Who is this for?
These guidance materials can be used by civil society organisations of all sizes who want to:
Learn and improve dialogue with their primary constituents and partners
Define or improve benchmarks and indicators for monitoring and evaluation
Develop systems for self-regulation and verification such as self-assessment, peer review or certification
Design and improve projects, policies, strategies and activities
Align their own standards and codes with the Global Standard
Hold CSOs to account
How to use these Guidance Materials
The Global Standard Guidance Materials are organised by the three clusters of the 12 Accountability Commitments.
What we want to achieve
Our approach to change
What we do internally
Through our 3-step process, CSOs can monitor their progress towards implementation of the Global Standard and understand how CSO accountability activities can contribute to improved practices and lasting, positive change.
What we want to achieve
1. Justice and Equality: We will address injustice, exclusion, inequality, poverty and violence to create healthy societies for all.
Justice and equality allows people to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and hold those in power to account. As civic actors seeking change in conjunction with people, CSOs must work towards inclusive societies and attempt to influence behaviours, cultures and systems to ensure that all people – especially the most vulnerable and marginalised – are treated justly and equally.
Key actions: Listen to people, lead by example, support people to know their rights, collaborate with other actors to collectively address root causes and effects of injustice, violence and inequality.
- … conduct regular, context and conflict analyses with a participatory and systemic approach are conducted to discuss necessary changes with stakeholders?
- … have programming and other areas of work that are based on actual needs and priorities set by the people it aims to support or advocate for.
- … have direct impact on the realisation of justice, peace and equal rights for all.
- … identify and assess the risks that stakeholders face with regards to discrimination, violence, abuse, exploitation or neglect, and development of strategies to prevent or mitigate this.
- … collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders in the promotion of justice and equal rights for all.
- … that the CSO‘s programs understand and respond to their specific needs, underlying problem causes, and culture.
- … they are satisfied with the information and opportunities they have to assert their rights towards those responsible for fulfilling them.
- … that the CSO is inclusive and does no harm.
- … that the CSO works with key stakeholders to have a meaningful impact on structural and cultural causes of poverty, exclusion, violence, injustice and inequality.
- How do you obtain, validate and analyse information about root causes of poverty, exclusion, violence, injustice and inequality?
- What are the impacts of your presence and activities on different groups and what do you do to mitigate unintended negative effects?
- How do you inform people about their rights and who to claim them from, including within your own organisation? How do you support them in asserting these rights?
- How do you ensure that your work continuously makes progress towards eliminating root causes of injustice and inequality?
2. Women’s rights and gender equality: we will promote women’s and girls’ rights and enhance gender equality.
The realisation of gender equality is vital for the socio-economic development of peaceful societies. Access to crucial political and economic resources enables more women and girls to participate fully in society and achieve their true potential. CSOs must promote behaviours and attitudes that ensure opportunities, rights and obligations of women and men in all spheres of life.
Key actions: Listen to women, men, girls and boys, lead by example and empower women and girls to live more fulfilled lives. Work closely with all parts of society to drive lasting social, economic and political change.
- … conduct regular and participatory systemic gender analyses
- … promote and advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in CSO programmes, policies, structures and employment practices, creating opportunities for women and girls.
- … address men and boys as crucial stakeholders in prevailing social relations and collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders in the promotion and respect of women’s rights.
- … provide effective staff training on topics such as gender analysis, gender programming, gender equality and equity, gender identity and gender related
- … have planning processes that include consultation with those marginalised due to their gender, in particular women and girls, to allow for contextual analysis of the barriers to their inclusion and identification of opportunities for their participation.
- … your programmes respond to women and girls specific needs and opportunities, while acknowledging their culture.
- … that your organisation successfully promotes and advances the realisation of gender
- … that you provide equal opportunities for women within the organisation, recognise their specific needs and that they have opportunities to assert their rights.
- … that you work towards having meaningful impact on structural and cultural causes of gender-based
- What are the impacts of your work that specifically contribute to the realisation of women‘s rights and gender equality?
- How do you assess your organisation’s own structures, norms, attitudes and behaviours towards women and men and how do you ensure equal opportunities for them?
- How do you inform women and girls about their rights and whom to claim them from, including within your own organisation? How do you support them in asserting these rights in the public and private spheres?
- How do you ensure that your work continuously makes progress towards lasting economic, political and social change for women and girls?
- How do you engage with key stakeholders and organisations that are able to drive change in laws and policies as well as in socio-cultural norms, attitudes and behaviour?
3. Healthy planet: we will protect the natural environment and enhance its ability to support life for future generations.
In the search for clean, healthy and sustainable policies and practices that benefit humanity and the planet, CSOs must develop and implement strategies that contribute to the protection of the natural environment.
Key actions: Listen to people and consult experts, lead by example and map out your organisation’s environmental impact, motivate and support people to protect the environment, collaborate with actors from different sectors to develop innovative and systemic solutions to environmental issues.
- … conduct regular, participatory and systemic environmental assessments and impact analyses
- … promote and advance the protection of the environment in programmes, operations and
- … publicise information on efforts made towards environmental protection and their effects.
- … create opportunities for people to protect the environment and to work on systemic changes.
- … engage with all relevant actors and new approaches for the protection of the environment.
- … that you respond to their specific challenges, needs and opportunities while sensitively acknowledging their own resources and cultural
- … your efforts to protect the environment, are aware of its positive and negative impacts, and approve of its efforts to mitigate negative They consider your work has contributed to an increase in their consciousness and knowledge about the need to protect the environment.
- … that you encouraged them to participate in activities to protect the environment, both individually and collectively.
- … you as being contributors to systemic changes to protect the environment by working with people and organisations to create innovative solutions.
- How do you know that the steps you have taken to minimise your negative environmental impacts work?
- How do you share with others what you have learned from assessing your environmental impacts?
- How do you educate people about their impact on the environment, including staff and volunteers of your own organisation and how does your support enable them to protect the environment themselves?
- How do you engage with other actors that are able to drive changes in laws and policies, new technologies, as well as in socio-cultural attitudes and behaviour?
- How do you ensure that your work continuously makes progress towards lasting positive environmental sustainability?
Lasting positive change requires CSOs to undertake long-term strategies in partnership with other actors and organisations. A long-term and inclusive approach that addresses the root causes of current problems and that focuses on achieving sustainable impacts will contribute to increasing the trust in and the legitimacy of CSOs.
Key actions: Learn from people and partners where value can be added and collaborate with other actors to build on one another’s strengths and ensure accountability, support people to drive the changes you want to see, evaluate long-term results, continuously monitor, evaluate, learn, adapt and innovate.
- … emphasise listening, sharing and the co-creation of solutions with existing initiatives and potential
- … analyse the context and needs of stakeholders to identify what is already working well.
- … conduct monitoring evaluation and learning and innovation processes with those CSOs represented and worked with.
- … collaborate with a wide range of key stakeholders that need to be involved to drive lasting positive
- … have a clear strategy to phase out work and hand responsibilities to stakeholders.
- … and recognise the long-term results of your programme and see that you build on existing or previous initiatives whilst contributing to systemic changes.
- … their strengths, opportunities and impacts are enhanced through collaboration with you and they can influence change through their input.
- … they can continue to work towards collective goals after you have ceased engagement.
- … your programmes respond to the operating context, including changing dynamics in political environments and funding sources.
- How do you identify and engage with the programmes of national and local authorities, as well as other organisations when designing, planning and implementing your own programmes?
- How do you contribute to people’s ability to lead change?
- Who is involved in the monitoring and evaluation of your organisation’s programmatic outcomes and long-term results?
- How do you contribute to strengthening linkages, local networks and learning opportunities?
- What is your theory of change and how do you ensure it remains valid and embedded in your work?
Our approach to change
5. People-driven work: we will ensure that the people we work with have a key role in driving our work
Truly people-driven work requires that the resources and power required to achieve CSOs’ goals are adequately shared between organisations and people. Ensuring that they listen to and actively involve people in decision- making will make CSOs’ work more effective and more relevant to primary stakeholders.
Key actions: Represent the people you work with, support people in taking active roles, ensure that primary constituent views are well reflected in decision-making processes, invite and act on feedback to improve performance and collective impact.
- … have effective methods for stakeholder analysis and engagement throughout organisational
- … involve constituents and key stakeholders in context analysis, strategic planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programming.
- … translate information into relevant local languages and modes of communication.
- … ensure decisions reflect the needs, priorities, and shared goals voiced by stakeholders.
- … use feedback to influence decisions and make changes to improve performance and
- … promote the voice of primary constituents to the public and external
- Resources are allocated to developing the capacity of stakeholders to strengthen their lead in implementing their own initiatives.
- … they have satisfactory access to organisational and programme information and means to engage with your work.
- … that you listen to them and that your work is helping them to achieve their goals.
- … they can use your feedback mechanisms.
- … you collect, analyse, use and respond to feedback
- … there are positive changes in response to their engagement and feedback.
- Which stakeholders are you learning from and how?
- How do you ensure people’s views and ideas are reflected in your organisation’s work?
- How do you ensure that people and partners have the means and motivation to maintain and further advance the changes you have collectively achieved?
- How do you enable and support stakeholders in taking active roles and leadership in addressing the issues they face? What are the methods and resources you provide?
- How do you solicit, collect, analyse, discuss, respond to and act upon feedback and complaints?
Collaboration and coordination with other actors help CSOs adopt a more holistic approach, identify gaps and prevent duplication of efforts in achieving collective results. CSOs must work to strengthen connections between various actors and seek to enhance their ability to work together to address complex issues in the long term.
Key actions: Build partnerships with organisations that work towards similar goals, ensure clear and fair roles and responsibilities, share information, resources and knowledge and make important decisions collectively.
- … conduct regular context and stakeholder analyses that identify and prioritise partners.
- … develop guidelines and policies on partnership principles, values and approaches
- … Have close working relationships with partners to plan for and document collective impacts with shared mechanisms and tools for planning, monitoring, communication, coordination, decision making, evaluation and dispute
- … have partnership agreements that have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and commitments and detail how each partner will contribute to meeting these shared
- … place emphasis on network building, peer exchange and mutual learning.
- … review formal agreements regularly with partners, through a process which encourages mutual discussion and feedback.
- … that all partners and constituents are satisfied with the partnership’s principles, values and approaches, and feel that the partnership is fair, based on mutual respect and shared goals.
- … that all partners are aware of the decision-making process and feel their positions are adequately respected.
- … that partners and constituents feel the collaboration strengthens efforts and impacts.
- … that all partners feel well informed and able to pursue their common goals.
- How do you add value to the work of existing and potential partners?
- What are the key roles and responsibilities for each of the partners, depending on your respective strengths, capacities and priorities?
- How do your collaborations contribute to reinforcing each partner’s capacities, means, self-esteem and institutional strengths beyond your immediate intervention?
- How do you ensure significant impact and change through collaboration and innovation?
- How do you ensure important decisions are taken collaboratively?
- How do you address conflicts or challenges in your partnerships?
7. Advocating for fundamental change: we will address root causes by advocating for fundamental change.
CSOs must engage with and challenge the underlying values and identities that constrain public and political attempts to overcome the challenges people face. CSOs play an important role in supporting and working with people to bring about meaningful change in policies at local, national, regional and global levels.
Key actions: Ensure advocacy work is based on evidence and is informed by the views of affected people, advocate for positive changes which address root causes and their effects, support to learn, connect, mobilise and make their voices heard, evaluate all effects and mitigate the risks for people involved in or affected by advocacy work.
- … ensure priorities and approaches are shaped by input from key stakeholders throughout the process and input is based on evidence from local and international sources with a focus on long-term positive change, not just short-term tactical
- … use a variety of clear structural advocacy strategies that bring about systemic changes and raise awareness, mobilise public opinion, utilise networking opportunities.
- … ensure advocacy work provides space for people to connect among communities, movements and power-holders and risks for stakeholders are minimised and openly communicated.
- … conduct evaluations that reflect upon the opinions and positions of a broad range of people, including those affected and those addressed by your advocacy work.
- … your advocacy targets issues and concerns that are relevant to them and supports them in being heard.
- … they are aware and regularly updated on potential risks and are satisfied with your strategies used to minimise their risk.
- … they are satisfied with the results of your advocacy and with their involvement in all stages of the process.
- How do you gather information, design the content and decide the approach of your advocacy efforts?
- How do you know that stakeholders support your advocacy work and appreciate its effects?
- How do you ensure your advocacy addresses root causes and works towards systemic changes?
- How do you achieve a strategic balance of approaches to change both popular narratives and policies?
- How do you identify risks and respond to threats to people involved in your advocacy and campaigns?
- How do you evaluate the effects of your advocacy and discuss changes with the people on whose behalf you advocate?
8. Open organisations: we will be transparent about who we are, what we do and our successes and failures.
CSOs that embody transparency not only strengthen their own work but also justify the trust and confidence put in them, and the civil society sector as a whole, contributing to the preservation of civic space.
Key actions: Share timely and accurate information on who you are, what you do, how decisions are made, your resources and the impacts of your work, establish and uphold clear procedures to respect privacy rights and protect personal data from misuse, provide opportunities for people to question your work and engage in constructive dialogue to reach a shared understanding where possible, ensure communication and marketing is reflective of your values.
- … have key policies on communications, transparency and the management and sharing of information which are in line with the local legal requirements and regularly
- … make information on work, funding sources and impacts is shared using channels accessible to all
- … have clear policies and procedures to protect personal data that are upheld by staff, volunteers, donors and partners.
- … ensure there are opportunities for people to ask questions and to engage with you in constructive dialogue are diverse and available to
- … ensure there are clear provisions on guidelines and policies on ethical communication and marketing.
- … they have timely and appropriate access to relevant and clear information about your work, funding and
- … staff, volunteers, partners and people you work with know how their personal information is managed and how to safely manage the personal information of
- … they are satisfied with the opportunities they have to question, discuss and influence your work.
- … they are aware of your communication and marketing practices and believe that it respects their dignity and privacy.
- How and through which channels do you share information about your organisation and its successes and failures?
- How do you know that key stakeholders find this information timely and useful?
- How do you ensure an adequate response to suggestions and requests?
- What opportunities do people have to ask questions and to express their views and concerns about your organisation?
- How do you protect the dignity and safety of stakeholders that might be in danger through your practices?
What we do internally
9. Empowered and effective staff and volunteers: We will invest in staff and volunteers to develop their full potential and achieve our goals
Professional, well-equipped, and loyal staff and volunteers improve the quality of an organisation’s work and reduce risks of mismanagement. To achieve this, CSOs must have transparent and fair principles, policies and procedures for recruiting, developing and managing staff. By including staff and volunteers in planning and decision-making processes, CSOs will create empowering environments in which individuals can effectively perform and grow.
Key actions: Ensure that staff and volunteers share and act in line with your values and professional standards, put in place fair and transparent recruitment and employment practices, encourage and provide resources for staff and volunteers to constantly improve their skills, involve staff and volunteers at all levels of your organisation, protect the personal safety of those who work with your organisation and create fair and supportive workplaces.
- … have values, standards and a code of conduct that are well known among staff and volunteers.
- … ensure fundamental labour rights are upheld and provide a fair and supportive work environment for all staff and volunteers with clear human resource development guidelines and resources.
- … Conduct regular assessment of performance, human resource needs, and development of future leadership and job descriptions, responsibilities and objectives are updated
- … acknowledge duty of care obligations and enforce location-specific security policies and guidelines.
- … use mechanisms and agreements to analyse and share information on security risks that affect the organisation and primary constituents.
- … your staff and volunteer attitudes and behaviour are professional and respectful.
- … they are treated fairly and that your organisation respects their labour rights.
- … staff are aware of your commitment to develop their competencies, professional responsibilities and potential with their work recognised and fairly assessed.
- … staff and volunteers are adequately involved in decision-making processes.
- … staff and volunteers’ workplaces are safe, fair and supportive.
- How do you ensure that your organisation’s values, codes of conduct, standards, expected attitudes and behaviours are known and followed?
- How does your organisation encourage diversity and what special considerations does your organisation have for the needs of women and minorities that work for or with you?
- How do you assess your staff’s and volunteers’ performance and needs to develop their skills and competencies to do their job better?
- How do you involve different members of staff and volunteers in planning and decision-making processes and how do you support them in potential leadership ambitions?
- What mechanisms are in place for staff to communicate their concerns and ideas in a safe manner without negative consequences?
- How do you know that your efforts to create a safe, fair and supportive environment are successful, including in conflict and high-risk areas?
10. Well-handled resources: we will handle our resources responsibly to reach our goals and serve the public good
The efficient, effective and ethical use of financial and other resources is essential for CSOs to manage programmes, achieve results and to develop trust from stakeholders. CSOs must follow generally recognised financial accounting standards, ensure the implementation of strict financial controls and reduce the risk of misuse of funds by handling resources responsibly.
Key actions: Acquire resources in ways that align with values and goals, manage resources responsibly and comply with professional accounting standards, ensure strict financial controls to reduce the risk of corruption, bribery, misuse of funds, and conflicts of interest, report openly and transparently about who provides our resources and how they are managed.
- … have effective guidelines and procedures for ethical fundraising, procurement, and use and management of resources, with provisions for: sourcing and allocation of funds and in-kind- donations, fraud prevention, handling of suspected and proven corruption and misuse of resources, and conflicts of
- … use funds according to the budget and for the intended purposes to achieve strategic
- … ensure expenditure is monitored regularly, independent financial audits using professional accounting standards are completed and published, and recommended changes are
- … purchase goods and services that follow competitive and transparent bidding
- … openly provide information on the sources and allocation of funds
- … that you manage resources responsibly and use resources in the best possible way to accomplish your mission and achieve impact.
- … suppliers and service providers see your bidding processes are fair and
- … there is satisfcatory access to information on the sources and allocation of your
- … staff and volunteers are aware of safe ways to report on fraud and bribery.
- How do you ensure that your fundraising strategy is in line with ethical practices and your organisational mission and values?
- What financial decision-making processes and controls do you have in place to ensure that fraud, corruption, bribery and other financial wrongdoings are prevented and that those who misuse funds are held accountable?
- How do you ensure your resources are allocated in the best ways to most effectively advance sustainable impacts that address the actual needs and priorities of people?
- What procedures do you have in place to protect whistle-blowers and those who report misuse of funds?
- What information on the sources and the allocation of your funding do you make publicly available and how?
- How do you acquire resources in line with your values and without compromising the independence of your organisation?
11. Responsive decision-making: we will ensure our decisions are responsive to feedback from people affected by our work, partners, volunteers and staff
An effective feedback system will help CSOs to improve both their programmes and performance. It can also help make stakeholders co-creators of their work and truly demonstrate their accountability to all their stakeholders. CSOs should close the feedback loop through discussions and the development of solutions with partners, staff, and volunteers and most importantly, the people they work with and for.
Key actions: Invite and analyse feedback and complaints from key stakeholder groups, ensure decision-making processes at all levels are informed by and responsive to feedback from our stakeholders, clarify and communicate how people can provide input and feedback into decision-making processes, enable frontline staff and volunteers to respond to feedback, communicate about the feedback received, how it was used and what changes have been made.
- …Use a feedback and complaints process that mirrors the organisation’s mission, capacities and context where feedback is actively sought.
- … ensure feedback processes include ways to discuss proposed solutions and communicate actions to be taken with active consultation and engagement of stakeholders in programmatic decisions and
- … react to feedback is timely accurate and addressed by the most appropriate staff in the
- … provide information about the ways to give feedback and complaints to all stakeholders, staff, volunteers and people affected and staff know how to handle feedback and
- … implement procedures that ensure that the identity of complainants remains
- … have principles and guidelines for the sharing of responsibility for managing feedback that are anchored in strategic documents, staff contracts and human resource development
- … evaluate feedback processes to understand the effects of changes that are made in response to feedback received.
- …their experiences and opinions are actively sought and valued in your programmatic
- … they are aware of available feedback and complaints mechanisms and feel safe to use
- … that their feedback and complaints are acted upon in a timely and accurate
- … they want to give feedback and engage in discussion of possible course
- … staff and volunteers feel competent and supported when handling feedback and complaints.
- What types of decisions are open to feedback and power-sharing?
- How do you ensure long-term processes, practices and a culture of decision-making which is responsive to feedback in your organisation?
- How do you ensure people affected by your work know how to give and discuss feedback and complaints?
- How are management and leadership supporting and involving frontline staff and volunteers closest to the ground in making decisions and responding to feedback and complaints?
- How do you report back to those who initially gave the feedback?
- What possibilities for engagement do people have after they give you feedback or lodge complaints?
Responsible leadership of an organisation should be shared by management and an independent governing body. It is imperative that CSO leadership provides a clear vision and ethical values for the organisation, to enable it to effectively achieve its goals and mandate.
Key actions: Ensure an independent governing body oversees our strategic direction, legal compliance, risk management and performance, hold governing body and management equally accountable for delivering on our strategic goals, nurture a culture of accountability and support responsible, visionary and innovative leadership at all levels, take internal and external complaints and disputes seriously.
- … have an independent and effective governing body with clear terms of reference that oversees the organisation’s management, fiduciary responsibility and fulfilment of vision and
- … conduct regular checks on potential conflicts of interest in regard to the political, economic and personal relationships of governing
- … have leadership that ensures compliance with donor requirements and recommendations. Management abides by the rules and laws made by government and other relevant
- … generate learnings from monitoring, evaluation, feedback, complaints and other inputs to inform changes in strategies and
- … develop succession plans to ensure that capable staff take on responsibilities in the future.
- … people trust and believe your organisation is accountable for its performance and
- … senior management, staff and volunteers are seen to be acting accountably by all
- … there is responsible adaptation, innovations and improvement of your
- … they are aware of dispute resolution and complaints mechanisms and believe they are confidential and
- … leadership to be responsive to their complaints and feedback.
- How does your governing body ensure adherence to applicable laws and ethical practices whilst focusing on accomplishing the vision and mission of your organisation?
- How can people, staff, volunteers, peers, partners, donors and governments hold your management and governing body to account on all accountability commitments?
- How do you support responsible, visionary, innovative and accountable leadership at all levels?
- How do you invite, analyse and respond to feedback from your key stakeholder groups, including staff? How are course corrections decided and portrayed in your organisation?