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Jeff Thindwa, the Program Manager for the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) in the Governance Global Practice at the World Bank. He was in Uganda earlier in April to attend the Africa Freedom of Information (AFIC) and World Bank – Uganda Country office organised Social Accountability Learning Symposium held at the Hotel Africana. Below is the speech Mr. Thindwa delivered to the symposium.


On behalf of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (the GPSA) and colleagues from the World Bank, I greet you, I welcome you and I thank you for being here. I am delighted to join you for this very important symposium to learn lessons from the work on social accountability in Uganda advanced by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre – AFIC – and its partners, collaborating with government and local communities; work that has given ordinary people a voice; citizens who want to see government contracts properly executed and deliver for them and their children. The GPSA is pleased to be a partner in supporting this effort.

When I was a little boy a man knocked at our door in Highfields, a township in Southern Rhodesia. My father opened and the man gave him a form to sign. My father asked ‘what’s this’? The man said, calmly, ‘it’s about refusing to be ruled by white people’. My father signed and the man left.

Later in life I would understand the importance of that moment! As it was then, so it is now; even more so: Citizens everywhere want to have a say in matters that affect their lives, whether it’s their governments’ policies, how public funds are managed or the workings of global institutions such as the World Bank. Sometimes they have protested – as happened in the Arab Spring, other times they have sent petitions – as in the Highfields man – or engaged collaboratively on development solutions.

More recently as an older man, in 2016, I was meeting with the head of the civil service in one of the capitals here in Africa. She told me she was angry that an NGO had reported falsely on government corruption after being given access for its research. ‘How could government trust such groups’, she said, obviously exasperated.

I came out of that meeting with mixed sentiments; admiration for an organization that cared enough about the country to want to be engaged; concerned that the tactics used left a government official angry. It does not have to be that way.

We had talked in that meeting about civil society being a complicated space of a multitude of voices; of many, often competing claims on government and a space of passions and vibrant energy. It is also a space with real potential to help accelerate the important work of nation-building; where collaboration of governments and citizens and their organizations can help realization of the government’s development ambition.

The vision of the GPSA is to be a catalyst for such collaboration; where government is open to citizens and not afraid of accountability, and citizens can engage meaningfully. Transparency, accountability, participation, collaboration all working together to make government policies and programmes work better.

I want to share what we are learning at the GPSA about doing “collaborative social accountability” – more on this later – and its merits in improving governance and development results.

My main point is that collaborative social accountability can be a catalyst for strong results in the governance sphere, but we can and need to get better at working together and integrating it with sector work and public sector reforms.

But first, let me introduce the GPSA:

The Global Partnership for Social Accountability – known as the GPSA – was established in 2012 by the World Bank’s Board of Directors and its mission is to expand opportunity for civil society and governments to work together to solve governance problems and fight poverty.

To this end the GPSA seeks to contribute to the effectiveness of governance and sectoral programmes and policies, and improvement of service delivery by:

  • harnessing finance, knowledge and collaboration to build civil society’s capacity for evidence-based social accountability;
  • supporting World Bank teams and government counterparts in embedding social accountability in their programs; and
  • working with governments, World Bank teams and Development Partners towards scaling of social accountability programmes.

We have 41 projects and initiatives in 27 countries, making up a portfolio of almost US$30million. Grant size ranges from US$500k to US$800k. We are implementing projects involving more than 200 CSOs in health, education, water supply and sanitation, social protection, Public Financial Management and fragility conflict and violence. 53 governments have joined the GPSA. The GPSA has more than 300 global partners – from civil society, academia, donors, private sector and governments, for whom the GPSA is a global platform for networking, knowledge exchange and learning – on and offline.

The GPSA’s Knowledge Platform now has over 4,500 individual members. It is a vibrant community and we encourage you all to become a member at Use it to connect with peers and share tacit knowledge that otherwise would be held captive in our minds. This symposium is an example of a KP community event and today’s will be shared on it as well.


The evolution of social accountability and the GPSA:

In 2004, the World Development Report “Making Services Work for the Poor” put social accountability in the development agenda. It argued that more money and technical fixes would not be enough to solve the failures of service delivery to serve the poor. When teachers are not delivering quality education, better infrastructure, uniforms and textbooks, and extra money for teachers to work in marginalized communities are not enough. These technical fixes will not work unless the incentives in the education delivery system are realigned. Citizen engagement and social accountability can help realign these incentives, and contribute to addressing both immediate and systemic causes of service delivery failures.

Since 2004, around the world, civil society groups have been testing these ideas. Evidence shows public service delivery can be more effective, and government policies can be stronger and more sustainable, when governments use citizen input to help shape, execute, manage, deliver, monitor, and adjust their policies and service delivery programmes.

Here in Uganda, AFIC collaborated with the Government in providing technical assistance to help align the Government Procurement Portal (GPP) to the Open Contracting and Data Standard to enable access to procurement information and, therefore, proper tracking. This involved re-designing the portal on improved technology. Government implemented AFIC’s recommendations and just this last week PPDA finished its tests and authorized the portal to go public.

AFIC has also been invited to support government ensure the e-GP system being set up – with financial support from WB – is also aligned with the OCDS, without which the system cannot generate key reports because the data aren’t linked.

The expectation is that the rest of the government agencies can start publishing information on the GPP to facilitate citizen access and social accountability. As we say, information is the oxygen of accountability.

However, we have learned about our shortcomings, too, as the practice of social accountability has evolved in these fifteen years since 2004. The GPSA and others on this journey are charting what Thomas Carothers called a second-generation approach to transparency, accountability and participation. We are also learning-by-doing with a broad range of partnerships.

Today, I am going to discuss collaborative social accountability – the approach we have embraced at the GPSA as our way to do second generation social accountability. That is, social accountability processes that involve citizens and civil society organizations in iterative processes of problem-solving that engage diverse stakeholders and are collaborative in nature, in order to achieve public goals.  This approach is distinct from confrontational, adversarial social accountability strategies that are predicated on the exertion of countervailing power. It is also much more than just producing citizen scorecards or social audits.

Countries face problems of inefficient spending, of ineffectual targeting of vulnerable people, teacher absenteeism and loss of instructional materials, failure of health services and water supply and more.

Solving these problems takes multi-stakeholder coordination, cooperation and commitment – which are at the core of our actions in GPSA projects. The Uganda public procurement system is a case in point: collaborative social accountability is an effective method for solving those collective action challenges that undermine public procurement, and the AFIC project is an inspiring example.

GPSA projects have achieved positive changes across a range of factors from shifts in stakeholders’ behaviors to actual changes in service delivery processes leading to better outcomes.

The GPSA supported SASKAN project (short for “social Accountability Knowledge, Skills, Action and Networking) in Mozambique, by United Purpose Mozambique has used collaborative social accountability to improve the quality of health services in extreme poor communities in Niassa and Zambezia provinces. The project has achieved greater government responsiveness to community feedback: New health centres in Itepia and the maternity centre in Maúa District. Allocation of female midwives helped increase the rate of institutional births from 2 average deliveries per month to 42 monthly deliveries in the centre of Maiaca, Maúa district.

The GPSA supported project of Wahana Visi in Indonesia, on Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Health Services, using collaborative social accountability also saw increased responsiveness of public authorities, an uptick in the number of mothers giving birth at local health facilities rather than at home, and, in one health service post of Posyandu a 16.8% increase in the provision of health checks for pregnant women in one year only.

The Malawi Economic Justice Network and its coalition developed a tool for monitoring delivery of instructional materials, collaborating with the Supplies Unit of Malawi’s Ministry of Education. Trained School Monitoring Teams worked School Management Committee members, Parents-Teachers Associations, and Mothers’ groups as part of the monitoring process, completing a specific accountability template with each delivery. There has been a shift in behavior: students, teachers and local communities now exercise highly personal stewardship of instructional material. There has also been a concrete outcome: an 85% reduction in the loss of instructional material in 4 years.

Let me pull together three important things we have learned from these examples:

  1. The first the contribution of social accountability to improving sector governance and delivery chains lies in its ability to create conditions for citizens’ voice to be meaningfully incorporated in solving of problems jointly with public authorities. In the Wahana Visi case the lesson is that this requires an understanding of public sector institutions’ constraints and needs, a theme that may sound familiar to experts in frontline health delivery, and social accountability helping to strengthen the system and ensuring that health care reaches the last mile to mothers and babies’ homes.
  2. Second, to work with and for stronger delivery systems, CSOs have to engage with decision-makers to co-produce solutions that can benefit citizens while serving to introduce corrective measures and help adjust procedures across public management chains, rather than approaching social accountability as isolated from public management and country systems.
    We call social accountability that takes seriously how public management and public services are delivered in practice programmatic; as opposed to approaches that may not fit the system.
    For example – the work of CARE Maroc, GPSA’s partner in Morocco, started with a school diagnostic shared by the government and other development partners. The school-based management and decentralization policies were underperforming. There was low engagement of school communities to decide how budgets for school projects would be spent. Thus, CARE targeted its collaborative social accountability project at addressing this challenge by engaging citizens, regional authorities, and others in the school community and improving the conditions of engagement. This probably helped ensuring that citizen-driven data actually fed decision-making among beneficiaries and relevant decision-makers in the public sector. Today, local actors including the government itself are working to scale the lessons and embed the approach in the government’s own policies and education reforms.
    This programmatic approach to social accountability can deliver results in schools, health facilities, and communities. As important, over time, programmatic approaches to social accountability can pave the road toward taking localized wins to institutionalization.
  3. Third, collaboration enables governments and CSOs to think and test participatory models together, taking into account, from inception, public service delivery and institutional constraints and opportunities. This increases the chances of achieving realistic models that are feasible to take to greater numbers of people (or scale up). We are aware that scale has been a challenge for participatory approaches, so are very excited about this new approach to it.

What does this mean for the World Bank, Development Partners and Governments?

First, the World Bank and other development partners projects can contribute towards integrating lessons from social accountability into new and ongoing reforms. In Mongolia, we have supported Globe International Center and its partners to introduce collaborative social accountability in schools. It’s a challenging context, not only because improving learning outcomes is hard, but also because parents are herders. By establishing Parent-Teacher Associations and working with school management, our colleagues in Mongolia set in motion a process of hands-on and continuous engagement between regular producers of education (governments and providers) and citizens, parents, and students at the school level. This experience caught the eye of the Education authorities and the World Bank’s Education team. They saw that collaborative social accountability could help make more effective the other reforms to improve the quality of learning that the World Bank was supporting in Mongolia. All stakeholders are currently working together towards integrating collaborative social accountability in a broader reform to support children’s learning in Mongolia.

Second, governments’ uptake of collaborative social accountability models still requires additional and continued support through World Bank and Development Partners’ operations, partly because large scale implementation requires investing resources, in both public sector institutions and towards civil society’s vital roles. Also, because governments aren’t usually able to take the model to scale (nationally) at once, but rather need time to continue expanding its use incrementally across the country.

In this respect, and that’s the third point, Government initiative can make a difference: The Government of Niassa Province decided to scale up the SASKAN approach to the remaining districts of the Province, while the Minister of Health of has called for the SASKAN experience to be scaled up at the national level.

Lingering Challenges to collaborative social accountability

We see enormous opportunity for collaborative social accountability designed to bring concrete solutions to real governance challenges. Since initiating our 4th Call for Proposals have been overwhelmed by the demand from countries, for collaborative social accountability, since initiating the process for

There are also important challenges to make collaborative social accountability work for results, beyond financial constraints,

First: The capacity needs of civil society are complex. Programmatic social accountability includes citizen-driven data, but this is much more than producing information. It requires the capacity to ensure that the information is actually used to coordinate and, at times co-produce public goods and services and to achieve accountability.  Thus, capacities for social accountability include, but are not limited to technical ones, such as knowledge of public finance and ability to use diverse social accountability mechanisms. They include the skills for collaborative problem-solving, for working with delivery chains to make the most of the few resources available for their work, and for navigating complex political economy contexts. We have learned the urgency of supporting CSOs to develop organizational, civic, operational and analytical capacities.

Second, public sector institutions do not always have capacities, indeed incentives, to engage with citizens. The production of data from social accountability – whether on teacher absenteeism or loss of instructional materials can increase the incentives of public officials to work with civil society on solution. It can also shift their preferences. It is important to invest in tighter interactions of citizens and public officials; interface spaces for citizen feedback but also follow-up actions and government responses. This can nurture joint problem-solving, from frontline service delivery (schools, clinics, interface points for social services, etc.) to higher levels across public management chains.

Third, for Development Partners and funders, there is the challenge of supporting local actors in charting their own pathway towards better development results. This is not always easy. We can play many roles, but one of them is to nurture a levelled playing field in which different stakeholders can come together and work out their solutions. Grant-makers such as the GPSA, especially because it is anchored in the World Bank’s relationships with governments, can play a critical role as honest brokers of state-civil society collaborative engagement and inclusive decision making, while lowering the risks of CSO cooptation and other limits to CSO autonomy.

Fourth, there is a need to help grantees address tough implementation problems. Grantees need spaces for joint reflection and we can provide them with “critical friends” (social accountability experts, other relevant CSOs) to help them face and address implementation challenges as a powerful tool for making progress. Civil society groups across GPSA countries including Mozambique, Morocco and here in Uganda, have benefited from such reflection spaces and technical accompaniment to course-correct their strategies. In Mozambique, the GPSA-supported SAKSAN project uses an innovation called the Public Auditorium as for reflection and evidence-based engagement between civic groups, government and health managers, around health issues. Governmental authorities are held to account – give clarification and explain their commitments and priorities on the performance of the health sector; while health managers answer questions from and are held accountable for their performance in health services provision.

Fifth, implementing partners need support in adaptive programming towards implementing social accountability that is sustainable and effective. This has been key to the success of GPSA projects, which have established state-civil society spaces based on continuous cooperation and credible commitments. This means providing high flexibility in terms of budget allocations, definition of indicators, adjustment of mechanisms – among other things. In Mozambique, SAKSAN had to evaluate the tools of its so called “Social Accountability Cycle” to ensure they are appropriate to and take into account the local realities and variables, particularities of the communities including literacy levels, as well as specific dynamics in the health sector – specifically in MCH services and access to ARTs.

Six, there is the challenge of fragmented DPs support: Another role development partners can play is to construct a playing field in which our support is less fragmented. The uniqueness of our respective goals and strategies bring a richness to the development landscape. It also often leads to missed opportunities for aggregation and scaling of civil society-led social accountability programs and therefore greater impact.

Seven, the challenge of working across sectors: In development general there has been the realization that delivering on complex outcomes requires us to work across sectors. Education is about public financial management as well as education and nutrition. We can make a contribution towards ensuring children learn, provided we work across sectoral silos. MEJN and its partners in Malawi have been focusing on the procurement, delivery and care of school textbooks to ensure maximum return for investment. They have collaborated and mobilized school communities and sectoral decision makers. Inputs do not deliver quality education on their own, but as the WDR 2018 explains, along with other reforms they can contribute to improved students’ performance.   You will learn more about the work that AFIC and Transparency Uganda have done here.

To close, the approaches that I have outlined today are challenging ‘business as usual’ as well as traditional social accountability models that rest on specific tools. To become a vehicle for sustainable and resilient agency at scale, social accountability processes need to add to more than fragmented CSOs actions and to interact critically and strategically with public service delivery chains. For the GPSA integration of collaborative social accountability into ongoing public sector reforms is one path forward – a promising one to support innovation towards improving the quality of public policies, service delivery and development outcomes.

AFIC and its partners, the Uganda World Bank Governance Global Practice team, the World Bank Country Office and the GPSA team have set an ambitious two-day program for our learning.  I hope it inspires all of us to do more to work collaboratively and programmatically towards concrete results. I am looking forward to the conversation and to your actions in the months to come.

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