Embracing change while adjusting to evolving contexts
Bethany Spendlove Keeley, Accountable Now
Change is at the heart of any civil society organization, both in terms of its own sustainability (internal change) as well as for measuring its effectiveness (external change). At Accountable Now we ask our members to ensure that the change they seek is made in a transparent and accountable way and is based upon their engagement with partners and the people for whom they work. These values drive the four accountability commitments of Cluster B from the Global Standard for CSO Accountability.
This influences how our members design their policies and programs. It sets an example for equitable, fair and therefore strong partnerships among CSOs, and it ensures that civil society advocacy work is based on the views of affected people while making their voices be heard. Lastly, while looking to promote change externally, we challenge our members to ensure change internally: our members should be transparent and open about all successes and failures.
Given that we often get caught up in lofty explanations of our values and our approaches to accountability, what does it mean in reality for a CSO to practice these accountability commitments? For this, we dove deep into some of our member’s recent accountability reports to find out.
Learning from the people CSOs work with and ensuring stakeholder views are reflected in decision-making processes sets the ground for Commitment 5: People-driven work. Restless Development has continually demonstrated its commitment to people-driven work. As a result, their strategic model is built around long term, community engagement led by volunteers. They are truly walking the talk by building stakeholder engagement into their processes, policies and programs:
Restless Development’s testimonial [Sam Mulroy, Senior Safety, Safeguarding and Operations Manager]
“Our youth-led research model provides us with a way to partner with young people and capture key insights on the issues that matter most to them. This is not just about ensuring meaningful youth engagement in the research process, but also about shifting power and increasing who is able to own and generate knowledge. Our methodology is designed to be accessible for a diverse range of young people.
Over the past few years, we have significantly increased our investment in youth-led research, and our ability to listen to the lived experiences, challenges and expertise of the young people we work with. This approach has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic where we have engaged in a range of research to both understand the impact of the pandemic on young people and their role in the response.
Our work is led by young volunteers. In the last financial year, we had 3,523 volunteers leading our work across 56 programs. In 2018/ 19 we conducted a global Listening Exercise to engage with volunteers across our programs in order to better understand their experiences of volunteering with us. Through surveys, interviews and focus groups, we received responses from 247 volunteers across our 10 hubs. The outcomes were used to inform program design and a set of commitments to improve the support we provide to volunteers, and a ‘Supporting our Volunteers’ action plan. The process was led by a global Youth Team of six young people from across the world.
From our programs, we have received valuable stakeholder feedback through a number of evaluations. We completed 44 evaluations of our programs in 2018/19, and a further 8 in 2019/20 (with significant postponements and delays resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic). Along with positive findings on the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of our work, these evaluations also produced useful recommendations that have guided future decision-making processes.”
Restless Development research is available at www.thedevelopmentalternative.org
Commitment 7 addresses how CSOs advocate for fundamental change which aims to ensure that their advocacy work is informed by the views of people affected by their work. It takes a holistic view of advocacy with root causes addressed, all stakeholders engaged in the process and evaluations made on a regular basis on the impact of advocacy work. An example of a member implementing this commitment is ADRA, with their Advocacy Network Working Group:
ADRA testimonial [Matthew Siliga, Chair of the Advocacy Network Working Group]
“ADRA’s advocacy efforts are driven by a collective team of experts across our global network called the Advocacy Network Working Group. In assisting our offices to develop national strategies for our recently launched global education campaign, the Working Group consulted with the Education Learning Lab (an internal group of education experts within the ADRA network) to better understand the issue of out-school children across the different regions of the world, as well as socio-economic and socio-cultural divides. Furthermore, the Working Group commissioned a literature review of education policies to understand where countries are falling short and need advocacy interventions to address the issue of out-of-school children. As a result of these efforts, the Working Group published a Global Education Policy Report.
Finally, in addition to developing resources and intelligence to assist in strategy development, the Working Group also ran a training workshop for offices of strategic importance. Following this training workshop, the program was digitized and offered to other offices in the network.”
Find out more about how ADRA fulfils the 12 accountability commitments in their 2019 Accountability Report.
Lastly, transparency and organizational openness are absolutely essential for building accountability and trust. Our member Taiwan Fund for Children and Families has adopted a set of practices around Commitment 8 – Open Organizations:
Taiwan Fund for Children and Families’ testimonial [Carol Shuling Huang, Director of Secretariat]
“Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) has embedded accountability and transparency into our organizational culture and throughout daily work routines and practices. Our policies, governance and finance information are available on TFCF’s website, as well as through quarterly reports, newsletters and annual reports. On social media platforms like YouTube, FB, IG, LINE, we update our stakeholders on what we do, and the policy/advocacy we campaign such as our End Poverty and Child protection and foster care campaigns.
We strive to be transparent with our financial information. Our financial statement of activities, lists of charitable giving and charitable activity are uploaded on our website. Furthermore, we are answerable to our own employees and the organization’s mission, as well as our beneficiaries and target audiences. TFCF has created an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions or raising concerns. Beneficiaries have also been invited to get involved with project design or implementation. We believe that an open organization is built on mutual trust among co-workers and the supported targets that we work for.
This has been grounded in a set of rules and our code of conduct, where we have also established the protection of privacy rights and safeguarding of personal data from misuse. We also have ethical standards to make sure the processing of personal data is legitimate. When the COVID-19 pandemic swept all over the world with a dead stroke and hit hard on people’s lives, TFCF is grateful that we are able to provide our supported targets with quality services by means of growth of donation in 2020. The 78% of our donation in Taiwan coming from individuals could be evidence that TFCF’s open organizational culture with accountability and credibility has won the trust of the public.”
Find out more about how TFCF fulfils the 12 accountability commitments in their 2019 Accountability Report.
These are just a few among many examples of how Accountable Now members are leading the way in how change is sought in the civil society sector. You can find more examples of how CSOs are implementing these accountability commitments on the Accountable Now website!