During the GPSA Global Partners forum, a group of 51 CSOs from around the globe gathered at the World Bank Headquarters to showcase their work on social accountability at the Networking Fair and Reception event. One participating organization, Search for Common Ground, filled their display with a poster outlining their work on social accountability through the slogan: Build back better: Increasing civic engagement and social accountability in Guinea’s post-Ebola recovery.

The Ebola outbreak which hit several countries in West Africa region in 2013 and continued for more than two years has exposed the serious fragility of state-society relations in Guinea.  However, Search for Common Ground (SFCG) see the recovery process as a unique opportunity to reinforce social accountability and “build back better”.

A huge amount of funds has been pledged to Ebola recovery programs. Yet, the planning, monitoring, and use of these recovery funds allocated for basic health, education and social protection are taking place against a backdrop of fragility. The Ebola outbreak has set the affected countries back years, exacerbating the already existing mistrust in government institutions. Grievances linked to the crisis response itself emerged while the civil service had not historically instilled a culture of social accountability within its personnel.

SFCG has worked in Guinea since 2003 on a wide range of topics, including democracy, governance, natural resource conflicts, youth engagement, and post-Ebola recovery. Through a comprehensive understanding of Guinea’s local context, cultivated through 15 years of work there, SFCG continually adapts and responds to changing conflict dynamics and ensures that programs do no harm and have the greatest possible positive impact. SFCG’s work reinforces collaborative decision-making across dividing lines, utilizing locally-tailored strategies.

Search for Common Ground, with the Global Partnership for Social Accountability’s (GPSA) support, strive to increase civic engagement and social accountability throughout the post-Ebola recovery process. Together the GPSA and SFCG are implementing a project which aims to build civil society capacity to engage in state reform programs. It seeks to enhance accountability in the use of post-Ebola recovery funds by strengthening citizen oversight of budgets and service delivery through social accountability tools.

Focusing on the most heavily-affected localities in regions struck by Ebola, the project works to increase capacities of government and civil society actors to design, implement and monitor budget allocation and spending, in addition to basic service delivery.  It aspires to empower civil society and the government to measure institutional performance through participatory scorecard programs. Through the implementation of this project, SFCG works to create opportunities for government and civil society actors to leverage findings of budget and service delivery monitoring and use it to improve basic services. In this way, it opens up channels for credible and accurate information and participatory communication on the recovery process to those most affected by the crisis.

Media is used as a strategic tool for promoting social accountability, through producing and broadcasting a “questions with the ministry” TV series, using local radio outreach, and designing a participatory communications strategy. To complement this, SFCG trains journalists in conflict sensitive journalism, which emphasizes reporting on facts while highlighting diverse perspectives, avoiding divisive rhetoric.

The sustainability of the project is maintained through partnering with government and media outlets, in order to ensure that project successes are integrated into institutional policies. The project also provides a framework and practical solutions to the media about how to foster a cultural change towards openness to government-citizen consultation.  Furthermore, SFCG is focused on sharing lessons learned about social accountability in crisis recovery to improve future responses.

In order to improve social accountability and state-society relationships, SFCG works with a diverse range of stakeholders in Guinea and promotes dialogue between society and government actors to synergize action around governance and democracy.

An overview of the project was showcased in details at the GPSA Forum Networking Fair through SFCG engaging team. Alfred Bulakali, country director of Search for Common Ground in Guinea, described the fair as “an opportunity to share what we do, how we do it and to receive others’ feedback” He also added, “we really wanted to know what people may think of SFCG’s approaches.” 

SFCG’s booth was widely popular during this gathering and won the GPSA Networking Fair award by popular vote. Moreover, in the spirit of constructive engagement, Amara Camara, the representative of the government of Guinea, joined the GPSA team in presenting the award to SFCG team.