Diversifying our audience: Why it matters.

Bao Han Tran Le & Hector Payo

Accountable Now

On the 18th of September, Accountable Now joined Karl Steinnacker (a colleague at the ICSC, and the course convener) at the Alice Salomon Hochschule for a workshop on dynamic accountability. The workshop is a part of a week long course entitled “Living in a Camp” which aims to give Master students studying Inter-Cultural Conflict Management an insight into the workings of refugee camps. Our interactive seminar started with collaboration; students assessed the current context under which civil society organisations (CSOs) are operating in general, and the context for those organisations working with refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) in particular. Together, we unpacked the practices of dynamic accountability (psst – if you’re not up to speed, read this amazing blog by Hector) before breaking out into groups where students designed their own programme for refugees that takes into consideration the practices of dynamic accountability. The session ended with a Q&A session with Merle Rutz and Jack Conforth from CIVICUS.

It was refreshing to be able to speak about dynamic accountability to a new crowd. Academics and students are stakeholders, and engaging with the people who we work for and with is an important tenet within dynamic accountability. Holding workshops and conversations like these was not only interesting, but extremely useful for us as an organisation whose goal is to transform CSO accountability. 

Both us and the students came out of our workshop with a fresh set of perspectives. Their questions prodded at the applicability of dynamic accountability in terms of emergency relief, movements such as crowd-sourced fundraising, and effective partnerships on the ground, pushing us to consider issues outside of our usual framework. They prompted us to look at our practices from a new lens, and asked if what we are advocating for is enough. 

As dynamic accountability practitioners, we ought to engage in continuous and reflective learning, striving to improve and strengthen our work. Holding these conversations outside of our usual circle broadens our perspectives, shifts our attention to new issues, and inspires us to come up with new elements to ameliorate and enhance our practices. Moreover, by running workshops at universities and establishing relationships with educational institutions, we are hopeful to inspire further academic research into the concept of dynamic accountability itself. The key to strengthening a concept lies in healthy debates, research, testing and proof. After all – dynamic accountability should not be static! 

Sharing the application, use and need for dynamic accountability with students and academics is part and parcel of the systemic change that we are aiming to achieve within the sector. Dynamic accountability cannot be practiced in isolation; it requires mutual partnerships, it requires trust from the government, donors and stakeholders, and it requires every part of the chain and every participant in the process to really acknowledge and create an environment where these practices can be put in use.

More practically, we hope that our workshop demonstrated an alternative working model for CSOs to the students, and that they later apply dynamic accountability when they begin or return to their careers within the civil society sector. 

In the future – we hope to deliver more workshops in this line and pursue the opportunity to ‘cross-pollinate’ dynamic accountability to different sectors. Organisations should consider publishing their research, collaborating more with universities and think tanks. Outreach and meaningful engagement are key in a sector that demands for better trust and public awareness about CSOs accountability could lead towards a more enabling environment for CSOs to do their job well. For our concept and practices to be well implemented, for our work to have positive change, and for us to accomplish the systemic change that we are looking for – let’s step out of our comfort zone and diversify our audience.