Anabel Cruz, ICD/ Rendir Cuentas
December 3, 2021
During 2021, Rendir Cuentas’ member organizations conducted a wide range of activities to promote and implement the Global Standard for CSO Accountability. National and local work undertaken in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay, complemented regional level activities, as well as other actions that sought to influence global spaces.
As the year 2021 comes to an end, it is important to reflect on our achievements, the obstacles we have faced and the lessons learned from this enriching process. It was a difficult year of hard work, a second year of renewed challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in which shrinking civic space became more evident in several countries of the region. Against this backdrop, our regional network has tried more than ever to listen to a wide range of stakeholders and ensure adequate feedback systems. During this period, we have seen with great satisfaction a significant increasing ownership of our members around the principles and tools of Rendir Cuentas, including the Global Standard.
For each of the activities, we have tried to go deeper on the practical applications of accountability as the act of explaining, taking responsibility and listening to the opinions of others about how we are fulfilling our commitments, and then making changes and improvements based on what we have heard and learned. As feedback, we have collected opinions, concerns, or suggestions of all kinds that Rendir Cuentas or our partner organizations received regarding our activities, our projects, the value of our tools, the use of our resources, our own governance, or the impact of our actions, among other issues. In all cases, we have listened carefully, and we have already begun to introduce changes based on what we have been told, both by participants during training sessions and by those ones who use our tools, as well as by decision-makers and donors in various countries.
1. Developing permanent spaces
In 2021, Rendir Cuentas’ partner organizations, with the support of the Network’s regional coordination, promoted training courses, covering the commitments of the Global Standard, its practical implementation and how to move towards institutional strengthening based on accountability processes. In this regard, RACI developed a virtual course for CSOs from Argentina, Alianza ONG did the same for organizations from the Dominican Republic, and Grupo Propuesta Ciudadana from Peru convened representatives from 15 countries for a regional course on CSO strengthening organized by Innovation for Change (I4C). We also conducted training sessions for organizations in the Central American region and responded to invitations from academic institutions such as the University of Buenos Aires.
The demand for more permanent and wide-ranging instances of exchange and learning led us to explore the possibility of providing open and continuous spaces for training at scale. Thus, the first self-paced course (MOOC) on civil society accountability is already available in the Rendir Cuentas’ Virtual Classroom and is now open for registration. This is an innovative initiative that aims to start responding to the inputs we have received from different stakeholders in the region. We hope to gather additional feedback to improve it and introduce changes that will make it more relevant in the future.
2. Expanding and improving our tools
Rendir Cuentas has created several tools to facilitate self-assessment of organizations against the 12 commitments of the Global Standard, while also contributing to identify areas for improvement. Among other tools is the RendirApp, which started from a co-creation exercise of Rendir Cuentas’ partners in Latin America, then expanded through cooperation with CIVICUS’s AGNA and BCSDN in the Balkans, and it has now become a globally accessible tool. Available in two versions and in four languages, this tool has already been used by more than 800 organizations around the world.
In 2021, we sought to hear the voices of those who had used RendirApp in order to make changes or improvements and thus continue to enhance user’s experience. A survey among all the people and organizations that had made use of RendirApp, as well as focus groups to generate an in-depth exchange on the suggestions and changes for improvement were some of the milestones in terms of feedback collected. The recommendation for incorporating an improvement plan template to help organizations design and prioritize the changes to be implemented based on the results of the exercise is already available. Other interesting proposals, such as an introductory audiovisual material presenting the various possible uses of the tool, will be online soon. Working with the app developers to make changes is proving to be a real challenge and has taken longer than originally planned, but an updated and improved version of RendirApp is expected to be launched in early 2022. Furthermore, Grupo Faro from Ecuador has been working on a new tool for organizations with a lower degree of institutionalization and has recently conducted a broad stakeholders’ consultation. A regional Innovation Lab held some weeks ago in Quito worked on the design of the prototype of the new tool, where important feedback was collected, with Grupo Faro processing the recommendations, aiming to launch a pilot version during the coming weeks.
Other tools such as collective accountability reports have also been improved and upgraded: in Bolivia, UNITAS has been able to make progress in the preparation of a collective accountability report, which this year has incorporated a perspective through the lenses of the Global Standard and its 12 commitments.
3. Conversations with decision-makers and donors
In several countries, as well as at the regional and global levels, Rendir Cuentas has held conversations with representatives of national and local governments, multilateral organizations, and international aid agencies and INGOs.
Several examples show a path of multiple possibilities. In Peru, Grupo Propuesta Ciudadana convened a dozen representatives from embassies and international development NGOs (including from Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and USA), to reflect on the Global Standard as a new accountability paradigm. Very interesting questions and comments were raised in the session. In Colombia, the Global Standard has continued to gain ground, both among CSOs and donors: in 2021 the partner organizations of the USAID-supported program Juntos por la Transparencia ( @ProgramaJxT ) have started to use the Global Standard to define and implement the road for its own internal strengthening. In Uruguay, dialogues were initiated with representatives of the national and local governments, international organizations, academia, and the business sector: several opinions agreed that the Global Standard can be a reference tool for them in their work with civil society organizations, complement their own mechanisms, and promote trustworthy relationships. We even heard that, perhaps, a scenario for the development of common standards for working arrangements between civil society and the state could be reached by aligning to the Global Standard.
In conclusion, conversations with different stakeholders have given us some important insights for our work in the coming year, while also reinforcing our conviction that feedback is a relevant and irreversible principle.