Locally led development is a growing discourse within the global development sector, recognising the power of communities to shape their own futures. But this approach requires rethinking the way CSOs and their stakeholders interact – what we call accountability. Traditional approaches to accountability often concentrate power at the top and reinforce colonialist, patriarchal and unequal structures, limiting community input and decision making. Enter Dynamic Accountability, a participatory and adaptive approach that fosters collaboration, transparency, and shared responsibility between all parties.
Dynamic Accountability acknowledges that communities hold unique knowledge and insights into their challenges and aspirations. It values local contexts and aims to align development with the lived experiences of the people it serves. By embracing the Dynamic Accountability approach, we can move away from one-size-fits-all approaches and foster meaningful partnerships where communities take ownership of their development.
During the second session of our 2023 Dynamic Accountability Dialogues: for Locally Led Development on Dynamic Accountability in Practice, we explored how different approaches can transform development. Real-world examples below showcase its positive impact on sustainable change with the aim to inspire practitioners, policymakers, and stakeholders to adopt inclusive and community-centric approaches that lead to more equitable and effective outcomes.
Watch the full recording of the session below.
Educo acknowledges that having the right channels for communities to input into its work, to evaluate its strengths and areas of improvement are vital to rebalancing power. To advance their commitment to openness and continual learning, they have developed a Suggestions, Complaints, and Commendations Policy to guide the process of collecting and managing SCCs. The global policy is contextualised and adapted through their country offices in collaboration with specific communities. This makes the mechanism more accessible, accountable and ultimately more usable by those whose inputs and voices are most important. The increase in SCCs received in the past year has illustrated that the SCC mechanisms are accessible and that stakeholders place trust in the process, but have also allowed Educo to adapt their ways of working to better reflect the needs of the communities they aim to serve and better serve their mission. To learn more, watch the video below to view Educo’s feature presentation from the Dialogues session.
Educo’s SCC Policy has been recognised by our Independent Review Panel as a good practice.
During the Dialogues session, Pact shared how they hold themselves accountable to their commitment to engaged communities and support internal improvement within the organisation. They have developed an assessment tool to understand how engaged communities have been in the different aspects of a programme – from budgeting to programmatic design and evaluation, enabling the organisation to see if the relationship with communities has been extractive, consultative, collaborative or community led/owned. While Pact’s ‘Engaged Communities assessment tool is still in its early stages of implementation, it has already served as a framework for reflection across the organisation in order to rethink how their programmes are designed and carried out to better serve their stakeholders. Pact will be sharing more about their approach later in the year – so keep an eye out!
The World YWCA’s new Feminist Consultation Methodology (FCM) is a guide developed by and for women and young women that offers guidance and tools for developing and conducting a research or evidence gathering process that is based in intersectional, feminist, decolonial, participatory and inclusive principles. The Methodology’s structured six step process is designed to ensure meaningful consultations – with the belief that by engaging young women and communities to lead evidence gathering and research, the evidence and research will become community-owned and used by young women and communities to advocate for their rights and improve their lives. The process was also designed to break hierarchical power structures present in traditional research methods and ensure that the subjects of a research project are protected against extractive research methodologies and processes.
Having already been adopted for use in several research projects, World YWCA’s FCM has had a significant and sustainable impact on the communities involved in advancing women’s rights and gender equality by centering the voices of young women, particularly those from marginalised communities, and inspiring young women and girls to own their rights and become leaders within their communities and beyond.
Accountability Lab‘s Civic Action Teams platform is an innovative circular process based in meaningful engagement, continuous reflection and adaptation, and collective action to address local issues. Acknowledging that communities are best placed to identify local needs and solutions, the CivActs platform provides a mechanism for the two way flow of information with communities informing power holders about local needs and priorities and power holders informing communities about local development activities. This 2 way flow ensures not only that local governments can carry out their activities efficiently and effectively, but also that communities are informed and can hold power holders accountable. The platform works through community-selected volunteer ‘frontline associates’ that are able to reach voices that have historically been marginalised in decision-making spaces through adapting accessible, innovative mediums, such as radio programming in local languages, to amplify voices and raise awareness about social issues.
With the model active already in more than 6 countries, CivActs has provided a platform for co-creating solutions to a range of issues from disaster relief, to migration issues, to gender, to open government and more. Civacts has demonstrated success, not only in the impact on programmes and policies, but has also served to build greater trust between communities and power holders and promoted active citizen participation.
What these 4 examples have demonstrated is the catalytic role that dynamic accountability can play in enabling locally led actions – through amplifying the voices of communities and equipping them with what they need to lead as agents of change.
Enabling communities to drive their actions is not only the right thing for ICSOs to do – but engaging and mobilising communities to lead their work results in more trust in organisations, better and more sustainable outcomes, and ultimately (most importantly!) leads to a more just, equitable, and accountable society for all.
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