Improving CSO impact through Dynamic Accountability
Civil society organisations (CSOs) are an essential part of democracy and sustainable development. In order to be effective and enhance people’s trust, CSOs need to mainstream an accountability approach that is more dynamic. This dynamic approach continues to promote openness and transparency but it also encourages organisations to have a more proactive, feedback-driven approach where their stakeholders – people, donors, staff, among others – have an active role in shaping the organisation’s policies and the activities they undertake and that have an impact on people’s lives. It is through this process that organisations will strengthen their day-to-day operations and thus achieve greater impact.
Accountable Now wishes to work with its member organisations and other stakeholders to go beyond the usual accountability exercise that focuses on reporting, to a more sustainable and long-term approach where Dynamic Accountability is embedded in CSO culture and people are at the heart of the decision-making process.
To do so, Accountable Now will provide support so that:
Civil Society Organisations adopt strong Dynamic Accountability practices to enhance public trust
Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders mainstream Dynamic Accountability practices in their day-to-day operation so that they achieve greater impact
We foster international exchange on accountability tools and practices to enhance knowledge
Encourage the adoption of strong Dynamic Accountability practices to enhance trust
Accountable Now’s set of 12 accountability commitments, adopted from the Global Standard for CSO Accountability, are a tool for Dynamic Accountability. Dynamic Accountability is an approach driven by a two-way feedback stream. Through a continuous dialogue with our stakeholders – especially the people we work for and with – and by including their voices in the organisation’s decision-making processes, stakeholders take an active role in shaping the CSO policies and activities that impact their lives.
Reporting on activities, policies and outcomes is only one activity that CSOs should be undertaking to be truly accountable. CSOs need to move away from top-down accountability mechanisms to an approach where information flows in different directions and not only top-down or bottom-up. It is through this approach that organisations will be able to enhance trust, strengthen their legitimacy and become more effective.
Build strong Dynamic Accountability practices:
- To provide tailored support to members and other civil society organisations to embed strong Dynamic Accountability practices.
- Based on members’ needs and shortcomings in regard to their accountability practices, provide ad-hoc support so that they can comply with our minimum requirements and reach the goals established by our 12 accountability commitments.
- Facilitate discussions on the main principles and characteristics of the Dynamic Accountability approach so that these can be adopted in external and internal accountability mechanisms.
- To define and promote accountability benchmarks that seek to advance a more dynamic approach.
- With the help of Accountable Now’s Independent Review Panel, we will develop a model report that includes benchmarks and examples of good practices taken from our members’ reports. This will be a useful guide for Members and other organisations on how to draft their reports. This exercise will also inform the provision of in-depth feedback which is consistent across the board whilst taking into account each Member’s unique context.
- Our webinars, working groups, workshops and peer advice groups (PAGs) will target members’ needs and challenges. We will not only facilitate the PAGs, but will actively organise them and provide guidance and useful resources based on identified areas for improvement amongst our membership.
- The best practice section of the website will be widely disseminated and best practices will be chosen on the basis of the benchmarks in the model report.
- To encourage continuous improvement.
- Continuously improve our reporting and vetting system to drive organisational developments in CSOs towards better accountability practices.
- Foster active exchange of expertise among Accountable Now partners.
- Develop a State of the Sector Report to identify key trends and opportunities for our members.
- To foster a meaningful conversation with the wider public on our Members’ and other CSOs’ accountability efforts by disseminating their reports and good practices.
- Disseminate reports and good practices via our newsletter, social media and other relevant fora.
- Strengthen our best practice library as explained above in point 2.
- Work with members to improve their own efforts to disseminate reports and other relevant information.
- Work with members to explore how reports and other relevant information can be translated into a simple and easy to read format that is useful for the people they work with.
To promote a culture of Dynamic Accountability
Accountable Now’s 12 commitments have the purpose of not only providing a guide for organisations to reflect on their outcomes and impact but also on how these were achieved, and to transform the way organisations operate. In this sense, it is really about making sure that accountability is not another box-ticking exercise, but more a transformative process where organisations become more accountable internally and externally. To do so, this not only requires buy-in and support from CSOs but also from other key stakeholders such as donors.
- To monitor, learn, document and disseminate cases of effective Dynamic Accountability practices and tools.
Accountable Now will produce case studies on good practices from members and other organisations that are implementing different Dynamic Accountability practices to learn from these and identify successful approaches by context, type of organisation and approaches. The documented information will be widely disseminated and discussed with the wider CSO community through webinars, workshops, conferences and tools. Evidence based research will be taken from:
- The Global Standard for CSO Accountability
- People-powered decision-making pilots
- The Development Alternative
- Resilient Roots
- Members’ accountability reports
2. To encourage the donor community and other stakeholders –e.g. regulatory institutions- to adopt, promote and support a culture of Dynamic Accountability among the CSO sector.
- Use the case studies and other relevant evidence based research to inform the donor community to the Dynamic Accountability approach, its principles and benefits for CSOs.
- Engage and collaborate with donors so that they support, implement and promote the approach with their grantees.
- Inform the discussions on due diligence, legal and regulatory requirements and any other mechanism that serves as an accountability mechanism so that these are not “another tick-box exercise”.
Foster international exchange on accountability tools and practices to enhance knowledge
When it comes to accountability, there are many initiatives around the world that have their own codes and standards. Furthermore, each donor has its own reporting framework. Whilst acknowledging the importance that each framework has, accountability has become a costly and time-consuming effort for many organisations. With the purpose of exploring collaboration, complementarity and alignment, Accountable Now will:
- Collaborate with other accountability initiatives -code and standard holders- to explore opportunities for collaboration, cross reporting and minimise multiple reporting requirements.
- Engage with the donor community and other relevant stakeholders – such as regulatory bodies – to identify how our reporting framework is useful for their own due diligence processes.
- Foster a strategic relationship with other initiatives and platforms that have accountability tools to learn and exchange lessons learned.
Turning strategy into practice
This strategy will only succeed if actively owned and implemented not only by Accountable Now’s Secretariat but by all Accountable Now Members individually and collectively. Members should commit to contributing time, resources and leadership capacity to achieve the ambitious goals laid out in this paper.
The strategy is supported by annual work plans including indicators of success. It has no end date but rather lays out the corner stones of our strategic direction as approved by Accountable Now’s
Annual General Meeting (AGM) in April 2015. It will be annually reviewed by the Board and periodically by the AGM.
What does success look like?
Success of the strategy outlined in this paper means: CSOs committed to Accountable Now have significantly strengthened their accountability practices. They are trusted by their societies as transparent, effective actors who collaborate closely with their stakeholders to deliver optimal impact for people’s lives and the environment. They accomplish this through a truly global understanding of mutual accountability, supported by global CSO solidarity.