Invest Your Money In Your People: 5 Top Takeaways from GPSA Forum

Yeukai Mukorombindo

*This blog post was originally published on and cross-posted here

Many members of the Open Gov Hub team and network convened alongside hundreds of social accountability advocates from around the world for this year’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) Forum at the World Bank from October 30 - November 1, 2018.

This year’s GPSA summit - Money Matters: Public Finance and Social Accountability for Human Capital - explored how social accountability reforms can support improved health, education and other basic development outcomes, specifically through human capital investments. This included an exploration of citizen-led efforts to drive public financial investments in human capital development.

The Forum was an opportunity for us to reflect on the value add of social accountability for tackling governance and development challenges by learning from achievements, trials and opportunities in this field to date.

What did we learn from this seminal event? Here are five top takeaways.

1. Countries that do not prioritize human capital development (through under-investing in education, health, etc.) experience a quantifiable economic loss as a result. Key findings of data published by the World Bank Human Capital Index shows an unfortunate global trend of poor investment and poor prioritization of human capital projects which includes public health and education services. Accountability actors may argue that health and education investments are necessary from a human rights perspective, but a persuasive economic case for support can also be made. The World Bank’s Human Capital Index produces data that quantifies the economic growth that governments forfeit by under investing in health and education outcomes. As a result, the World Bank Group together with several governments have recently committed to providing financial and technical assistance to build human capital in developing countries as a pathway for increasing growth and prosperity.

2. The World Bank is launching the Human Capital Project in response to slowed progress toward global poverty reduction and economic development. Vice President for Human Development of the World Bank, Ms Annette Dixon, announced at the GPSA forum the launch of the Human Capital Project as a “global effort to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth.” The project is supported by the Human Capital Index (HCI) which quantifies the contribution of human capital investments to productivity and economic growth.

3. Any nation’s full human capital potential cannot be achieved without citizens actively demanding transparency, accountability, participation from their governments in all aspects of the financing and implementation of large-scale human development projects in health, education, and other fundamental sectors. Citizen monitoring of these large financial investments in human capital development can help ensure these public funds are spent appropriately, rather than being subject to corrupt personal enrichment. Citizen feedback can also support governments in best directing their limited public finances toward the areas of greatest need - after all, the people of any community know best what they need and should have mechanisms to advise how investments should be prioritized (whether across water, infrastructure, health, education or other sectors).

4. Corruption hinders domestic resource mobilization and the efficient spending of human capital projects. During the Forum, Global Integrity presented about collaborative and co-produced social accountability approaches to fight corruption. Evidence by Timmons and Garfias (2015) also shows that corruption affects tax compliance and evidence from D’Arcy 2011 study on tax compliance in developing countries reveals corruption negatively affects citizen attitudes towards tax compliance taxes.  Research by Prichard 2014 suggests that in developing country contexts, accountability and transparency levels are much lower around the use of non-tax revenue from natural resources and aid - this makes these sources of revenue more open to abuse. 

5. Social  accountability  and  open  government  approaches can   improve  the  provision  of  public  goods  and services by increasing collaboration, constructive engagement, and co‐production between state and  civil  society  actors. This comes from research by Guerzovich & Poli 2016 and others.  And after 4 years of implementation with grantees, the GPSA shared some results from their collaborative social accountability approach which includes joint action with state actors, non-prescriptive capacity building as well as adaptive strategies responding to changes in the context as well as learning and reflecting. In addition, Open Gov Hub member Root Change also co-presented with Keystone Accountability at the Forum on the successes and challenges of their collaborative approach to social accountability.

For our part, here at the Open Gov Hub we contribute to catalyzing more collaboration across our field by facilitating countless regular networking and learning opportunities for our members. In this way, we help mobilize and sustain inclusive and open government coalitions which are critical for empowering citizens to hold governments accountable to implement effective human capital and other public investments.

But this year’s GPSA Forum also highlighted that collaboration between civil society organizations still has a long way to go to reach the same scale as the global development challenges we face. Here at the Hub, we commit to continue strengthening cross-sector learning across a wide variety of civil society actors in our 40+ organization network. In this way, we hope to continue adding value to effort to infuse a social accountability approach to human capital development for more effective collective development impact. 

Yeukai Mukorombindo is currently a research consultant with the Open Gov Hub/Global Integrity.