to effectively achieve change. This is Dynamic Accountability: a feedback-driven approach that leads to stakeholders having an active role in shaping CSO policies and activities and it has great potential to transform our practices into an ongoing dialogue. It drives continual learning and change, develops trust with our stakeholders and enhances the legitimacy and credibility of CSOs overall and with the Global Standard, we are striving to develop the tools to incorporate a Dynamic Accountability approach into our work in order to create a strong community of practice.
History of the Global Standard
Nine Accountability Networks from around the world, including Accountable Now, have been working together for the past four years to develop the Global Standard for CSO Accountability. With each organisation coming from a different background and with different capabilities, this represented a challenge. However, after a collective and determined effort by the organisations and their constituencies, the Global Standard was created in April 2017. Due to its global focus and network of members, Accountable Now has taken over the hosting responsibilities of the Global Standard and has fully adopted the 12 Commitments into its own Accountability Commitments.
The Global Standard is a set of 12 Commitments that aim to provide a framework for CSOs to move away from more static accountability practices and adopt the Dynamic Accountability concept. With an overall objective of strengthening CSO effectiveness, connectedness and credibility, the 12 Commitments are organised into three clusters: what we aim to achieve, our approach to change and our internal practices. The commitments are deliberately aspirational; the focus is not only on what organisations can do now but also what they can do in the future. Additionally, they are not mutually exclusive but rather form an integrated whole, with each informing the other.
The Global Standards’ aim is to be the standard of reference for CSOs that complements existing initiatives and draws upon many other valuable standards such as the Core Humanitarian Standard and the Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness.
Using the Global Standard to achieve Dynamic Accountability
With having developed a standard of Dynamic Accountability, the next question is how can CSOs actually engage with it? And how can others begin to utilise the Global Standard as a way to achieve Dynamic Accountability? These are the challenges that will be addressed in the Global Standards’ new phase.
In this phase, the Project Partners with the facilitation of Accountable Now, have set the aim of expanding their use of the Global Standard by testing different approaches and tools as well as consolidating what they are already doing with their members, partners, and stakeholders. This will be done through a variety of ways such as benchmarking and self-assessment practices, building advocacy campaigns and reviewing and aligning with other codes and frameworks.
The deepening of their experience with the Global Standard will allow them to manage their new-found knowledge so they can engage in conversation with other CSOs and provide them guidance to adopt the Global Standard. Moreover, the Project Partners will promote the Global Standard to place it as an important tool in the broader global debate and practice around CSO accountability. To support even further the coalition, we hope to see existing and new partners share their experiences in advancing Dynamic Accountability to create a sustainable and enriching community of practice.
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 Australian Council for International Development (ACFID); Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN); Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC); Accountable Now; InterAction, USA; NGO Quality Assurance Certification Mechanism (QuAM), Uganda; Rendir Cuentas, Latin America; Viwango, Kenya; Voluntary Action Network India (VANI).