By Florencia Guerzovich, Capacity Building, GPSA

On December 7-9, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit brought together more than 3,000 colleagues from government, civil society organizations, media and the private sector. A key question discussed widely at the Summit is how to ensure that the many open government commitments agreed by government and civil society are effectively implemented so that they actually affect peoples’ lives. And how do we ensure that implementation and follow-up processes also engage citizens?

Experience we can build on
At the Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA), we have been supporting civil society and governments in 25 countries across the world trying to do precisely this. In Tajikistan, a civil society partnership is working with water regulators to improve service delivery. In the Dominican Republic, accessibility regulations are being implemented in the construction of new schools. In Uganda, GPSA partners are bringing together longstanding efforts in access to information and contracting to improve service delivery. Social accountability is helping stakeholders come together for change that matters on the ground.

A bridge to build
The need to bridge social accountability and open government initiatives has been identified by those working in research and in practice. It is key to think together how insights from social accountability practice can help create innovative ways to support the delivery of open government results and strengthen open government ecosystems.

The World Bank may have a unique value-add to nurture this cross-fertilization, thanks to its role as an incubator and critical supporter for the exponential growth of social accountability approaches, including GPSA projects. In this context, we hosted a workshop at the OGP Summit, “Co-Producing Open Government Results: Insights from the Global Partnership for Social Accountability,” to continue a conversation that started at the GPSA’s Global Partners Forum last May.

Insights for the global conversation
We invited the “implementation compacts” of GPSA-supported projects in Malawi and Indonesia – the civil society organizations, their government counterparts and their World Bank leads - to provide food for thought to the OGP community. And they did!

Indonesia: championing social accountability in health care services

  • From the civil society side in Indonesia, Andreas Sihotang (Citizen Voice and Action Program Manager, Wahana Visi Indonesia) discussed his organization’s work promoting openness of local government focused on maternal health. He pointed to the importance of creating sustainable capacities for civil society.
  • From the Indonesian Government, Rudy Prawiradinata (Senior Advisor to Minister of National Development Planning) is an active supporter of mainstreaming social accountability in frontline service delivery. Having witnessed how social accountability fosters communication and collaboration amongst the community and service providers, he explained how it is helping to overcome resistance and build trust (see figure about how he sees this working).  He warned about the importance of creating mechanisms that ensure that local government and service providers will not disappoint empowered citizens who are already aware of their rights.
  • From the World Bank, Health Specialist Ali Subandoro linked local, national, and global work. He pointed out how the World Bank is helping connect local experience to national level reforms by supporting government plans, while also providing cross-context knowledge about similar reforms, with an eye towards localization and adaptation.

Malawi: Citizen Monitoring ensuring textbook delivery to schools

  • From the civil society side, Dalitso Kubalasa (Executive Director of the Malawi Economic Justice Network, implementing the Malawi Social Accountability Strengthening Project) highlighted the potential and limits of civil society partnerships to advance this work. He explained that successes in the monitoring of textbook delivery and absenteeism is perched on a broad coalition of stakeholders. Initial plans to only monitor textbook delivery might have not been realistic, but the groups have adjusted their approach and are now focusing on the timely delivery, use and care of textbooks. As a participant raised during the conversation, the focus on how materials are taken care of after delivery is another way to ensure the results of the effort are sustainable beyond a single take.
  • From the Malawian government, Wezi Kayira (Principal Secretary for Good Governance in the Office of the President and Cabinet) reflected on how this experience in the education sector has potential to inform similar processes in other sectors, such as medicine stock-outs. The similarities and differences, and the opportunities, to adapt social accountability interventions to different sectors was also raised by the audience.
  • From the World Bank, Maria Poli (GPSA Capacity Building Coordinator) underlined the significance of working along with the Supplies Unit of the Ministry of Education to achieve results.  Building relationships that work and deliver is tough, but once established and navigated smartly, they create many opportunities. She also referred to the opportunities and challenges of donor coordination to solve problems in this area. 

In his summation as moderator of the workshop, Jeff Thindwa, GPSA Program Manager, commended the Indonesia and Malawi government, civil society and World Bank teams for modeling co-creation of solutions to service delivery challenges, and for demonstrating how open, collaborative approaches to governance can be applied to different sectors.