Just before joining Accountable Now around four months ago, I realised that dynamic accountability would be not only central to my work, but also something like a lighthouse that would guide me when I got lost navigating the Accountable Now members’ accountability reports.
If you are not familiar with the term, like most of my friends and family are, you would ask, dynamic account… what!? What the h*** is that? In this blog entry I wanted to answer that question without losing your attention after 10 secs. Are you still there? Ok, so I promise it won’t be long, and it might be useful in getting to grips with this concept that is becoming so central to civil society accountability.
First thing to explain, which might seem unimportant at first, is terminology. When talking about dynamic accountability, the term ‘beneficiary’ is consciously avoided because it implies a power claim (Perry Maddox puts it crystal clear in this blog). This is something which the dynamic accountability approach completely rejects. There are many options that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) can use instead and each organisation needs to find out which term suits their context best. At Accountable Now we use ‘people CSOs for and with ’. It’s a bit long, but when you reach the end of this page you will agree it is precise as well as generic enough to include most CSOs’ beneficiaries (never again I promise!). Another important term is ‘stakeholders’, which is used here to refer to ALL groups that have interest or concern in the CSO, from donors to other CSOs operating in the same area, and including, of course, the people CSOs work for and with.
Ok, now that you have reached this far, let me confess something: dynamic accountability is a complex concept and it is not likely someone without a background on CSO accountability will completely get it just by reading this post. BUT, there are some elements that I think can be put really simple:
- Dynamic accountability is about dialogue, dialogue and dialogue. CSOs need to have meaningful conversations with the people they work for and with, and not just one-off, it is about building a lasting relationship based on mutual trust.
- Dynamic accountability is about fluidity, as Bruce Lee would say, “be as water my friend”. CSOs need to be adaptive to their stakeholders needs, with a focus on the people CSOs work for and with. Like the water Bruce talks about, become what the bottle (stakeholders) calls for.
- Dynamic accountability is about transparency: what are CSOs doing and how can CSOs’ stakeholders participate and inform decisions?
- Dynamic accountability is about shifting the power, so that people CSOs work for and with become the drivers and the leaders of the change that needs to happen.
And dynamic accountability is about many other things, but I said this won’t be long, and here I am delivering what I promised. Now, if you are serious about dynamic accountability, have a go at this paper.