Southern Africa Media Award in Social Accountability Reporting

Highway Africa, together with the Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance, invites journalists in Southern Africa to apply for the inaugural Southern Africa Media Award in Social Accountability Reporting 2017.

The award recognises two journalists from the PSA Alliance’s project countries – Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia – whose investigative reporting on social accountability contributes to improved public health and agriculture in the following categories:
• HIV and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)
• Food Security

Applications will be examined by a panel of media experts in the region and two winners will be awarded at the Highway Africa Conference to be held on 31 August – 1 September 2017. The award includes a prize of USD 250, plus travel and accommodation to the 2017 Highway Africa Conference.

Deadline for Submission – 15 August 2017

Criteria
• Applicants must be based in Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique or Zambia.
• Work must be published between July 2016 and July 2017.
• Print, Radio, TV, Multimedia and Photo journalism are admitted.
• If submitting multiple entries either in the same category or across multiple categories, complete an entry for each story to a total maximum of two entries.

How to apply – Candidates can submit their applications here

Social Accountability from the Trenches: 6 Critical Reflections

Originally published on the GPSA website
By Gopa Kumar Thampi, Director, Economic Governance – Sri Lanka, The Asia Foundation & GPSA Steering Committee 

There is a clearly a surge in social accountability initiatives across the globe today. From informal expressions at the grassroots to entrenched voices in corridors of power, the social accountability multiverse has become stronger and diverse. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that we are indeed witnessing the rise of an ‘audit society’ that animates the spectrum between confrontation and collaboration in citizen’s engagement with the state. The proliferation of toolkits and manuals embellishes this trend as social audits and scorecards have become commonplace parlance for civic activists, policy wonks and academics as they line up an impressive array of data to hold the state to account. However, viewed from the trenches of day-to-day encounters with social accountability, some notes of caution need to be flagged:

1) Primacy of technique over politics: ‘Bring politics back’ is an oft-quoted plea that is heard at the closure of every learning and sharing event on social accountability. Though some excellent conceptual writings exist on the rationale and approaches to acknowledge politics, there is clearly a knowledge gap on praxis. This gap becomes accentuated when projects finish their shelf lives and local interlocutors are left dealing with unplanned political aftermaths. What we need is not just the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of navigating politics, but the ‘how’ too. There is also the bias of working with executive ‘accelerators’ – reformist executives who push the frontiers of constructive engagement and deliver high quality impacts on pilot projects. But the reason why these ripples of change never result in a transformative wave is because politics is often viewed as a problem best avoided. We need to acknowledge that any change sans the inconvenience of politics is bound to be short lived. Working with politics and programming with sensitivity to political ecologies means more flexibility in design and implementation. This is where contemporary discourses on ‘Doing Development Differently’ are opening up new opportunities and pathways.

2) Tyranny of tools: Social Accountability tools like public hearings, scorecards, report cards and social audits have played a major role in bringing rigor to discourse and praxis, by moving the frame of reference from the anecdotal to the evidential. However, projects driven by the novelty of applying tools run the risk of not just undermining sustainable impacts, but paving the way for a far more serious erosion of trust and acceptance. Tools have a tendency to trade efficiency over inclusion, and participation over representation. There is also a case for ensuring quality. As an evolving field where theory consistently lags behind practice, it is critical that the field of practices is constantly reviewed, reflected upon and improved. Finally, there is the issue of local capacities. Applications of tools in rural areas often rely on external agents to play the role of interlocutors, but seldom do legacies and capacities get left behind for continued actions by local interlocutors.

3) Interrogating civil society: A dominant theme in the discourse and praxis of accountability is the emphasis placed on the role of civil society as the vanguard of change. There are genuine concerns that the sector is fast losing its rootedness and legitimacy –a schism grows between genuine informal social movements and formal organized civil society. One, exhibiting the vigor of confronting and embracing the politics of governance and the other, seen as obsessed with the rigor of getting the method right. We need to honestly interrogate our understanding of civil society organizations and widen our focus to bring in new, unseen but genuine champions from the cutting edges. A considerable proportion of existing civil society proponents of accountability often tend to be urban centered, and speak a language that appeal to our funding imperatives. We need to empower and enrich the language that has the credibility and endorsement of the basic constituency that we seek to address – citizens, especially the disadvantaged.

4) Seduction of contestation: Rights-based social mobilization sometimes leads to an unintended consequence – spiraling expectations. When amplified voice encounters weak responses from the state, ‘rude accountability’ manifests. The grammar of engagement changes swiftly to a confrontational mode. In social contexts where power asymmetries are accentuated, these confrontations can take very violent forms. There is a case for calibrating social accountability initiatives to match state capacity. In contexts marked by a trust deficit between state and citizens, it may be prudent to focus on trust building exercises as a starting point. The other issue is of public dissemination. Should one go for a big bang release of the findings from a social audit, thereby securing a guaranteed news coverage? Or, should the state be allowed to frame its responses and then go public with the findings and responses? To strengthen principles of constructive engagement, closing the feedback loop in the public domain becomes a critical factor. Voice needs an ear to respond.

5) Rethinking evaluation: It is near impossible to engineer transformative changes given the short project cycles of social accountability initiatives . End of project evaluations can seldom provide meaningful insights. What the field of social accountability needs are longitudinal studies that explore questions related to sustainability and uptake of reported successes. In particular, five aspects could be emphasized: (a) Extent of multi stakeholder engagement; (b) Width of citizen involvement, especially aspects of inclusion; (c) Long-term partnership among stakeholders; (d) Legal or institutional recognition of civil society engagement; and (e) Extent to which processes generate compliance and provide deterrence. Rather than focus on narrowly defined outcomes, evaluations should dwell into process indicators that reveal if critical pathways and enablers are set in place.

6) Illiberalism and social polarization: Perhaps the greatest challenge for social accountability initiatives is the growing popularity of illiberal electoral democracies and, in parallel, the deep social polarization that is tearing up fragile social fabrics. Leaders with divisive agendas and populist outlooks, aided by manipulated (and at times, completely fake) news are posing a grave threat to democratic institutions. There is also the distinct disconnect between the informed public and the mass public in terms of their expressed trust in institutions. All these have substantive repercussions on the way we imagine and operationalize social accountability. We need to focus on activities that build bridging social capital – locating actions that result in enhanced inter-group collaboration. The role of traditional media – once the trusted ally and champion for accountability – needs to be evaluated given the ubiquitous spread of social media. Rather than lamenting the loss of old spaces, the strategy should be to appropriate the new ones.

To sign off: Social accountability is recognition that there exists a lack of engagement with the public institutions that are so critical to our daily lives, a lack of influence in decision-making and more importantly, a lack of voice for expressing our needs, concerns and demands. We believe that social accountability approaches enable citizens, especially the voiceless and the powerless, to engage with state institutions in a proactive and constructive way to demand and exact accountability and responsiveness. This moral high ground of the concept and praxis of social accountability needs to be protected and nurtured.

How Can Social Accountability Address Fragility and Help Societies Rebuild?

By Jeff Thindwa, Program Manager, GPSA.
First published on the GPSA website.

By 2030, almost half of the world’s poor will be concentrated in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence.  It’s easy to associate these problems with only poorer countries, but in fact they affect a broader range of countries, and yes, middle income countries too. And, increasingly, they cross borders. Beyond the threats of terrorism, conflict and violence, poor public services and economic livelihoods have led to mass migration and forced displacement, trapping growing numbers of innocent people in vicious cycles of deprivation. Consider how the Syrian refugee situation has spilled over beyond the Middle East, and the current famine in South Sudan, which is impacting approximately 100,000 people, with millions of lives at risk in the region if we do not act quickly and decisively.

As has been long argued, addressing the challenges of fragility, conflict and violence calls for measures along the whole continuum of emergency assistance and long-term development. We need to support affected communities not only with the delivery of vital services, like water or healthcare, but also enable people to be more resilient and to rebuild the social fabric. More important, perhaps, we must invest in prevention. We must also provide the kinds of support that enable governance to include and involve citizens, and to respond to their needs and preferences.

The lack of accountability and the loss of citizen trust are some the drivers of fragility and conflict. It is often said that accountability is the cornerstone of good governance. Among the different ways to strengthen accountability and improve how governments work is social accountability, an approach that relies on citizen engagement.  Social accountability mechanisms have features that make them potentially suited to both tackle the drivers of fragility and enable countries to improve their governance. In this respect, the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) is working to integrate social accountability in the World Bank’s response to these challenges.

As part of this effort, last month the World Bank hosted a roundtable, “Engaging Civil Society in Situations of Fragility, Conflict and Violence,” featuring Kristalina Georgieva, the World Bank’s Chief Executive Officer; Debbie Wetzel, Senior Director of the Governance Global Practice; Saroj Kumar Jha, Senior Director for the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group; Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director for the World Bank Group’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice; and members of the GPSA’s Steering Committee. The roundtable tackled important issues related to the role of social accountability in situations of fragility, which includes bringing the voices of citizens into government, enabling citizens to monitor and provide feedback on delivery of services, and helping to build trust between citizens and governments.

Preventing Crises

The challenges in fragile settings can range from weakened institutions, broken public services, frayed social relationships and a weak civil society. Rebuilding of societies can cost a lot, and take a very long time. So, Kristalina Georgieva hit the nail on the head when she said, “The best way to deal with humanitarian crises is to not have them in the first place. We must build resilience for individuals, families, communities and countries.” To build stability, it’s clear that development institutions such as the World Bank need to engage early to address emerging risks. Our response needs to be comprehensive and sensitive to each context.

Saroj Kumar Jha asked during the roundtable, “Can we use development tools differently to prevent conflict before it turns violent?” That’s where the GPSA fits in, as we see social accountability as part of a sustainable approach to overcome fragility. Saroj announced the new partnership between his group and the GPSA, committing US$1 million from the State and Peacebuilding Fund (SPF) to support resilience and mitigation efforts initially in Guinea, Nepal, Niger and Tajikistan.

In order to ensure what we do is sustainable, we have to take up approaches that lay the ground for longer term institution building, with strong emphasis on engaging citizens to build political support, promote social cohesion and strengthen resilience. Experience has also taught us to pay attention to inclusion across institutions: public and private, formal and informal, whether governments, community groups and development organizations.

For instance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we are supporting CORDAID to improve health service delivery by strengthening the ways in which citizens interact with health authorities, like strengthening Health Facility Committees that act as a mechanism through which citizens can interact with service providers. The health sector in DRC, as in many fragile settings, is marred by inefficiencies, insufficient funding, poor infrastructure, limited accountability and weak institutional capacity. Another example is in Sierra Leone, where the GPSA is supporting the CSO, IBIS, to monitor the effective utilization of post-Ebola recovery funds. The GPSA is working to ensure that the resources provided under IDA18 are used effectively in fragile environments, and CSOs are vital partners in many of these efforts.

The promise of social accountability

We have also learned that the challenges of engaging in fragile contexts — where the rule of law, security, space for dissent, and basic trust between citizens and governments cannot be taken for granted — call for innovation and adaptation in our approaches and tools. The good news is that a great deal of innovation has taken place in recent years to improve how citizens are engaged in the development process, supported by civil society organizations and, in some cases, private sector actors.

When it comes to operating in fragile settings, CSOs have advantages that have been widely recognized, even if experiences differ across contexts. With the right kind of support, CSOs can be effective mediating agents. They often work directly with the most vulnerable people, using participatory methods that include citizens, to hear their voices and make them a part of the solution. They are mostly present in remote or isolated parts where others may not be able to reach; are often more agile in their practices; and, increasingly, a lot of them have strong technical expertise including the use of information and communications technologies.

As Debbie Wetzel said at the roundtable, “It is important to build the connectivity between governments, civil society and other organizations on the ground. We need to use the tools at our disposal, including the GPSA, to continue to open the space and emphasize that engagement leads to policy effectiveness and better results.” CSOs also have a potentially significant role as third party monitors of donor operations in fragile states — a point that Saroj Kumar Jha also made when he explained the priorities of the SPF,  which finances innovative approaches to state and peace-building in regions affected by fragility.

Finally, a theme that was echoed at the roundtable, and a key lesson from social accountability practice, is that context matters. Well, nowhere is this more relevant than in fragile states, even if we admit we are continuously learning  about what works and doesn’t and under what conditions. A little bit of humility doesn’t hurt! The international development community has been called upon to do more in these challenging settings using the full range of tools at our disposal. But we can’t forget that the central focus is the people. Our approaches must keep them at the center, listening, including, involving them — ensuring all this benefits them!

MobiSAM sister project launched in Malawi

By Rachel Sibande, Malawi Coordinator

It is expected that inefficient mechanisms for citizen engagement in service delivery are not unique to the home of the social accountability monitoring tool MobiSAM, in the Makana Municipality, South Africa.

A sister project to MobiSAM has thus been launched in Malawi in late August 2016. The project is being piloted in the three main cities in Malawi; Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.

Titled, Mzinda meaning “My City” in Malawi’s populous Chichewa language, the project seeks to enhance citizen engagement with locally elected Councillors, City councils, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), and the Water Board on the delivery of essential services such as waste collection, sanitation, water and electricity at the local level.

Prior to the launch over 80 community block leaders from Blantyre and Mzuzu were trained on how to use the web-to-SMS platform through “Deepening Democracy” boot camps organised by the Story Workshop Education Trust.  Twenty four of twenty six Councillors from Lilongwe City were also trained on how to use the Mzinda platform on 25 July, 2016.

Nine community campaigns were conducted in prime locations within Lilongwe City such as Ntandire, Mtsiliza, Phwetekere and Senti. During these sessions, more than 1,000 citizens were sensitised on their rights to engage with duty bearers and service providers.

Citizens were also introduced to the web-to-SMS based Mzinda platform through which over 122 verified and approved SMS reports on service delivery issues were sent to the platform by citizens within the following categories:

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Sanitation
  • Waste Collection
  • Roads

Some reports translated from Chichewa to English read:

“Here in Mtandire; waste is dumped here but not collected.”

“There is no toilet in Kaliyeka Market”

A baseline study has been finalised to understand ways in which citizens currently engage with elected councillors, service providers and the city council. The baseline also seeks to understand how citizens use technology and gauge their willingness to use technology to engage with duty bearers and service providers. Comprehensive results from the analysis of data collected from the baseline study will be made available end of September, 2016.

Expectations

The ultimate test for any citizen engagement initiative lies in the rate of responsiveness from the state, duty bearers or service providers. It is expected that the purpose of such initiatives as Mzinda and MobiSAM is not only to amplify citizens’ voices, but to also enhance responsiveness and corrective measures. It is thus important to enhance the feedback loop from Councillors, city council and service providers rather than advocate for citizen’s voices alone. On the other hand; duty bearers have also expressed the need for citizens to use the platform productively and not for malice.

“I hope that Citizens will have the willingness to use the Platform constructively and resist from malice. I believe if Citizens report on real issues and with all honesty, we too as their representatives will be more than willing to assist,” said the Mayor of Lilongwe City Council, Willy Chapondera in his speech at the launch of the platform.

On the other hand, service providers such as the Lilongwe Water Board and ESCOM have fully embraced the platform. For example, Lilongwe Water Board has been posting water rationing schedules and tips on how to save water and prevent leakages through the platform. The board has also actively taken note of citizens reports on water issues and taken swift action where possible.

Lessons learned so far

One of the key lessons we have learnt so far is that, beyond access and use of technology; there exists a need to enhance citizen’s awareness of their rights to engage with duty bearers. This is corroborated by one of the key insights from the baseline study we conducted in the three pilot cities of Mzuzu, Blantyre and Lilongwe. The study reveals that 31.8% of citizens do not think their views matter or that they can make a difference at the local level; 65.3% have not participated in a community meeting. 80% have not reported any matter to their Councillor and 64.3% have not reported any service delivery issue to the city council, yet 72% are willing to use the mobile phone to engage with these entities.

We can therefore start making inferences which indicate that in the presence of technology, with low levels of citizen particiaption in local governance, there could be potential in the technological factors that will enhance citizen engagement. There are likely to be social, cultural and political factors that facilitate citizen participation. Several authors have alluded to this notion and suggested that social, political and cultural factors need to be considered when seeking to employ technological tools as way in which which citizens could engage with local government successfully, (Gigle & Bialur, 2014). Therefore it is important to note that part of the purpose of the research conducted by Mzinda is aimed at establishing which factors influence or inhibit the use of technology as tools for the engagement between citizens and local government.  that influence or inhibit the use of technology as a tool for citizen engagement.

The beauty of having MobiSAM and Mzinda run side by side in the two different countries and contexts is that there are lessons to be learnt based on the different contexts and scope of the two deployments. A comparative analysis of the social, technical, economic, cultural and political factors that may enhance or restrict citizen engagement through ICTs in such different contexts may be relevant to the emerging discourse on ICTs for citizen engagement. Such lessons would be useful for academics, researchers, practitioners and technology developers to consider in subsequent deployments of ICTs for citizen engagement initiatives.

The Mzinda project is funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. It is being implemented by Citizens for Justice and mHub with technical support from the MobiSAM Project at Rhodes University. Follow @mzindawanga on twitter, find us on Facebook or SMS your service delivery report to +265 888 242 063 and access the web platform at http://www.mzinda.com
First published on http://www.blog.mobisam.net/2016/09/mobisam-sister-project-launched-in-malawi/

Tanzania

A brief presentation on experience drawn from social accountability monitoring exercise in the Iringa District Council, Tanzania

One of the government’s obligatory responsibilities is to provide quality socio-economic services to it’s people – the citizens. Other responsibilities include that of ensuring peace and order is maintained among its people in the country. Due to the magnitude of the government’s roles, with limited financial resources, there are NGOs like TACOSODE which assist the government in fulfilling its obligation of providing social services to the people. TACOSODE has also equipped people in its project areas to perform social accountability monitoring especially in health services provision. The basis on which people undertake social accountability monitoring is their participation in identification, planning, monitoring and evaluation of the services provided. This participation makes them understand health requirements and therefore what, and how much, services they need. Unfortunately, this project is only implemented in 5 wards and in 10 villages. This presentation examines and compares situations in TACOSODE served villages and those villages that are not served by TACOSODE in the Iringa District Council.

You can download the full presentation made by Tacosode at the PSA annual workshop held in January in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Appetite for accountability in Tanzania: Translating election-time signals into accountability values

Article orignally posted here

In most countries with multi-party systems an election year presents (at least the possibility) of new opportunities and excitement: will the balance of power shift? Will newcomers and new ideas, at the sub-national and national levels, come to the center stage? Prior to the general elections in Tanzania in 2015, popular opinion among certain groups suggested that this might be the election when opposition parties could gain control of the executive. And although the ruling party (CCM), which has been in power since independence, maintained its grip on power, it was, by many accounts, the closest election in Tanzanian multi-party history.

Twaweza partnered with the Governance Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to ask how do ordinary Tanzanian citizens see politics and government?

For full results as well as comparison between the regions studied, and a discussion on what the results might mean, please read the attached brief.

Zambia

Baseline Study of the Zambia Social Accountability Mornitoring Partnership

This is a report on the baseline study of the Zambia Social Accountability Monitoring Partnership as regulated by a Memorandum of Understanding between the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) based at Rhodes University Grahamstown South Africa; and three Zambian partners: Caritas Zambia, Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) and the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) hereafter referred to as Implementing partners. The baseline study was carried out in May 2013.

Click here to download the report: Baseline Report Zambia Social Accountabilty Partnership May 2013 Final


Growing the demand for social accountability in Muchinga Province, Zambia

This documentary shares the experiences of how ZGF and its partners grew the demand for social accountability and citizen participation in governance in the Muchinga Province in northern Zambia.  While ZGF fostered community engagement and capacitated community members through training in the PSAM approach, they saw the empowerment of community members to carry out the social accountability monitoring themselves, and slowly recognise their rights as citizens.

You can watch the documentary here

Events

GPSA Knowledge Platform – Upcoming Webinar

Evaluations, Learning and Keeping Calm: A conversation about resilience after an evaluation – AUGUST 15 10 – 11h30am EDT
With Semkae Kilonzo and Florencia Guerzovich

The monitoring, evaluation and learning environment for social accountability seems to be changing. There is a lot of discussion about the value of experimentation, failure, and course-correction. Many funders and practitioners, however, continue to manage their projects with systems that do not support adaptation.
In this webinar we will have a conversation about Policy Forum’s experience navigating “both worlds.” Speakers will share about a high-stakes evaluation that was disappointing to the implementer. They will then talk about how Policy Forum and its partners are rethinking its approach to learning, based on this experience. The webinar will be an opportunity to discuss what it takes to become a “learning organization”, identify challenges, and share some tricks of the trade.

Join the Webinar

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PSAM – Fundamentals of Social Accountability Monitoring 2017

PSAM offers the Fundamentals of Social Accountability Monitoring course (a Rhodes University accredited course) three times a year. This course provides an introduction to a rights-based approach to social accountability and an integrated systemic approach to evidence-based social accountability monitoring of public resource management frameworks. It is suited for civil society decision-makers, trainers on social accountability monitoring and advocacy, government oversight bodies, media practitioners, and academics. The 2016 course dates are as follows:

29 May – 9 June 2017. Application closing date: 13 April 2017
25 Sept – 6 Oct 2017. Application closing date: 11 August 2017
13 – 24 Nov 2017. Application closing date: 29 Sept 2017

For information on how to apply and costs, contact us at psam.training@ru.ac.za

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World Vision-PSAM Conference – “How does context affect social accountability outcomes?”

Pan African Social Accountability Learning Lab

Ezulwini, Swaziland,  17-21 October, 2016

How does context affect social accountability/civic engagement outcomes within and between countries? Why do certain social accountability (SA) interventions easily gain traction and demonstrate results in some settings and not in some others?

The proposed October 2016 learning event will attract participants (practitioners, researchers and donors) from over 15 countries within and outside Africa to honestly and collectively wrestle with some of the above questions and several others. The event will be co-organized by WV and the PSAM. WV Swaziland (WVS) has graciously accepted to host the learning lab.

Participants will learn about what SA interventions work and not work; where, by who, for who and under what conditions/circumstances.

Learning lab delegates will have the opportunity to seriously interrogate their own SA approaches and those of others in the pursuit of enhanced, robust and context-calibrated SA initiatives.

The 5-day event will be ideal for networking: creating new and/or consolidating existing relationships in order to promote peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and ongoing support.

To indicate your interest in attending the event or if you have any questions regarding the event, please email Moses_Ngulube@wvi.org or v.malila@ru.ac.za

A call for papers and further details will be distributed in April 2016.

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PSAM – Fundamentals of Social Accountability Monitoring

PSAM offers the Fundamentals of Social Accountability Monitoring course (a Rhodes University accredited course) three times a year. This course provides an introduction to a rights-based approach to social accountability and an integrated systemic approach to evidence-based social accountability monitoring of public resource management frameworks. It is suited for civil society decision-makers, trainers on social accountability monitoring and advocacy, government oversight bodies, media practitioners, and academics. The 2016 course dates are as follows:

7 – 18 March 2016. Application closing date: 29 January 2016

30 May – 10 June 2016. Application closing date: 22 April 2016

3 – 14 October 2016. Application closing date: 26 August 2016

For information on how to apply and costs, contact us at psam.training@ru.ac.za