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

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

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Working with the Social Accountability System

The ESAP2 Management Agency and the CSOs have “worked with the system”, so that Social Accountability would trigger interest and action among various stakeholders. As a Social Accountability Expert with the ESAP2 MA, I highlighted the key interventions that have developed capacity and generated systems action at the ESAP2 National Conference in Addis Ababa on April 1st. 

Now that basic capacities are in place, different support strategies are needed. The cases of Tigray, Amhara and Addis Ababa regional / city councils were presented to illustrate the emerging role of the councils. The audience was also reminded of the SA expert group that co-facilitates the conference with the ESAP2 Management Agency, and the initiative of Jimma University to mainstream Social Accountability in their Community Based Education Program, which are examples of the flexible and adaptive approach the program took to learning and capacity development.

What kind of support is proposed during the bridging phase to further spread social accountability?


Capacity Development and Training during ESAP2

  • At the start of the grantee projects, they received an induction training to Social Accountability. Initially the focus was on the Social Accountability tools, but this shifted to more focus on the processes of empowerment and working within the local governance system. 
  • The projects received supportive field supervision, which was a major planning exercise as over 100 organisations needed to be supervised. Early on in the program it was decided to organise these visit jointly with the monitoring and evaluation unit (and the grants unit where financial accountability was problematic). The supportive approach, and the interest in organisation and context specific approaches the emerged helped the ESAP2 team to identify trends in terms of what worked, and how challenges were overcome. For instance, staff turn-over in local government can be challenging, but what were partners doing to cope with this reality. We found some partners using, participatory video, which was a creative way to introduce new-comers to Social Accountability. We used this kind of learning to feed the bi-annual learning events we organised (see below).
  • Initially the interest from the regional MoFEC bureaus was not very high. They felt uninformed and demanded closer collaboration with the Management Agency. This was not simple to organise, as we had a small team and 11 regions to cover. We used our resources wisely, by inviting the bureaus along on our monitoring trips, or briefing them at the end of such trips. At the same time, we worked with MoFEC on a clearer linkage with Financial Transparency and Accountability (FTA), ESAP2’s sister program under the Citizens Engagement component of Promoting \Basic Services Program. We also used one of our learning events as consultation mechanism for MoFEC on the FTA-SA linkage, which materialised shortly after. More recently we saw the BoFEDs report on Social Accountability in the own meetings with the Federal government, to which we were invited.
  • The bi-annual learning benchmark workshops were large scale multi-stakeholder events that aimed at sharing progress and approaches, and agreeing on critical next steps. Benchmarks were developed from the quarterly project reports: the comparison would trigger discussion. As the projects started to have real service improvement results, and also because we were active on social media, more and more stakeholders were knocking on our door. We were open to all ideas, and this is how ever more stakeholders were invited to the learning events: ESAP2 partners, representatives of Social Accountability Committees, MoFED and regional bureaus, the Charities and Societies Agency, sector ministries, local and regional councils, the Ministry of Civil Service, Development Partners, and universities.
  • During the learning events, we would also encourage the ESAP2 partners to organise exchange visits among the projects, for which they had some budget.
  • After each bi-annual learning event we organised the Executive Director’s Day for our partners. Out of this grew the “think tank”, a representation of the directors, which met regularly with the ESAP2 team to reflect on the future of Social Accountability an dthe role of CSOs in it.
  • Throughout the program, other training was organised, mainly focused on helping us document and learn from the large variety of experiences that were emerging. The reporting quality was poor, so most of our training efforts went into getting better information for learning: Participatory Video (PV)making, Monitoring and Evaluation, and communication methods. This not only supported wider learning, but was also useful locally in the projects. PVs were used for wider awareness raising, mini-research helped woreda sectors realising the impact the projects were having, after the communications training the projects approached the woreda communications unit for support and got a great response that facilitated outreach of the projects. Regional representatives from FTA were invited to many of these trainings, and this helped forge a bond between the regional government and the ESAP2 partners.
  • We already reported on our communication efforts: Newsletter, Facebook, You Tube and the Communication and Documentation Awards (see pages 12-13). These were not isolated efforts, but served to share what we were learning, to document stakeholder experiences (e.g. the weekly Q&A with a stakeholder on Facebook is a rich resource in terms of understanding the challenges that were overcome on the ground, the successes and views about sustainability), and to get feedback from a wider audience. This is how some of the universities came on board.
  • Finally, we were always acutely aware of the fact that the Management Agency was a temporary arrangement. We an Ethiopian solution to sustaining Social Accountability expertise. We were always discussing and encouraging our partners and the consultants that worked with us to see this opportunity and envision themselves in a future role. 

Making the ESAP2 Management Agency obsolete

We wanted to know if our efforts to develop capacity and make ourselves obsolete were working, and for this we used Social Network Analysis: a methodology that enables tracking changes in a network. The results clearly showed that in a fairly short time the Social Accountability network grew stronger and less dependent on the ESAP2 Management Agency (illustration on top of the blog). This enables us to now take on a different role in the bridging phase.

Capacity Development for the bridging phase

A number of activities are proposed to further develop capacity of the Social Accountability system, which keeps growing as the picture below illustrates.

  • We have developed key messages for the public on Social Accountability, Financial Transparency and Accountability and Grievance Redress Mechanisms. These messages are in line with each step of the budget and planning cycle of the government. Collaboration with MoFEC and the regions is expected to bring these three programs together and have one unified national communication campaign.
  • We will study the Social Accountability innovations that our partners develop with local governments in their efforts to deepen Social Accountability in the woredas, to cover at least 50% of all kebeles in the 223 woredas where ESAP2 operated by the end of the bridging phase.
  • We will further strengthen the capacity of councils to take advantage of Social Accountability processes or even provide leadership to it. Most of this will happen through local level peer exchange, facilitated by the bridging projects.
  • We will support interested sectors to take advantage of Social Accountability projects, and make investments under the ESAP umbrella, much like the PSNP pilot, which has been extended to 19 woredas under the bridging phase.
  • We will continue to develop our partnership with the SA expert pool, which has started in preparation for this conference, for the facilitation of learning and project monitoring. We will also explore further with CSO networks and consultants the role they can play in bringing the bridging phase to a successful closure, with a view to continue their roles in the follow-on program.
  • We will continue to respond to knowledge and research institutes that request our support to introduce them to Social Accountability.
  • We will continue to contribute to online international bodies of knowledge and forums on Social Accountability, and may attempt to lead an international thematic discussion on issues that pre-occupy us.

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