A practical guide for organisations on their journey towards becoming more dynamically accountable - no matter their starting point.

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So what is dynamic accountability?

It is a people-powered form of accountability that is responsive to the feedback of all those people and communities impacted by an organisation’s work.

Dynamic Accountability is an approach that goes beyond audited accounts and published reports. At the heart of the approach is a continuous dialogue with all those people impacted by our work (often referred to as stakeholders) about what they need, their priorities, what they offer, and how we can work together effectively. 

It is about organisations creating spaces and a level of trust to be able to work together on what and how things should be carried out, as well as sharing the results and asking for how to improve. 

When practising dynamic accountability, CSOs move beyond a hierarchical ladder of accountability to a mutual, horizontal approach. Such relationship-building is fundamental to enabling a systemic change in the sector in the form of a power shift, whereby the people we work for and with become recognised drivers of the CSO work that affects their own lives.

Dynamic accountability is both a continuous process and practice that should be applied during each phase of an organisation’s work, for example:

  • when planning a new partnership
  • when implementing (doing) any activity
  • when learning about the impact of a programme
  • when improving ways of working based on stakeholder feedback.

See tips for ensuring that dynamic accountability principles and practices are embedded in each stage of an organisation's work:

Before implementing a new programme or other activity, organisations carry out a planning process. When planning in a dynamically accountable way, make sure that all those who will be impacted by the activity are consulted and have space to provide inputs that will be used when designing activities to ensure they reflect the needs and priorities of the communities they aim to serve. Things to consider:

  • Ensure that you identify all those who would need to be consulted. Always consult all those that will be impacted by any project or activity in order to understand their needs and priorities.
  • Consider accessibility, context, and culture; these differences may mean that you have to adjust your planning processes and mechanisms to ensure that you are able to engage meaningfully and inclusively.
  • Leave space for others to shape and input into the design process - this will lead to more buy-in and common understanding of potential challenges as you implement your work.
  • Consider potential negative impacts and risks that your work may bring and identify solutions to mitigate.
  • Plan for additional flexibility in terms of time and resources.
  • Bring your colleagues along, have discussions with them, and make the approach that you are taking clear.
  • Use this time to plan for not just the implementation, but also for how the project will be monitored and evaluated.
  • Do your research, but keep an open mind - what you think is best may not be what is best for those who are impacted by your work!

This is the implementation phase where organisations are carrying out the planned activities. This is a moment of great collaboration between an organisation, its partners and those people and communities it is working for. Things to consider:

  • Use what you’ve heard at the planning stage to inform your actions.
  • Continue to create spaces and opportunities to listen as you are working so that your actions remain in line with the thoughts of those who are most impacted.
  • Keep in mind that things may change! Adapt as needed as you go along.
  • Keep track of what is being done and how, as this will support and inform your learnings.
  • Ensure that members of the communities in which you are carrying out your work are engaged to lead that activities being carried out - and that they have access to the tools, resources, and support that they need.

Whether an organisation is implementing a new programme or initiating a collaboration, being able to track, understand, and learn from the progress being made is key. Things to consider:

  • Continue to be open to constructive criticism and make people feel comfortable raising their voices.
  • Avoid pre-conceptions; as you search for feedback and learnings, consider questions that are open rather than those that are too specific.
  • Share and validate your learnings with all those who you have collaborated with to see whether your findings are similar to their experiences.
  • Prepare and consider what can be done to address concerns and needs.
  • Engage those that you are working for and with in monitoring and evaluating the work that is being carried out that impacts them.

Meaningful engagement means that stakeholders feedback is used in decision making and can influence learning and adaptation. Being accountable- communicating about our results to be transparent and demonstrate that our actions have had the impact that was intended and, importantly organisations need to be transparent in communicating their failures. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is essential in order to improve our work and ensure maximum impact. Things to consider:

  • Close feedback loops! Ensure feedback collected during reflections influences decision making and steers adaptation - and that those who shared feedback are informed how it was applied.
  • Consider your limitations and constraints. What can you feasibly improve and how can you communicate this clearly to those who may be impacted?
  • Co-design your improvements with those who you work for and with since this will increase a mutual understanding of what is possible and necessary.
  • Ask and validate whether the changes that you are making are appropriate and useful.
  • Share your learnings with your funders and senior management. In this way, you can potentially make a stronger case for flexibility and adaptability within the way you work.

Get inspired by these case studies demonstrating how dynamic accountability works in practice.