Anabel Cruz, ICD and Rendir Cuentas
Almost 300 people from 22 countries (20 Latin American and the Caribbean countries and also Spain and Portugal) responded to the call of the Rendir Cuentas Regional Initiative, registering for the virtual course on “Shifting power relations and Accountability.” This course took place between July 1 and August 14, 2020 and comprised 7 live sessions and 2 months of activities based on the Rendir Cuentas virtual classroom.
The course provided an opportunity to acquire or deepen knowledge as well as examine the implications of a paradigm shift in CSO accountability practices as proposed by the Global Standard for CSO Accountability. A set of methodologies and tools for practicing dynamic accountability based on the Global Standard were presented and discussed.
The largest number of participants came from civil society organizations. However, representatives of the academic sector, central and local governments, and private sector institutions also attended the course.
Thus, the course attendees reflected a diverse set of stakeholders, interested to learn, strengthen and improve accountability practices undertaken by civil society organizations.
At the end of the course, the participants examined different opportunities for applying the knowledge and new tools to which they got exposed. A participating organization proposed as one of its future actions “to replicate and share this knowledge to other organizations with which we work”. Different participants stated their interest in exploring to expand the debate on civil society accountability at the national level in their own countries. This would require finding convincing and creative ways to reach out to more people and organizations, so they become supporters in promoting civil society accountability.
A CSO participant mentioned that the organization would focus on “Promoting and instructing, so other organizations also engage with accountability practices, making more visible what we do and how we do it, gaining greater support for the cause of strengthening democracy”. A CSO network stated that they would work to “incorporate an accountability component in the institutional strengthening program for its membership.” Several other participating organizations stated that they plan to include the theme of accountability across all trainings delivered to different CSOs, whether thematic or methodological, recognizing the cross-cutting value of accountability.
Participants from other sectors beyond civil society stated that the course served as a source of inspiration and knowledge for their interaction with civil society organizations. A participant belonging to a state regulatory and oversight body considered that “the knowledge acquired will be very useful to improving the feedback process with the general public, and can lead to strengthening the entity based on the contributions from its primary constituents.”
A participant working with a central government agency considered “that the course was a relevant instrument for becoming acquainted with accountability tools, such as the Global Standard, and key issues to be taken into account in the process”. For this reason, this participant will seek that both the internal staff as well as the external public of the agency become more aware of the messages and information that generated and shared by CSOs in order to achieve greater impact of their actions.
An official working in a local government recognized that the knowledge acquired from the course will allow to better articulate with civil society and promote behavior changes among colleagues, thus strengthening relations between the public sector and civil society.
In addition, two university professors mentioned the opportunity for replication and incorporation of the course contents into an action-research project currently under development as well as into the training provided by their respective academic institutions.
Likewise, a participant who works in a private company pointed out that the private sector is largely unaware of the scope of civil society actions and their accountability efforts. Therefore, he expressed interest in communicating the work of CSOs to the private sector and eventually supporting improvement around communication issues.
The course was of great value for several participants who provide consulting services to civil society organizations, for example, in matters related to institutional development, transparency or capacity building. Thus, they stated that they were able to anticipate different ways to incorporate transparency practices in CSO institutional development processes.
In this way, civil society accountability is seen and recognized as a relevant issue not only for CSOs, but for an important set of stakeholders and institutions working together with civil society.