Social accountability can be defined as an approach towards building accountability that relies on civic engagement, i.e., in which it is ordinary citizens and/or civil society organizations who participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability (World Bank, 2004).

Examples of Social Accountability Tools:

To address social inequalities among marginalised groups a number of tools can be employed these include:

  • gender budgeting and
  • participatory monitoring and evaluation

Social accountability encompasses a broad array of methods and practices. These practices may be initiated by a wide range of actors (citizens, CSOs, communities, government agencies, parliamentarians or media), use diverse strategies (research, monitoring, planning, civic education, media coverage, coalition building), employ formal and informal sanctions, and vary according to the extent to which they are institutionalized, independent, collaborative or conflictive.

Social Accountability Practices:                                

A number of activities can be employed by citizens in demanding social accountability from public officials, these may include:

  • local issue forums
  • study circles – deliberative polling – consensus conferences
  • public hearings
  • citizens’ juries Budgets and Expenditures Budget
  • Related Social Accountability Work – participatory budget formulation
  • alternative budgets – independent budget analysis
  • performance-based budgeting
  • public education to improve budget literacy – public expenditure tracking surveys social audits
  • transparency portals (budget websites) Delivery of Services and Goods Social Accountability in the Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Services and Goods
  • public hearings – citizens’ report cards
  • community scorecards – public opinion polls – citizen’s charters Public Oversight Social Accountability and Public Oversight
  • Social accountability can be enhanced ex ante through citizen and civil society participation in formulating public policies and plans.

Core Elements of Social Accountability:

While social accountability encompasses a broad array of diverse practices, there are several core elements or building blocks that are common to most social accountability approaches. These include

  • accessing information
  • making the voice of citizens heard, and
  • engaging in a process of negotiation for change.

Accessing or generating relevant information and making it public is a critical aspect of social accountability.

Critical Factors for Achieving Social Accountability

  • citizen-state bridging mechanisms
  • (ii) attitudes and capacities of citizens and civil society actors
  • (iii) attitudes and capacities of state actors
  • (iv) an enabling environment.