BBL | Rise of the Audit Society: Some Critical Reflections from the Trenches

February 24, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017 | 12:00-2:00PM | J4-044 | 701 18th St.

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Gopa Thampi
Director, Economic Governance, Asia Foundation

Courtney Tolmie
Senior Program Director, Results for Development

Jeff Thindwa
GPSA Program Manager

The field of social accountability is exponentially growing with increasing numbers of governments and Civil Society Organizations (from INGOs to CBOs) mainstreaming principles of representation, engagement and accountability into their portfolios. Integrating citizen voice and engagement is now seen as a necessary condition for most governance interventions. Still a field where practice outpaces theorizing, aspirational social accountability project designs can fail to deliver intended outcomes on the ground and in some instances, lead to unintended consequences. Drawing upon the speaker’s experience from the field, this presentation lays out a few critical pointers for designers and implementers to review and interrogate. In particular, the presentation will focus on six themes: (a) Primacy of technique over politics; (b) Tyranny of tools; (c) Contested credibility of champions; (d) Lingering appeal of confrontation; (e) Presenting snapshots as evidences of impact; and (f) Social mobilization in times of rising illiberalism and social polarization. The presentation will also attempt to pull together a few enabling approaches that could potentially lead to sustained impacts on the ground.  


Gopa Kumar Thampi served as Consultant and Governance Advisor in about 20 countries across Africa, Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, West Asia, and Eastern Europe with development partners, state institutions, public agencies, and civil society organizations focusing on issues of governance and government reform, public accountability, and capacity building. Gopa Kumar Thampi was instrumental in setting up the Global and South Asia hubs of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA), funded by the World Bank Group and based out of the Institute of Governance Studies, BRAC University in Dhaka in 2009 and was the CEO of both hubs until 2011. He was also the former Head of the Asia Desk at the Transparency International Secretariat in Berlin and the Executive Director of the Public Affairs Centre in Bangalore, India. Gopa Kumar Thampi is also the Founding Member and former President of IT for Change, a leading non-profit Think-Tank working on bridging technology with social realities and had served in the Governing Board of Building Partnerships for Development – a UK-based non-profit.

Courtney Tolmie leads the Governance and Accountability work at R4D, including the Transparency and Accountability Program (TAP) and the Strengthening Institutions to Improve Public Expenditure Accountability Program (a joint effort with the Global Development Network). Ms. Tolmie joined R4D in 2008 to manage the TAP Independent Monitoring Organization (IMO) Support Program. While at R4D, she has developed numerous practitioner tools to support IMOs conducting analyses and undertaking advocacy related to social sector public spending. She has also developed and led technical sessions on public expenditure management and research communications directed toward representatives from civil society organizations and think tanks in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Before joining R4D in 2007, Ms. Tolmie was a consultant at the Washington-based Women’s Edge Coalition and led research on community health activities at the University of Virginia and University of Venda (South Africa).

During his 16 years at the World Bank, Jeff Thindwa has held numerous positions in the fields of social accountability and governance, most recently as Practice Manager for Open and Collaborative Governance. His experience includes government, private sector and civil society. He joined the World Bank in 2000 as Senior Social Development Specialist, and later led the Participation and Civic Engagement Cluster in the Social Development Department, integrating social accountability mechanisms and stakeholder participation in the Bank’s operations, and undertaking analytical work on the enabling environment reforms for civil society organizations. In 2009 he joined the Bank’s South Asia Region where he worked with operations teams and managed the “Program on Accountability” in Nepal, a grant making and capacity building program. In 2010, Jeff joined the World Bank Institute as Team Leader for the Social Accountability Cluster, becoming its Manager in 2012.