Social Accountability is the measure of an organisation's state of being mindful of the emerging social concerns and priorities of internal and external stakeholders (community, employees, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, management, and owners).
Social Accountability ought to be reflected in the organisation's verifiable commitment to certain factors. These factors may or may not be bound directly to its processes such as (1) willing compliance with employment, health and hygiene, employment, environmental and safety laws, (2) respect for basic human and civil rights, and (3) the improvement and amelioration of the community and the surroundings. Social compliance programmes are usually based on adherence to rules of social accountability, established by certified conformity to standards such as SA8000.
Here are six things I think you should know about social accountability.
1. Past Experience
Previous professional, business and organisational experience of the human rights-based approach and governance and transparency have shown the relevance and effectiveness of working with local and regional communities to understand their rights, acting to support them to hold duty bearers to account, while also engaging and working with the duty bearers to develop their capability and willingness to respond to communities. Constructive engagement between civil society organisations and government are extremely relevant to this work. Context-specific efforts to combat corruption and increase accountability, participation and transparency have helped improve citizens’ interactions with authorities, budget control and public service delivery. Context is critical – ideas of governance and incentives differ seriously across different models.
2. Social accountability is vital to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Vocal expression in the engagement of citizens is essential to make service delivery equitable and sustainable, as well as being a democratic imperative. In fact, accountability is the defining idea in 21st century politics; the most profound driver for change in the world today. Citizens across the globe are calling for improvements in integrity and to clamp down on organisational and governmental corruption.
3. Move from transparency to accountability
By increasing transparency on its own you do not ensure accountability, however, doing so plays an important role. Several examples of good use of data exist from evidence in the education sector. An example is civil society organisations using government data to show where resources have gone missing, and parents texting digital platforms if teachers don’t turn up at school.
4. Human rights can strengthen accountability
In many situations across the globe and within a broad range of different contexts, the raising of awareness of business- and organisational-dependent human rights closely links to other rights such as child rights, women’s rights, health and education. This has aided in the deepening of the commitment from service providers and service users. Similarly, this has been shown to generate a deeper sense of organisational service-dependent provision of services such as utilities as an entitlement for all, irrespective of who you are. Thus, human rights is a powerful notion that focusses on reaching the most marginalised, and seeks to address the power relationships between communities and duty bearers..
5. Learning and adapting – context is everything, and it changes
Learning as you go and changing what you do if necessary is essential to fit social accountability work to the relevant context. Evidence from previous experiences across the globe has demonstrated that there is a need to adapt approaches to address the specific social norms, cultural norms and a variety of levels of democratic practice and impunity in different countries.
6. Integrating and collaborating for accountability
The implementation and practice of social accountability is not specific to any one sector, but it requires a change in culture and practice across all areas of public service and rights.
Great potential exists for better integration between social accountability activities and other sectors like education, health, climate change, extractives, and the decentralisation of services. Utilities, and specifically water and sanitation services are important to education, for example, but the priorities for education activists are text books and teachers. Organisations must come to understand each other’s priorities and push together for more accountable and inclusive institutions and the realisation of human rights.
Success happens when people are encouraged to think and act differently. At TPB Partnership, we provide practical training and development solutions that challenge beliefs and assumptions in order to stimulate improved performance. An organisation’s ethical commitments are a defining factor in the conversion from potential client to existing client.
Supported training is at the heart of our core service. What do we mean by supported? Well, from thorough training needs analysis, to tailor made training design and delivery - right through to follow-up coaching and implementation - we want to support our clients to create real change. When an organisation needs to move things forward and create real shifts in attitudes and behaviours – we want to be part of the whole process.