Accountable Now members’ 2021 journey towards the Global Standard’s 12 commitments

By November 29, 2021 CSO Standard, NMedia

Ilina Neshikj, Interim Executive Director, Accountable Now

November 23, 2021

How we work with the Global Standard

The Global Standard for CSO Accountability describes a model of dynamic accountability for civil society organizations (CSOs), focused on listening and responding to the experiences of those we work with and for. It equips CSOs with a framework to reflect on and strengthen their accountability and impact. By addressing the needs of various CSOs, the Global Standard for CSO Accountability is a reference standard that is flexible and easily adaptable for organizations of all sizes and contexts, setting attainable standards.

To address the needs of international civil society organizations, with oftentimes comprehensive systems and complex internal accountability practices, the Global Standard builds upon existing accountability initiatives and codes. It aims not to duplicate efforts within the sector but to add value and create synergies.

Accountable Now members (26 international civil society organizations) agreed to report annually against the 12 accountability commitments. These accountability commitments stem from the Global Standard for CSO Accountability. They are at the core of what is regarded as good practice in CSO accountability, and they form the value basis of Accountable Now. By signing up to these 12 accountability commitments, the members of Accountable Now seek to establish a close link with all stakeholders, continuously improve their performance and enhance the individual and collective contribution to improving people’s lives and the environment.

Being co-developed in consultation with more than 1500 grassroots, local, regional, and international CSOs, the Global Standard gives the process a holistic approach that brings the accountability exercise closer to partners and constituents and enhances our overall engagement and impact. At its core the Global Standard captures the dynamic accountability approach that posits trustful relationships with stakeholders to improve CSOs’ impact and effectiveness. Through two-way dialogues, CSOs can receive feedback, learn, course correct and close the loop, sotheir actions become more legitimate and sustainable among the communities that they wish to serve.

The adaptation of the Global Standard into a comprehensive reporting framework commits Accountable Now’s members to a voluntary and public process, while also providing learning and exchange opportunities within the sector to increase the impact of accountability and bring focus to the people we work for and with.

How have we advanced accountability in 2021

During 2021, Accountable Now members have submitted reports demonstrating their commitment to dynamic accountability. Presenting the work undertaken in 2019 and 2020, these reports showcase how accountability practices were advanced, lessons learned, and areas of improvement for the members and the sector. There is a lot to learn from these reports, from establishing procedures that help embed sustainability into programming, strengthening partnerships, and developing new environmental policies.

By reviewing the accountability reports every year, Accountable Now can pinpoint good practice examples and case studies. These practices are essential for learning, allowing the lessons distilled and the examples reported to be shared widely within the sector. Some of these examples from recent reports includes:

Advancing towards the commitment of People-driven work

The Child-Friendly Accountability approach aims to ensure children have safe means to monitor the performance of child protection systems and hold duty bearers accountable. Children are supported in building their knowledge, identifying protection gaps, and facilitating direct action or advocacy with their communities to address these gaps.  Three pillars are recommended for field-level application of the Child-friendly Accountability methodology: (1) Assessment, focused on knowledge building and fostering understanding; (2) Analysis and Accountability, centered on mapping and analyzing the performance of the protection system; and (3) Action for social mobilization, advocacy and corrective action on gaps and bottlenecks identified by the children.  Furthermore, the ChildFund Alliance has developed a Field Manual and a Toolbox, that provides further guidance and tools to apply the approach effectively.

Advancing towards the commitments of Responsive Decision Making and Responsible Leadership

Sightsavers’ wholesome accountability process is enrooted in the commitment for responsible decision making and responsible leadership. They have created an inclusive process of data collection that allows accountability to be shared and co-owned by leadership, staff, local organizations and partners. Their accountability report covers the activities of the entire organization, including Sightsavers’ seven subsidiary entities (Sightsavers UK, US, Ireland, India, Norway, Sweden and Italy).   Thus, their performance and any data requested under Accountable Now’s reporting framework are integrated into the Secretariat’s accountability report.

The report and the feedback given by Accountable Now’s Independent Review Panel are shared with employees globally, and areas for further work are discussed at management group meetings. Sightsavers’ latest accountability report covers various organization’s functions, including human resources, global fundraising, finance and performance, research and evidence, programme systems, policy and advocacy teams. This ensures that accountability gets embedded within the organization to deliver against the areas of commitment highlighted in the report.

Advancing towards the commitments of Responsible Leadership and Empowered, Effective Staff & Volunteers

Accountability Lab uses the reporting process as the basis for annual reflection and course correction. The reporting framework and process were framed in alignment with Accountability Lab’s terminology and internal processes by its learning team. The resulting process supports Accountability Lab’s country offices, learning managers, and board members to continue having meaningful conversations around progress and learnings while producing inputs for the accountability report.

Each country team produces the accountability report on an annual basis, using the reporting questions and scoring guidance. Thus, board members and the executive director gain a global perspective of how the different country Labs are advancing the international mission in different ways and better understand through practical examples across the organization.

Future challenges and opportunities

Accountability reporting is just one aspect of the work done in 2021 around learning and enhancing dynamic accountability.

For Accountable Now, it has been a priority to understand the role that dynamic accountability can play in addressing the powershift within our membership. Accountable Now sees its role and the Global Standard as fundamental and instrumental in helping CSOs realize the powershift and ensure its members respond, adapt, and change to prioritize horizontal partnerships, locally-led agendas, meaningful engagement and co-creation.

We are continuously reflecting on how to take a critical approach to accountability reporting and understand how identifying formal and informal processes of powershift and decolonization should be re-balanced. The 12 commitments of the Global Standard have been a helpful framework for reflection, and Accountable Now aims to more prominently adapt and address the responsibility for change in our collective action. So, we invite you to follow us in 2022 as we continue to understand how accountability processes can be a lever for change within our membership and beyond.

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