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Demand-side governance: are we overstating the claims on social accountability?

Time (GMT +00) 12:00 13:30

Fletcher Tembo - Research Fellow, ODI
Kathy Bain - Cluster Lead, Demand Side Governance, Africa Region, World Bank

David Booth - Research Fellow and Director of Africa Power and Politics Programme, ODI
Roy Trivedy - Head of Civil Society Department, DFID

Alison Evans - Director, ODI

Introduction from Alison Evans (ODI)

Fletcher Tembo - Overseas Development Institute

  • Fletcher has a background in community negotiation at World Vision, with a focus on aid and the domestic accountability of work. It is from this background that he approaches the Mwananchi Programme.
  • The Governance Transparency Fund (GTF) has been an opportunity to broaden the understanding of the social contract between citizens and the state.
  • The presentation covered the following areas:
    • Defining social accountability.
    • Background and approach to Mwananchi GTF.
    • Six main lessons from the programme so far.
      1. Thinking about ‘How did we get here?’ to inform theories of change.
      2. Knowing who the ‘Game Changers’ are.
      3. Embedding politics back into socio-cultural roots.
      4. Overgeneralised policy frameworks give room to corruption.
      5. Linking accountability to production and natural resource management.
      6. Creating mechanisms for dialogue.
    • Challenges
    • Six implications for policy and practice – making social accountability claims a reality.

Kathy Bain - World Bank

The presentation covered the following areas:

  • Why the World Bank is involved in the demand side of governance - The context in Africa has changed and citizens are demanding change (ref. the Arab Spring).
  • World Bank works at the Africa level – a global fund is being launched next month; the World Bank’s bank niche is in knowledge and partnerships.
  • The use of evidence – there are 2 schools of thought a) the ‘believers’ who have tended to do development work before evidence becomes available and now point to qualitative evidence and b) those who want more robust quantitative evidence.
  • Implications for development partners – The demand for good governance is a good rebalancing of the governance model, but the demand and supply side cannot be separated – they are mutually reinforcing. Aid can and does distort, and we need to understand incentives properly so that we can achieve ‘islands of success’ rather than a widespread ‘one size fits all’ approach.
  • World Bank’s pending agenda – the focus is on the new global fund and finding windows for funding around knowledge and partnership.

David Booth - Overseas Development Institute - response.

  • Generally agreed with all that was said, but felt some realism was needed.
  • It is very important to think about how to handle politics – a shift to focussing solely on the demand side is not necessarily the right solution.
  •  A ‘welcome rebalancing’
    • The research evidence points towards pincer movements working on both the demand and supply sides. Internal structures often do not favour this pincer movement. A ‘welcome rebalancing’ as suggested by Kathy would really be the second best option.
    • We need to be realistic about incentives which take us down certain pathways.
  • Theory and the current climate
    • There is an assumption that political systems in developing countries are imperfect and just need some ‘tweaking’ to make them work. However, theory says that in poor (peasant) countries, democracy doesn’t function anywhere like it does in industrial nations. Therefore, sensitivity to the political context is very important.
    • Example of the Egyptian middle class – this is not necessarily a good model for the rest of the world.
  • Improving government behaviour
    • This is still the big problem.
    • Learning experiences are a good way to approach development. However, the obstacle to learning is that high quality-evidence needs to be collected on all factors that influence results, and this is often not done. RCTs sometimes work, but sometimes do not. Sometimes bad evidence is collected.
    • The challenge is that it is more important to understand processes rather than measure outcomes.

Roy Trivedy - Department for International Development - response

  • Thanks
    • Many thanks to GTF for pulling this together. The GTF is the single largest multi-country work within civil society that DFID has done.
    • Many thanks to the southern implementing partners and all those involved in their own coalitions.
  • Sequencing, timing and learning
    • An important question to ask is ‘what is the causal link?’ Do supply-side interventions lead to an increase in demand or does increased demand lead to improved supply?
    • Different contexts are important and this also depends on what kind of organisation you are and your own links, networks etc.
    • If the GTF was to start again today it is unlikely that DFID could make the same commitment, such as the loose framework and flexibility given. We need to find out how the TOC have altered along the way to lead to the transformational change that we are seeing.
    • Bureaucracy – How can we get beyond only funding the best proposals? We need to be funding the real influencers of change which are not always those who write the best proposals.
  • Learning and Practice
    • Documentation is very important. The evidence from all of the GTFs  need to be pulled together to see what ‘nuggets’ can be drawn in different sectors. The TOC in multi-country programmes are more complex and difficult to learn from.
    • We need to think about how we apply what has been learnt. If the GTF was to start again, what would be done differently?

Questions and Comments

  • The importance of politics and understanding the intra-elite struggle for power – is there any role for outsiders? Maintaining power and extracting the benefit for the elites is what the developing country governments are most interested in. This is very different from the agenda of development actors.
  • The importance of institutional design to mobilise different groups e.g. Judith Temba’s study on the Brazilian health programme. Civil society groups are given equal status in some well-designed interventions. It is also important not to forget that non-state actors also include the private sector, not just civil society.
  • Context is a word which is used at many different levels. Systems and projects are often very specific to a local context, and yet the expectations of change are at a national level. This is also linked to how funding is disbursed in large packages. Is it ok to see success at a local level only?
  • Natural resource governance and the impact on SA. This creates a much greater energy in rural populations, for example land issues.  Can the GTF use this lever?
  • Fragile states and uncivil societies – mobilisation can be conflictive. How does social accountability (SA) deal in situations where citizen voices are fractured and ranged against each other?

Panel responses

  • FT agreed that natural resources were a big hook. The big question is what is in the interest of the citizens here? Are we driving them to demand change? Not so in regards to natural resources – this is a subject that they are already passionate about, such as the salt mining example in Ghana.
  • FT agreed that fragile states are very important and this a big concern for the Tiletonse fund in Malawi where the visibility of civil society leaders gets them into trouble.
  • KB agreed that there is a struggle between the elites and that the role of outsiders is questionable, reflected in the development effectiveness agenda. In Tanzania the Aid Effectiveness Agenda is used as a smokescreen and they are implementing their own development plan as well as a poverty reduction strategy programme (PRSP).
  • In terms of institutional design, KB thinks that the World Bank can play a useful role in getting local actors together, solving informational asymmetries, and creating spaces for debate.
  • KB thinks that there needs to be more emphasis on parliament. The World Bank is trying to work with MPs informally and individually, outside of their committees.

Further questions and comments

  • It is important to build the capacity of CSOs to provide evidence and impact, for example through data capture on mobiles. The grassroots M&E capabilities of CSOs need to be taken into account to prevent the 3 W’s – wrong people asking the wrong questions and the wrong time.
  • Is there a relationship between social accountability (SA) and advocacy? And between rights-based approaches?
  • There are specific governance features within context and within political drivers that make some projects more successful than others. For example, in the case of score cards in Malawi , important features included the presence of local leaders that were open to reform and the communities’ own capacity to address the changes needed.

Panel responses

  • RT commented that the GTF started with the CAR framework (capacity, accountability, responsiveness) but that what is also needed are CAR citizens.
  • RT agreed that success at the local level is acceptable as long as long-term transformation is seen. GTF can work at all levels and add value at each.
  • DB commented that what is needed are clever ways of interacting with national politics and elites. Natural resources can be more dynamic, but there is also the potential for greater harm in this area by creating conflict. Therefore context specific approaches are very important (rather than having a global model).
  • KB mentioned the Public Interest and Accountability (PIA) model used in Ghana in the Oil and Gas industry. This is an area that SA tools have been effective, but in other areas, such as budget information, they have failed.
  • FT suggested that organisations come up with better questions themselves. There are linkages across all GTFs and these change features should be analysed. The main question should be ‘how can we support that change?’, not necessarily through workshops but other mechanisms.

Closing comments

Alison closed the event with an online comment from Jonathan Glennie (ODI) :  Why do we always say that developing country leaders have mixed motives (at best!) whereas the motives of donors are always considered impeccable!  All actors have complex motives.


This event will represent the first of six discussions around the broader theme of ‘demanding accountability from the bottom-up: examining what works,what does not work, and why'. These themes reflect on the four years of implementing Governance and Transparency Fund (GTF) programmes such as Mwananchi,  in various parts of the world. The idea is to examine some of the evidence collected so far to derive lessons that might help deepen learning from GTF projects before the funding stream comes to an end in 2013. This will build on the KPMG-led learning process (including GTF learning workshops, meetings, summaries of annual reports, and mid-term evaluation reports), where GTF holders have shared experiences and case studies. The public meeting series seeks to build on these learning processes by focusing on the big ideas that work, ideas thatcould help to address some of the questions being asked around social accountability initiatives, and which might identify gaps or challenges ahead. The meetings will create a shared space for various stakeholders to come together and discuss issues informed by the GTF and other experiences  

The first session will be led by ODI, on the theme:  ‘Demand-side governance: are we overstating the claims on social accountability?’.Itconsiders how a number of GTF programmes and projects focus directly on building grassroots capacity to demand improvements in state provision of public goods, especially by hitherto marginalised groups (women, disabled people, youths and so on). Evidence emerging from GTF projects would support the argument that targeted social accountability initiatives (or, in the language of the World Bank’s 2004 World Development Report, ‘the short route to accountability’) can work.

However, current research also suggests that these social accountability successes do not develop in a vacuum, but tend to be linked with shifts in incentives from the supply side. In other words, progressive change seems to happen as a combination of both top-down and bottom-up pressures. Evidence from the GTF experience will illustrate how positive governance transformations can happen, and whether and how social accountability initiatives can play a constructive role.

The speakers and discussants have been selected to provide a critical review of this theme before facilitating an open discussion among participants so that they can provide their experiences as well.