Beads - Passion for Facilitation

Capacity development, learning, change, poverty/power/progress

Blog about learning/change, facilitation, systems: small groups and large scale processes, and poverty/power/progress.


Shouting at the system doesn't make it work

So if shouting doesn’t work, what will? On the 22nd of June 2017, CPAN, in partnership with Mzumbe University, INTRAC and the Foundation for Civil Society, brought together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London. The event, Improving local governance and service delivery 'Shouting at the system won’t make it work!' can be watched here.

Social accountability mechanisms are a means for holding local government to account, and for improving basic service like education, health, water and sanitation. This requires access to information (what are our entitlements?), and collective action (do we all have the same view about a service?) towards a constructive dialogue with those responsible for the service. However such information is not readily accessible (sits in dense documents in district, regional and national capitals), and collective action can be hard if not dangerous to organise. Moreover, accountabilities are not always well defined, and rest at different levels: what can be solved locally, what requires action from the district, regional or even national level? For instance, medicine procurement at a local health centre may depend on centralised medicine purchase.

We have therefore seen the emergence of more complex theories of change that try to reveal the complexities that frame social accountability systems and that propose a more innovative and flexible approach that respects the given context.

ESAP2 - growing data gradually from the bottom-up

In the Ethiopia Social Accountability (SA) program after 4 years of SA experiences in 25% of the districts across the country, we have recently developed sector based checklists for local communities. The lists were developed based on the issues that came up regularly in SA processes all over the country during the past 4 years. These lists are now used by local communities to monitor what was raised and what solved in the SA process (and yes, they can and do add the issues that are missing). The checklists are collected an aggregated by a CSO at district level (quarterly at the moment) and send to us (the management agency of the program) for compilation and analysis. We develop regional sector graphs, which CSOs are now using at regional level for sector dialogues. Quite unique in Ethiopia. See our latest data reports set which includes questions for dialogue.

Reason we are doing the analysis ourselves at the moment is that the 86 CSOs currently in the program found it hard to imagine what would happen if they brought their data about service issues raised and solved together. They’re getting it now: aggregate data is powerful and has started to lead to some responsive regional sector actions. We can now let the data analysis gradually go to see where it lands and finds a home. Meanwhile, we are exploring with the sector ministries how the citizens’ lists could help streamline access to information about standards and budgets – like citizens’ charters for services.

It’s important to recognise, respect and work with complex local diversity, but to tackle systemic issues, at some point you need to collect and aggregate data. Our response to this duality has been to build an ‘index’ from the grassroots up, slowly but surely. So far so good…

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