How Do Donor-led Empowerment and Accountability Activities Take Scale into Account? Evidence from DFID Programmes in Contexts of Fragility, Conflict and Violence

Date: April 2020
Author(s): Colin Anderson, Jonathan Fox, John Gaventa
Publication type: Working Paper
Published by: Action for Empowerment and Accountability, Accountability Research Center, Institute for Development Studies

Development donors invest significantly in governance reform, including in contexts characterised by conflict and fragility. However, there is relatively little comparative study of their change strategies, and little understanding of what works and why.

This paper explores the strategies of six recent DFID-funded programmes in Mozambique, Myanmar, and Pakistan with empowerment and accountability aims. Document review and field interviews are used to analyse the application of multi-scalar or multi-level change strategies, since such approaches are hypothesised to potentially generate more leverage for public accountability reforms. Analysis suggests that these strategies can strengthen citizen ability to navigate governance systems to resolve problems and claim accountability, and can bolster pro-accountability coalitions’ internal solidarity and external legitimacy. Multi-level strategies also appear associated with establishing more significant pressure for reform than exclusively local or national approaches. Yet conventional project reporting focuses on counting activities and outputs rather than analysing the dynamic, interactive processes at work in these strategies, and few evaluations are publicly accessible. To fully understand what kinds of action strengthen citizen demands for accountability requires a more transparent and rigorous approach to learning from donor-led governance interventions.

Colin Anderson Colin Anderson is a research officer at the Institute of Development Studies. His work focuses on citizen-state relations, including as research officer for the Action for Empowerment and Accountability research programme. He has a particular interest in the development and use of social accountability approaches and their impacts on governance relationships.   Jonathan Fox Jonathan Fox teaches development studies at the School of International Service a American University, where he established and directs the Accountability Research Center (ARC). His work focuses on the relationship between citizen participation, transparency, and accountability from both scholarly and practitioner perspectives. ARC’s work involves dialogue with a wide range of public interest groups, grassroots organisations, development agencies, private foundations and government policymakers to understand and inform change strategies.   John Gaventa John Gaventa is a political sociologist, educator and civil society practitioner with over 30 years of experience in research, teaching and facilitation, and organisational leadership in North and South. He has written and worked extensively on issues of citizenship and citizen engagement, power and participation, governance and accountability, and leadership for social change in a number of countries around the world. He is the Director of the Action for Empowerment and Accountability research programme, and previously directed the ten-year Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability.