Expanding the scope for self-assessment of civil society accountability
The Rendir App for Network
Interview with Merle Rutz, Impact & Accountability Coordinator at CIVICUS
The Rendir App for Networks is the latest product developed as part of the efforts to assist with civil society self-assessment against the Global Standard (GS) for CSO Accountability. Following the development of the initial GS self-assessment detailed questionnaire, and the subsequent Rendir App developed in the framework of the regional initiative Rendir Cuentas, a new version of the Rendir App was developed in collaboration with the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) which is specifically targeted to civil society networks and whose Secretariat is hosted by CIVICUS.
We recently talked to Merle Rutz (MR), Impact & Accountability Coordinator at CIVICUS about the development of the Rendir App for Networks. Merle previously worked with Accountable Now, where she was involved in the early stages of the GS development.
During the past three years, Merle has worked on monitoring and evaluation at CIVICUS to measure how this organization has been meeting its own accountability commitments, and show progress towards the organization’s strategic goals, while also being accountable to CIVICUS members. In such capacity, she has also been involved with specific CIVICUS programs and networks, such as AGNA and its working group on Legitimacy, Transparency and Accountability (LTA), where she has been coordinating activities on how AGNA members are improving accountability towards their various constituencies.
GS: Why was the Rendir App adapted to CSO networks and associations?
MR: At present, AGNA is composed of 97 members. While CSO networks face some similar accountability challenges to the larger CSO community, they also have their own specific ones based on their particular organizational arrangements.
AGNA LTA has been promoting accountability worldwide, for instance, through the Annual Global Accountability Week held in October of each year, as well as through the LTA good practice online platform. As AGNA LTA was becoming more vocal and active on this topic, there was a consensus among its members about the lack of a comprehensive overview of how they were actually performing in terms of accountability practices. Therefore, at the last annual meeting of AGNA’s LTA working group held in June 2019, their members – some of which are also partners of the Global Standard – agreed to assess AGNA’s own accountability practices.
At that time, Rendir Cuentas shared with us the existence of the Rendir App, which is a self-assessment app for CSOs from Latin America based on the GS’ 12 commitments. So, given that this tool had already been tested for similar purposes, and in order to prevent reinventing the wheel, we looked at it as well as its scoring system. It was then agreed that it met the needs of the AGNA members, yet it required some adjustments.
GS: How did CIVICUS and the AGNA LTA working group go about adapting the Rendir App for a specific target group, that is, for CSO associations and networks?
MR: First, we had the original Rendir App translated from Spanish into English. We then revised the questions and answers by looking at them from a CSO network’s viewpoint. So, we adapted the existing questions which had been conceived from a CSO perspective to fit the need of CSO networks or associations. So, for instance, the Rendir App for Networks would now ask questions on how a network is engaging with its own members in a meaningful feedback loop and then how their members are encouraging and implementing feedback loops on their end, instead of just having a question on how a CSO engaged with their primary constituents. Another example is that the Rendir App for Networks inquires about the transparency of a network’s policies and processes and whether their members are aware of them.
So, a 4-member taskforce of the LTA working group was formed, consisting of networks from Argentina, Bolivia, India and Uruguay. This taskforce was responsible to review the questions, the drop-out menu of answers and suggested resources for the Rendir App for Networks. Finally, the Rendir App for Networks’ questions, responses, and follow-up resources were also translated into French and Spanish. We then asked five other AGNA LTA members (e.g. from the Balkans, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda) to test it and provide another round of feedback and lessons learned from the testing. This is where we currently find ourselves in terms of the development of Rendir App for Networks.
GS: What are then the next steps planned for rolling out the Rendir App for Networks?
MR: We were in the process of planning a global learning event for AGNA and other CIVICUS members to be held in Quito earlier this year which has been put on hold due to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic globally. So, we would like to run a virtual 90-Day Challenge initiative ahead of the global learning event this year. The results of Rendir App for Networks-based self-assessment exercise during the 90-Day Challenge and its lessons learned would then be shared at the global learning event. In addition, we will explore how we can feature the Rendir App for Networks as part of the activities for the Annual Global Accountability Week to be held in the week of 12th October 2020.