The Accountability Keywords Project
This project includes over 40 posts reflecting on the meanings and usage of relevant keywords in their own contexts and languages. The authors in the keyword series come from countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
These blogs are accompanied by a longer think piece by ARC Director Jonathan Fox
ARC welcomes proposals for new keywords posts. To suggest a possible post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date: January 2022
Author: Jonathan Fox
Published by: Accountability Research Center
This working paper unpacks diverse understandings of accountability ideas, using the ‘keywords’ approach. This tradition takes everyday big ideas whose meanings are often taken for granted and makes their subtexts explicit. The proposition here is that ambiguous or contested language can either constrain or enable possible strategies for promoting accountability. After all, different potential coalition partners may use the same term with different meanings—or may use different terms to communicate the same idea. Indeed, the concept’s fundamental ambiguity is a major reason why it can be difficult to communicate ideas about accountability across disciplines, cultures, and languages. The goal here is to inform efforts to find common ground between diverse potential constituencies for accountable governance.